When and where did racism begin


From the 15th century onwards, the racist ideology continued to develop. There is a "genealogical racism" prevailing, an awareness of ancestry on the part of the nobility who, in view of their economic decline and their increasing economic, political and, above all, military insignificance, construct their "knowledge" of higher ancestry in a racist manner, i. H. designing themselves and the emerging bourgeoisie as different "races". Here, too, the purity of the blood is invoked.

Since the 18th century, questions about human development in biology and medicine have been influenced by emerging enlightenment ideas. First scientists dare to question the religious assumption of humans as descendants of Adam and Eve, as creatures of God (Christian monogenesis). These "progressive spirits" critical of the Church, however, also work towards racist views, because the doctrine of polygenesis, the different origins of people, serves, for example, in Anglo-Saxon countries to justify slavery in the colonies.

In the natural sciences, the question is investigated to what extent there is a connection between the external appearance of people and their psychological and spiritual predispositions, especially the gift of reason. In the course of this research, the term "race" gradually became established in the 18th century. On the basis of classifications in botany, scholars like Immanuel Kant also divide people into four (and more) varieties: White, black, yellow and copper-colored people are differentiated by him. And with the increasing importance of the external difference, the character and intellectual distinction goes hand in hand: the white people are considered to be the more beautiful, i. H. the division of people into different varieties is not neutral from the start, but is accompanied by evaluations.

"This is how the philosopher Immanuel Kant classifies the 'Americans', he meant the Native Americans, at the lowest level of the hierarchy because they accept' no education 'and they lack drive,' affect and passion '. Therefore, they are' not in love 'and' also not fertile ', they say' almost nothing, do not caress each other, do not care for anything, and are lazy. ' 'The race of the negroes', on the other hand, is 'very lively, talkative and vain'. They accept 'education, but only an education of the servants, i.e. they allow themselves to be trained' because they are 'sensitive' and are 'afraid of beatings' . 'The Hindus' have' a strong degree of serenity 'and' all look like philosophers. 'They accept' education to the highest degree, but only in the arts and not in science 'because they' never get it too abstract 'A Hindustan great man' is someone who 'has made it quite far in deception and has a lot of money.' Only the 'Race of Whites', to which' all of Europe, the Turks, and Kalmucks' belong, unites' all motivations and talents in themselves'. All 'revolutions' were' always brought about by the whites and the Hindus, Americans, and negroes never had any part in it '. " (Morgenstern 2001, p. 10)

In the second half of the 18th century, anatomical studies were carried out on people of different ethnic origins, including: the so-called skull index measurements, the "results" of which are used to support the racist "theory" formation. According to these measurements, blacks were mentally more like apes than Europeans.

The different perspectives should provide information about character and intellectual traits. Both the derivation of these properties from somatic phenomena and the relationship between the shape of the skull and the activity of the brain organs, which was constructed a short time later, are initially not in doubt.

The aestheticization of the external appearance continued in the 18th century. Apollo's forehead and nose are stylized as ideals of beauty and interpreted as evidence of noble qualities such as wisdom, cleverness, strength and emotional intensity. People who deviate from this ideal are not only considered ugly, they are also denied the corresponding virtues. This goes hand in hand with the justification of the "missionary, civilization and educational mandate of the white man, who was often associated with paternalistic arrogance." (Priester 2003, p. 71).

The idea that the soul forms the body also served the pseudo-scientific underpinning of everyday prejudices, because the conclusion that was drawn from this idea was that the less the external appearance of a person corresponded to the classical ideal, the lower his mental performance .

The black "race" was gradually interpreted as an example of a pathological process, as a "variety" of the originally white person. Even from the idea that the differences in pigmentation indicate differences in the nerves, it was no longer far to inferring skin color on mental abilities. Basically, in the 18th century the existence of somatic and derived character and intellectual differences is established.

In addition to these "scientific" investigations and determinations, philosophically substantiated "race" theories also emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries. Arthur de Gobineau (1818 - 1882) and Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855 - 1927) are important pioneers in the formation of racist theories.

Arthur de Gobineau interprets social differences within society as "racial differences". He sees the mixing of the different ethnic groups as the cause of the downfall of civilization, since it makes the individual "races" incapable of coping with the struggle for life.

Gobineau also ethnicises the class order: the white "race" corresponds to the nobility, the yellow to the bourgeois class engaged in trade and the servant people are black. Ultimately, however, according to Gobineau, there are no longer any pure "races", the irrevocable decline of the human species has already been established through the intermingling.
Gobineau is a typical representative of aristocratic racism, aristocratic class and class consciousness. His ideal is not the ethnically homogeneous nation state, but a state structure based on ethnic-class separation.

In contrast to Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain goes beyond racist classifications, differences and evaluations and makes the possibility of breeding "pure races" an issue. He differentiates between two antagonistic "races", namely the Germanic-Teutonic and the Jewish "counter-race". He thus became the founder of a radical racial ideology, which is above all clearly anti-Semitic, and he had a lasting influence on National Socialist anti-Semitism. Chamberlain does not only use biological arguments in his concept of racism. Jews are not only a different "race" because of their blood; rather, his "race theories" also contain a subjective dimension: Whoever makes the "Jewish spirit" their own becomes a Jew.

Simultaneously with the development of Germany into a nation state and its colonial expansion, social Darwinism and "racial theories" are gaining influence on social thinking. At this point in time - not only in Germany - unlimited capitalism is being questioned and social legislation is being pushed forward under Bismarck. Social and health insurance in particular, as well as humanitarian institutions for the sick and unable to work, are facing resistance from large-scale industry. She underpins her arguments with social Darwinist and racist elements: only where the competition is not distorted and suspended by social legislation can the best racial systems come into their own.

The racism of the late 19th century plays into the hands of the brutalization and naturalization of economic and social conditions, which, because they are supposedly natural, no longer need to be legitimized. According to this worldview, the strong will be crowned the winner, the weak will fall by the wayside. Here a selection process is called for, which seeks to prevent the supposed "degeneration" of the Germanic, later the Aryan "race".

Social Darwinism advanced

"(...) especially in Wilhelmine Germany the doctrine of justification of a dynamic, future-oriented industrial nation striving for world power. Domestically, the social policy legislation introduced under Bismarck to protect the working population had to be reversed in favor of unrestricted market liberalism. ...) to put no more obstacles in the way of natural selection by dismantling 'negative privileges'. Whoever falls should not be stopped. In foreign policy, those who made use of social Darwinian arguments believed that Germany would strengthen Germany's position in the concert of imperialist powers and to be able to justify colonial imperialism. Social Darwinism is nothing more than the scientifically disguised justification of a philosophy of the strong at the expense of the weak. " (Priest 2003, p. 220)