Countless articles about how unscientifically racist old WASPs were begin by quoting the scene early in The Great Gatsby in which Daisy’s oafish husband, Tom, recommends a book called The Rise of the Colored Empires.
Ironically, F. Scott Fitzgerald was parodying his own regrettable views on race. For instance, in 1921 the great novelist wrote to critic Edmund Wilson of his disgust engendered by a visit to Europe in language that sounds like Tom Buchanan waxing poetic: “The negroid streak creeps northward to defile the Nordic race. Already the Italians have the souls of blackamoors.”
Since about the stock market crash of 1929, this kind of thinking has been terribly out of fashion.
Since then, an endless stream of anthropologists have assured us that race is just a social construct, that ancient peoples made pots not war, that Aryan conquests in India and Europe were Nazi delusions, that the caste system was imposed on the egalitarian Indians by British colonialists, and many other agreeable suppositions.
As Fitzgerald’s friend Hemingway ended The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”