William Graham Sumner on the racism which lies behind Imperialism (1898)
Found in: War and Other Essays
The American classical liberal sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) pointed out the contradiction between the American ideal that “all men are equal” with its actual treatment of “Indians and negroes” and other so-called “uncivilized and half-civilized peoples”:
War & Peace
The Americans have been committed from the outset to the doctrine that all men are equal. We have elevated it into an absolute doctrine as a part of the theory of our social and political fabric. It has always been a domestic dogma in spite of its absolute form, and as a domestic dogma it has always stood in glaring contradiction to the facts about Indians and negroes and to our legislation about Chinamen. In its absolute form it must, of course, apply to Kanakas, Malays, Tagals, and Chinese just as much as to Yankees, Germans, and Irish. It is an astonishing event that we have lived to see American arms carry this domestic dogma out where it must be tested in its application to uncivilized and half-civilized peoples. At the first touch of the test we throw the doctrine away and adopt the Spanish doctrine.