The Fallen, on 26 May 2012 - 09:16 PM, said:
I don't disagree with any of that. Maybe I didn't make my position clear. I'm referring to the type of 'institutionalized' racism that would lead the Nazis to try to exterminate an entire ethnic group. Or the kind that has demonized people of African descent. Even slavery was different, it was a result of war. Not an entire continent, aided by the church, demonizing Africans as justification to enslave them. And then perpetuating that over centuries so that you now have an almost universal belief about a specific racial group as being inferior. It's no wonder society is trying to counteract this.
Those things did happen, but the institution of slavery in the US was not as monolithic as you're making it out to be. The ideology you're citing was an effort of the small minority of US citizens who actually owned slaves to defend themselves morally, which was a losing battle. The church did not support slavery as an institution. The church in the US was never centralized enough to support or oppose anything as a unified body. Some churches did of course support slavery as an institution, but many more were vehemently opposed to it. Most abolitionist movements were in fact based around church congregations.
Also, in antiquity, slavery was most definately institutuionalized. Consider the Athenian and Spartan confederations as examples. The Spartan's entire society was predicated upon the existence of a captive slave population, primarily Messenians, to provide the agricultural labor necesary to allow pure blooded Spartiates of sufficient property to devote themselves entirely to military pursuits. The Athenians by contrast, were a mercantile society and not reliant on slave labor to the extent that the Spartans were, but in their constitution, slaves were specifically disinfrachised and prohibited from owning property.
I just don't think that racism is anything new, whether as an institution or as a basic human impulse. And I likewise don't think that the West in general or the US in particular are guilty of being especially bad, but rather of being the most recent, prominantly discussed example.
Sorry to everyone for taking the topic so far afield from the ASoIaF series by the way, I'm sure neither of us mean to be a pain in anyone's ass.