Sunday, September 20, 2020

Scientific Racism.

September 11, 2019 by  
Filed under Education, Health, News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( At first glance, the term “scientific racism” appears both implausible and oxymoronic.  But from the middle 1600s to the end of the Second World War, the various branches of pseudo-science purporting to substantiate the anatomical, biological and anthropological differences of the “races” had many adherents who were otherwise considered learned men and provided the underpinnings of slavery and Jim Crow.

Take Samuel A. Cartwright, a student of the eminent Philadelphian Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Dr. Cartwright studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania before he authored “The diseases and physical peculiarities of the negro race.”  In that 1851 treatise, his most famous discovery was “drapetomania”, or the mental illness that caused enslaved people to run away.  He also diagnosed “dysaesthesia” or the cause of laziness, “especially in free negroes not under white supervision.”  Dr. Rush himself thought that “negroness” was a skin disease that could be cured with the proper treatment.

These so-called medical diagnoses would be laughable if it were not for the lasting damage these, and other supposed “maladies” endemic in enslaved Africans, caused in supporting claims of racial superiority.  The Nazis took up where the earlier practitioners of scientific racism left off and studied American Jim Crow laws to develop their own racial codes used against Jews, and other “undesirables”.  Some traces of scientific racism have even survived into the modern era with books like “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” by psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray espousing the intellectual inferiority of non-whites.

All of these efforts to prove either inferiority or superiority are symptomatic of some form of racial “narcissism” in the classic meaning of the word: excessive admiration of oneself.  In this case, of one’s group defined by their (lack of) pigmentation.

Any full reading of history recounts the rise and fall of advanced civilizations around the globe and the “borrowing” of language, ideas, customs and inventions from one to the next.  And scientific evidence, as put forward by paleontologists like Louis Leaky and historians like Yuval Noah Harari among others, have amply documented that modern humans, or Homo sapiens, originated in Africa.  Therefore all human beings living today have ancestry dating back to the African continent; regardless of what you get from

The real enemy is ignorance and the best weapon to fight against it is knowledge.  There’s a reason that it was forbidden to educate slaves and that leaders of the civil rights movement chose Brown versus the Board of Education as the first major battle to dismantle the U.S. apartheid state.  Both sides, the white supremacists and supporters of equal rights, understood that an educated mind cannot be subjugated.  A wise man once said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”

That’s why it’s so important to continue fighting for improved public education curricula and to ensure that this generation of students are prepared for the economic opportunities emerging from Industry 4.0: like robotics, artificial intelligence and the internet of things.  We have to encourage academic achievement as much – or more – as we do athletic prowess.  And we have to make sure we acknowledge outstanding performers in all fields of endeavor in our community including business, science and technology; not just sports and entertainment.

Some young people may think they have the luxury of eschewing “book learning” in favor of “lived experience.”  That schooling is a waste of time for what they want to do later in their lives.  These are the very ones who will fall prey to the pseudo-science preached by “climate deniers”, “anti-vaxers”, “conspiracy theorists” and their ilk.  We do not have one mind to waste if we are going to tackle the many challenges that pose existential threats to our species and planet.  And now, more than ever, to be without knowledge is to be exploited and left behind.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell


One Response to “Scientific Racism.”
  1. Pelvo White, Jr. says:

    Bravo ! Bravo ! Bravo ! Mr Sewell, this writing is a non-fictional work of art.

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