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Racialism is an emphasis on race or racial considerations.[1] Sometimes this refers to the controversial belief in the existence and significance of racial categories. Racialism was very common throughout Europe, North America, and Australia through the 18th and 19th centuries. Racialism is currently widespread in India in the form of the caste system. Although the term is sometimes used in contrast to racism, especially in academia (it is in this case a synonym of scientific racism), it is also used synonymously with racism.

In separatist identity politics, the term may be used to emphasise perceived social and cultural differences between "races". Separatists may say that although they do not see themselves as superior to — or feel hatred towards — other "races", they nevertheless believe that the races should not live together (see white separatism and black separatism).

Racialists often cite controversial academic works such as Race, Evolution and Behavior by J. Philippe Rushton, IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn, and The Bell Curve by R.J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Rushton's work in particular is controversial.

Distinguishing from racism

While "racism" refers both to individual attitudes and group act, "racialism" usually implies the existence of a social or political movement and, more importantly, a theory of racism. Supporters of racialism say that "racism" implies racial supremacism and a harmful intent, whereas "racialism" indicates a strong interest in matters of "race" without these connotations. Instead, their focus is on "racial pride", identity politics, or racial segregation. Organisations such as NAAWP insist on these distinctions, and claim that they vehemently oppose state sponsored racism.

The relationship between the two concepts is expressed at length by Kwame Anthony Appiah in his book In My Father's House:

"the view – which I shall call racialism – that there are heritable characteristics, possessed by members of our species, which allow us to divide them into a small set of races, in such a way that all the members of these races share certain traits and tendencies with each other that they do not share with members of any other race. These traits and tendencies characteristic of a race constitute, on the racialist view, a sort of racial essence; it is part of the content of racialism that the essential heritable characteristics of the "Races of Man" account for more than the visible morphological characteristics – skin colour, hair type, facial features – on the basis of which we make our informal classifications. Racialism is at the heart of nineteenth-century attempts to develop a science of racial difference, but it appears to have been believed by others – like Hegel, before then, and Crummell and many Africans since – who have had no interest in developing scientific theories.

Pierre-André Taguieff (1987) has used the word "racialism" as a perfect synonym of "scientific racism", to distinguish it from "popular racism": "racialism" is racism which claims to be scientifically founded. Arthur Gobineau's An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-55) is a good example of such racialism. Human zoos have been an important component of both "popular racism" and racialism, as it popularized colonialism to the masses while being at the same time an object of curiosity for anthropology and anthropometric studies, until at least the 1930s.

W. E. B. DuBois

W.E.B. DuBois argues that racialism is the philosophical belief that differences between the races exist, be it biological, social, psychological, or in the realm of the soul. He then goes on to argue that racism is using this belief to push forward the argument that one's particular race is superior to the others.

Therefore, Dubois separates the conditions of racism from racism itself. (Anthony Kwame Appiah summarises Dubois' position in his book In My Father's House, chapter 3.) Racialism in this view is a value-neutral philosophy, while racism is a value-charged ideology.

Molefi Kete Asante criticises DuBois for this very racialism in "The Afrocentric Idea".

Identity politics

Within identity politics, many groups have emphasised their own ethnic group, and the importance of "racial" differences, whether they be cultural, economic, biological, or political.

The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, and similar organisations, advocate the welfare of a specific ethnicity, without a harmful intent towards others.

Use by white separatist and white supremacist groups

In the present-day United States, the term "racialism" has been appropriated by white separatist and white supremacist groups such as Christian Identity,[2] Aryan Nations[3], the American Nazi Party[4], and White Aryan Resistance.[5] These groups may say that they do not view themselves as superior to—and do not exhibit hatred towards —other "races", but only believe in separation between "races". In the historical context of the U.S., the word "racist" strongly evokes white-on-black racism; the use of the term "racialist" by these groups disclaims the characterization "racist", and advances more symmetric connotations of portraying white nationalism as being simply the white analog of black civil rights struggles. For example, former Louisiana State Representative and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's National Association for the Advancement of White People seeks to portray itself as the white counterpart of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This analogy is controversial, and is rejected by the mainstream opinion. This is because mainstream opinion holds that most of Western civilization is still at least partially biased in the favour of white people, whereas the NAAWP claims that there is no longer any widespread societal bias towards favouring whites and if anything, the bias has shifted towards favouring people of colour, or is in the process of doing so. Therefore, while most still hold that the NAAWP and similar groups are simply "racist", this does not necessarily mean that these groups themselves do not believe that they are not really civil rights fighters for whites, as the two different things often tend to be somewhat relative to prevailing social biases invariably.

In popular culture

In an interview segment in his satirical program, Ali G was once erroneously criticized for his use of the derivative racialist,[How to reference and link to summary or text] a relatively unused term in the United States. Andy Rooney, among other criticisms of the artist's speech, refused to accept Ali G's use of the term and eventually conceded out of annoyance.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

See also

This entry is related to, but not included in the Political ideologies series or one of its sub-series. Other related articles can be found at the Politics Portal.

External links


  1. ^, retrieved August 18, 2005.
  2. ^, retrieved August 18, 2005.
  3. ^  Approving uses of the term were found on, retrieved August 18, 2005.
  4. ^  Approving uses of the term were found on, retrieved August 18, 2005.
  5. ^  Approving uses of the term were found on, retrieved August 18, 2005.
  6. ^  For example, an August 18, 2005 Google search of the Nation of Islam web site at returned many hits for "racism," but none for "racialism."


  • Paul C. Taylor (2000) - Appiah's Uncompleted Argument: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Reality of Race. (philosopher K. Anthony Appiah) : An article from: Social Theory and Practice ISBN B0008HB770
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah (1993) - In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture - ISBN 0195068521
  • Sanneh, Kelefa "After the Beginning Again: The Afrocentric Ordeal" Transition - Issue 87 (Volume 10, Number 3), 2001, pp. 66-89
  • Kennedy, Paul and Nicholls Anthony (eds.) Nationalist and racialist movements in Britain and Germany before 1914 (Saint Antony's College Press, 1981).
  • Dobratz, Betty A. "White power, white pride!": The white separatist movement in the United States (Twayne Publishers, NY, 1997).
  • Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to murder: The Rwanda genocide (Verso, London, 2004).
  • Snyder, Louis L. The Idea of Racialism: Meaning and History. (Princeton, NJ, 1962).
  • Stokes, Geoffrey (ed.). The Politics of Identity in Australia. See: John Kane, "Racialism and democracy" (Cambrdige University Press, 1997).
  • Arter, David. "Black Faces in the Blond Crowd: Populist Racialism in Scandinavia", Parliamentary Affairs, July 1992, vol. 45:3, pp. 357-372.
  • Odocha O. Race and racialism in scientific research and publication in the Journal of the National Medical Association. (National Library of Medicine, 2000).
  • Zubaida, Sami (ed.). Race and Racialism (Tavistock, London, 1970).
  • Racial Identity, the Apartheid State, and the Limits of Political Mobilization and Democratic Reform in South Africa: The Case of the University of the Western (Teachers College, Columbia University, 2003).
  • Thompson, Walter Thomas. James Anthony Froude on Nation and Empire: A Study in Victorian Racialism (Taylor & Francis, London, 1998).
  • UNESCO General Conference. Declaration of Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War (University of Hawaii, 1978).

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