作者：Alison Flood 2018-06-19 11:44
The publication of Albert Einstein's private diaries detailing his tour of Asia in the 1920s reveals the theoretical physicist's racist attitudes to the people he met on his travels, particularly the Chinese.
Written between October 1922 and March 1923, the diaries see the scientist musing on his travels, science, philosophy and art. In China, the man who once described racism as “a disease of white people” describes the “industrious, filthy, obtuse people” he observes.
He notes how the “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.”
Ze'ev Rosenkranz, senior editor of the Einstein Papers Project, said: “I think a lot of comments strike us as pretty unpleasant – what he says about the Chinese in particular.
“They're kind of in contrast to the public image of the great humanitarian icon. I think it's quite a shock to read those and contrast them with his more public statements. He didn't intend them for publication.”
Rosenkranz said that although views like Einstein's were prevalent at the time, they were not universal. “'We have to understand, he was of the zeitgeist , part of the time' – but I think I tried here and there to give a broader context. There were other views out there, more tolerant views,” he said.
In his introduction, Rosenkranz writes how it is important to explore how a humanist icon such as Einstein – whose image was once used for a UNHCR campaign with the slogan “A bundle of belongings isn’t the only thing a refugee brings to his new country. Einstein was a refugee” – could have written xenophobic comments about the peoples he encountered.
“The answer to this question seems very relevant in today’s world, in which the hatred of the other is so rampant in so many places around the world,” he writes. “It seems that even Einstein sometimes had a very hard time recognising himself in the face of the other.”