What did they call it before then?

posted 21 October 2004

As part of a conversation we were having in the office today, I looked up the etymology of the word "racism". Some interesting facts:

  • The idea of a "race" as a distinction between groups of people based on physical similarities didn't exist until sometime around 1770. That's sort of surprising. Was everyone just a big happy family before then, or was it just that we discriminated on bases other than race?
  • The word "racism" was invented by the Nazis, and not until 1935. Before then the word was "racialism" (!), unsurprisingly used mainly in South Africa, but again only since 1907. Before then there was apparently no word for the behaviour, presumably because it was the norm (in the same way that nobody calls us "double-eyeballed").

Also a fantastic quote:

"Just being a Negro doesn't qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine." -- Dick Gregory, 1964
Fantastic, because I've often had similar sentiments with regard to gay people and homophobia. Some people should just shut the fuck up.

Your little thought-bubble for the day.

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