What Was Published About Einstein?
Princeton University Press recently published unseen journals from Einstein between 1922 and 1923 when he traveled to China, Sri Lanka, Japan, Spain, Hong Kong, and Singapore. His journals were translated into English.
Despite Einstein's intelligence and compassion, his writing suggests that he harbored some racist views of people in Asia, particularly Chinese people. In his journals, he called Chinese people, "industrious, filthy, obtuse," and he wrote that they were, "a peculiar herd-like nation."
"Chinese don't sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods," Einstein wrote. "Even the children are spiritless and look obtuse."
Einstein also wrote discriminatory comments about Chinese women. His writings seemed to suggest a biological superiority that Europeans had over Chinese people. Einstein wrote about his fears of Chinese people "supplanting" other races and taking over the world.
While in Ceylon, which is present-day Sri Lanka, Einstein wrote that the people there, "live in great filth."
Einstein's History As A Humanitarian
These published diaries stand in stark contrast to Einstein's reputation as a humanitarian and civil rights icon. Einstein, who was Jewish, escaped the racism of Nazi Germany and settled in the United States.
Although he rarely made public appearances, he did speak at Lincoln University in 1946. This was the first school in America that offered college degrees to African Americans. During his remarks at Lincoln University, he said that racism was "a disease of white people."
"I do not intend to be quiet about it," Einstein said during the speech.
Einstein spoke out against bigotry in the United States and the world. During the 1950s, he offered to appear as a character witness for W.E.B. Du Bois, a founder of the NAACP, when he was indicted by the federal government.
What People Are Saying About Einstein's Xenophobia
News of the racist comments in Einstein's translated journals has sent shock waves across the internet. Ze'ev Rosenkranz, an editor with the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology, spoke out against Einstein's rhetoric.
"They're kind of in contrast to the public image of the great humanitarian icon," said Rosenkranz. "I think it's quite a shock to read those and contrast them with his more public statements."