Underpinning much racist ideology is the notion that the development of civilization was basically a European or western phenomenon. In reality, civilization – living in cities, literacy, law etc. – developed first in three main areas, none of them in Europe: the middle eastern fertile crescent (Iraq to Egypt), northwestern India and southeast China. Moreover Europe in the middle ages remained pitifully backward compared to China or the Islamic civilization in the middle east and north Africa.
But even those who accept these basic historical facts often still cling to the idea that “modern culture” and “modernism” are a uniquely European (and thus “white”) creation.
Then again in the anti-racist camp there are those who see different cultures as equal or “equally valid” but still think of them as separate and inherently linked to distinct ethnic or racial groups. Therefore they talk of preserving different cultures and maintaining their authenticity, resisting their contamination by external influences (for example by opposing mixed race adoptions).
A striking challenge to all these views of how culture develops is provided by the work and career of the greatest of all modern artists, Pablo Picasso.