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When Black First Became Worth Less

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
For more content, see Comparative Sociology.

The ideas developed around the question of race can and have, indeed, assumed a life of their own, divorced from the original context in which they arose. Throughout history they have been applied in different ways to serve diverse ends and interests. Thus, whether or not the ancient Egyptians were racist towards the Ethiopians, or the colour symbolisms of the Old Testament were meant literally, they served to inform the later practices of slavery and colonialism, and to justify to the slave owners and colonizers their historic actions. And even after the disappearance of the original roots of racism, racism itself did not disappear. Rather, new racist ideas evolved, utilizing the images of medieval thought and the colour symbolisms of Christianity to inform discriminatory practices right into the modern period. For although races are socially imagined and not biologically real categories, human beings continue to act as if they were real; and as long as they do so, race becomes real in its consequences.


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