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Author Topic: On Racism  (Read 9026 times)
Posts: 1531

« on: October 08, 2003, 06:01:18 AM »


Racism is the system of subjugation against non-whites in every area of human relations.
Ras Kass, Nature Of The Threat, Soul On Ice

Racism, in spite of the views of some individuals (of various ancestries), is not a natural condition. It is not something we as humans, or even we as animals 'just do', it is conditioned. If racism were a natural response, the peaceful tribes of Native Americans would not have welcomed the European colonists as openly as they did when they first arrived. Likewise they would not have accepted European 'defectors'—those who left the colonies to live with the Native American tribes—as well as they did, even centuries after the colonization of the New World had left those same Native Americans with plenty of reason to condemn all those of European descent.

Ancient History

Racism against Africans appears to have it's roots in two places among those who would today be considered 'white'. It appeared in the Hindu caste system and Ancient Rome.

For years, as many are aware, Rome was at war with Carthage. Most people are familiar with Hanibal's marches across the Alps in attempts to conquer Rome and break the Roman Republic (Carthage fought against pre-Imperial Rome, before Julius Caesar). During this time, propaganda spread in the Republic included some descriptions of the Carthaginians' physical features as ugly, including their skin tone. This was not originally intended as racism per-se, but rather as a means of distinguishing the `good' Romans from the 'bad' Carthaginians. Racism appears to be something Rome stumbled onto during this war, and generally left behind when the war was over and Carthage defeated.

The second appearance of racism was the Hindu caste system. Realistically, this could be called the first appearance, as it was an entire system of discrimination centered around 'dark' vs. 'light'. Those born with dark skin were the 'Untouchables'. Their skin color meant they were unable to come into any contact with those born with light skin, unable to be treated for disease, and forced to work the lowest jobs and beg for food. This unfortunately meshed with the Hindu view of reincarnation. Specifically, if you were evil in a past life, you would be condemned to be an 'Untouchable' this time around. Various laws forbidding marriage or sex between an 'Untouchable' and a member of another caste were vicious and enforced through both de-facto violence & discriminatory practices and legal means.

This second appearance of racism is particularly useful to an understanding of modern racism. Due to the fact that the Holy Vedas—where this caste system was codified into law—were written in Sanskrit, the language of the original Aryans, reference to the 'Aryan race' in modern racist literature is a desire to return to the origins of racism. This origin is one in which white residents of present-day Iran waged a racial war against the darker-skinned residents to the east, in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

Now, I should mention that there is controversy over the truth of this "Aryan as white" idea. Some people looking at the archeological record and other sources choose to interpret the term 'Aryan' as simply the Vedic term for 'Enlightened', and say that it was Europeans who misconstrued this to mean 'white'. Evidence is lended to this argument by the ancient descriptions of Buddhism as an 'Aryan Religion' (Enlightened Religion). The truth behind the use of the term 'Aryan' is unfortunately irrelevant, as those who formed such groups as the Aryan Nation obviously believe that Aryan means white, and the history discribed above is what they are yearning for, whether or not it is what actually happened.

Modern History

I should begin this section by stating that by 'modern history', I mean post 1500 A.D. (or C.E. if you care about things like that). It is during this period that racism was refined into a system of subjugation against non-whites/non-Europeans, and also that it reached the worst recorded depths.

In this 'modern' period, there are two major socio-economic and political developments which bear directly on racism's origins: the European 'discovery' of the American continents, and the formation of the Protestant Church. The 'discovery' of the Americas is a necessary ingredient in the evolution of racism in the New World, and the reasons are purely economic. The formation of the Protestant Church is also necessary, for both economic and social reasons.

As most U.S. teenagers are taught in High School, Christopher Columbus was funded in his expedition by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, ostensibly for the purpose of finding an over-water route to East Asia (India and China). What is not as well known is the reasons behind this search.

When King Ferdinand married into the Spanish throne, the borders of the Spanish state were not as far-reaching as they are today. Much of southern Spain was controlled by the Moors, and Islamic group from Africa. The Muslims had waged a Jihad against the Catholic Church in response to the Crusades, and ended up conquering all of North Africa and southern Spain. The Catholic Church, for its part, had garnered immense secular power by declaring itself the arbitor of 'Divine Right'. Because the Church had garnered this power, King Ferdinand allied himself with the Pope and invaded southern Spain in the name of Christianity. In the process, he killed or expelled all of the Moors (who were of African descent), and initiated the infamous Spanish Inquisition, which persecuted both the Moors and the Jewish residents of Spain. Naturally, the Jewish and Muslim trade merchants, who controlled the first stop in the overland trade route to India, were infuriated. Thus, when Columbus approached the Spanish monarchs with his proposal, they were ready to look for alternatives to the overland route.

At any rate, Columbus sailed and 'discovered' the American continents, and colonization efforts soon followed. Columbus and the Conquistadors that followed him soon discovered that brutally enslaving the native populations of Arawaks and Aztecs (respectively) was the quickest and easiest means to exploit the land, through both mining and farming. However, as it came to be discovered, the phenomenon now known as the Virgin-Soil Epidemic proved to be a serious impediment to using the native tribes to rob the land.

Virgin-soil epidemics are the inevitable consequence of two groups who have developed completely independently meeting. The basic idea is that parents pass immunities to disease to their children in utero, so two groups who have remained totally separate for thousands of years will be immune to different diseases, and vulnerable to the diseases the other group is immune to. Consequently, the decendants of Europeans who had survived the Black Plague and Small Pox (and other diseases which sprang up in the horribly unsanitary conditions of European urban living) were far less likely to fall victim to those diseases than the Native Americans, who had no natural immunity to those diseases. Consequently, the stories of Native Americans who died in captivity are less the results of "a temperment unsuitable to servitude", as their European captors believed, than they are the result of the diseases the Europeans brought with them.

Africans, however, did have immunity to the diseases of Europe, because Africans had been trading, fighting, marrying, and otherwise interacting with Europeans since at least the Ancient Greeks (who had a knowledge-exchange program with the Egyptians). Because Africans had this natural immunity where the Native Americans did not, and because 'slavery' was already practiced in Africa (though not chattel slavery—see Slavery below), the Spanish aristocracy begain to import slaves from Africa to work on plantations throughout Central and South America. This is the start of the next step in the evolution of racism.

The development of the Protestant Church is significant because it allowed a freedom of thought that was not possible under the Catholic domination of the time. In the past, ruminations on the nature of man and the nature of Christian salvation were always a near-taboo subject, but with the development of the Protestant Church, the issue of salvation again became the subject of debate. Under Catholicism, the priest determined who was going to heaven and who was going to hell, but the Protestant denominations (particularly the more open and liberal ones) had a tough time deciding how to handle this issue. Unfortunately, rather than coming to the seemingly obvious conclusion, that issues of 'salvation' are between you and your God and therefore irrelevant to anyone else, quite a bit of thought was wastefully invested in the process of defining the 'unsaved' out-group. From this process certain ideas arose, including Calvinism, which taught that the surest method of determining who is saved and who isn't is looking at who is blessed and who isn't.

Now, Calvinism is not a doctrine directly found in the Christian bible, nor is it completely unfounded in the Christian bible. Both the Torah (Old Testament) and the New Testament are replete with examples of material success granted by God to the faithful, and fire, brimstone, and bankrupcy befalling the sinners. However, these examples are tempered by the parables of the fates to befall the corrupt, the "eye of a needle" and similar warnings. The idea that people get what they deserve eternally is certainly the core idea behind every religion with an afterlife, not just Christianity. In truth, the main reason an afterlife ideology exists is because good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, and human demands for fairness and justice go unsatisfied.

Obviously, Calvinism is an attractive ideology to many. Figuring out why bad things happen to good people becomes much simpler when people can just say "God's punishing them, they couldn't have been that good in the first place." It also provides a psychological buffer to those who do the 'bad things' in the first place: if the people suffering deserve whatever they are getting, then dishing it out means one is acting on behalf of God, not selfishness or malice.

Hopefully, it is also reasonably obvious that this particular idea is wildly self-serving to both the priesthood and other powerful elites, and with this ideology firmly in place, devising justifications for slavery becomes almost child's play.

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