Say no to racism was the message on the banners that were specially displayed just before the kick-off of some of the soccer matches in the recently concluded World Cup. This clearly indicates that racism has been practised in the past and remains a practice even now. Racism is a negative human trait and thus is widely condemned by all the civilised peoples of the world. In spite of the fact that there is no reliable scientific evidence to prove the superiority or inferiority of one set of people over the other, still, on the basis of skin colour, head shape, hair type and physique, people have discriminated against one another by resorting to physical and verbal abuse and have even committed genocide. Who are the perpetrators and victims of racism? The display of those anti-racism banners in South Africa is quite instructive in this regard. Historically, the blacks of the African continent have been the victims and the whites of Europe, the perpetrators. Racialism gained currency in the nineteenth century when the racialist thinkers of Europe propagated that they were racially superior to other peoples. The British imperialist Joseph Chamberlain, who also served as the Colonial Secretary, strongly felt that the welfare of the British depended on the colonisation of Africa and Asia. To camouflage greed and the brutal subjugation of the non-whites, he argued that those people were 'not civilised and therefore it was the 'sacred duty of the British to carry civilisation, Christianity and British law to the 'backward peoples of Africa and Asia. The French also did not wish to be left behind in the scramble for Africa. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, the editor of influential journals, professor and a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Science gained prominence by advocating the idea that colonial expansion was a question of life and death for France. To this 'learned professor colonisation was the worldwide civilising mission of France. In his widely published work in 1885, Colonisation among modern people, he stated: We believe in the civilising mission of France and continued, it is outside Europe that we will be able to satisfy our legitimate instincts for expansion. We should work for setting up a great African empire and a lesser one in Asia. To conquer the far off lands, the French needed a surplus population at home, which many thought France did not possess. Leroy-Beaulieu did not think so. He pleaded that if the British could rule India with less than a 100,000 and the Dutch could hold on to Indonesia with just 35,000 Dutchmen, the French could do the same. He reminded the French that their country was producing an annual surplus of about 100,000 people and if France dispatched just 15 to 20 thousand French colonisers to Africa every year then within a century there would be about 10 to 12 million people speaking French and imbued with the French spirit. Of the many European racialists, Cecil Rhodes of Britain was probably the most hardened one. Before becoming the Prime Minister of the British Cape Colony in 1890, he controlled 90 percent of worlds diamond production, a large share of South Africas gold fields and headed the British South African Company, whose territory twice as large as England, was named Rhodesia after his name, and was later renamed Zimbabwe in 1980. A primary source to understand his racist proclivities is his own book Confession of faith written in 1877 but published posthumously. He firmly believed that only the Anglo-Saxon were the best 'race while the rest were detestable wretches. He contended: We are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence because more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best the most human, most honourable race the world possesses. To achieve his objective, Rhodes presented an outlandish plan. He proposed the formation of a secret society with the singular objective of bringing the whole uncivilised world under British rule. The members of this society were to be present in every nook and corner of the empire as legislators, pressmen, etc to crush all disloyalty and every movement for the severance of our Empire. We do not know whether this society ever came into existence but what we do know is that Rhodes was damn serious about it as he confided: I leave all my worldly goods in trust to S.G. Shippard and the Secretary for the Colonies at the time of my death to try to form such a society with such an object. As if such bizarre ideas were not enough, more weird theories were cooked to justify the enslavement of Africans by European imperialists in the last part of the nineteenth century. One such group of theorists, known as Social Darwinists, while applying Darwins theory of evolution on the human society stressed that like the species of animals, the human beings were also locked in a struggle for existence in which only the fittest deserved to survive. One noted proponent of this theory was Karl Pearson, a British professor of Mathematics, who unashamedly stated that the whites were superior to the blacks. In a lecture titled National life from the standpoint of science delivered in 1900, he labelled the non-whites as the bad stock and the lower races of man, who had failed to produce a civilisation comparable with the Western European because no matter how much you educate and nurture them as you will, I do not believe that you will succeed in modifying the stock. So, the professors recipe to civilise the uncivilised Africans was that the white man should go and completely drive out the inferior race. That is practically what the white man has done in North America. Once such ideas levelled the public opinion barring a few voices of protest, the brutalities in Africa needed no justification. That is why the crowd cheered to the March 31, 1897, speech of Joseph Chamberlain when he said: You cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs; you cannot destroy the practices of barbarism, of slavery, of superstition, which for centuries have desolated the interior of Africa, without the use of force After branding the blacks as barbaric and superstitious in one go, he boasted the successes of the British military expeditions in the African lands of Nyassaland, Ashanti, Benin and Nupe to the rejoicing crowd by informing that for one life lost a hundred will be gained, and the cause of civilisation and the prosperity of the people will in the long run be eminently advanced. In other words, genocide was justified in the name of civilisation and prosperity. Karl Pearson was even more vicious while concluding his aforementioned lecture: The path of progress is strewn with the wrecks of nations; traces are everywhere to be seen of the hecatombs (slaughtered remains) of inferior races.Yet these dead people are, in very truth, the stepping stones on which mankind has arisen to the higher intellectual and deeper emotional life of today. This was the level of the Western European thought at the end of the nineteenth century. The important question is that has such mindset changed at the dawn of the twenty first century? I doubt because had it really changed there would have been no banners in the World Cup reminding us to say no to racism. Email: