1. Emily Golus says:

    Interesting article—thank you! My understanding is that racism as we know it started after the discovery of the New World. As unscrupulous Europeans figured out the amount of money they could make in the tropics with cash crops like sugar, and that they could use slave labor to further increase their profits, they started to create “justifications” for why this new brutal form of slavery was okay to perform against certain populations. I’ll be interested to see if your research backs this up, or if there’s something more I’m missing.

    • notleia says:

      It would be a complicated thing to fish through, the distinction between race and class even in Renaissance Europe. Slavery was a thing in Bronze/Iron Age Europe, but it seems to have mostly manifested as serfdom, with the ownership and wealth tied to (land) inheritance rather than as a separate commodity. But the serf population got more legal rights (especially after the plague, when they got leverage for better treatment from the decimated work population), so by the time of the Renaissance, it was pretty much illegal to practice slavery on “white” European populations. Indentured servitude, yes, but even they had some legal protections.
      So if the Europeans wanted to practice legal chattel slavery, they WOULD have had to import from other races. The Ottoman empire still practiced slavery, and IIRC the Europeans took a lot of pages from their book. Arguably, it got worse the more driven by capitalism it got, when it got into terms of pure profit rather than simple survival. The southern American colonies, especially, were driven by profit rather than the small-farmer survival-driven culture in the north. Heck, Georgia was trying to set itself up as a state of free small-holders (white trash thrown out in the wilderness to sink or swim) until people like George Whitefield (yes, THAT George Whitefield) f**ked it up by using money and influence to loosen slavery laws so they could develop the for-profit plantations like Virginia had.
      And that, children, along with Southern Baptists, is why you should take the progressive history of the evangelical types with a few grains of salt. George f**kin Whitefield.

      • Emily Golus says:

        Yes, the old forms of slavery in the ancient/medieval world weren’t a picnic by any means. But the new, dehumanizing chattel slavery was a whole new level of abuse, and required a lot of racist “justification” and a lot of people back home turning a blind eye. The colonization of the New World (especially the Caribbean and what would become the US) was inexorably tied into the plantation/slavery model.

        It’s distressing how many people who should have followed the clear New Testament ethics regarding love and service for others were so easily corrupted by the allure of money and creature comforts (sugar, for example, which in that time depended completely on slave labor) that they bought into these racist, anti-biblical ideas wholesale. We’re still dealing with the fallout of these moral failures.

      • Travis Perry says:

        Yeah, I know quite a lot about George Whitefiled. Never heard that English revival preacher did anything to make slavery easier. And why would he? He was English.
        So you’ve gotta show a source on this one.
        As for the rest of your take on history, I agree with a bit of it but mostly disagree. But I’m going to tread that ground in future posts.
        So if you can show a source for your assertion on Whitefield, please do.

        • notleia says:

          IIRC, it was the book “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg.
          I think it would make a nice addition to any reading on this subject, to put some nuance in the muddled issues of class and race.

  2. notleia says:

    I don’t think the ethnocentrism is as distinct from the racism as you’re kinda implying. One easily bleeds into the other. It makes a depressing kind of sense that as the Europeans explored (and exploited) farther and farther, they discovered that the foreigners nearer to them were less horrifyingly weird than the foreigners farther away.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Ethoncentrism fed into racism, but they are very different when we get around to talking about white supremacy. Which we’ll get to.

      • notleia says:

        It’s probably just that you’re using the terms slightly differently than how I would.
        I’d use “tribalism” to describe the instinctive in-group/out-group thing humans have going on, which you seem to use for “ethnocentrism.” “Ethnocentrism” I would use more along the line of “nationalism.”
        IIRC, you were going to make a case for tribalism/ethnocentrism to be a good thing, but I dunno if I’d go so far to call it a “good” thing. I’d consider it more of a neutral phenomenon, since bad things can come from it as easily as good things.

        • Brennan McPherson says:

          But ethnocentrism can happen across nation lines.

          • notleia says:

            I’m not using them as synonyms, silly beans. I’m trying to capture a sense of scale into the language.
            Like, “tribalism” is Viking fans and “ethnocentrism” is American football fans in the aggregate, as opposed to baseball fans or something.

            • But tribalism can be political groups, which can be massive. It’s not so much scale as it is focus. Ethnocentricsm is surrounding a culture, people from a similar background. Tribalism is people who gather together because of similar interests or goals. At least, that’s my understanding of the definitions.
              For the record, if you’re going to call me something degrading, I much prefer silly beans over all the previous ones lol.

              • notleia says:

                Okay then, what term would you use for small, community type groups? Villageism? (I object to that on aesthetics grounds) “Clannishness” has more familial connotations.

              • Brennan McPherson says:

                Depends on what ties them together… isn’t it obvious? Both could apply, depending on the ties.

  3. callen says:

    Excellent content.

  4. L.A. Smith says:

    Interesting! I’ve done a lot of research on the Early Middle Ages in England for my historical fantasy series set in the 7th century, and I haven’t seen racism in the Early Medieval Church. In fact, I will refer you to this fascinating article about an African Abbot in 8th century England who was revered for his knowledge, skill in teaching, and character.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Yes, I agree. Racism didn’t really exist in the Middle Ages at all…though by the end of the Medieval Period we see some hints in that direction related to the Crusades and a few other bits. But overall, racism wasn’t a thing in the Middle Ages…again, I agree.

  5. Autumn Grayson says:

    Woke/Cancel Culture actually talks about the class associations with color as a part of Colorism. From what I’ve seen, they know about those class associations and really just see it as a nasty part of racism and are less likely to treat it as a separate issue. Or they treat it as a separate issue, but tend to assume that racism is what will make a modern person exhibit colorism(due to cultural things that developed from slavery in U.S. history.) They’ll also point to modern beauty standards. Since they feel like the beauty standards are to be pale, and white people are able to obtain that standard easier, it causes a lot of problems for people with naturally dark complexions.

    I can see where they’re coming from, since a person shouldn’t be called ugly just because of their skin tone. But in Cancel Culturey circles, they would probably just take the class associations with skin tone as an indication that racism is disgustingly and irredeemably pervasive. With them, something is more likely to be classified as racist just because it harms POC, even if the problem actually has/is accompanied by other causes. Of course Colorism CAN be an issue, but some people don’t seem to respond to it as well as they could.

    And then some of them might take literary devices like dark vs light symbolism and say such things should never exist in literature(even if the story obviously isn’t associating it with race) because it was a precursor to racist thinking, influenced society for the worst, and has a chance of perpetuating racist thinking now.

    I dunno. I agree with you on a lot of things, I’m just reflecting on how many people probably know a lot of the stuff you mention, but use it in a destructive way. There’s facts, and then there’s the perception and usage of those facts. A lot of what’s been getting me lately is the way people think they have to react to the information they find… Though I didn’t talk much about the destructive responses themselves.

    As a sidenote, there are other significances/symbolism to paler things as well. White animals, for example, tend to stand out in most environments. That tends to be a downside for them, since that makes it harder for them to catch prey/evade predators. Humans often deride unusual things that stand out, but there are plenty of other times when we will be fascinated by those unusual things instead. A king, for example, could want a pale horse because it stands out from the crowd and can command more attention. And many colors had significance based on how easy they were to obtain within a society.

    • Travis Perry says:

      I’m going to eventually treat modern Critical Race Theory and the cancel culture that comes with it as a type of anachronism (well, in part). They read into the past the existence of things that come from the present. So yes, they see class divisions based on how much sun exposure someone got as racist…except racism actually is something else.

      I hope to make it clear what racism is and where it came from, and what that means looking at the past, the present, and the future. This will necessitate some direct conflict with many modern ways of thinking. But it will take a bit to develop the entire argument.

      In the meantime, you pointing out what certain modern people think about the past is a legitimate thing to point out. They are wrong, but I believe that you’re correctly reporting what they think.

  6. Vista Townsend says:

    A few years ago, I did a lot of historical research when writing a history fiction novel about Saint Augustine called The Jagged Road to Sainthood. I can agree with you that the modern view of racism did not exist back then.

    Romans looked down on all outsiders but didn’t focus on skin color. Saint Augustine was actually from North Africa and was of the Berbers race. Until I begin doing the research, I didn’t even know there was and still is a race called Berbers.

    Augustine spent his youth and early career in Carthage, North Africa, the second largest city in the ancient world. Because of the city’s key location, it consisted of people from many backgrounds from across the known world. One of Augustine’s closest friends was a former slave whose dad owned a villa, and this friend was well educated. Augustine’s concubine for many years was also a former slave. She was uneducated, and it was illegal for her to marriage Augustine because former slaves where not allowed to marry into the senatorial class.

    Freemen could own homes and businesses, but could not become full citizens. Their children, though, could buy citizenship and enjoy all the privileges that came with that. So in large cities of the Empire, it was common to see people of any shade mingling with each other. The real divider between the classes was money and education.

What do you think?