Was there any racism in ancient times, or during the middle ages? I know that the ancient Greeks, for example, considered any non-Greek a barbarian. What I'm asking about is racism based on skin color.

Also, was modern racism solely a product of colonialism, or were there any other major reasons behind it?

  • One might say that racism was one of the causes of colonialism. See the white man's burden. Though this was in 1899. – apoorv020 Jan 15 '12 at 0:40
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    @apoorv020 - More like one of the excuses. If you recall, American colonists were of quite the same race as the British, and the indigenous population actually supported the British in large part, because to them, British were the less expansionist of the 2 sides. – DVK Jan 15 '12 at 14:12
  • The Jews were slaves in Egypt thousands of years before colonialism. – mrtoad Jan 17 '12 at 19:29
  • How do we know that 'modern racism' was the product of colonialism. Please substantiate your question with citations and evidence. Also please substantiate your contention that 'modern racism' is based on 'skin color'. Perhaps it is the result of behavior commonly associated with 'skin color'? You are making many assumptions with no hard evidence at all. – user2590 Sep 27 '13 at 22:57
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    @iterationx - there is no reason to believe that the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt was connected to skin color or any sort of 'racism' at all. Where are you getting that from? It may well have been the result of political, religious or economic forces. In addition, there is no reason to believe that the skin color of Jews was much different than that of Egyptians, (who were also likely a mixture...) More likely they were identified by their dress, language and cultural differences from home-grown Epyptians - not their skin color. – user2590 Sep 27 '13 at 23:03

Is it racism when Kyrgiz people kill Uzbeks? They are both of the same biological race, and both Muslims of the same faith but they kill each other because of their ethnicity. This kind of "racism" was widespread in the ancient times.

But I doubt the skin color meant much in old times because at those times people could not travel large distances and those who encountered blacks were familiar with them and could distinguish different ethnicities and kinds of blacks. That is they were considered just as ordinary neighboring peoples and subjects of ethnic, not racial "racism".


There was very pronounced racism among Arabs, among others. While the dates are hard to pin down, a LOT of the tales in "1001 Nights" have pretty racist things in them.

  • Hmm...could you elaborate? It's been a very long while since I read those but from what I recall, the racism mostly consisted of extolling fair skin among women. I don't recall reading about significant de facto or de jure social discrimination on the basis of skin color (so stuff like laws against people of a different race which is what I'm more interested in in) though I might be wrong. – Opt Jan 17 '12 at 16:43
  • @Sid - Among others, there were passaged about having sexual relations with African descended people which were discussed from pretty much the same angle/expressions as black/white pairings would be in the middle of Missisippi 80 years ago. Also, not 1001 related, many places in Hadith mention/stress Mohammed as being light skinned – DVK Jan 17 '12 at 17:52
  • jstor.org/pss/1166343 – DVK Jan 24 '12 at 4:19

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