The roots of modern racism can be traced back to the planter class of slave owners. Although fear and suspicion of the stranger and the outsider had existed before, it had not been fear on the basis of skin colour.
In the ancient world there were many societies based on slavery. But there was no idea comparable to “race”.
The ancient Egyptians looked down on the black peoples to their south, but they were just as scornful of other, lighter skinned, neighbours. Egyptian artists caricatured the captives taken in war – but the peculiar dress of the Libyans or Hebrews was held up for ridicule as much as the features of the black southerners.
I n Greek society the slaves were frequently of the same colour as their owners. There were many white slaves from the north and the east.
Britains war over managed migration
The first slaves White Red Black:
Again, history bears this out. If racism had existed prior to the slave trade, then Africans would have been the first group of people to be enslaved. But, in the early years of colonial America, slavery was not racially based. Initially, the colonists attempted to enslave Native Americans. They also imported thousands of white indentured servants. White servants were treated like slaves. They were bought, sold, put up as stakes in card games and raped, beaten and killed with impunity.
Over time, the slaveholding class gradually came to the conclusion that racism was in its interest and that it must be deeply embedded in all of society’s institutions
but the most important reason that the planter class created a racially based slave system was not economic, but political–the age-old strategy of divide and rule.
When one thinks of racism, one usually thinks of a KKK member with burning crosses, the prison camps of World War II or the Rodney King beatings. While all of these are extreme cases of racism, most racism is subtle and silent.
The most famous example of conditioning involves the development of conditional salivary responses in Pavlov’s dogs . If a tone was reliably sounded before the dogs were fed, the dogs would eventually start salivating when they heard the tone, even if no food was present. The dog’s responses (salivation) to the tone are said to be conditional upon the dogs’ experience with the pairings of the tone and food. Dogs that have not experienced this condition do not salivate when they hear tones. Pavlov’s dogs are therefore said to have been conditioned. Their reactions to the tone have been changed through experience.
In its modern form, racism evolved in tandem with European exploration, conquest, and colonization of much of the rest of the world, and especially after Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. As new peoples were encountered, fought, and ultimately subdued, theories about “race” began to develop, and these helped many to justify the differences in position and treatment of people whom they categorized as belonging to different races (see Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History ). Some people like Juan Gines de Sepulveda even argued that the Native Americans were natural slaves.
Another well-referenced source of racism is a mis-interpretation of Charles Darwin ‘s theories of evolution . Some take Darwin’s theories to imply that some races are more civilized, and that there must be a biological basis for the difference. People in this category often appeal to biological theories of moral and intellectual traits to justify racial oppression. This viewpoint had long been widespread in Europe and America at the time Darwin first developed his theories, and his theories played an important role in changing attitudes.