Contrary to what we’ve learned in school, it wasn’t racist ideas, born from ignorance and hate, that led to racist policies, but exactly the other way round.
Race is the child of racism, not the father.Coates (2015), 7
Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.Eric Williams
[A] racist Power creates racist policies out of raw self-interest: the racist policies necessitate racist ideas to justify them.Kendi (2019), 42
[P]rejudice sprang up with slavery. Before then, educated Europeans held a generally positive attitude toward Africans, recognizing that African civilization was highly advanced with vast libraries and centers of learning.Delgado & Stefancic (2001), 17
The history of racism begins with early Portuguese slave trade.
Prince Henry, starting in 1434, was the first “to exclusively trade
African bodies”Kendi (2019), 39
His biographer and apologist Gomes de Zurara, in The Chronicle of
the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea (1453), “the first European
book on Africa”ibid., 40
, “became the first race maker and crafter of racist ideas”ibid., 39
: “Despite their different skin colors and languages and ethnic groups, Zurara blended [Africans] into one single group of people, worthy of enslavement”ibid., 40
Harari (2014) points out that Europeans “chose to import slaves from Africa rather than from Europe or East Asia due to three circumstantial factors” – it was cheaper, easier and less risky than importing them from elsewhere. This purely economic decision had to be justified morally:
Religious and scientific myths were pressed into service to justify this division. Theologians argued that Africans descend from Ham, son of Noah, saddled by his father with a curse that his offspring would be slaves. Biologists argued that blacks are less intelligent than whites and their moral sense less developed.Harari (2014)
In the following centuries, this Ideology spread throughout Europe and was continuously upgraded with new or additional pseudo-scientific arguments, culminating in the full-blown pseudo-biological race theories of the 19th century.
These myths struck a chord in American culture, and in Western culture generally. They continued to exert their influence long after the conditions that created slavery had disappeared. … Separation of the races was maintained by racist legislation and social custom.ibid.
that locked Blacks into their oppression: “Racial hierarchies determine who gets tangible benefits, including the best jobs, the best schools, and invitations to parties in people’s homes.”Delgado & Stefancic (2001), 17
- Coates (2015): Between the World and Me
- Delgado & Stefancic (2001): Critical Race Theory: An Introduction
- Harari (2014): Sapiens
- Kendi (2019): How to be an Anti-Racist