Who invented racism?

History of racism : Skin colors are only a matter of opinion

In 1922, marriages and sex between whites and non-whites were still banned in Alabama. The African American Jim Rollins was convicted at the time for violating the racist law against "racial mixing". His offense: he married the Sicilian immigrant Edith Labue.

Only in the second instance could he have the judgment reversed. His argument: his wife is not even white, after all, she is Italian. The court agreed with him. The public prosecutor's office was unable to provide any evidence that the wife did not have parts of “black” blood, and the fact that she was Sicilian “in no way conclusive that she is a white woman”.

It is such glimpses into the past - not so distant, in the USA laws against "racial mixing" were only declared unconstitutional in 1968 - that only make tangible what anti-colonial thinkers have fortunately been in the debates for a few years now first world: That the racist theory of race and skin color does not depict reality, but creates it in the first place. Who knows and who doesn't, and indeed the discovery - invention - of something like skin color is anything but nature, but made historically. And colors are used to determine who should be worth more and who should be worth less than others. After all, the theory of colors came into being in the course of the European subjugation of the world 500 years ago.

Neither Irish nor Germans were considered white

In Europe, Italy has had a particularly extensive experience of this: of the 27 million Italians who left their country between the 1870s and the 1970s, a great many had the experience of being seen as non-whites. Years ago Gian Antonio Stella, himself the grandson of a migrant worker who was discriminated against in Prussia and Hungary, told the story of this contempt that his compatriots, the “olive-brown gang”, met with worldwide in his book “L'orda” (the horde). Whereby the subtitle of Stella's book "When we were the Albanians ourselves" "already indicates how flexible racism is.

When the book was published in 2003, Italy was still afraid of migrants from the neighboring country east of the Adriatic. In the meantime, the and most hated stranger is African again. One could add that national internal racism is similarly flexible: while the founder of the right-wing extremist Lega Nord Umberto Bossi raved about the “pure, chosen race” of the Po Valley and saw it under the colonial rule of a “Roman Congo”, be known Successor Matteo Salvini only the chosen people of all Italians as far as Sicily.

The blood, the “color”: How it all came about was described by Charlotte Wiedemann in her recently published book “The Long Farewell to White Dominance”. In the beginning of the long, cruel history of subjugation and hierarchization of the world, the first traces of color can also be discovered: Christopher Columbus' first contact with the people in the Caribbean was only retrospectively "staged as an encounter of skin colors", as a tribute to the islanders the white man.

Columbus himself remembered them simply as beautiful people of medium skin color. And later Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding figures of the USA, defined "white" so narrowly that only Protestants of British descent fit into the profile. Germans were also not white because “their Celtic blood made them inferior with darker skin from Jefferson's point of view”. The Irish, whose cliché and advertising image is milky-skinned and red-blonde in the eyes of the world today, needed in Jefferson's homeland, according to Wiedemann, “even longer than the Germans to be considered white”.

Insanity and insanity in the classification of people

It is one thing to insist politically that “white” is an invention and that black-yellow-red is one of them. It is another matter to use this knowledge with historical examples, scenes, even anecdotes - what, the Irish are not whites? - to make it understandable.

To do this, many more books like this have to appear, and especially school books that make this a topic. So that our increasingly diverse societies in the north understand the madness of classifications that deny a growing number of people their full human rights. Across the world, they are dividing and paralyzing a world that actually needs ideas and energy from all citizens for its major construction sites, climate, poverty and inequality.

To home page