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Friday, 16 June 2017


Humans often categorize themselves by race or ethnicity. They do this based on ancestry, as well as visible traits like skin color and facial features. People of the same ethnic group are often connected by ancestry, speaking the same language, having the same culture, and living in the same places. This attempt to categorize human types has led to racism, a non-scientific theory or ideology, that a particular race was superior or inferior. These beliefs supported such dreadful discriminatory events of human history as the horrors of African slavery, the Jim Crow laws in the United States, The Nuremberg Laws and The Holocaust in Nazi Germany, The Apartheid laws in South Africa and The White Australia policy in Australia.

A sign on a racially segregated beach during the era of Apartheid in South Africa

Black people in ancient Rome were not discriminated against because of their skin color or physical features. They were not excluded from any profession and there was no stigma against mixed race relationships. Classical writers did not attach social status or degree of humanity to skin color.

The largest mass lynching in United States history took place on October 24, 1871 when around 500 white rioters entered Chinatown in Los Angeles to attack, rob, and murder its residents.

An early use of the word "racism" was by Richard Henry Pratt in 1902: "Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism."

The popular use of the word "racism" in the Western world didn't come into widespread usage until the 1930s, when the was used to describe the social and political ideology of Nazism, which saw "race" as a naturally given political unit. However, racism existed way before the coinage of the word – antisemitism, for instance, has a long history.

Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses, Germany, 1933

In 1920 the noted American eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard published The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World-Supremacy. The book predicted the collapse of white world empire and colonialism because of the population growth among people not of the white race, rising nationalism in colonized nations, and industrialization in China and Japan. Stoddard advocated restricting non-white migration into white nations, restricting Asian migration to Africa and Latin America. He supported a separation of the "primary races" of the world and warned against interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types.

On May 14, 1918 during World War I, Sgt Henry "Black Death" Johnson on watch in the Argonne Forest fought off a German raid in hand-to-hand combat, killing multiple German troops and rescuing a fellow soldier while experiencing 21 wounds.

Johnson was the first American in World War to be awarded the Croix De Guerre by France.  His courageous action was brought to the USA population's attention by coverage by a couple of newspapers later that year. However, racism was still a barrier in his own country and Johnson was never recognized by the U.S. until June 2, 2015 when he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a posthumous ceremony at the White House.

Henry Lincoln Johnson in uniform

In 1939 the celebrated African American contralto Marian Anderson was refused permission to sing in Washington's Constitution Hall because of her race. The incident placed Anderson into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. Instead, with the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C , for an audience of 75,000 (see picture below).

In 1955 Seamstress Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. The arrest sparked a year-long bus boycott by blacks.

On October 10, 1957, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to apologize to the finance minister of Ghana, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, after he was refused service in a Dover, Delaware restaurant.

Racist attitudes were also widespread in the UK until recently. The Bristol Omnibus Company's refusal to employ Black or Asian bus crews led to a bus boycott in Bristol on April 30, 1963, drawing national attention to racial discrimination in Britain.

Bristol University students march in support of the boycott. Wikipedia

The Cartoon Network banned Speedy Gonzales as a racist stereotype – until the US-hispanic community protested.

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