Racism is the theory or idea that there is a link between inherited physical traits and certain traits of personality, intellect, or culture combined with the notion that some races are inherently superior to others.1
The theory of racism is a helpful rationalization for conquest and expansion. When the Spaniards first came to America, writers supplied them with the excuses for taking the land away from the Indians and for treating them with a complete lack of consideration. They developed the theory that Indians had an entirely different origin from that of the Spaniards. They were not human in the same sense and, therefore, there was no need to accord them the same treatment as fellow human beings. The familiar refrain of the “white man’s burden,” which was mainly manufactured and found its literary expression in the writings of Thomas Carlyle, James A. Foude, Charles Kingsley and most strongly and clearly, in those of Rudyard Kipling, made imperialism a noble activity destined to bring civilization to the benighted member of other races. The French justified the maintenance of their colonial empire on the basis of their mission: to bring civilization to the backward peoples of the world.
In all of these colonizing empires, there were undoubtedly many individuals honestly convinced of the nobility of their motives and their enterprise. At the same time, the feelings of racial superiority that accompanied colonialism played an important part in developing resentments among the colonized which even emancipation and independence have not always made it possible to overcome. However, the recognition that treatment of ethnic minorities may have important implications for international relations has focused attention upon the need to improve intergroup relations in general. In the United States the movement to provide greater equality of opportunity for all ethnic groups was progressive. The first dramatic expression of this tendency was furnished by the unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1954. The court decision, based in part on social-science research, stated that enforced segregation of black school children in certain states and localities was contrary to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.