As an ideology, racism existed during the 19th century as "scientific racism", which attempted to provide a racial classification of humanity. Although such racist ideologies have been widely discredited after World War II and the Holocaust, racism and of racial discrimination have remained widespread all over the world. Some examples of this in present day are statistics including, but not limited to, the ratio of black men in prison to free black men vs. other races, physical abilities and mental ability statistics, and other data gathered by scientific groups. While these statistics are accurate, and can show trends, it's inappropriate in most countries to assume that because a particular race has a high crime or low literacy rate, that the entire race of people automatically are criminals or unintelligent.
It was already noted by DuBois that, in making the difference between races, it is not race that we think about, but culture: “…a common history, common laws and religion, similar habits of thought and a conscious striving together for certain ideals of life” Late nineteenth century nationalists were the first to embrace contemporary discourses on "race", ethnicity and "survival of the fittest" to shape new nationalist doctrines. Ultimately, race came to represent not only the most important traits of the human body, but was also regarded as decisively shaping the character and personality of the nation.
According to this view, culture is the physical manifestation created by ethnic groupings, as such fully determined by racial characteristics. Culture and race became considered intertwined and dependent upon each other, sometimes even to the extent of including nationality or language to the set of definition. Pureness of race tended to be related to rather superficial characteristics that were easily addressed and advertised, such as blondness. Racial qualities tended to be related to nationality and language rather than the actual geographic distribution of racial characteristics. In the case of Nordicism, the denomination "Germanic" became virtually equivalent to superiority of race.
Bolstered by some nationalist and ethnocentric values and achievements of choice, this concept of racial superiority evolved to distinguish from other cultures, that were considered inferior or impure. This emphasis on culture corresponds to the modern mainstream definition of racism: "Racism does not originate from the existence of ‘races’. It creates them through a process of social division into categories: anybody can be racialised, independently of their somatic, cultural, religious differences."
This definition explicitly ignores the fiery polemic on the biological concept of race, still subject to scientific debate. In the words of David C. Rowe "A racial concept, although sometimes in the guise of another name, will remain in use in biology and in other fields because scientists, as well as lay persons, are fascinated by human diversity, some of which is captured by race."
Until recent history this racist abuse of physical anthropology has been politically exploited. Apart from being unscientific, racial prejudice became subject to international legislation. For instance, the Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1963, address racial prejudice explicitly next to discrimination for reasons of race, colour or ethnic origin (Article I).
Racism has been a motivating factor in social discrimination, racial segregation, hate speech and violence (such as pogroms, genocides andethnic cleansings). Despite the persistence of racial stereotypes, humor and epithets in much everyday language, racial discrimination is illegal in many countries.
Ironically, anti-racism has also become a political instrument of abuse. Some politicians have practised race baiting in an attempt to win votes. In a reversal of values, anti-racism is being propagated by despots in the service of obscurantism and the suppression of women.philosopher Pascal Bruckner claimed that "Anti-racism in the UN has become the ideology of totalitarian regimes who use it in their own interests."
After the Napoleonic Wars, Europe was confronted with the new "nationalities question," leading to ceaseless reconfigurations of the European map, on which the frontiers between the states had been delimited during the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Nationalism had made its first striking appearance with the invention of the levée en masse by the French revolutionaries, thus inventing mass conscription in order to be able to defend the newly founded Republic against the Ancien Régime order represented by the European monarchies. This led to theFrench Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and then to the Napoleonic conquests, and to the subsequent European-wide debates on the concepts and realities of nations, and in particular of nation-states. The Westphalia Treaty had divided Europe into various empires and kingdoms (Ottoman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Swedish Empire, Kingdom of France, etc.), and for centuries wars were waged between princes (Kabinettskriege in German).
Modern nation-states appeared in the wake of the French Revolution, with the formation of patriotic sentiments for the first time in Spainduring the Peninsula War (1808-1813 - known in Spanish as the Independence War). Despite the restoration of the previous order with the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the "nationalities question" became the main problem of Europe during the Industrial Era, leading in particular to the 1848 Revolutions, the Italian unification completed during the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, which itself culminated in the proclamation of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, thus achieving the German unification.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire, the "sick man of Europe", was confronted with endless nationalist movements, which, along with the dissolving of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, would lead to the creation after World War I of the various nation-states of the Balkans, with "nationalminorities" in their borders. Ethnic nationalism, which advocated the belief in a hereditary membership of the nation, made its appearance in the historical context surrounding the creation of the modern nation-states.
One of its main influences was the Romantic nationalist movement at the turn of the 19th century, represented by figures such as Johann Herder (1744–1803), Johan Fichte (1762–1814) in theAddresses to the German Nation (1808), Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), or also, in France, Jules Michelet (1798–1874). It was opposed toliberal nationalism, represented by authors such as Ernest Renan (1823–1892), who conceived of the nation as a community which, instead of being based on the Volk ethnic group and on a specific, common language, was founded on the subjective will to live together ("the nation is a daily plebiscite", 1882) or also John Stuart Mill (1806–1873).
Ethnic nationalism quickly blended itself with scientific racist discourses, as well as with "continental imperialist" (Hannah Arendt, 1951) discourses, for example in the pan-Germanism discourses, which postulated the racial superiority of the German Volk. The Pan-German League (Alldeutscher Verband), created in 1891, promoted German imperialism, "racial hygiene" and was opposed to intermarriage withJews. Another, popular current, the Völkisch movement, was also an important proponent of the German ethnic nationalist discourse, which it also combined with modern antisemitism. Members of the Völkisch movement, in particular the Thule Society, would participate in the founding of the German Workers' Party (DAP) in Munich in 1918, the predecessor of the NSDAP Nazi party. Pan-Germanism and played a decisive role in the interwar period of the 1920s-1930s.
These currents began to associate the idea of the nation with the biological concept of a "master race" (often the "Aryan race" or "Nordic race") issued from the scientific racist discourse. They conflated nationalities with ethnic groups, called "races", in a radical distinction from previous racial discourses which posited the existence of a "race struggle" inside the nation and the state itself. Furthermore, they believed that political boundaries should mirror these alleged racial and ethnic groups, thus justifying ethnic cleansing in order to achieve "racial purity" and also to achieve ethnic homogeneity in the nation-state.
Such racist discourses, combined with nationalism, were not however limited to pan-Germanism. In France, the transition from Republican, liberal nationalism, to ethnic nationalism, which made nationalism a characteristic of far-right movements in France, took place during theDreyfus Affair at the end of the 19th century. During several years, a nation-wide crisis affected French society, concerning the alleged treason of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish military officer. The country polarized itself into two opposite camps, one represented by Émile Zola, who wrote J'accuse in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, and the other represented by the nationalist poet Maurice Barrès (1862–1923), one of the founders of the ethnic nationalist discourse in France. At the same time, Charles Maurras (1868–1952), founder of the monarchistAction française movement, theorized the "anti-France," composed of the "four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners" (his actual word for the latter being the pejorative métèques)). Indeed, to him the first three were all "internal foreigners," who threatened the ethnic unity of the French people.
Debates over the origins of racism often suffer from a lack of clarity over the term. Many use the term "racism" to refer to more general phenomena, such as xenophobia and ethnocentrism, although scholars attempt to clearly distinguish those phenomena from racism as anideology or from scientific racism, which has little to do with ordinary xenophobia. Others conflate recent forms of racism with earlier forms of ethnic and national conflict. In most cases, ethno-national conflict seems to owe itself to conflict over land and strategic resources. In some cases ethnicity and nationalism were harnessed to rally combatants in wars between great religious empires (for example, the Muslim Turks and the Catholic Austro-Hungarians).
Notions of race and racism often have played central roles in such ethnic conflicts. Historically, when an adversary is identified as "other" based on notions of race or ethnicity (particularly when "other" is construed to mean "inferior"), the means employed by the self-presumed "superior" party to appropriate territory, human chattel, or material wealth often have been more ruthless, more brutal, and less constrained bymoral or ethical considerations. According to historian Daniel Richter, Pontiac's Rebellion saw the emergence on both sides of the conflict of "the novel idea that all Native people were 'Indians,' that all Euro-Americans were 'Whites,' and that all on one side must unite to destroy the other." (Richter, Facing East from Indian Country, p. 208) Basil Davidson insists in his documentary, Africa: Different but Equal, that racism, in fact, only just recently surfaced—as late as the 1800s, due to the need for a justification for slavery in the Americas.
The idea of slavery as an "equal-opportunity employer" was denounced with the introduction of Christian theory in the West. Maintaining that Africans were "subhuman" was the only loophole in the then accepted law that "men are created equal" that would allow for the sustenance of the Triangular Trade. New peoples in the Americas, possible slaves, were encountered, fought, and ultimately subdued, but then due to European diseases, their populations drastically decreased. Through both influences, theories about "race" developed, and these helped many to justify the differences in position and treatment of people whom they categorized as belonging to different races (see Eric Wolf'sEurope and the People without History).
Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda argued that, during the Valladolid controversy in the middle of the 16th century, the Native Americans were natural slaves because they had no souls. In Asia, the Chinese and Japanese Empires were both strong colonial powers, with the Chinese making colonies and vassal states of much of East Asia throughout history, and the Japanese doing the same in the 19th-20th centuries. In both cases, the Asian imperial powers believed they were ethnically and racially preferenced too.