Perhaps one of the greatest anti-racism advocates was a German man, with wild & funny, “stand-up” hair, and known for once sticking out his tongue (which was caught on a reporter’s camera). Let’s not forget he was the discoverer of the theory of relativity (one of those minor details), along with being an incredible, wise, intelligent, and gifted man: you’re probably way ahead of me (oh, I bet you read the title); I’m speaking about Albert Einstein of course.
Albert Einstein was a model for many of us alive today, as a anti-racist activist & warrior for Civil Rights, primarily advocating for African-Americans after he came from Germany to the U.S. to live.
Einstein was a man who used his celebrity and privilege (as one of the most well-known people in the world), to speak truth to power. As a white scientist and one who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929, he recognized that as a Jew from Germany he was uniquely positioned to advocate for the rights of African-Americans who lived in the U.S.
When he first began speaking out here in this country (which was very soon after he arrived), there would be people who would say, ‘What makes you think you have the right to give public voice to your opinions?’ Einstein’s response was, he felt justified, because he was a Jew who lived under the heavy boot of the Hitler’s Third Reich; of course, as a Jew, he was personally aware of the anti-semitic platform dressed in Nazi clothes; and, he was directly targeted by the elites of the Nazi Party.
So, Albert Einstein knew and perceived the similarities between America’s white supremacy and what was then the emerging, Nazi system in Germany.
(There’s a key diversion that I must write about here. This concerned the “influence of systemic white racism in the U.S. on Nazi Germany” [Thaddeus Atzmon, Nazi Germany’s US Racial Model: Translocal Whiteness. The Racism Review, October 29, 2017].
The author cites historian Norman Rich, who wrote: “…the United States policy of westward expansion, in the course of which the white man ruthlessly thrust aside the ‘inferior’ indigenous population, served as a model for Hitler’s entire concept of Lebensraum [living space]” (Ibid., p. 2).
Hitler gave public speeches in which he spoke admirably about the way white Americans had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage” (Ibid.).
Hitler used the U.S. as the model of Translocal Whiteness, i.e., Nazi Germany was the country that would attack the Eastern Front, in a kind of second “Manifest Destiny,” and the trend of the “white identity movement” being a universal display of the new global identity of Whiteness, ruling over other people-groups. Many of the Nazi Elites were consumed & obsessed over “these white racially framed narratives that began in the U.S. and easily took hold in Nazi Germany” (Ibid.).
The Third Reich was busy establishing Jews as ‘second-class citizens,’ as the U.S. had done, primarily to African-Americans, and other ethnicities of color. Nazi party officials wrote in an article: “The United States too [just like Germany] has racist policies and policies. What is lynch justice, if not the natural resistance to the Volk (there’s a comparison made with vast group of human beings, who happened to be white-emphasis & parenthesis mine) to an alien race that is attempting to gain the upper hand?
Most states of the Union have special laws directed against the Negroes, which limit their voting rights, freedom of movement, and career possibilities” (Ibid., p. 3).
In Hitler’s eyes, the oppression & genocide of the Jews, was just a continuation of the rise of universal White Power, as had happened in the U.S., and would now happen on a global scale, starting with Germany; thus the term translocal; this was an expression for both Germany and the U.S. who were seen as “virtous actors” in the process of “systemic racialized oppression” (Ibid.).
In our contemporary world, the planet is now being reached and being implemented to get “buy in” on this concept of “translocal whiteness,” by use of the Internet; the internet allows racist ideologies to be spread instantaneously to everyday whites across the globe; if one is a racist, this technology would be viewed as absolutely astounding in its ability to communicate with whites about the need for White Supremacy.
This is a part of Albert Einstein’s story, too. No doubt Einstein was aware of talk by Germans and party apparatuses like newspapers, etc., placing the U.S. on a high pedestal for its racist practices and laws; he, no doubt, observed this, perhaps many times. We just don’t know for sure.
In an article in Pageant Magazine, sometime in 1946, and then in a speech he gave at Lincoln University, sixty miles away from Princeton, Einstein communicated about racism, by calling it “the white disease of racism,” in both of the above places. It’s also noteworthy that Einstein didn’t speak at Princeton, but at Lincoln University, an African-American university.
Friends & associates, who may have not possessed the kind of “moxie” that Albert Einstein had working for him, warned him not to speak out against white supremacy, both in the northern and the southern regions of the U.S. In a Smithsonian (no date) article,
Just as Einstein’s enemies used his Jewish identity to attack his science, Einstein himself drew on his own Jewishness to amplify his message about social justice and American racism. ‘Being a Jew myself, I can understand & empathize (emphasis mine) with how black people feel as victims of discrimination,’ he said in an interview with family friend Peter Bucky. While his political opinions made him a controversial figure, he also got traction, because his words resonated more than most (unknown page).
When Einstein said, “I won’t be quiet about it” (speech at Lincoln University), he meant it, and, in this writer’s mind, went beyond his own expressions of advocacy-he actively put his name and sponsorship on many anti-racism projects, campaigns, and legislative actions.
The following are excerpts from Einstein’s article in Pageant Magazine, 1946, entitled “The Negro Question.” Then he gave a speech (mentioned above) at Lincoln University, an all African-American university.
At first glance, this may seem to some like a glittering generality, but it holds a perhaps much deeper truth.
The whites who arrived in America were primarily European-Americans. The source of racism in our nation was the establishment of a system of white supremacy & white racism, for white’s enrichment. The lynch-pin of this racist system was the very adaptible notion of white privilege (WP). WP is particularly powerful, due to its ability to be “chamelion-like,” morphing with historical & contextual needs at varied times; WP is an often subtle, subversive, and unconscous form of racism. It can be placed under the rubric of Unaware Racism.
In summary, WP was the tool that bracketed white standards, as the only real standards of morality, beauty, civilized societys, intelligence, emotionality, etc. This is the white-is-right formula.
There’s no factual basis (or otherwise) for what folks call “reverse racism;” that is to say, racism should only be applied to whites in terms of our cultural norms. Racism may be formalized by this credo: power + privilege=racism. Which group holds privilege and power in our culture? White people!
The popular disbelief of many whites is to obliterate the need for any kind of affirmative action, on the part of persons-of-color, is often used under the label of reverse racism, and is based on mythological ignorance. Remember the formula above: whites are the class with power within our culture.
If safeguards for African-Americans and other groups of color weren’t employed, people of color would certainly not be on a level playing field, because they’ve never been from the incipient beginnings of this nation anyway; they would be even more disabled economically, and most likely there would be even less access to employment (as well as other social services), than what we have now in this present time.
Einstein lauded the American “democratic trait,” then noted that the American ideal of equality that he observed that this “sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins.”
In addition, “Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition (emphasis mine).”
From the very start of this nation, white racism & WP, was designed purposely to enrich and advantage white people, and this is why we see an intersectionality between Capitalism & Racism. Thus, this system of WP was engineered to keep whites “up” and others “down.”
I believe that Einstein’s presence in American notoriety was indeed one of those “synchronistic” happenings at just the right time-right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. Einstein, perhaps, was one of the few who could advocate for equality and equal rights, in a way that no one else could do. One of the few who could speak his truth to power, and not be quiet about it.
Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam December 6, 2017