History of the Word “Race”


History of “Race”

The Europeans first used the word “race” as a way to reference native tribes. For example, Europeans would refer to the different races not based on skin color, but more as we would refer to someone based on the country they are from (i.e. Americans, Italians, etc). It had no relation to skin color or ethnicity and did not imply inferiority/superiority.

The first negative use of “race” came during the colonial age of America around the 18th century. From this time forward, “race” was used to differentiate between English people coming to America. Europeans considered themselves free, Native Americans as those who had been conquered, and Africans as slave labor.

In the words of Timeline magazine, “no one was white or black until the colonization process needed ways of differentiating various rights, privileges, social, and legal standings between various laborers.”

This means that the idea of “race” in a negative way was not needed until colonial settlers needed a way to “prove” that they were superior and should be the leaders, not the darker skin immigrants from Africa or the Natives that had been in America for decades.




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