BELIEFS UNDERLYING RACISM
1: Illustrations from the book "Types of Mankind" by Josiah
Nott and George Glidden,1854.
2: The top image is of Jewish men; the bottom, of rats. The two images
appear together in the film "The Eternal Jew", made in the
1930s by Nazi filmmaker Fritz Hipler.
at both examples
1. What comparisons are being made?
2. Are the comparisons favourable or unfavourable?
3. What do you think is the purpose of making these comparisons?
4. Look at the year each example was created. What was going on at the
time that may help explain the purpose of the image?
by reading the following paragraphs
When one group desires economic and/or political control over other groups,
it will use oppression and exploitation to gain power. In the case of
Africa, colonizers took control of the Africa's resources while slave
traders captured Africans for use as slaves. The Nazis, determined to
create a pure German nation of the so-called "Aryan" race, set
out to exterminate Jews and ethnic minorities.
To justify exploitation, oppressors use stereotypes and dehumanization
-- the practise of portraying people as less than human. Dehumanizing
Africans and Jews by comparing them to apes and rats promoted the idea
that these people were no better than animals. These ideas support the
oppressors' false belief in their own superiority and makes it easier
to hate, enslave, kill, torture, or persecute the dehumanized group.
To gain popular support for their ideas, oppressors may also use the practise
of scapegoating -- blaming a targeted group for various problems. In Germany
in the 1930s, for example, the economy was in poor shape and the Nazis
falsely blamed Jews for the problem. Using rat imagery and anti-Semitic
(anti-Jewish) propaganda, the Nazis whipped up hatred against the Jews
while increasing popular support for their policies. This excerpt from
the film "The Eternal Jew" is a good example of how stereotypes
work together with scapegoating:
"Wherever rats turn up, they spread annihilation throughout the land,
destroying property and food supplies. This is how they disseminate disease.
Pestilence, leprosy, typhus, cholera, dysentery. Just like the Jews among
mankind, rats represent the very essence of malicious and subterranean
During the early part of the 20th century, the idea of racial superiority
was given scientific credibility through a field called eugenics ( u JEN
iks). The "science" of eugenics aimed to prove that some people
were genetically superior to others, and Hitler, among others, used the
research to justify his actions. The false science of eugenics grew out
of earlier research, that, like the book "Types of Mankind",
used skull measurements and other "proof" to demonstrate that
Africans were more closely related to primates. These theories of racial
superiority have since been disproved.
For more information on eugenics, see the following websites:
History of eugenics
An image archive on the eugenics movement
Questions for Reflection
· How would you describe the role of stereotypes and dehumanization
· Can you think of other examples of dehumanization in history
or in your own country?
· What do you think it would take to break down the concept of
· How did the "science" of eugenics support racism?