Emulating Einstein: An Anti-Racist Model for White People
Albert Einstein was born in Germany on March 14, 1879, the same year tens of thousands of Black American refugees engaged in a mass flight from slave states along the Mississippi River to the hopefully better pastures of Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. This event became known as the Exodus of 1879.
Although slavery technically ended in 1865, Black people still needed to escape the pervasive racial violence perpetrated by White supremacists in the years that followed. Southern Black people were also exhausted from the discriminatory laws known as the Black Codes, which effectively rendered Black people second-class citizens and prevented them from advancing economically. These laws included prohibiting the sale and lease of land to Black people. At the same time, private banks and businesses often increased their prices and interest rates for Black customers.
These racist laws and practices combined to create generations of struggle for Black Americans — those who remained in the South, as well as the traumatized refugees who’d fled.
These injustices persisted because White folks allowed them to. One rare exception was Albert Einstein.
Einstein’s anti-racist philosophy
As a German Jewish immigrant who had narrowly escaped Nazi Germany, Einstein understood that the mistreatment and abuse of his fellow human beings should never be tolerated. He was an outspoken and regular critic of the Nazis, who in turn, placed a bounty on his head and assassinated his colleagues.
Einstein moved to America and brought with him his philosophy that it was never okay to be a bystander to society’s injustices. It wasn’t enough for Einstein that someone was just not an anti-Semite. It wasn’t enough to just not be racist. Einstein believed that you either were part of the solution or you were part of the problem. And he knew that his platform as the world’s leading scientist must be used not only to advance science, but for social justice. He knew his power could not go to waste.
As his international reputation grew, Einstein began speaking out even more.