No, Trotsky didn’t coin ‘racist’

Neither did Hirschfeld.

I just found out that it’s possible to login to the OED with just a library card number, andthe wonders of the library system of the next county over!—mine works.

The Trotsky quote here is from 1930. Magnus Hirschfeld’s book Racism was written in 1933-34 and published (posthumously) in 1938. (As far as I can tell, it was only published in English.)

The first OED citation for ‘racism’ is from 1903, and it sounds like it was already in use before then:

1903   Proc. 20th Ann. Meeting Lake Mohonk Conf. Friends of Indian 1902 134   Segregating any class or race of people..kills the progress of the segregated people… Association of races and classes is necessary in order to destroy racism and classism.

Here it is on Google Books. The front cover says it’s from 1893, but the 1900 census is referred to on page 122. Given the context, a date between the release of the 1900 census data and that of the next decade’s is likely. The speaker is Richard Henry Pratt. A few pages down, he speaks for the Carlisle School, where he held the position of superintendent until 1904. Also, note 20th Ann.: the first Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian was held in 1883. So 1903 is the right date of publication, and something strange must have happened on Google’s/the book’s end.

The next citation is from 1926, four years before that Trotsky quote:

1926   Manchester Guardian 9 Feb. 7/4   The press of the Left is extremely mild. The [French publication] ‘Quotidien’ remarks neutrally that the two Nationalisms are in conflict, and that ‘if German racism is a danger to the world Fascism is another.’

As for ‘racist’, the OED gives two citations from before 1930:

1926   Manchester Guardian 22 Sept. 5   If the French people and Government show that they desire to come to a real understanding the opposition of the German Nationals and the Racists will be nullified and will soon disappear altogether.
1927   Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev. 21 385   The government bloc reached an understanding with the most notorious Racists.

5 responses to “No, Trotsky didn’t coin ‘racist’

  1. nickbsteves May 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    “Here it is on Google Books” link is trashed.

  2. nickbsteves May 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I’m convinced. Don’t think it changes the “racism as club” narrative very much. Still, important to get facts straight. Leave it the linguisticists!

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