We weren’t always racist so when did we come up with it and how did it begin?

Andy Martin in The Independent:

Othello welcomes Desdemona to Cyprus. The play is one of the earliest works of western literature to exploit racism (Getty)

We weren’t always racists. We were always mean, murderous bastards, of course. Rape, slaughter, and slavery were once fairly normal and frequent. The plot of Taken has been rehearsed over and over again throughout history. Rousseau’s “noble savage” was a loner, self-sufficient, a hunter roaming about the woods having little contact with anyone else. But the point about the noble savage is that she did not exist. It’s a recent invention, a retrospective myth. The truly solo human just doesn’t survive for very long. We’ve always been tribal. We had to be if we wanted to stay alive. And the main problem for tribes was other tribes. Hell is other peoples, plural.

The Ramayana, the ancient Sanskrit epic, tells of a beautiful young woman being abducted. The hero of the story, Rama, has to go kill a lot of bad guys to get her back again. Homer’s Iliad, composed around the same era, tells of Helen being taken by Paris to Troy and the Greeks launching a war against the Trojans to get her back again. The greatest fighter according to Homer is Achilles (played by Brad Pitt in the movie).

But it should be noted that Achilles refuses to fight for most of the epic poem on account of Agamemnon (who is on his side) taking possession of his woman Briseis, whom Achilles has already acquired elsewhere in a previous successful raid.

More here.