2015 — Pyramid of Whiteness

From “5 Controversial Explanations for How Racism Was Invented That Most People May Not Know” by Atlanta Blackstar.

1. There Has Always Been Racism

Some scholars argue that racism is innate, not learned, and has been a part of human history since time immemorial. Observations of babies expressing racial awareness is often cited as evidence.

Supporters of this theory believe racism stems out of a natural tendency for human beings to order and categorize the world and the people in it.  This is done by creating stereotypes on the basis of race, color, nationality, religion and other factors.

2. Fragmentation/Stratification of Society

Some people argue that a need for hierarchy in society propels people toward practicing racial discrimination. They argue that a classless/undifferentiated society leads to disorder and anarchy. Intra-group rules, officially determined or just understood, say who is on the top, who is on the bottom and how resources are distributed between the groups.

3. Racism Originated to Justify Enslavement of Africans

Just as the slaveholders of ancient Greece and Rome created an ideology that their barbaric slave system was “natural,” so did the European and Arab enslavers of the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Saharan slave trades.

There was one important difference. According to them, slavery was “natural” because of race. Africans were not human beings, and, therefore, they were born to be enslaved.

Historian Eric Williams writes in his book Capitalism and Slavery, “Slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.”

Marxist writer CLR James wrote, “The conception of dividing people by race begins with the slave trade. This thing was so shocking, so opposed to all the conceptions of society which religion and philosophers had … that the only justification by which humanity could face it was to divide people into races and decide that the Africans were an inferior race.”

4. Scientific Racism

The modern biological definition of race developed in the 19th century with scientific racist theories. The term scientific racism refers to the use of science to justify and support racist beliefs, which goes back to the early 18th century, though it gained most of its influence in the mid-19th century, during the New Imperialism period.

Such theories sought to overcome the Church’s resistance to positivist accounts of history and its support of monogenism, the concept that all human beings were originated from the same ancestors, in accordance with creationist accounts of history.

These racist, pseudo-scientific approaches were combined with theories of social progress, which postulated the superiority of the European civilization over the rest of the world.

5. Racism Originated Out of the Nationalism of the Ancient World

In his book The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, the scholar Benjamin Isaac argues that modern-day racism may have evolved from a type of proto-racism that existed in ancient Greece and Rome.

One form of the evidence that he uses is a quote from the ancient document titled Airs, Waters, Places, a medical treatise where Hippocrates of Kos presented the idea that Asiatic people are weak and cowardly because of their temperate climate, while European people were courageous fighters, because of the cold.

Isaac also quotes Aristotle at length:

“The peoples of cold countries generally, and particularly those of Europe, are full of spirit, but deficient in skill and intelligence; and this is why they continue to remain comparatively free, but attain no political development and show no capacity for governing others. The peoples of Asia are endowed with skill and intelligence, but are deficient in spirit; and this is why they continue to be peoples of subjects and slaves. The Greeks, intermediate in geographical position, unite the qualities of both sets of peoples. It possesses both spirit and intelligence: the one quality makes it continue free; the other enables it to attain the heights political development, and to show a capacity for governing every other people, if only it could once achieve political unity”

5 Controversial Explanations for How Racism Was Invented That Most People May Not Know – Page 5 of 5 – Atlanta Blackstar.