Racism as a Product of Specific Historical Conditions

Jenna Brandon
10 min readJun 19, 2020

In the study of sociology, racism is studied in that the adverse effects and causes of racism are part of the discipline of sociology, looking at the social setup of humans and their perceptions of other races. This paper explores racism and how it is an effect of some historical conditions. Racism refers to a belief that people of a certain attribute, which is determined by either their skin color or race, are superior to others and that some races are more desired than others. As suggested in this research paper, racism is highly affected what happened in the past, as implied by accounts of history. Racism has primarily been fueled by some acts in history like colonialism, slavery, migration, world wars, and migration. Racism is based on the concept of ethnicity and culture whereby beliefs and practices form the basis.

Racism is simply the regarding of different races, which are determined by biological differences, as either more important or superior to other races. Some races are, therefore, considered to be less important or inferior to other races. Racism in the current day has largely been caused by historical conditions, practices, and events. Racism is a study in social sciences like sociology, where various sociologist term racism as a concept that came to develop gradually, as it was not there some time back, and they hopefully claim it will not last. According to Back and Solomos (2001), racism is based on the concept of a couple of race theories. Back and Solomos (2001) explain the general regard of racism over a couple of decades. Recent debates on racism are serious and engaging, as they keep being based on theories and assumptions (Banton, 1960).

Racism is based on Marxism whereby political movements were dictated by identity and not by class (Back & Solomos, 2001). Racism can also be based on an enduring of ethnicity and culture over the years and using of non-racial language in a bid to maintain order in a race. Racism studies initially were said to be ignited during the immigration and incorporation of blacks and other ethnic communities. Consequently, racism appeared as a result of colonial history whereby common concepts of color, race, and ethnicity ensued. Race relations on a global and historical perspective termed racism as being centered on cultural contact, beliefs about the nature of race, and social relations depending on racial categories over the years. Ethnicity and tribalism are core when looking at racism, as social boundaries started on the grounds of ethnicity. Ethnic groups were observed initially as social constructs and the result of people regarding each other differently and finally identifying with a group.

Studies show that social relations were adversely affected by race relations owing to conditions such as conflicts over scarce resources, slave labor, class exploitations, legal distinctions among groups, occupation segregations, prestige, cultural diversity, and migrant labor (Rex, 1970). During the immigration period, the immigrant population did not have a social setup as their white counterparts, both the white workers and white neighbors. It is also observed that the whites had gained some rights over time courtesy of a working class movement and trade unions that they had formed as white workers. This triggered a rift between the whites and the black immigrants, since immigrants were not included in the negotiations (Banton, 1960). Consequently, the migrant workers were treated with abject discrimination when the whites gained the rights. The privileges that the white workers gained against other marginalized workers would include education, housing, and employment among other rights. Migrant workers were, as a result, considered an underclass, since they were not advantaged as their fellow white workers, resulting to them being in their own class. In Asia, discrimination led to social mobility and capital accumulation, whereas in India it led to withdraw from competition and withdrawal from fighting for their own rights, as the so-called minorities stopped competing, consequently creating their own identity.

Racism at some period was associated with Marxism. Race is an ideological construct, a mask that disguises real economic relationships (Miles, 1984). Miles (1984) objects to racism and suggests that social class ought not be determined by race. Political ties that are based on race were formed and as observed, some activists were against citing lack of any value to progressive political ties. It was believed that any movement from a white political ground to a black political community was an indication of failure. Classes were determined by race of people, a setback to development, and progression. (Miles, 1984) states that racism came to be owing to political and social regulations. With this concept of racism, Marxism is identified as a major practice in initiation of racism, as the definition of social classes causes discrimination of the blacks and migrants in general. Racism is argued to be a contemporary issue as a result of social construction that is contested for. Political identification was inclusive of the notion of identification of being black whereby the issue of being black is concerned, as the country was having different races and national heterogeneity. Initially, gender was the main aspect in the racist practices as its role with regard to sexism. As a result, race is generally intermingled with gender and class, and, hence, not as much considered as widely autonomous to each other.

Race in some discussions is related to the colonial period as the impact of colonialism experiences and on how it affected the observation of races and the colors of people. During the colonial era, the less fortunate being those that were colonized, were discriminated, regarded as inferior, and oppressed. They were regarded as people of a much undesired race owing to the oppressions which they faced. At some point, blacks considered that being normal was being a white, especially in South Africa, as observed by various Africans at the time. Some studies tend to take a different turn in their portrayal of racism and discrimination during the colonial period in a bid to look at the perspective of the whites (Banton, 1960). This is regarded as looking at the describers and not at the described. The view of the Africans and Asians is affected significantly by their view of colonialism, as they always regard the Britons as those who depressed them and deprove them of what they had before the invasion.

The issue of belonging is motivated by movement and migration of people from their original land to new places more so in the colonial period. Those that did not belong to a certain nation were different from the natives of the nation. Nationhood is perceived as a fuel to racism, as those that have moved to these new nations are subjected to racism and viewed as if they do not belong. Some white counterparts associated whiteness with being intelligent. This view of disregarding not being white can be comfortably associated with historical conditions. Whiteness was an adverse effect of historical colonialism, as it is defined as a political definition of the white and subjecting them to what is regarded as white supremacy. It is observed that in order to for the racism to be countered as a bid to change the view of people, the identification of the white as both politically superior should be re-instated by changing the definition of normal and changing of this normal notion of regarding social classes of being white. There were political struggles in the past during the fight for independence that ended with a great deal of losses; deaths, loss of loved ones, loss of property, displacement, misunderstandings, and even loss of humanity.

It is not expected that the people will tend to forget these events, since this has led to haunting of their own memories and line of thought. This has deeply fueled the regard of racism and discrimination, as the civilized tends to nurse their wounds and gain by bringing development to their states. Racism can also be based on cultural differences among people. Culture was historically an identification of different races and a beauty among those that practiced it. However, as people interacted, so did the perception of one culture being superior to others, and, consequently, the infamous idea of “ideal culture” arose. For instance, Africans with time, especially the current day Africans, tend to disown their own cultures in a bid to embrace the white culture and practices of the western world. This is caused by the general regard that African culture is retrogressive, as people tend to abandon them and practice the white culture.

It has been noted that social antagonism and resistance to change has been experienced in Britain whereby conservation of Marxism orthodoxy is heightened and its importance is supposed to be reappraised and appreciated. The regard of racism has been countered by the need for cultural production and change that should be embraced. This gives the general regard that races tended to have their own different cultures, giving social difference and the class definition of people, as the blacks were defined politically. Slavery is another concept that has caused racism as a historical practice over the years. During the colonial period, Africans were forced to work in the farms of the white farmers and settlers with low pay. Occasionally, Africans would be captured and transported to states in America where they would be sold to work as slaves in the mines for the Americans. Here, the “slaves” were subjected to harsh conditions and mistreatment, as they were regarded to be unworthy people and slaves. Karl Marx disregarded the association of slavery to being a “Negro”, as he insisted that they were two different aspects. He refers to the blacks as “Negros’” who only become slaves when they are subjected to certain conditions.

According to Marx, racism was as a regard of slavery. Slavery was triggereed by the practice of slave labor after African slaves were migrated into America. He argues that slaves were there even before Africans were captured and sold as slaves. However, the slaves were mostly white just like their masters, and, hence, there could not be any racism by then. When the blacks became slaves is when racism started. It is stated that Portuguese first travelled into the Africa during the mid 1400s and started the business of the slave trade for as long as 400 years whereby slave trade was abolished in Brazil, where the slaves were taken to work in the plantations. Europeans enslaved Asians and people of the darker origin, with the notion that Africans were heathens. They tended to quote the Bible, where Ham is enslaved to be a “servant to servant” after he had committed a sin, and God made him a servant as a punishment. The subdividing of humans into races started around the eighteenth century, and it was later on said that races were made of different and separate races.

Religious believers in the nineteenth century alongside some secular believers campaigned against slavery of blacks and retrieving of Jews from the ghetto, and, as a result, instead of a positive influence later on, the situation worsened and heightened racism. This is whereby the Darwin’s theory Survival Of The Fittest and the struggle for existence was observed. The capitalism of industries induced the need for a scapegoat. Nationalism inflemed culture-coded variant of racism thinking, particularly in German. It is said that Jews did not necessarily mean that one had to practice a set of beliefs of religion or culture but was to be in a certain race that was not similar to those of the Germans (Back & Solomos, 2001). This type of racism was caused by the fact that the people had an origin different to that of the Germans and keeping in mind that this was attributable to the historical background of Jews. At some point in South America, there was a law passed that denied the blacks their right to vote. This was the racial segregation law.

Other historical events that have led to fueling of racism include the Rwanda genocides, since the discrimination was between different ethnic communities, the Hutus and the Tutsis. This mass extermination was done by European colonialists of those who were native Americans. Another instance of significant historic background is the Darfur genocides, where black Muslims were slaughtered and oppressed by other Muslims of Arab origin; ethnic cleansing in the slavery period in South America; the Indian hunting season, which happened in the United States; the chasing of Muslims and Jews from modern day Spain and mass imperialism.

Racism has also been said to have first occurred with the identification of witchcraft and the devil around the thirteenth and fourteenth century in relation to Jews, who were associated with these practices. Later on, around the sixteenth century, Jews were adversely discriminated and subjected to racism as an aftermath of what their ancestors were thought to have practiced, even after the Jews had embraced Christianity (Back & Solomos, 2001). Some historians argue that at some point, German Nazis under Hitler’s orders attempted to erase an entire ethnic group totally as a result of racism. Regardless of how racism was taken earlier even by those in America, acts of racism led to the discrediting of scientific racism, which had been accepted widely before the duration of the Second World War. In an attempt to erase racism from its peaks, the United Nations demanded for decolonization of both Africa and Asia to bring unity and civil rights into existence throughout the world. Similarly, there was a campaign to end the racial segregation laws that separated blacks from whites. However, as observed in South Africa, apartheid regime did not stop, as it did not allow for the interracial marriage and it was supported by claims that it supported separate development rather than encourage racism basing their claims on culture and not physical differences.

Arguably, racism has been to a large extent shaped by various historical events that have affected contemporary studies into racism in the study of political and social sciences. However, it is notable that partially, racism is not entirely attributable historical events, as depicted by the case of Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis.

Racism was initialized owing to the life that people led over the years and as a result of defining their social status and regard in the social community. Practices like slavery led to racism alongside colonization of Africa and Asia.


Back, L., & Solomos, J. (Eds.). (2001). Theories of race and racism: A reader (Routledge Student Readers) London: Routledge.

Banton, M. (1960). Race relation. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Miles, R. (1984) Marxism versus the “sociology of race relations”? Ethnic and Racial Studies 7 (2).

Rex, J. (1970). Relations in sociological theory. London: Weidenfel and Niolson.



Jenna Brandon

Jenna Brandon is a blogger, content creator, and digital marketer at Writology.com.