- May 2016
Since I joined this forum, I noticed that themes like racism and slavery were on the order of the day, and that I didn’t had a specific study about it. That influenced me to buy the book “Racisms. From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century”, by Francisco Bethencourt: RacismsI am curious to know if the word racist is used in medieval English sources, and in what meaning?. I understand what you are saying but you will at-least agree with me that definition of racism is greatly muddled in last few decades. The world is led , influenced and shaped by English-speaking America and whatever comes from that nation, is accepted as 'mainstream'. Notice OP (from America), some people are dismissive about his history, or just simply disagreed with him, and he is shouting 'racism' at the top of his lungs. What has racism any thing to do with it?. If a Muslim say that he/she faces hate and prejudice in America because of his/her religion, there will be mild reactions to it. But Muslims they say that they are facing racism (because of their Muslims background), then alarm bells will ring and they will get due attention. So every one around the world is misusing and over-using the word racism. Just few days ago a Pashtun living in America called me a racist (i am also a Pashtun) after i criticized my people for practicing a certain custom. It has become a great comedy. I refuse to go along with 'mainstream' definition of racism.
You can read the introduction here: http://assets.press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10082.pdf
This just to say that I am influenced by this work.
To answer to you, yes, I think that the definition of racism changed in time. I don’t agree with you that much that whatever comes from the USA is mainstream, after all I am European, and there are still academics and intellectuals here that like to contradict often what comes from a certain type of “America”.
As for your question about the “Medieval English sources” I can’t answer. I don’t have the knowledge to do that. My knowledge of English history is quite limited. On the other hand your question is about the word “racism”, well racisms can predate the existence of the word, or better explained in the words of Francisco Bethencourt:
“In my view, classification did not precede action. Prejudice concerning ethnic descent coupled with discriminatory action existed in various periods of history, although I acknowledge the critical impact of the scientific framework provided by the theory of races. Notions of blood and descent already played a central role in medieval forms of collective identification, while the modern ethnic and racial divide was largely inspired by traditional religious antagonism. The theory of races was permeated by conflicting points of view, which is why I will address its subject in the plural. To speak about race before racism means to follow a nominalist approach; Lucien Fèbvre pointed out many years ago that content may exist before the noun that expresses it.4 I will discuss the significance of vocabulary and explain my own choices later.” (it is ain the 3rd page of the previous link).
By the way, about you example, I don’t agree that criticizing a Pashtun custom (or any other) is racism, or a racist attitude, since a critique doesn’t necessarily follow in the definitions that I pointed out.