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Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. In general, anti-racism is intended to promote an egalitarian society in which people do not face discrimination on the basis of their race, however defined.
By its nature, anti-racism tends to promote the view that racism in a particular society is both pernicious and socially pervasive, and that particular changes in political, economic, and/or social life are required to eliminate it.
Understanding anti-racism requires understanding how racism became established in society. In Western Europe, racism became established as a means to oppose the spread of Islam, not only within Europe, but its potential spread to the newly discovered Americas.
The European discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus did not occur until 1492. However, two Papal bulls announced several decades before that event were designed to help ward off increasing Muslim invasions into Europe, which they believed would have an effect on the New World.
When Islam presented a serious military threat to Italy and Central Europe during the mid-15th century around the time of the fall of Constantinople, Pope Nicholas V tried to unite Christendom against them but failed. He then granted Portugal the right to subdue and even enslave Muslims whether white or any other race, pagans and other non-Christians in the papal bull Dum Diversas (1452). While this bull preceded the Atlantic slave trade by several decades, slavery and the slave trade were part of African societies and tribes which supplied the Arab world with slaves long before the arrival of the Europeans.
Increasingly, the Italian merchants from the wealthiest states in Italy, especially Genoa and Venice joined in the lucrative trade and some members sported exotic lackeys and few domestic or workshop slaves whereas before slavery was forbidden in Christendom and only formerly in Muslim Spain and Sicily and their buffer border marches were seen and legally allowed. Racial views of Superiority started developing and became more acute about these slaves, social views imported from the Court of Granada where they were highly stratified and classified.
The following year saw the Fall of Constantinople to Muslim conquerors of the ever growing Ottoman Empire which left the pope as the undoubted contested leader of Christendom when the Orthodox Church leadership became under submission. Several decades later, European explorers and missionaries spread Christianity to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Pope Alexander VI had awarded colonial rights over most of the newly discovered lands by the Iberian Kingdoms of Castile and Portugal. Under their patronato system, however, Royal authorities, not the Vatican, controlled as in Europe all clerical appointments in the new colonies. Thus, the 1455 Papal bull Romanus Pontifex granted the Portuguese all lands behind Cape Bojador "allowing to reduce pagans and other enemies of Christ to perpetual servitude." Later, the 1481 Papal bull Aeterni regis granted all lands south of the Canary Islands to the Portuguese Empire, while in May 1493 the Aragonese-born Pope Alexander VI decreed in the Bull Inter caetera that all lands west of a meridian only 100 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands should belong to the Spanish Empire while new lands discovered east of that line would belong to Portugal. These arrangements were later confirmed in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas.
The European origins of racism spread to the Americas alongside the Europeans, but establishment views were questioned when applied to indigenous peoples. After the discovery of the New World many of the clergy sent to the New World, educated in the new Humane values of the Renaissance blooming but still new in Europe and not ratified by the Vatican, began to criticize Spain and their own Church's treatment and views of indigenous peoples and slaves.
In December 1511, Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar, was the first man to openly rebuke the Spanish authorities and administrators of Hispaniola for their "cruelty and tyranny" in dealing with the American natives and those forced to labor as slaves. King Ferdinand enacted the Laws of Burgos and Valladolid in response. However enforcement was lax, and the New Laws of 1542 have to be made to take a stronger line. Because some people like Fray Bartolomé de las Casas questioned not only the Crown but the Papacy at the Valladolid Controversy whether the Indians were truly men who deserved baptism, Pope Paul III in the papal bull Veritas Ipsa or Sublimis Deus (1537) confirmed that the Indians and other races were deserving men, so long as they became baptized. Afterward, their Christian conversion effort gained momentum along social rights, while leaving the same status recognition unanswered for Africans of Black Race, and legal social racism prevailed towards the Indians or Asians. However, by then the last schism of the Reformation had taken place in Europe in those few decades along political lines, and the different views on the Value of human lives of different races were not corrected in the lands of Northern Europe, which would join the Colonial race at the end of the century and over the next, as the Portuguese and Spanish Empires waned. It would take another century, with the influence of the French Empire at its height, and its consequent Enlightenment developed at the highest circles of its Court, to return these previously inconclusive issues to the forefront of the political discourse championed by many intellectual men since Rousseau. These issues gradually permeated to the lower social levels, where they were a reality lived by men and women of different races from the European racial majority.
The first great successes in opposing racism were won by the abolitionist movement, both in England and the United States. Though many Abolitionists did not regard blacks or mulattos as equal to whites, they did in general believe in freedom and often even equality of treatment for all people. A few, like John Brown, went further. Brown was willing to die on behalf of, as he said, "millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments...." Many black Abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglass, explicitly argued for the humanity of blacks and mulattoes, and for the equality of all people.
During the American Civil War, racial egalitarianism in the North became much stronger and more generally disseminated. The success of black troops in the Union Army had a dramatic impact on Northern sentiment. The Emancipation Proclamation was a notable example of this shift in political attitudes, although it notably did not completely extinguish legal slavery in several states. After the war, the Reconstruction government passed the Fourteenth Amendment and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution to guarantee the rights of blacks and mulattoes. Many ex-slaves had access to education for the first time. Blacks and mulattoes were also allowed to vote, which meant that African-Americans were elected to Congress in numbers not equaled until the Voting Rights Act and the Warren Court helped re-enfranchise black Americans.
Due to resistance in the South, however, and a general collapse of idealism in the North, Reconstruction ended, and gave way to the nadir of American race relations. The period from about 1890 to 1920 saw the re-establishment of Jim Crow laws. President Woodrow Wilson, who regarded Reconstruction as a disaster, segregated the federal government. The Ku Klux Klan grew to its greatest peak of popularity and strength. D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was a movie sensation.
Friedrich Tiedemann was one of the first persons to make a scientific contestation of racism. In 1836 he argued based on craniometric and brain measures taken by him from Europeans and black people from different parts of the world that the then belief of many naturalists and anatomists that black people have smaller brains and are thus intellectually inferior to white people is scientifically unfounded and based merely on the prejudice of travellers and explorers.
At the start of the 20th Century, the work of anthropologists trying to end the paradigms of cultural evolutionism and social Darwinism within social sciences—anthropologists like Franz Boas, Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski, Pierre Clastres and Claude Lévi-Strauss—began the initiative to the end of racism in human sciences and establish cultural relativism as the new dominant paradigm.
Racial equality: Paris 1919
Japan first proposed articles dedicated to the elimination of racial discrimination to be added to the rules of the League of Nations. This was the first proposal concerning the international elimination of racial discrimination in the world.
Although the proposal received a majority (11 out of 16) of votes, the chairman, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, overturned it saying that important issues should be unanimously approved. Billy Hughes and Joseph Cook vigorously opposed it as it undermined the White Australia policy.
Revival in the United States
Opposition to racism revived in the 1920s and 1930s. At that time, anthropologists such as Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Ashley Montagu argued for the equality of humans across races and cultures. Eleanor Roosevelt was a very visible advocate for minority rights during this period. Anti-capitalist organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World, which gained popularity from 1905-1926, were explicitly egalitarian.
Beginning with the Harlem Renaissance and continuing into the 1960s, many African-American writers, including James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin argued forcefully against racism.
During the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow laws were repealed in the South and blacks finally re-won the right to vote in Southern states. Civil Rights movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential force, and his "I Have a Dream" speech is an exemplary condensation of his egalitarian ideology. His death inspired Jane Elliott, an American anti-racism activist and a teacher, to create her "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" exercise.
Egalitarianism has been a catalyst for feminism, anti-war, and anti-imperialist movements. Henry David Thoreau's opposition to the Mexican–American War, for example, was based in part on his fear that the U.S. was using the war as an excuse to expand American slavery into new territories. Thoreau's response was chronicled in his famous essay "Civil Disobedience", which in turn helped ignite Gandhi's successful campaign against the British in India. Gandhi's example in turn inspired the American civil rights movement.
As James Loewen notes in Lies My Teacher Told Me: "Throughout the world, from Africa to Northern Ireland, movements of oppressed people continue to use tactics and words borrowed from our abolitionist and civil rights movements." In East Germany, revolutionary Iran, Tiananmen Square, and South Africa, images, words, and tactics developed by human rights supporters have been used regularly and repeatedly.
Many of these uses have been controversial. For example, the pro-life movement often draws connections between its goals and the goals of abolitionism. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has used anti-racist rhetoric to promote a land distribution scheme which has resulted in widespread starvation (see Land reform in Zimbabwe).
- Affirmative action
- Anti-racism in mathematics teaching
- African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–68)
- Color blindness (race) in the United States
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- Political correctness
- Scientific racism
- Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice
- Social criticism
- Teaching for social justice
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
Anti-racist organizations and institutions
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance
- UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
- World Conference against Racism
- Aktion Courage (Germany)
- Les Indivisibles (France)
- SOS Racisme (France)
- Rock Against Racism(United Kingdom)
- Aktion Kinder des Holocaust (Switzerland)
- Anti-Fascist Action (United Kingdom)
- Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (United Kingdom)
- Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (Belgium)
- Félag Anti-Rasista (Iceland)
- Institute of Race Relations (United Kingdom)
- In IUSTITIA (Czech Republic)
- Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples (France)
- National Assembly Against Racism (United Kingdom)
- Newham Monitoring Project (United Kingdom)
- Residents Against Racism (Ireland)
- Show Racism the Red Card (United Kingdom)
- UNITED for Intercultural Action (all of Europe)
- Hepimiz Zokorayız (Turkey)
- Anti-Racism and Hate (United States)
- By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) (United States)
- Anti-Racist Action (North America)
- One People's Project (United States)
- Roots of Resistance (Canada) [defunct]
- Southern Poverty Law Center (United States)
- Red and Anarchist Skinheads (United States)
- Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (United States)
- Friends Stand United (United States)
- All Together Now (Australia)
- EXIT White Power (Australia)
- FightDemBack! (Australia and New Zealand)
- People's Front of Anti Racism (Japan)
- Johansen, Bruce, The Native Peoples of North America, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 2006, p. 110, quote: "In the Papal bull Sublimis deus (1537), Pope Paul III declared that Indians were to be regarded as fully human, and that their souls were as immortal as those of Europeans. This edict also outlawed slavery of Indians in any form..."
- Koschorke, A History of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (2007), p. 290
- "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow", "Jim Crow Stories", "Segregation in the U.S. Government 1913"
- New Historic Perspectives of the First Universal Races Congress of 1911
- Tiedemann, Friedrich. On the Brain of the Negro, comparaded with that of the european and the orang-outang. IN: Phylosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. VOL:126 (1836). http://laboratoriogene.info/Ciencia_Hoje/Tiedemann_1836.pdf.
- Fitzhardinge, L.F. "Hughes, William Morris (Billy) (1862–1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- UK anger over Zimbabwe violence
- Corrupt, greedy and violent
- Sentamu urges Mugabe action, The Independent, September 20, 2007
- Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
- Bonnett, Alistair (1999) Anti-Racism, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-17120-5.
- Hughey, Matthew W. (2012) White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-804-77695-0.
- Wright, W. D. (1998) Racism Matters, Westport, CT: Praeger, ISBN 978-0-275-96197-8.
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- Anti-Racism at DMOZ
- Keele University Political Science Resources anti-racism link directory
- All Together Now
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