Last updated

Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism.


According to the Anti-racism Digital Library, "Anti-racism can be defined as some form of focused and sustained action, which includes inter-cultural, inter-faith, multi-lingual and inter-abled (i.e. differently abled) communities with the intent to change a system or an institutional policy, practice, or procedure which has racist effects." [1]

American origins

European 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 who were educated in the new humane values of the Renaissance, 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 rebuke openly 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. [2] [3] 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.

Quaker initiatives

John Brown's blessing 1867 JohnBrowns Blessing byTNoble NYHistoricalSociety.png
John Brown's blessing

Prior to the American Revolution, a small group of Quakers including John Woolman and Anthony Benezet successfully persuaded their fellow members of the Religious Society of Friends to free their slaves, divest from the slave trade, and create unified Quaker policies against slavery. This afforded their tiny religious denomination some moral authority to help begin the Abolitionist movement on both sides of the Atlantic. Woolman died of smallpox in England in 1775, shortly after crossing the Atlantic to bring his anti-slavery message to the Quakers of the British Isles.

During and after the American Revolution, Quaker ministrations and preachings against slavery began to spread beyond their movement. In 1783, 300 Quakers, chiefly from the London area, presented the British Parliament with their signatures on the first petition against the slave trade. In 1785, Englishman Thomas Clarkson, enrolled at Cambridge, and in the course of writing an essay in Latin (Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare (Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?), read the works of Benezet, and began a lifelong effort to outlaw the slave trade in England. In 1787, sympathizers formed the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, a small non-denominational group that could lobby more successfully by incorporating Anglicans, who, unlike the Quakers, could lawfully sit in Parliament. The twelve founding members included nine Quakers, and three pioneering Anglicans: Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, and William Wilberforce – all evangelical Christians.

Later successes

Later 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.

Prior to and 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.[ citation needed ]

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. [4] 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.

In 1911 the First Universal Races Congress met in London, at which distinguished speakers from many countries for four days discussed race problems and ways to improve interracial relations. [5]

Scientific anti-racism

Friedrich Tiedemann was one of the first people scientifically to contest racism. In 1836, using craniometric and brain measurements (taken by him from Europeans and black people from different parts of the world), he refuted the belief of many contemporary naturalists and anatomists that black people have smaller brains and are thus intellectually inferior to white people, saying it was scientifically unfounded and based merely on the prejudiced opinions of travelers and explorers. [6] The evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin wrote in 1871 that ‘[i]t may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant’ and that ‘[a]lthough the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points.’ [7]

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.[ citation needed ]

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 [8] and Joseph Cook vigorously opposed it as it undermined the White Australia policy.[ citation needed ]

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 during 1905–1926, were explicitly egalitarian.

In the 1940s Springfield, Massachusetts invoked The Springfield Plan to include all persons in the community.

Beginning with the Harlem Renaissance and continuing into the 1960s, many African-American writers argued forcefully against racism.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow laws were repealed in the South and blacks finally re-won the right to vote in Southern states. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential force, and his "I Have a Dream" speech is an exemplary condensation of his egalitarian ideology.


Crowd rallying at a demonstration in Israel against manifestations of racism and discrimination. Crowd at Demonstration.jpg
Crowd rallying at a demonstration in Israel against manifestations of racism and discrimination.

Egalitarianism has been a catalyst for feminist, 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.[ citation needed ] 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. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has used anti-racist rhetoric to promote a land distribution scheme whereby privately held land is confiscated from white Rhodesians and distributed to blacks, which has resulted in widespread starvation (see Land reform in Zimbabwe). [9] [10] [11]

White genocide theory

The phrase "Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white", coined by high-profile white nationalist Robert Whitaker, is commonly associated with the topic of white genocide, a white nationalist conspiracy theory that mass immigration, integration, miscegenation, low fertility rates and abortion are being promoted in predominantly white countries to deliberately turn them minority-white and hence cause white people to become extinct through forced assimilation. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] The phrase has been spotted on billboards near Birmingham, Alabama [21] and in Harrison, Arkansas. [22]

Anti-racist organizations and institutions



North America


See also

Related Research Articles

Racism race or ethnic-based discrimination

Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance, and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity. Modern variants of racism are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. These views can take the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems in which different races are ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities.

White supremacy or white supremacism is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them. White supremacy has roots in the now-discredited doctrine of scientific racism and often relies on pseudoscientific arguments. Like most similar movements such as neo-Nazism, white supremacists typically oppose members of other races as well as Jews.

James McCune Smith American physician and abolitionist

James McCune Smith was an African-American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author in New York City. He was the first African American to hold a medical degree and graduated at the top in his class at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. After his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in that nation.

Quadroon a person with one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry

In the slave societies of the Americas, a quadroon or quarteron was a person with one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry.

Racism in the United States Systematized form of oppression by one race against another in the US

Racism in the United States has existed since the colonial era, when white Americans were given legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities. European Americans—particularly affluent white Anglo-Saxon Protestants—enjoyed exclusive privileges in matters of education, immigration, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition, and criminal procedure throughout American history. Non-Protestant immigrants from Europe, particularly the Irish, Poles, and Italians, often suffered xenophobic exclusion and other forms of ethnicity-based discrimination in American society until the late 19th century and early 20th century. In addition, groups like Jews and Arabs have faced continuous discrimination in the United States, and as a result, some people who belong to these groups do not identify as white. African Americans were restricted in political, social, and economic freedom throughout much of US history. East, South, and Southeast Asians have similarly faced racism in America.

Reverse racism or reverse discrimination is the concept that affirmative action and similar color-conscious programs for redressing racial inequality are a form of anti-white racism. The concept is often associated with conservative social movements and the belief that social and economic gains by black people in the U.S. and elsewhere cause disadvantages for white people.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) played a major role in the abolition movement against slavery in both the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. Quakers were among the first white people to denounce slavery in the American colonies and Europe, and the Society of Friends became the first organization to take a collective stand against both slavery and the slave trade, later spearheading the international and ecumenical campaigns against slavery.

Race legislation in the United States is defined as legislation seeking to direct relations between races or ethnic groups. It has had several historical phases in the United States, developing from the European colonization of the Americas, the triangular slave trade, and the American Indian Wars. The 1776 Declaration of Independence included the statement that "all men are created equal," which has ultimately inspired actions and legislation against slavery and racial discrimination. Such actions have led to passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

A racial hierarchy is a system of stratification that focuses on the belief that some racial groups are either superior or inferior to other racial groups. The groups perceived to have the most power, intellect and de facto authority are at the top of the racial hierarchy, while the groups perceived to be inferior are at the bottom.

Racism in Africa is multi-faceted and dates back several centuries. It was originally strengthened by European colonialism, under which boundaries were drawn that did not take into consideration the different peoples dwelling within the newly formed provinces. The boundaries were little changed when former European colonies gained independence. As a consequence, some African nations have been plagued by inner conflicts, prejudiced attitudes and tribal warfare.

This article describes the state of race relations and Racism in North America. The factors that affect racism may vary from country to country due to historic, cultural, religious, economic or demographic reasons. Several academic statements assert racism and ethnic discrimination are deep, inherent and fundamental aspects of North American society.

Racism in Cuba refers to racial discrimination against Afro-Cuban or mixed race communities.

Racism in the Arab world covers an array of forms of intolerance against non-Arabs and the expat majority of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf coming from groups as well as Black, Hispanic and Asian groups that are Muslim; minorities such as Armenians, Africans, Latin Americans, Southeast Asians, Jews, Kurds, Assyrians, and Coptic Christians, Persians and other Iranic peoples, Turks, and South Asians in Arab countries of the Middle East.

Racism: A History is a three-part British documentary series originally broadcast on BBC Four in March 2007.

In the United States, anti-miscegenation laws were state laws passed by individual states to prohibit interracial marriage and interracial sex.

Today, there are more than 75 million people of African descent living in Brazil, which currently gives it the second largest black population in the world. However, despite its large black population it was also the last country in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery, in 1888. Brazil proudly refers to itself as a "Racial Democracy," originally coined by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in his work Casa-Grande & Senzala, published in 1933. Additionally, racism has been made illegal under Brazil's anti-discrimination laws, which were passed in the 1950s after an African-American dancer was barred from a hotel. Nonetheless, race has been the subject of multiple intense debates over the years within the country.

Racism is a phenomenon present in the United Kingdom. The extent and the targets of racist attitudes in the UK have varied over the course of time. The history of racism in the United Kingdom is heavily linked to its relationship with its former colonies and citizens that comprised the British Empire, many of whom settled in Great Britain, particularly following World War II. It is also strongly linked to the attitudes and norms of the entrenched British class system.

John H. Van Evrie (1814–1896) was an American physician and defender of slavery best known as the editor of the Weekly Day Book and the author of several books on race and slavery which reproduced the ideas of scientific racism for a popular audience. He was also the proprietor of the publishing company Van Evrie, Horton & Company. Van Evrie was described by the historian George M. Fredrickson as "perhaps the first professional racist in American history." His thought, which lacked significant scientific evidence even for the time, emphasized the inferiority of black people to white people, defended slavery as practiced in the United States and attacked abolitionism, while opposing class distinctions among white people and the oppression of the white working class. He repeatedly put "slave" and "slavery" in quotation marks, because he did not think these were the right words for enslaved Blacks.

Racial segregation of churches in the United States

Racial segregation of churches in the United States is a pattern of Christian churches having segregated congregations based on race. As of 2001, as many as 87% of Christian churches in the United States were completely made up of only White or African-American parishioners.

Racism in the Dominican Republic exists due to the after-effects of slavery and the African Diaspora. Today, many Dominicans have African ancestry, as most slaves were transported to South America and the Caribbean islands. Due to the influence of European colonization and European propagation of Africans or "dark-people" as lesser, being of African ancestry is often not desired or acknowledged in the Dominican Republic. Approximately 90% of Dominicans have some extent of African descent, however, few people self-identify as being black. According to Gates, only 4.13% of Dominicans identified themselves as black while the majority, 82% identified as "Indio". "Indo" is a term to mean in-between "whiteness" and "blackness", so not explicitly black despite the facts that many Dominicans possess physical features much more similar to Africans. In the Dominican Republic, "blackness" is often associated with being Haitian and those who possess more African-like phenotypic features are often victims of discrimination. The discrimination Haitians and Dominicans of darker skin tone endure led to the trend of Dominicans denying their African ancestry.


  1. Anti-racism Digital Library
  2. 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 ..."
  3. Koschorke, A History of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (2007), p. 290
  4. "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow . Jim Crow Stories . Segregation in the U. S. Government". PBS.
  5. Fletcher, I. C. (1 April 2005). "Introduction: New Historical Perspectives on the First Universal Races Congress of 1911". Radical History Review. 2005 (92): 99–102. doi:10.1215/01636545-2005-92-99.
  6. "On the Brain of the Negro, compared with that of the European and the Orang-Outang" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  7. Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man.
  8. Fitzhardinge, L.F. "Hughes, William Morris (Billy) (1862–1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University . Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  9. "UK anger over Zimbabwe violence". BBC News.
  10. McGreal, Chris (1 April 2007). "Corrupt, greedy and violent: Mugabe attacked by Catholic bishops after years of silence" via The Guardian.
  11. Sentamu urges Mugabe action Archived October 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Billboard from 'white genocide' group goes up in Ala" . Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  13. "Where does that billboard phrase, 'Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white,' come from? It's not new" . Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  14. Kaplan, Jeffrey (2000). Encyclopedia of White Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right. AltaMira Press. p. 539. ISBN   9780742503403 . Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  15. Kivisto, Peter; Rundblad, Georganne (2000). Multiculturalism in the United States: Current Issues, Contemporary Voices. SAGE Knowledge. pp. 57–60. ISBN   9780761986485 . Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  16. Capehart, Jonathan. "A petition to 'stop white genocide'?". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  17. "'White Genocide' Billboard Removed". NBC News. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  18. Sexton, Jared (2008). Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism . Univ Of Minnesota Press. pp.  207–08. ISBN   0816651043 . Retrieved 1 May 2015. white genocide.
  19. Perry, Barbara. "‘White Genocide’: White Supremacists and the Politics of Reproduction." Home-grown hate: Gender and organized racism (2001): 75–85.
  20. Eager, Paige Whaley (2013). From Freedom Fighters to Terrorists: Women and Political Violence. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p.  90. ISBN   9781409498575.
  21. Underwood, Madison (30 June 2014). "Where does that billboard phrase, 'Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white,' come from? It's not new". Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  22. Byng, Rhonesha (7 November 2013). "Arkansas Town Responds To Controversial 'Anti-Racist Is A Code Word For Anti-White' Sign". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  23. "Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance".

Further reading

Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of Anti-racism at Wiktionary Commons-logo.svg Media related to Anti-racism at Wikimedia Commons