If we track the roots of Western civilization to its earliest evidence in language and genetics, we find that our language and other markers of our ancestry track the spread of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language from its roots in the Eurasian steppe circa 4,500 years ago. This expansion can be traced through word relationships as well as commonalities of myth and religion, but also through similarities in social behaviors. From Bronze Age Greeks, Indo-Iranians, and Anatolian (Hittite) people, this cultural thread weaves through Iron Age Indo-Aryans, Iranians and, most importantly for our consideration, European groups including Celts, Germanic peoples, Italic peoples, and other Western European populations.
Recent DNA analyses of these populations support the theory of PIE migration and conquest over earlier human settlements. By the Middle Ages, ancient Indo-European traditions, myths, and languages had reached Scandinavian cultures and spread across medieval Europe. Genetic information shows that certain characteristics currently attributed to European ancestry such as blue eyes first appeared in the genetic record around 13,000 to 14,000 years ago in Italy and the Caucasus. Light skin is less easily tracked as a genetic factor but researchers believe this feature spread through Western Europe between 19,000 and 11,000 BCE (Before Current Era). Other physical characteristics also follow this migration, including taller height and blond hair.
This movement from east to west parallels the penetration of farming practices into hunter-gatherer populations. Farming required settling into one location to oversee the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of farmed crops, meaning that people were able to accumulate more worldly goods which in turn led to inequalities as well as the need to determine paternity of children who might inherit such goods. Social rules proliferated to govern communal norms including the sexual behavior of women.
By around 3500 BCE, people of the PIE traditions had domesticated the horse, adapted the wheel to chariots and wagons, and begun herding food animals such as cattle. The growth of grazing herds led to conquest of neighboring lands to expand grazing space. Increasing use of metals for weaponry (copper, bronze, iron) alongside war chariots pulled by domesticated horses led to the rise of empires from Greece and Rome to the European colonialism that shaped the modern world starting in 1500s. Just like their PIE ancestors, early Western civilizations seized power by conquering bordering indigenous populations and usurping any natural resources native to those lands.
Operating in the arrogance of supremacy, or the ‘might-makes-right ideology,’ expansionists viewed the world as theirs for the taking. If the tools of conquest could overcome native defenses, then it was conveniently considered a God-given right to take whatever the natives might have, not limited to their possessions and lands but also their very lives. Enslaved to their new masters, conquered people endured the various brutal labors required of empire building whether mining lead, tin, or salt or building roads, temples, and coliseums where even more slaves could be forced to ‘entertain’ their masters with fights to the death.
Rising from the ashes of the vast Roman Empire, by 1500 CE, Western European powers traveled the world, spiking their nation’s flags into new lands to claim it for king and country. During the next five hundred years, Spain ‘discovered’ the so-called New World. France, Great Britain, Portugal, and Holland (Netherlands) quickly joined the land grab, swooping in to establish their own satellites in the Americas and then around the globe. Most of these conquered people were people of color, therefore automatically considered inferior and suitable for genocide or enslavement.
Ironically, all these Western European powers were themselves shaped by invasions by outsiders, virtually all of which were also PIE cultures. For example, after the Celts penetrated the British Isles sometime around 2000 BCE, continuing waves of foreign invaders included the Romans (circa 55 BCE); Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (circa 400-500 CE); Norse, Danes and other ‘Viking’ entities (700-900 CE); and finally the conquest by Normans (1066). The influence of Scandinavian influence on British culture and language can’t be understated, since the Normans (Northmen) themselves were Norse Viking invaders of France circa 900 CE who agreed to stop pillaging Paris in exchange for lands along France’s western coast.
England and subsequently the British Empire staked its claim first on Ireland and Scotland, but also on North America, India, Australia, Egypt and a major swath of Africa along with portions of China, Indonesia, and various Pacific islands. Spain plundered most of South America as well as the western half of the present-day United States and the Philippine Islands. Not wanting miss out on native hoards of gold, silver, and precious gems, the Catholic Church worked through both Spain and Portugal to destroy indigenous religious traditions and take possession of their wealth. France suffered the loss of much of their colonized territories to the British in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) including a large swath of the United States heartland and much of eastern Canada, then made up its losses with the occupation of northwest Africa, parts of India, and various parts of Indochina.
Along the way, racism stood as a primary justification for enslaving not only Africans to produce wealth in American and Caribbean colonies, but virtually any indigenous peoples who fell before the advance of Western Europeans. A standard concept undergirded these actions, perhaps best stated in 1884 by the Frenchman Jules Ferry: “”The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races.”
The western European colonial powers claimed that, as Christian nations, they were duty-bound to disseminate Western civilization to what Europeans perceived as the heathen and primitive cultures… In addition to economic exploitation and imposition of imperialist government, the ideology of the civilizing mission required the cultural assimilation of “primitive peoples,” as the nonwhite Other, into the colonial subaltern of eastern Europe.
Then, just like that, there were no more new lands to conquer and movement westward turned back on itself. Throughout the rush to ‘conquer’ the American West, freed slaves, migrant laborers from Mexico and the rest of Central America, and imported Chinese performed the backbreaking labor of building railroads, mining, and agriculture. Today’s U. S. agricultural industries depend heavily on the descendants of mixed Spanish-Native peoples.
For a time, the tradition of colonization continued into the 20th century in the form of wars against lesser nations. In a belated effort to rein in this long tradition of conquest, “In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill jointly released the Atlantic Charter, which broadly outlined the goals of the U.S. and British governments. One of the main clauses of the charter acknowledged the right of all people to choose their own government. The document became the foundation for the United Nations and all of its components were integrated into the UN Charter, giving the organization a mandate to pursue global decolonization.”
Meanwhile, domestic discrimination by whites takes form in laws that are used selectively in the United States to disproportionately imprison Blacks and Latinos where they are used as a labor force and whose imprisonment enriches the rapidly growing private prison industry. The racist white-supremacy inheritance of PIE ancestry continues in the 21st century, thriving in right-wing hate groups and political party movements across the United States and Western Europe.
The racialist perspective of the Western world during the 18th and 19th centuries was invented with the Othering of non-white peoples, which also was supported with the fabrications of scientific racism, such as the pseudo-science of phrenology, which claimed that, in relation to a white-man’s head, the head-size of the non-European Other indicated inferior intelligence; e.g. the apartheid-era cultural representations of coloured people in South Africa (1948–94).
…Despite the UN’s factual dismissal of racialism, in the U.S., institutional Othering continues in government forms that ask a citizen to identify and place him or herself into a racial category; thus, institutional Othering produces the cultural misrepresentation of political refugees as illegal immigrants (from overseas) and of immigrants as illegal aliens (usually from México).
The same science that has tracked white ancestry over thousands of years has not only provided modern civilization with countless amenities but also clear evidence that underneath our skin and other outward appearances, humans are all the same.
See Part II coming soon: “Are Whites Superior?”