Is imperialism/colonialism just another word for racism? 

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Imperialism is the territorial domination of one country over another. When we look at the New Imperialism of the late-nineteenth century, when Europe, the U.S. and Japan colonised much of Africa and Asia, we see how racism came into play. These imperialist nations were often motivated to expand by a belief in their racial and cultural superiority. This belief, called ethnocentrism, certainly motivated imperial nations to colonise because they felt compelled to 'civilise' these other countries. A great example of this is Rudyard Kipling's poem, White Man's Burden, which was published in 1899 and which basically states that it is the duty of imperialists to colonise and raise the standard of living across Asia and Africa.

While racism certainly played an important role in New Imperialism, the pursuit of profit should not be forgotten. Imperialism was, at its heart, a financially-motivated exercise. Imperial nations wanted to build empires so that they could plunder the natural resources of the developing world and then sell them their mass-produced goods. Competition over the Suez Canal in Egypt is a great example of this. Suez was an important trading point and control of this area gave imperialists the most direct access to the Far East and - potentially - to untapped sources of profit. 

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