Tahar Ben Jelloun writes in “Racism Explained to My Daughter”, that distrust and contempt for people with physical and cultural characteristics different from our own are as old as humanity itself. The term “racism”, however, linked to the concept of “race”, is fairly recent from a historical point of view. It appeared during the nineteenth century, after the biologist Charles Darwin formulated his theory on the origin and evolution of the species according to the principle of natural selection, that is, that survives “the fittest” from a biological point of view.
Racism resides in hostility towards what is different and refusal in the name of an alleged, ethnic, or cultural superiority. Culturalism, racism, or nationalism are often separated by a thin and transparent line, when culture is defined in terms that are almost organic.
If Ben Jelloun’s thesis is right, namely, that the idea that the racist “suffers from a superiority or inferiority complex” and “fears the foreigner”, that is, of the person who is “foreign” in relation to his family, clan, and community, a person who comes from another country and looks “weird” because (s)he is different and unknown. Hence, ignorance is the first source of racism, it is also true, as the philosopher Peter Archiati, that the psycho-sociological and cultural basis of racism is materialism. Racism comes from the reduction of the human being to his/her physical characteristics, the physical body and the environmental and family influences. Not surprisingly, racism is theorized in modern and contemporary age, in a historical epoch when prevails a materialistic idea of the human being and of life, which conceives of the spirit as a function of the matter.
“The ultimate consequence of materialism is man’s identification with his physical corporeality. And racism is a result of this identification,” writes Archiati in Beyond all racism. It is, therefore, the tragic and irrational outcome of materialism, and the paradox of individualism, which denies the originality of the human person, his/her freedom, choice and self-determination, also with respect to the physical and temporal components. And freedom is the essential characteristic proper to man, every single person, “the human universal.”
Contempt and rejection of the other, which is based on diversity to physical and cultural characteristics, that is, on the fact that they belong to a different group of people, to alien “social bodies”, then there is scorn and rejection of one’s authentic humanity because it means reduction of his/her human value to corporeality, confusing consciousness, the inner self, the ego, the soul, the spirit, the corporeal and material physical. Demeaning another person, in truth, means demeaning ourselves and our humanity.
The basis of racism is hatred, not love. It arises from the logic of evil and separation. The devil is man’s “separator” (in greek, dia + ballo, separate), from its authentic and full humanity, as harmonic and indistinct unity of the body, mind, and soul, which is realized in freedom and responsibility. It must be done together, by a ‘humanity understood as trans-historic living organism, personified by the historical “bodies”, of the human communities at a given time in a given place.
Christianity is the victory of man in the victory of love. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is “the” Commandment, which embraces all other Commandments. It also means: “Love yourself because you are a human being” and “Love the other human being because (s)he is you”, your fellow man, your kindred, your other self, as a person and child of God, created in His image. Christ the Redeemer won the devil, because He saves from separation, division, and evil.
A Christian cannot be racist, because he is not a materialist, he does not humiliate his own humanity and that of other people, reducing the bodily dimension; he relates to every human person, no matter what their race, color, nation or religion, is; regardless of how many eyes they have and how is their hair, regardless of the language they speak, or what clothes they wear, for what they are: a brother, a sister, a sibling in the family of God, free to be fully human or slaves of their own physicality.