By The Traveler, March 29, 2021
Kathleen Brush’s book Racism and Anti-Racism in the World: before and after 1945 is the culmination of over 30 years of travel, research, and international work in an attempt to push back on the growing mantra: America is Racist.
The year 1945, recaps Dr. Brush, marked the beginning of the United Nations’ efforts to end world-wide discrimination. This era initiated a wake-up call that decried stratifying populations as inferior or superior as morally wrong. Racial discrimination as defined by Dr. Brush “has come to refer to discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.” With the rise of Black Lives Matters; athletic teams kneeling during the national anthem to highlight inequalities in our system; constant streams of media, social media, and news admonishing America for its “racist” ways; and woke politicians demanding equity for all, one would think the United States is the most bigoted nation on the planet.
We must pose the question, “Is this true?”
“The objective of this book is to raise awareness to the origins and evolution of diversity, discrimination, and anti-discrimination in societies all over the world before and after 1945,” states Dr. Brush. The year 1945 marked a time when democratic societies attempted to abolish all forms of discrimination and create environments in which all peoples were to be treated equally. America was at the forefront of this movement and continues to lead the way.
Dr. Brush gives a detailed history of the Era of Empires (Chinese, Russian, Islamic, and European) from 1453 to 1945 and provides numerous examples of the rampant discrimination that was present. Empires everywhere were officially and unofficially socially stratified in an order of descending privileges. The conquered nations were placed below the conquering nations, and this explains why the wars were often so bloody. Discrimination and prejudice based on ethnicity, race, national origin, and religion were not only rampant but part of law. Social hierarchies were used to manage populations (in addition to massacres, segregations, expulsions, forced emigration, enslavement, and ethnic cleansing); assorted privileges for some and restrictions for others were all too commonplace.
Following 1945, America and other democratic nations sought to end racism and discrimination and to help aggrieved populations. Numerous laws, policies, court cases, and reforms, listed in the book, include a permanent Commission on Civil Rights (1940s), Brown v. the Board of Education (1952), and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson also helped maintain America’s position of anti-racist leadership. JFK was quoted in 1963 as stating, “Race has no place in American life or law.”
It was also in the 1960s that immigration laws were dramatically overhauled. The U.S. would no longer give preferences based on national origin. While many nations had zero immigration policies and were even encouraging foreign populations to leave, the U.S. was a leader in opening its doors to immigrants from all over the world.
America also made history in 2008 when the world’s largest economy and most populous white-majority nation elected a black man to the highest political office in the land. Dr. Brush cites a global survey that reveals that “85% of white Americans are indifferent to the skin color of their neighbors.” In 2013, that number, apparently, rose to 95%. (See, “A Fascinating Map of the World’s Most and Least Racially Tolerant Countries,” 2013)
Not only is America not a racist nation, Dr. Brush attempts to paint the picture that there has been no nation that is less racist. Pockets of racism exist, to be sure, and she spends time explaining how difficult it is to remove all vestiges of unfairness and discrimination in a nation as complex and large as the United States. This still puts the U.S. out in front of the vast majority of nations in the quest to be a melting pot of cultures. Conversely, many nations, like China or Japan, still see real value in homogenous and ordered societies, and in a society which, unapologetically, consists of privileged and unprivileged people.
Dr. Brush, who holds a Ph.D. in management and international studies, is also an educator, consultant, and writer. She hopes her book will expand the minds of readers and shed a different light on the now common trope that insists that the U.S.A. is a systemically racist nation.