Race in the 20th Century

by zunguzungu

Before we all get tired of Ngram viewer (which is here), I did some playing around. Basically, the utility tracks the number of times a word gets used in the print matter that google has digitized and graphs it by date. Somewhere, Franco Moretti is smiling.

Since comparing similar words will be a lot more revealing than comparing completely different ones (each graph shows a massively overdetermined outcome, so the more factors they have in common will make the factors they don’t have in common more reliably meaningful. Science, right?). So, I give you, the twentieth century in race:

Interesting to see the way the former falls off the map well before the language of “racism” places the problem onto white people (instead of black people being, themselves, the problem).

“White People” however, on its own, is vastly more common than either.

Didn’t expect that.

What’s interesting about this is that there are three booms in the use of lynching, miscegenation, correlating roughly with eras of civil rights movement (broadly defined). And yet while “uppity” clearly correlates with the first, it doesn’t with the latter two.

As a euphemism, gets very popular in the 1990’s. But compare it to:

“White Flight” is not only a much bigger boom, but it starts in the late sixties (though with a correlated boomlet in the 90’s as well). But:

“Ghetto” is clearly the winner. We have the early use of the term in WWII era (referring to Jewish ghettos in Europe), and then an explosion of its use in the late sixties, now talking about the ghetto Elvis Presley means.

And finally, how America’s problem of race was solved at the millennium: