Friday, October 05, 2007

I wrote this to send in to a local news radio show. I didn't send it b/c they had moved on by the time i wrote it and i rarely get responses from these shows anyhow. In fact, i rarely get responses to this blog or to posts i make on forums, too. What gives? Anyway, what prompted this was a statement something like "there's always been racism and always will be." I also want to write something about another false "truism" i hear a lot in regards to the Middle East. It's the one that goes "these people have been killing each other for thousands of years." I don't think that's true.

I question the assumption that all societies have always been racist--at least to the extent that ours is or has been in the last few centuries.

If you read ancient books, there is remarkably little attention given to race in the modern sense. I recently read "The Jugurthine War" by Sallust. This is about a war between Rome and a Berber king in North Africa. It is told from the Roman point of view, by a Roman author. Romans and Berbers are distinctly different races. There were no negative statements about Berbers as a race, even though the author had ample incentive to cast them in a bad light.

Also, Roman citizenship was not limited by race. Anyone could become a Roman citizen by serving in the legions. People were not excluded from service because of skin color or place of origin.

The great prosyletizing religions don't seem to have put much stock in race, either. Christianity and Islam accepted Europeans, Arabs, Semites, North Africans, Subsaharan Africans, Persians, etc. Buddhism embraced all the varied races between India and Japan.

Race was of so little concern to ancient writers that we have a hard time pinning down the race of some ancient peoples. What did the average Egyptian look like in the days of the Pharoahs? Ask modern scholars and you'll get a myriad of answers, because modern man is obsessed with race, but his ancestors weren't, and so they didn't bother to record such details.

I'm not saying there wasn't prejudice in the past. Of course there was. The most common being that anyone from outside your own culture was a "barbarian", but this had to do with culture and language, not skin color or perceived genetic inferiority, as with racism.