Meaning of Racism

The racism can not be defined as an attempt of description of the various human races – which is the goal of Physical Anthropology and Sociobiology – but as an ideology that seeks to explain human behavior by their racial origin .

From a political point of view, racism aims, based on pseudoscientific foundations, to promote the belief in the superiority of one race over the others.

Hate and fear of the other – the ethnically different – have always, unfortunately, been a component of human consciousness. But, in the absence of a so-called “scientific” perspective, racism, over the centuries, has been a shapeless ideology with little political impact.

Only in the 19th century did racism, strengthened by the Arianism myth , acquire a powerful political-social dimension. In fact, the mythical notion of a “noble” race, privileged and displaced to Europe, broke out, where a “superior creature” would have fertilized. In the 20th century, racism became, especially after the First World War (1914-1918), an essentially political phenomenon.

Roots of contemporary racism:

  • The scientific study of races- which served as the basis for a pseudoscientific view of human behavior explained by ethnicity;
  • The exaltation of nationalism- an ideology that romanticizes and distorts the ideal of nation – enhanced by the First World War and its consequences, notably the revanchisms that marked the treaties between winners and losers after the conflict, given that the “humiliating” weight of the treaties, considered priceless by the losers, would have stimulated such exaltation;
  • Irrationalist mysticism- which contaminated the political vision of the popular masses after 1918. In fact, contrary to the liberal-Enlightenment illusion that the peoples – while participating in politics – would lead democracy to victory, that was, rather, the militarization of political action, accompanied by nationalist fanaticism that generated totalitarian solutions such as fascism and Soviet communism .

Nationalism and imperialism (the neo-colonialist expansion of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th) contributed to the spread of racist ideals. The West needed to justify, in terms of racial superiority, the control of colonial areas in Asia and Africa: the white man, “thanks to his cultural and racial superiority”, had the “civilizing mission” as a ” burden “.

Westerners would have to pay the price for their racial excellence and virtues, bringing “culture and civilization” to blacks, yellows and mestizos, “vulgar and sensual peoples”, with little rationality, from the peripheral areas of the planet.

From this comes a little the view that in the tropics the “lost paradise” could reside, due to the naivete of the natives, the attitudes of not being embarrassed by nudity, of their apparently childish relationships, because they are based on trust.

The distance of the European colonizer in relation to the legal rules of their countries of origin made contact with the new conquered lands and their people, especially in the beginning of colonization, an often permissive and violent relationship: “There is no sin below the Equator ”.

There are no ethical limits for those who colonize, exploit and submit. Hence the invariably inhumane forms of contact with the land and with the people of the colonized regions of the world, as they had a prejudiced view of inferiority.

Racist theories

Countless theorists have formulated the intellectual foundations of racism, of which we highlight:

  • Gottlieb Fichte: in his “Speeches to the German Nation” (1807), he defended the notion that Germany – for its racial and linguistic purity – would be the vanguard of the West and heir to the Greek roots that underlie us. For the Germanic thinker, only the German people, thanks to an identity “blood, soil and language”, would be able to think.
  • Joseph Auguste Gobineau: in his “Essay on the Inequality of Human Races” (1852), he formulated the theory of Arianism, that is, the superiority of the Caucasian blond. His disciples, notably the composer Richard Wagner and his son-in-law Houston Stewart Chamberlain, gave an anti-Semitic touch to Arianism. Not only the blacks, yellows and mestizos made up the inferior peoples, but also the Jews.

All the apologists for racism, unduly appropriating Darwin’s “Theory of Natural Selection”, justified their ideas based on the concept of “the supremacy of the most apt race”.


Racism is the conviction that there is a relationship between hereditary physical characteristics, such as skin color, and certain character and intelligence traits or cultural manifestations. The ill-defined basis of racism is the concept of pure race applied to men, and it is practically impossible to discover a well-defined object. This is not a scientific theory, but a set of opinions, which are not very coherent, whose main function is to achieve the generalized and defined valuation of biological differences between men, real or imagined.

Racism clearly implies or states that pure races exist, that these are superior to the others and that such superiority authorizes a political and historical hegemony, points of view against which considerable objections are raised. First, almost all human groups today are the product of miscegenations. The constant evolution of the human species and the always provisional character of such groups make any definition based on stable ethnic data illusory. When the concept of biological purity is applied to man, a biological group is often confused with a linguistic or national group.

The phenomenon, whose origins are complex, occurs with greater or lesser intensity in all ethnicities and in all countries and its origins are very complex. When Japan, for example, achieved, in the first half of the 20th century, an economic development comparable to that of Europe, a racist ideology very similar to that which justified European colonialism arose within the Japanese people .