Racism: a Short History

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Racism: a Short History

George Fredrickson makes an argument ultimately against the dichotomy between civilization and savagery, specifically the resurgence of ethnoreligious bigotry that, according to him, replaces 20th century race theory in order to justify continued inequities and sociopolitical oppression worldwide in Racism: A Brief History. His book delineates the rise of modern race theory, beginning in Medieval Europe and synthesizing an explanation for the existence and success of the overtly racist regimes, the United States, South Africa, and Nazi Germany. Fredrickson cautions, however, that racism can easily become interchangeable with religious bigotry when facing corporatism that aims to alienate, marginalize, and devalue human beings as mere consumers with little agency or any collective sense of identity. Racism's ultimate goal, according to Fredrickson, is to establish a permanent hierarchal order that, "has two components: difference and power." Fredrickson's analysis is probably one of the most direct and functional definitions of racism that I have run across in a while. His delineation reads,

My theory or conception of racism, therefore has two components: difference

and power. It originates from a mindset that regards "them" as different from

"us" in ways that are permanent and unbridgeable. This sense of difference

provides a motive or rationale for using our power advantage to threat the

ethnoracial Other in ways that we would regard as cruel or unjust if applied to

members of our own group. The possible consequences of this nexus of attitude

and action range from unofficial but pervasive social discrimination at one end

of the spectrum to genocide at the other . . . In all manifestatio...

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...ention to suggest, on any level, that religion does not remain one of the defining elements of political power in this country. Race, as an immediate and visual discriminatory practice however, is seen played out much more plainly and it only seems to make sense to close with Justice Harry Blackmun's 1978 decision to uphold affirmative action.

In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently. We cannot - we dare not - let the Equal Protection clause perpetuate racial supremacy. (Fredrickson, 143).

Works Cited

Churchill, Ward. A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1997.

Fredrickson, George. Racism: A Short History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.
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