Anyway, I've been reading Chris Harman's A People's History of the World for the last few days and I was struck by this passage from a chapter on the rise of the slave trade:
The prevalence of racism today leads people to think it has always existed, arising from an innate aversion of people from one ehtnic background for those from another. Slavery is then seen as a by-product of racism, rather than the other way round.
Yet in the ancient and medieval worlds, people did not regard skin colour as any more significant than, say, height, hair colour or eye colour. ... Many important figures in Roman history came from north Africa, including at least one emperor ... In Dutch paintints of the early 16th century, black and white people are shown as mixing freely ... Jordaen's painting 'Moses and Zipporah', ... shows Moses' wife as black.
the slave traders and owners always needed arguments to use with those white people, the great majority, who did not own slaves. In the colonies the smaller farmers were often resentful at the way the slave owners grabbed the best land and, by using slaves at low cost, undercut them. In ports like London escaped slaves often found refuge in the poor slum areas. The traders and owners needed a way of making people despise, mistrust and fear the slaves ... ideas that those of African descent were innately inferior to those of European descent fitted the needs of the traders and planters perfectly.
Racism developed from an apology for African slavery into a full-blown system of belief into which all the peoples of the Earth could be fitted[.]
(Harman 2008: 252-4)
And let's have a look at the BNPs 2005 General Election manifesto shall we? (Sorry, no link, not to them.)
when we speak of ‘British democracy’ we do so in an ethnic as well as a civic sense. We do not accept the absurd superstition – propagated for different though sometimes overlapping reasons by capitalists, liberals, Marxists and theologians - of human equality. Whether the now totally discredited feminist argument that men and women are innately the same, to the partly refuted egalitarian claim that everyone within a given population is born as a blank slate with the same innate potential, or to the still dominant Politically Correct denial of the existence of differences on average between members of different races – we reject all these irrational myths.
'Absurd superstition', eh? Ho hum.