Racialism is a term used to describe racial policy, in what is generally perceived to be a negative sense, as promoting stratification and inequality between racial categories (in themselves, often disputed).
Especially in academia, whenever the term is employed, it serves the purpose of a contradistinction with the term racism. It is, however, most widely used as a synonym for racism.
The two best-known racialist regimes were Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa, but there have been countless others throughout history. One recent example was the genocidal policy undertaken by Hutu extremists in Rwanda against Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which resulted in the murder of 900,000 people between April and June 1994. The failure of the developed world to intervene to stop the slaughter has been cited by some as a form of racism directed against Africans in general.
A special use for the term, employed uniquely by white separatists as a lesser form of racism, is based on the claim by separatists that they do not view themselves as superior to — and especially, claim not to exhibit hatred towards — other races, but only believe in the separation between races. Since these groups view racial separation as a matter of public policy, their use of the term as such is, technically, not entirely incorrect.
Racialism and the valuation of human worth
Due to its primarily British origins, its past use, and its current infrequent use, racialism is generally viewed as a less offensive term than racism. Before the notion of racial equality became ideologically dominant in the latter half of the 20th Century, one could be considered a non-racist (i.e. without antipathy) racialist. This was because the scientific community tended to view intrinsic racial features as extending beyond the physical, into the mental, cultural, etc., realms. Today, it is overwhelmingly believed that each race's capacity (to actualize human potential) is statistically comparable to the other, and that the sharp discrepancies which exist are due to social conditions rather than genetic traits.
Racialists who argue they are not racists, therefore, are still widely viewed as linked to the latter concept. This is since they are theoretically hostile to a dilution of racial features: meaning, even if they do not view a certain race as being overall superior to another, they exhibit an antipathy towards the notion of a weakening of unique racial attributes (beyond physical appearances), whereas most social scientists today believe these features (and this alleged weakness) do not exist. Racialism is, thus, currently widely held to be the imposition of a stratification which is both ethically immoral and socially counter-productive.
Racialism as policy legally employed by nations
A century ago, virtually every nation on the planet officially employed racialist policies; today none formally do. Until the late 1960s, when racialism became limited to a very small number of countries, it was often cited by Soviet- and Chinese-block countries (legally, adhering to racial equality) as propaganda against those Western countries where racialism was still officially practiced. Prior to the notion of racial equality (as being encompassed within political doctrines) becoming widespread, anti-racialism was primarily associated with two interlinked set of policies, in most colonial powers implemented a few decades apart: the abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation from slavery.
While many nations are today accused of promoting policies which resemble racialism, the idea is so unpopular that not a single nation claims these (policy choices seen to accentuate racial differences) as being, in fact, based on 'race.' By contrast, there is a wide array of policies which attempt to reduce inequalities whose basis is seen to be race, but since the word racialism has negative connotations, the term accorded to these is racial rather than racialist. Opposition to some of these, particularly those viewed as arbitrary and unmeritocratic (especially in the form of a quota), has long been the position of politicians and others on the main-stream of the political spectrum's right-wing. Significantly, these individuals and groups claim to be strong opponents of racism and racialism, and base their objections purely on allegedly ineffective results.
- Kennedy, Paul and Nicholls Anthony (eds.) Nationalist and racialist movements in Britain and Germany before 1914 (Saint Antony's College Press, 1981).
- Dobratz, Betty A. "White power, white pride!": The white separatist movement in the United States (Twayne Publishers, NY, 1997).
- Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to murder: The Rwanda genocide (Verso, London, 2004).
- Snyder, Louis L. The Idea of Racialism: Meaning and History. (Princeton, NJ, 1962).
- Stokes, Geoffrey (ed.). The Politics of Identity in Australia. See: John Kane, "Racialism and democracy" (Cambrdige University Press, 1997).
- Arter, David. "Black Faces in the Blond Crowd: Populist Racialism in Scandinavia", Parliamentary Affairs, July 1992, vol. 45:3, pp. 357-372.
- Odocha O. Race and racialism in scientific research and publication in the Journal of the National Medical Association. (National Library of Medicine, 2000).
- Zubaida, Sami (ed.). Race and Racialism (Tavistock, London, 1970).
- Racial Identity, the Apartheid State, and the Limits of Political Mobilization and Democratic Reform in South Africa: The Case of the University of the Western (Teachers College, Columbia University, 2003).
- Thompson, Walter Thomas. James Anthony Froude on Nation and Empire: A Study in Victorian Racialism (Taylor & Francis, London, 1998).
- UNESCO General Conference. Declaration of Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War (University of Hawaii, 1978).
Last updated: 05-09-2005 19:01:54