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Albert Einstein Diaries From Travels in '20s Reveal Racism

Albert Einstein Diaries From Travels in '20s Reveal Racism

Albert Einstein (Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)

By    |   Thursday, 14 June 2018 07:39 AM

Albert Einstein's private diaries, taken from his travels in the Far East in the 1920s, revealed his racist and xenophobic attitudes, NBC News reported, a far cry from his championing of civil rights after he arrived in the United States in the 1930s.

The diaries, published recently by the Princeton University Press, were written from late 1922 to early 1923 and displayed Einstein's views on politics, philosophy, science and art.

The world's best-known scientist used derogatory terms to describe some of the people he came across, calling Chinese children "spiritless" and "obtuse," NBC News said.

"It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races," Einstein wrote. "For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary."

He said he could hardly tell the difference between Chinese men and women.

The Washington Post reported that Einstein described Levantines during his travels to the Mediterranean as a "screaming and gesticulating" group of people "of every shade."

He wrote that Levantine merchants swarmed his ship, turning the upper deck into a bazaar, the Post said. Einstein said he found them both repulsive and beautiful, describing them as "bandit-like" and "filthy," but also "handsome and graceful to look at."

Ze'ev Rosenkranz, senior editor and assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology, edited and translated "The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein," calling the scientist a complex figure, NBC News said.

"I would hope that people have a more authentic view and contextualized view of his personality and see him more as a three-dimensional person, who like all of us had prejudices, who could be offensive," Rosenkranz told NBC News.

"It's a multifaceted issue. Right now we're focusing on racism, and I think we should focus on it as well, but it's a part of a whole context."

Einstein later spoke out against Nazi fascism in his native Germany while advocating for his fellow European Jews, NBC News said.

In analyzing the writings, the BBC News's Chris Buckler said the diaries show Einstein's shifting view of race once he arrived in United States and found it segregated.

"… He was taken aback by the separate schools and cinemas for blacks and whites and Einstein subsequently joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People," Buckler said. "He is said to have told people that he saw similarities in the way Jews were being hounded in Germany and how African-Americans were being treated in his new homeland.”

"His diaries are full of gut reactions and private insights. In the context of the 21st Century they may tarnish the reputation of a man who is revered almost as much as a humanitarian as a scientist. But the words were written before he saw what racism could lead to in America and Germany – a country he had effectively fled."

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Albert Einstein's private diaries, taken from his travels in the Far East in the 1920s, revealed his racist and xenophobic attitudes, a far cry from his championing of civil rights after he arrived in the United States in the 1930s.
albert einstein, racism, travel, diaries
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2018-39-14
Thursday, 14 June 2018 07:39 AM
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