Creative writing — Was Einstein a racist?
WAS ALBERT EINSTEIN RACIST?
The recently published private diaries of the renowned physicist Albert Einstein have brought to light some very disturbing information about this highly venerated scientist. In his personal diary, he recounts, with palpable disgust, his unpleasant experiences of a trip to various parts of China and East Asia with his wife Elsa. He describes the Chinese people as industrious, filthy and rather ugly in appearance. The Chinese children he encounters appear to him as indolent and obtuse. He even wrote that it would be tragic if the Chinese race replace others in the world in the future. The Chinese women appeared un-attractive to him, and he wrote some very disparaging comments about their appeal for the opposite sex. Such was the revulsion Einstein felt on seeing the native people of his host country.
The reason these comments have caused such a furore is that the late physicist was not only known as a brilliant scientist, but as a liberal and a humanist, and a crusader for equal rights for all races. The campaigners for equal treatment for black people in America found an energetic and vocal campaigner in him. When he moved to the U.S. in 1933, he was appalled to see the horrific treatment meted out to the black people by their white compatriots. He declared that such discrimination on skin colour was as obnoxious a practice as the hounding of Jews in his homeland Germany. That a country like America created separate civic facilities for its black citizens made him angry and sorrowful. Subsequently, he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People to campaign for justice for the black Americans. He also gave a rousing speech at the Lincoln University in Pennsylvania excoriating the government and politicians for perpetuating such an abhorrent and sinful practice of racial segregation. Lincon University was, then, one among the very few universities meant for coloured Americans. Einstein termed racism as “a disease of the white”. Such was the revulsion he felt about racial prejudice.
Quite understandably, the publication of these personal notes have greatly upset many Americans and people elsewhere, who adore him as a rare gift of God to mankind, not only for his unparalleled scientific talent, but also for his kindly, universalist spirit. Because of his tall stature in society, he could effectively shake the American conscience on the issue of the evils of racial segregation.
It would be unjust to fault Einstein so severely for his private diary entries made when his liberal spirit was still unfolding. He had not seen a Chinese (who look so different from Europeans) before, and he had also not experienced the evil practice of segregation based on skin colour. Unlike his times, modern day society takes racial slurs much more unkindly. Human race has evolved with time. That’s not Einstein’s fault.