The Return of Scientific Racism Summary






Explanation & Answer length: 5 pages

6 The Return of Scientific Racism? Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. DNA Ancestry Testing, Race, and the New Eugenics Movement Science has a lot of uses. It can uncover laws of nature, cure disease, inspire awe, make bombs, and help bridges to stand up. Indeed science is so good at what it does that there’s a perpetual temptation to drag it into problems where it may add little or even distract from the real issues. —H. Allen Orr, “Fooled by Science”, a popular website, extends an extravagant scientific promise to make a difference in how you understand your life: “Who Were Your People? For only $79, our test takes you back 30,000, 50,000 . . . even 100,000 years to discover your ancient ancestors—in addition to helping you connect with more recent genetic cousins.” Spencer Wells, Ancestry .com’s spokesperson and Harvard PhD, National Geographic book author, and PBS documentarian, writes in Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project: 142 Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. The Return of Scientific Racism? | 143 Genetics has become a kind of genie of sorts, promising to grant our wishes with the magic spell of its hidden secrets. . . . By sending in a simple cheek swab sample, a participant can learn about his or her own place within the story of human migration while contributing to and participating in the overall Project.1 This sort of claim has a history. This chapter talks about that history and about the science, the pseudoscience, and the misconceptions that go with such promises from the DNA ancestry-testing industry. I enter this discussion as a student of race and society, rather than as a biologist, so I will engage the science of DNA ancestry testing mainly on conceptual rather than technical grounds.

It will become apparent that the DNA ancestry-testing people—as distinct from serious DNA scientists—are selling bad science built on racist delusions of long standing.2 Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. T H E H E R I TAG E OF R AC IA L I S T S C I E N C E The lineage of ideas about human ancestry, and specifically about race, that passed for science during much of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth is well known. People styling themselves as scientists made what they presented as racial distinctions and created hierarchies of those racial groups using supposedly scientific methods, categories, and ideas.3 The founding father of this movement was Carl Linneaus. In the 1750s Linnaeus did future generations the estimable service of creating a system for classifying all living things into a nested hierarchy of categories.

Every organism belonged to one of two kingdoms, plant or animal. Then, proceeding downward through a multiplying hierarchy, organisms were divided into various phyla, the phyla into classes, the classes into orders, and thence to families, genera, and species. Supposedly, the species were fully distinct one from another. It was all very tidy, and it was quite an efficient device for organizing information about a multitude of organisms. For generations neither working scientists nor the thinking public had reason to question Linnaeus’s system. Although species were not quite as sealed Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. 144 | R AC E A N D E T H N IC I T Y off from one another as the system represented and although it turned out that there were a lot of organisms, like bacteria, that were neither plant nor animal, still the system possessed a kind of elemental beauty.

It was not a tested scientific theory so much as abstract philosophizing based on a lot of data about the structures of northern European plants and much less about other organisms. Yet it was useful for organizing a lot of information, and people thought of it as scientific.4 Subsequent generations of European scientists elaborated Linnaeus’s system in several ways. On one hand, working biologists examined innumerable species, delimited them with care, discovered new ones, explored the relationships among them, and so on—all against the intellectual backdrop of Linnaeus’s categories. That is, they developed the science of biology and what they called natural history.

Taking off in another direction, philosophers inclined to think about human beings took Linnaeus’s idea of species one step further, asserting that there were several distinct races of humankind, each with a separate physiognomy, intellect, and moral character. These were the pseudoscientific racialist speculators. Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, published his Histoire Naturelle, Generale et Particuleire in forty-four volumes between 1748 and 1804. He argued that all humans were one species but that they were divided into several races, each with its own location on the planet, its own physical type, character, and intellectual propensities. The source of the physical, intellectual, and moral differences, thought Buffon, came mainly from climate.5 Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, working in the 1770s, decided first that there were four and then that there were precisely five races—European, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American, and Malay—into which all human beings could be divided.

He decided further that Europeans had been the original race and that the others had diverged and degenerated from European stock. Finally, he divided each race into what he called “nations,” what people much later would come to call “ethnic groups.”6 He worked at around the same time as Georges Léopold Cuvier. Both Blumenbach and Cuvier decided that the Europeans, who by now were being called Caucasians, were the most beautiful of the races.

They were called Caucasians in part because some people thought the Caucasus region was where Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. The Return of Scientific Racism? | 145 Europeans originated but mainly because in Cuvier’s eyes, “various nations in the vicinity of Caucasus, the Georgians and Circassians, are . . . the handsomest on earth.”7 Cuvier was a scientist and the chancellor of the University of Paris, but this racial speculating sounds as if he had left science behind somewhere and wandered into poetry. The villain of the piece, if there be one, was another French aristocrat, Joseph Arthur, comte de Gobineau. In a hugely influential treatise, The Inequality of Human Races (1853–55), still in print today in many languages, Gobineau arranged the races in a strict hierarchy of intellect, ability, and morality: Whites, Asians, Indians of the Americas, Malays, and Africans. Race, he said, explained everything in human affairs and human history.

Some of his chapter titles give the flavor of his ideas: “Degeneration: The Mixture of Racial Elements,” “Racial Inequality Is Not the Result of Institutions,” “Some Anthropologists Regard Man as Having a Multiple Origin,” “Racial Differences are Permanent,” “The Human Races Are Intellectually Unequal,” “The Different Languages Are Unequal, and Correspond Perfectly in Relative Merit to the Races That Use Them.” And again, when he spoke of race and beauty: “Those who are most akin to us come nearest to beauty; such are the degenerate Aryan stocks of India and Persia, and the Semitic people who are least infected by contact with the black race.

As these races recede from the white type, their features and limbs become incorrect in form; they acquire defects of proportion which, in the races that are completely foreign to us, end by producing an extreme ugliness.” Richard Wagner welcomed Gobineau into his Bayreuth circle when the latter wore out his welcome in France, and Adolf Hitler admired his writing in a later generation.8 By the time these ideas reached Gobineau, what had hitherto been science—speculative science, to be sure, but arguably science nonetheless— was shading over into something quite different: popular intellectual underpinnings for a racialized public policy. Perhaps in part because of such public popularity, the racialist ideas of Blumenbach, Gobineau, and the others continued to shape scientific orthodoxy, especially among avatars of the growing discipline of physical anthropology.

So one saw books like The Races of Europe (1899), by William Ripley, a professor of sociology at MIT and of anthropology at Columbia. Ripley’s book had a lot of pictures Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. 146 | R AC E A N D E T H N IC I T Y of “racial types”—not just five big races, but subsidiary ethnic groups, and maps that showed the distribution of people according to their cephalic indexes. The cephalic index was an attempt to make racial and ethnic distinctions, the products of social interactions and mutual perceptions, arrived at in the context of colonial relationships, look more like science by quantifying them. One selected a “typical” member of an ethnic group, measured the breadth and length of that person’s head, and calculated the relationship of those two numbers as a percentage.

Each head shape was supposed to have its own characteristic temperament and intellectual capability.9 A. H. Keane, in a 1901 book, Ethnology, which became the standard textbook on its subject for generations, presented the family tree of humankind (which he called “hominidae,” perhaps because that Latinate term sounded more scientific than “humankind”). He presented AngloSaxons as the central branch of the human species, with Anglo-Americans and other worldwide colonizers as their fullest expression.

Slavs branched off earlier and were further removed from the Anglo-Saxon core group; Southern Europeans, Semites, and Ainu, before that; Polynesians, before that; and Asians, before that. Africans (with subgroups that included Australian Aborigines and Melanesians), Keane posited, had diverged so long ago as to be almost a separate species. Of course, Keane presented no data other than skin color on which to base his schema or the historical relationships he supposed to have existed between peoples (fig. 6.1).10 Vice president of the British Anthropological Institute and a professor of Hindustani at University College, London, Keane laid out his ideas about the current state of the races in a table I have reproduced as table 6.1. He placed religion and temperament alongside eye shape, nose shape, and skin color, as if they were all genetically determined. He used big words that sounded scientific (brachycephalous, orthognathus, mesodont, etc.). But he revealed his underlying social agenda—to excuse slavery and the colonial domination of Whites over darker peoples—in the final row: temperament.

Dividing a welter of peoples into four ideal physical types and masking his enterprise in a cloud of pseudoscientific jargon, he expected his readers to follow him as he leaped to conclude that each type had a characteristic temperament that explained its social position. Hence, African-descended people were “sensuous, indolent, improvident; fitful, Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. Fig. 6.1. Family tree of humankind.

From A. H. Keane, Ethnology (1901). Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved. 148 | R AC E A N D E T H N IC I T Y passionate, and cruel,” with “easy acceptance of the yoke of slavery” and a lack of science and art. Europeans, by contrast, were “active, enterprising, imaginative,” and either “serious, steadfast, solid and stolid” or “fiery, impulsive, fickle”—but in either case good at science and the arts. Africans were biologically destined to be slaves, said Keane and other pseudoscientists. Europeans were biologically destined to be scientists and poets. If it were in their genes, the implication was, it was no one’s fault. This passed for science a century ago in the United States, Britain, and the rest of the colonizing countries of Europe and North America. Such ideas, then, were accepted scientific orthodoxy, and they became unquestioned popular orthodoxy as well.

A map that appeared in the 1904 Annual Report of the US Commissioner-General of Immigration made a “grand division of race” that presented the peoples who came to the United States as “Slavic,” “Teutonic,” “Iberic,” “Keltic,” “Mongolic,” and “Hebrew,” as if each of these “racial” distinctions had some scientific meaning. Similarly, one of the forty-one volumes of the 1910–11 report of the Dillingham Commission, a comprehensive report on US immigration, was titled Dictionary of Races or Peoples, which purported to lay out a definitive list of races and ethnic groups, their locations in the world and their characters and physiognomies, and other material.11 It was a short step from pseudoscientific ideas that had made their way into public life to using those ideas to advocate particular public policies.

In fact, in the first decades of the twentieth century there appeared a slew of racist screeds against immigrants in general, Southern and Eastern European immigrants in particular, and Asian immigrants most especially. Social and marital mixing among divergent ethnicities was a topic of special scorn. None of the attacks was more pointed than Alfred Schultz’s diatribe against race mixing and immigration, which he called “racial suicide.” The book’s full title tells its story: Race or Mongrel? A brief history of the rise and fall of the ancient races of earth; a theory that the fall of nations is due to intermarriage with alien stocks; a demonstration that a nation’s strength is due to racial purity; a prophecy that America will sink to early decay unless immigration is rigorously restricted.12 One of the classic texts was Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race. Published first in 1916 and then in several editions, Passing had an Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04. Spickard, Paul, et al. Race in Mind : Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fau on 2021-04-18 11:13:04.

Agglutinating of various prefix and postfix types Non-theistic, nature and ancestry worship; fetishism and witchcraft prevalent Sensuous, indolent, improvident; fitful, passionate, and cruel, though often affectionate and faithful; little self-respect, hence easy acceptance of the yoke of slavery; science and art undeveloped Speech Medium (mesodont) Above the average: 5 ft. 8 in. Mesognathous: 72 Moderately prominent Large, bridged or aquiline, mesorrhine: 50 Small, round, straight, sunken, black Mesaticephalous: 79 Coppery, yellowish Very long, coarse, black, lank, nearly round in section; beardless Ideal American Type Sluggish, somewhat sullen, with little initiative but great endurance; generally frugal, thrifty and industrious, but moral standard low; science slightly, art and letters moderately developed Moody, taciturn, wary; deep feelings masked by an impassive exterior; indifference to physical pain; science slightly, art moderately, letters scarcely at all developed Agglutinating chiefly with post Polysynthetic mainly fixes; isolating with tones Polytheistic: shamanism; Polytheistic; animism; Buddhism; Transmigration nature worship Medium (mesodont) Below the average: 5 ft. 4 in. Small, black, oblique, outer angle slightly elevated, vertical field of skin over inner canthus Mesognathous: 68 Prominent laterally Very small, mesorrhine: 52 Brachycephalous: 84 Coarse, black, lustreless, lank, round in transverse section, beardless, but moustache common Yellowish Ideal Mongol Type Source: A. H. Keane, Ethnology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1901), 228. Temperament a = Negro; b = Negrito. Large (macrodont) a. Above the average: 5 ft. 10 in. b. Dwarfish: 4 ft. Teeth Stature Religion Large, round, prominent, black; yellowish cornea a. Short, jet black, frizzly, flat in transverse section, little or no beard; b. Reddishbrown, woolly a. Blackish; b. Yellowish brown a. Dolichocephalous: 72 b. Brachycephalous: 83 Prognathous: 60 Small, moderately retreating Very broad, flat, platyrrhine: 56 Eyes Jaws Cheek bone Nose Skull Colour Hair Ideal Negro Type Table 6.1. Racial Types in Pseudoscience Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press. All rights reserved.

a = Xanthochroi; b = Melanochroi. Active, enterprising, imaginative; a. serious, steadfast, solid and stolid; b. fiery, impulsive, fickle; science, art and letters highly developed in both. Chiefly inflecting; some agglutinating Monotheism: Judaism; Christianity; Mohammedanism a. Long, wavy, soft, flaxen; b. Long, straight, wiry, black; both oval in section; both full bearded a. Florid; b. Pale a. Dolichocephalous: 74 b. Brachycephalous: 83 Orthognathous: 76 Small; unmarked Large, straight or arched, leptorrhine: 46 a. Blue; b. Black: both moderately large and always straight Small (microdont) a. Above average: 5 ft. 8 in. b. Average: 5 ft. 5 or 6 in. Ideal Caucasic Type Copyright © 2015. University of Notre Dame Press.

All rights reserved. 150 | R AC E A N D E T H N IC I T Y enormous influence on American public opinion, medical practice, and public policy. Grant argued that Europeans—in particular, a subset that he called at various stages Aryans, Nordics, and Teutons—were the central figures in all that was good, true, and beautiful in human history. He followed racial scientists in assigning scientific-sounding Latinate names to peoples—Dolicho-lepto, Lappanoid, etc.—and in assorting all European peoples into three groups: Nordics (Homo sapiens europeau), Alpines (Homo sapiens alpinus), and Mediterraneans (Homo sapiens mediterraneus). He arranged them according to what he believed to be their ancient linguistic roots, as well as their typical physical stature; eye, hair, and skin color; nose and face shape; and cephalic index. He claimed that each group, in addition to possessing a distinctive physical type, possessed a particular temperament and set of intellectual capabilities. Teutons, for instance, were a branch of the Nordic race of Europeans. They were tall of frame and had long heads and high, narrow faces. Their hair ran from flaxen to …

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