History: Racism in action

History: Racism in action

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Racism is an act. Not only in its extreme forms, those of extermination camps and mass killings, but in the banality of behavior. It is not just a matter of the history of ideas. The History magazine chose to open this file on the laws of purity of blood of Spain at the dawn of modern times. Racism, previously unthinkable, has taken on a new form here.

We see at work the construction of a category to be excluded. In the Iberian Peninsula where the Inquisition is rife, it is the “race of converts” that is being hunted down. “They are bad people, and it only takes one to upset everyone else. [...] Who can deny that among the descendants of the Jews the evil inclination of their ancient ingratitude is perpetuated and lasts? We must therefore protect ourselves from it. The Inquisition will not hesitate.

It is with slavery and the slave trade of millions of Africans that the construction of the black race is developed which will serve to justify rejection, exclusion, and even what is nothing other than a mass crime. In the nineteenth century, colonial law invented the "native race". There were also legislators to consolidate segregation in the United States or apartheid in South Africa. In 1945, because the crime of the Nazis was too enormous, it was believed that racism could be outlawed. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the equal dignity of all human beings. Education had to do the rest. Unesco set about doing it, with the help of anthropologists like Claude Lévi-Strauss and Alfred Métraux. In 1950, the Race Declaration proposed to abandon a concept "which is not based on any scientific basis".

Racism in action. Monthly L'Histoire n ° 400, June 2014. On newsstands and by subscription.

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