The private diary of the great physicist, Albert Einstein has revealed his description of racism and opinion of the Chinese people. Einstein describes racism as the “disease of white people,” and calls the Chinese “industrious, filthy, obtuse people.”
Einstein’s Dairy written between October 1922 to March 1923, track his experiences as he travels to Japan, China, Singapore, Palestine, and Spain on a five-and-a-half-month voyage with his wife then-wife, Elsa Einstein.
Albert Einstein Diary
The diary described as the telegraphic-style diary entries, reportedly record Einstein’s musings on science, philosophy, art, and politics, as well as his immediate impressions and broader thoughts on such events as his inaugural lecture at the future site of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a garden party hosted by the Japanese Empress, an audience with the King of Spain, and meetings with other prominent colleagues and statesmen.
Entries also contain passages that reveal Einstein’s stereotyping of members of various nations and raise questions about his attitudes on race.
According to Princeton Press, Einstein keeps a journal for all succeeding trips abroad, and this first volume of his travel diaries offers an initial, intimate glimpse into a brilliant mind encountering the great, wide world.
Racist Comments & Stance On Racism
In the Diary published by Princeton University Press, and edited by Ze’ev Rosenkranz, assistant director of the California Institute of Technology, the theoretical physicist and humanitarian icon make sweeping and negative generalisations.
“Chinese don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods. All this occurs quietly and demurely. Even the children are spiritless and look obtuse.”
After earlier writing of the “abundance of offspring” and the “fecundity” of the Chinese, he goes on to say:
“It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races. For the likes of us, the mere thought is unspeakably dreary.”
Other passages of the diaries, believed to have been written for Einstein’s stepdaughters in Berlin see him writing of the Chinese that “even those reduced to working like horses never give the impression of conscious suffering. A peculiar herd-like nation, often more like automatons than people”.
He also added, in the translator’s words, “a healthy dose of extreme misogyny. I noticed how little difference there is between men and women; I don’t understand what kind of fatal attraction Chinese women possess which enthrals the corresponding men to such an extent that they are incapable of defending themselves against the formidable blessing of offspring”.
On his arrival to Port Said, Egypt, the physicist describes facing “Levantines of every shade… as if spewed from hell” who come aboard their ship to sell their goods.
In contrast to the others, his perceptions of the Japanese are more positive. He wrote:
“Japanese unostentatious, decent, altogether very appealing. Pure souls as nowhere else among people. One has to love and admire this country.” Then he reportedly pointed out that the “intellectual needs of this nation seem to be weaker than their artistic ones – natural disposition?”
During his visit to Colombo in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, Einstein writes of how the locals “live in great filth and considerable stench at ground level” noting that they “do little, and need little. The simple economic cycle of life.”
It was two decades later, as he advocates for civil rights in the US, Einstein would call racism “a disease of white people,” precisely in a 1946 speech at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania – the first university in the US to award degrees to black people.
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Albert Einstein a renowned Jewish scientist who emigrated to the US in 1933 after the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. He is famous for both his scientific brilliance and his humanitarianism.
Born on 14 March 1879, Ulm, in Germany, the Relativity theorist died on April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey, United States.