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Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. In general, anti-racism is intended to promote an egalitarian society in which people do not face discrimination on the basis of their race, however defined. By its nature, anti-racism tends to promote the view that racism in a particular society is both pernicious and socially pervasive, and that particular changes in political, economic, and/or social life are required to eliminate it.

The word "anti-racism" is recognized by very few dictionaries due in no small part to it being a term and not a word.

American origins of modern anti-racism

Many founders of the United States of Americamarker were owners of black slaves. Protections of the legal practice of slavery based on racism were written into the text of the Constitution of the United States, despite implicitly egalitarian statements such as "all men are created equal" from the American Declaration of Independence. Although such inconsistencies were pointed out by black westerners, such as Olaudah Equiano, and whites, such as Thomas Jefferson, the slave-owning author of the Declaration, serious political change on the issue would have to wait until the American Civil War.

The first great successes in opposing racism were won by the Abolitionist movement, both in Englandmarker 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 mulattos, and for the equality of all people.

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 mulattos. Many ex-slaves had access to education for the first time. Blacks and mulattos were also allowed to vote, which meant that African-Americans were elected to Congress in numbers not equalled until the Voting Rights Act and the Warren Court helped re-enfranchise black Americans.

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, resegregated the federal government. 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. On November 4, 2008, America elected its first biracial President, Barack Obama.

Racial equality proposal of Japan in Paris Peace Conference, 1919

(For more detailed information, see Paris Peace Conference, 1919).


Japanmarker 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.

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. It is said that behind the scenes, Billy Hughes and Joseph Cook vigorously opposed it as it undermined the White Australia Policy.

The revival of racial equality 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. Socialist organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World, which gained some popularity during the Great Depression, were explicitly egalitarian.

Beginning with the Harlem Renaissance and continuing into the 1960s, many African-American writers, including James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin 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. U.S. Civil Rights movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential force, and his "I Have a Dream" speech is an exemplary condensation of his egalitarian ideology.

Anti-racism's influence

Egalitarianism has been a catalyst for feminism, 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 Indiamarker. 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 Irelandmarker, movements of oppressed people continue to use tactics and words borrowed from our abolitionist and civil rights movements." In East Germanymarker, revolutionary Iranmarker, Tiananmen Squaremarker, 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. For example, the pro-life movement often draws connections between its goals and the goals of abolitionism. In Zimbabwemarker, Robert Mugabe has used anti-racist rhetoric to promote a land distribution scheme which has resulted in widespread starvation. However, it has been argued that President Mugabe himself heads a racist government due to his blatant acts of hostility and oppression toward white Zimbabweans (see Land reform in Zimbabwe).

See also



Anti-racist organizations

Europe



North America



Other

References

  1. UK anger over Zimbabwe violence
  2. Corrupt, greedy and violent
  3. Sentamu urges Mugabe action, The Independent, September 20, 2007


Further reading

  • Bonnett, Alistair (1999) Anti-Racism, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-17120-5.
  • Wright, W. D. (1998) "Racism Matters", Westport, CT: Praeger, ISBN 978-0275961978.


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