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Racism and nationalism are the same thing

What is nationalism? Its definition is inextricably linked to the definition of nation: "a large aggregate of people united by common descent, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory" (OED). It is important to distinguish nation from state. They are not the same thing, even though we speak of the nation state, which is a political state comprised, ideally, of a single nation, where membership of this single nation is determined by descent, culture or language.

This idea of "descent, culture or language" is a bit cumbersome, but fortunately the English language blesses us with a shorthand term for this: ethnicity. There is a technical distinction between ethnicity and race - race is more about biology - but they are forever linked in the mind of the racist as the basis of what makes him different to the hated Other.

It's easy to see how the sentiment underlying racism - the belief that one race is intrinsically superior to another - is a kind of pure prejudice that can be, and almost universally is, applied to groups defined by factors other than race, such as gender and sexuality: sexism is the belief that one gender is intrinsically superior to another. Is there really any difference between sexism and racism here? The object of prejudice is different, but the sentiment isn't. These isms are all unjustified prejudice, distilled into pure form. And here's the point:

Nationalism is just another ism.

Is it a coincidence that the BNP (the British National Party) and the Nazis (National Socialists) are vicious racists? Of course not. It really shouldn't come as a surprise that the belief that your nation is intrinsically better than another is plain old racism. The distinction is maintained by piling universal scorn on racism but none on nationalism. The Sun will happily print headlines bashing "the feelthy Frogs" and "lout Krauts", but do they have the balls to tell us what they think about spics, wops, niggers and ragheads?

Comments

  1. John Doe, on Wednesday 31st January 2007, said:

    Excellent. I totally agree with you - nationalism should be treated with the same contempt racism and sexism is. The more we divide ourselves the more conflict arises. But hey, I'm a realist, even if we get over racism (not im my lifetime for sure), sexism and all the isms you can think of, I'm sure we'll invent new ways to differentiate and hate on one another...!

  2. Sarah, on Thursday 12th April 2007, said:

    How weird, I just found out last week that one of my neighbours is not only a member of the BNP but is standing as a candidate for them in our local borough elections and has been suspended from his job due to accessing BNP related websites whilst at work. Trying to explain to my brother that this is a bad thing has been challenging but at least he does understand that the BNP are vicious racist bastards... at least I hope he does.

  3. James, on Thursday 12th April 2007, said:

    Eww. The BNP smells. I wonder if your neighbour would've been sacked just for being a member if he hadn't also wasted time on their website. Does he work for the government in any way? Loathsome though they are, I would be wary of a public sector employee being fired for his political views.

    (That's the political views I find loathsome, not public sector employees :) )

  4. Cornell, on Saturday 26th May 2007, said:

    I understand where you're coming from in suggesting that the lines between racism and nationalism are blurred. But that's due to a misunderstanding of what nationalism really stands for. There is a difference between the two. Racism is the belief that one's race is innately superior to another. Whereas nationalism is supposed to denote devotion to one's own country and its interests though not at the expense of others and not because you think your country is better than another. For me, nationalism should be seen as a love of one's country because you are proud of it (whilst being critical) and you feel a sense of belonging. I find it upsetting that people who have these sentiments are perceived as right-wing, neo-Nazis. This is just another example of prejudice and narrow-mindedness (two qualities characteristic of racism). Also, it is important to note that nations are not necessarily composed of one single race of people and for this reason it would be hard to see how nationalism can be seen as racism when societies today are so profoundly multicultural. Personally, I am proud of my country and its achievements throughout the centuries, but I also look at it in a critical way and I also admire other countries and their acheivements. Thus, I am nationalist not a racist/xenophobe. You say its no coincidence that BNP incorporates the word nationalist within its name. No its not, because nationalist is the next best thing to British Racist Party. Unfortunately, racists have just stolen the term nationalist as a means to disguise or dilute what they really are and what they really stand for. Perhaps then we should rejuvenate the idea of Patriotism. I find it a real shame that 21st century men and women are denied the chance to exude love for their country without being viewed as racist. It's a sad state of affairs and those of you who are guilty of this are no better than the racists you denounce.

  5. James, on Monday 28th May 2007, said:

    A useful article on the difference between nationalism and patriotism. I don't have a problem with patriotism. It seems no better or worse than supporting your local football team. Cornell, you sound like a Patriot, not a nationalist :)

  6. Ed, on Tuesday 27th May 2008, said:

    Why are people racist against racists!?!? Leave us alone!!

  7. jory, on Friday 19th September 2008, said:

    ed... you are an asshole and im sure someday racism will bite you in the ass and you'll understand why racism is stupid. if we can fight a war together why cant we live together in peace? and you cant be racist against racists you dumb ass. an oppinion is not a race.

  8. so funny, on Thursday 26th February 2009, said:

    People like Ed are the twats who scream "Racist Rights" When they forget that the acto of being racist takes away rights from other people.

    All racists and nationalists should be given a government mandated slap across the face so they can learn when to keep their ignorant bullshit views to themselves.

  9. mark mallon, on Monday 1st November 2010, said:

    "All racists and nationalists should be given a government mandated slap across the face so they can learn when to keep their ignorant * views to themselves." you really trust the government to do a good job deciding who is good and bad ps * is a result of "Watch your mouth! The words "s--t" are not allowed here" very strange because i was copying and pasting a earlier commit from the same website, perhaps this site is picky about who has a right to say offensive things. ( Just like Britons in general ha ha ha )

  10. LegendLength, on Monday 20th December 2010, said:

    Well said. It's kind of sickening to see so much hatred and generalization about US citizens on the net. Just straight up racism.

  11. Josh, on Saturday 5th February 2011, said:

    Actually you are wrong. I know plenty of Nationalists who are black, white, latin, etc...Those are different races united for their country.

    Nationalism can best be expressed as a love for the idea of country where people in that country should ASSIMILATE into the country. The idea is if someone is a citizen or immigrant to the country, then the country's cutures, values, and norms in which they currently reside should be respected and followed. For example, an American nationalist would not be angry against a mexican immigrant if they were learning english and assimilating into American culture. But, an American nationalist hates the idea of a Mexican Immigrant who will fly the Mexico flag above the American flag, when that person is residing in the USA. The rage burns even more when that person is in the country illegally. And it gets even hotter when American citizens are having to assimilate to a Mexican culture in America, when the Mexican immigrants should be assimilating to an American culture.

    Each prospering country has immigrants who are catered to by the government while that same government leaves its own citizens in the dust. Nationalism is the definition for the "anger" that abandonment creates.

    You can't call it racist, because different races exist in a true nationalist movement. However, if you want to call it national'ist you can. Because it's all about the "home" country. Again, not about race.

    Now with all that said, yes, many racist groups, especially in the USA hide behind the term nationalist. But you have to remember race and ethnicity are TWO different things. Someone can be black and not at all live the cultures and values of Afrikaan. Ethnic trait may include skin color, but more of it is an allegiance and association. To me, some of it makes sense. I'm American with an Irish descent once removed but I consider myself American. I am furious when I see Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, wanting to reside in this country but when they protest they put the Mexican flag above the USA flag. While I have no anger toward the immigrants, legal or illegal (I hope illegal become legal soon), I do get ticked off that they fly their homeland flag above mine. If your homeland flag is the more important symbol, then go back to your homeland. That's just my opinion and some of it would be considered nationalist. But I am by no means racist. Two of my best friends are black.

    Another example, have you been to France or a country which speaks a foreign language but you do not know it. You usually are not treated well. That's another manifestation of nationalism.

    The error in your argument is the association of race to ethnicity. While many do consider them hand-in-hand, in a true nationalist movement they are not. A nation (root of nationalist) is based off many races but has one culture. When an immigrant moves to that country, according to Nationalism, they should adopt that culture.

  12. concerned, on Sunday 17th April 2011, said:

    You actually didn't explain WHY you think nationalism and racism are the same thing. Please justify your outrageous criticisms or keep your nose the hell out of politics, OK?

    Nationalism isn't the belief that "your nation is better than others". The British National Party doesn't believe it's superior. They wouldn't want to replace international cultures with their own, they accept and value that peoples, cultures and nations are each valuable in their appropriate place in the world.

    Nationalists just want their own nations to be allowed to exist, remain independent, and consist demographically of an overwhelming majority of their own stock to ensure that EVERY nation, culture and people is preserved.

  13. JA, on Sunday 29th May 2011, said:

    Whilst I see your point this is a gross misunderstanding of political philosophy. Nationalism emerged out of enlightenment thought and is linked to liberal ideas as much as extreme ideas.

    Racism can be seen as an extreme form of nationalism but nationalism and racism are not the same thing.

  14. RP, on Saturday 25th June 2011, said:

    Racism + Sexism + Nationalism + Religion are all finite, not real and do not represent the infinite nature and inextricable symbiotic connection between all forms of energy. They are purely human concepts of convenience that represent a mentally ill animal that sees all things as separate. Consequently that is why the planet is becoming unliveable. Get over it grow up and forget your greed and abolish your ego. What you do and what you are is not the What and How... It's the Why and what effect will it cause by doing it. Love your neighbour as yourself. :)

  15. piglet, on Wednesday 14th September 2011, said:

    It is perfectly possible to present a definition of nationalism which is different from racism, but it seems in practice that the vast majority of nationalists want to separate from other nations because they don't like them, or believe that their own nation is better. These nationalists are racists, and I haven't yet met a nationalist who isn't racist. I live in Wales.

  16. bill, on Friday 27th July 2012, said:

    bullshit. you can have nationalism within a multi-ethnic society as long as they all espouse the same nationalist values.

    also what youve described fits seemlessly with Zionism and indeed islamofacism.

  17. m, on Thursday 15th November 2012, said:

    I find this topic very interesting and I was just curious to see if people believe that if nationalism and racism go hand-in-hand with one another, then is it possible that without race there is no nationalism? I was curious to learn if you abolish the idea of race altogether does this have a direct impact on national imagination and the ideology of one's national image ???

  18. Cuzin, on Wednesday 20th February 2013, said:

    Hey cuz, I just wanted to understand/ clarify why did nationalism influence racism?

  19. Indian, on Thursday 18th April 2013, said:

    There is no difference between Racism and Nationalism. This earth is for every creature. You are wrong not only when you think some race is superior to others but also when you think some country deserve all it owns.

    Take United states, all its natural resources and land are stolen from ancient Native people. Take Japan, there were ancient tribes before present Japanese reached. Even in India, indigenous people are the poorest while invaders and the mixed race people grabbed almost all the wealth.

    What I am trying to say is so-called countries are man-made. Americans or Russians have no f *** rights to hold all the natural resources and wealth (after all it was formed after exploiting unfair amount of natural resources)

    @Cornell, your definition of 'love of a country' is bullshit.

    Billions are narrow minded in this world.

    We can't change this world.

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