Re: Racism and ancient history

Michael James Dean (
17 Jan 1997 04:50:57 GMT

Dr. Doug ( wrote:
: In <>
: writes:
: >
: >
: [deleted for brevity]

: I don't mean to sound like an ogre, or a soc.history.moderated
: moderator. This internet stuff is still new to me, and I'm still
: learning "netiquette."

: I would agree with you about the need to concentrate on the things we
: have in common as human beings, if we're ever to overcome these harmful
: divisions. However, nature provides us with plenty of examples of
: groups not using violence against other groups, even competing groups.

: No bonobo chimp has NEVER been known to kill another bonobo chimp.
: They settle their differences usually with SEX. Even between competing
: groups. Actually, when you examine them, they appear to be much more
: similar to humans in many ways than regular chimps. Check out that
: fascinating article in Scientific American, March 1995.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but the obvious reply to this is that we
aren't bonobos. Not that I wouldn't mind trying to solve all my
problems through sex :)

: The BaMbuti people (pygmies) of the Ituri rainforest in Zaire are very
: isolated gatherer/hunters, and according to Turnbull in "The Forest
: People," never make war, even on other BaMbuti people competing with
: each other for honey or hunting grounds. They just yell at each other
: until one group has had enough noise. But afterward, these groups have
: no problem interbreeding and interacting with each other.

does never mean NEVER or does it mean not within the timeframe in which
they were observed? Just because they don't currently make war, or even
if they haven't made war for a hundred years, this doesn't mean they have
never done it or will never do it in the future. Not only that but just
saying that they don't make war doesn't explain why they don't. There
could be myriad reasons why this is so. You state that the preceeding
examples show groups who don't engage in violent behavior, but the above
paragraph only relates to making war. Shouting matches are certainly
violent aggressive behavior which, in other groups, might preceed actual
physical violence.

: Yes, it is not strictly economics, but I do believe that racism has an
: economic foundation, an economic FUNCTION. Imagine if you will, a huge
: reserve army of labor, a whole group of people who believe themselves
: inferior, who will work for less wages, poorer working conditions, not
: join unions or organize to fight back. What would the existence of
: these needy people do to the wages and working conditions of all the
: other wage-earners? Would this racist discrimination not serve to keep
: everyone scared, insecure, knowing that if one did not toe the line, a
: person from a disadvantaged minority is waiting in the wings, ready to
: take that job for less money?

: Which tiny minority of people would benefit from such a situation?

: Dr. Doug

When you start talking about lower wages, unions, etc. it seems to me you
are taking a modern perspective. From that modern perspective, I would
tend to agree with you on the economic basis of racism. However, if we
want to talk about the roots of racism, which surely preceed the modern
era, I think the economic analysis falls flat. Why did the Crusading
Christians hate the Moslems so much? Surely not because Arab tribesmen
would work for lower wages back in Europe.

I think this is a very interesting thread and look forward to reading more,