Monday, September 17, 2018

Where Those "Others" Got The Idea For What They Said And What They Got Other "Others" To Do

In the collection of essays by scholars of American racism, the great scholar Mary Frances Berry gave a definite indictment of the place of Darwinism, which, in the end, means natural selection, in American racist law and policy.  She correctly notes that its use in the United States was by "others" though on each of the points she makes I can give you quotes from Darwin which could have directly inspired those others to use his theory in the way they did.  And if not him then his most intimate of scientific colleagues whose work he endorsed and championed.  And I have done so, here.

After noting the importance and damage to black people done by stage and movie representations of them, of presenting them as stupid, inferior people due to their biological heritage, she acknowledge that in so far as the exercise of power and lawmaking, science did the same but in a far worse and more potent form.

The uses to which scientific theory was put in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to worse results for blacks than those achieved by the playwrights.  When Darwin used a subtitle "The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life" for his The Origin of Species in 1859, he was not referring to human beings, but that did not prevent others from using his theories for different purposes.  

I will break in here to note that though he didn't do so in 1859, he was using his theory to make such claims and to support even the most blatantly racist and even genocidal claims made by others on his behalf beginning within the first years, if not months after the publication of his book.  I have noted that as early as 1865, in the very months after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued that Thomas Huxley was encouraging people to expect that, now that they had been transferred from property to people, white people could be expected to destroy the former slaves in a battle of "brains and not bites".  I have encountered no place in which Darwin corrected his "bulldog" for having said things like that.  I doubt he would have have as he endorsed Ernst Haeckel saying far worse three years after that and went on to write it, himself in The Descent of Man in 1871*.  Those "others" were completely orthodox Darwinists.   With Darwinists, it's not uncommon for them to have a list of those to be eliminated, though there is generally a bit of difference in who is on that list.  One enduring feature is the elimination of the underclass of their own ethnic or racial group, the disabled are the most universally present member of the to eliminate list of Darwinists.

If only the fittest animals survived in evolution, then of course the less fit, inferior human beings, such as blacks, would lose out in the evolutionary competition.  By 1915 the reform economist John Commons could seriously assert:  "Race differences are established in the very blood and physical constitution.  They are most difficult to eradicate, and they yield only to the slow processes of the centuries."  In the meantime, while these race differences existed, they provided a convenient rationale for colonial expansion.  

Scientific theories of race differences and superiority among huan beings provided fertile ground for the flourishing of imperialist ideas in the United States. America's imperialistic ventures could be rationalized in terms of ersatz Darwinism,  but the ventures could in turn rationalize the  oppression of blacks in this country.   The United States purchased Alaska in 1867 and tried unsuccessfully to annex Santo Domingo in the 1870s.  The Europeans provided additional encouragement by their rapid colonization of Africa, completed by the partitioning of the continent in 1884.  Their example inspired historian John Fiske's lecture on Manifest Destiny published in 1885 and Protestant clergyman Josiah Strong's book of the same year in which he asserted that the "Anglo-Saxon race" was destined to "spread itself all over the earth" and the result, of course, would be the "survival of the fittest" in competition with the indigenous weaker races.  

Repression of Blacks in the South 1890-1845: Enforcing the System of Segregation

I have pointed out that Darwin, in his too little known 1878 letter to G. A. Gaskell essentially endorsed the idea Josiah Strong advanced.

With respect to your third law, I do not know whether you have read an article (I forget when published) by F. Galton, in which he proposes certificates of health, etc., for marriage, and that the best should be matched.

I have lately been led to reflect a little (for now that I am growing old, my work has become merely special) on the artificial checks to increase, and I cannot but doubt greatly, whether such would be advantageous to the world at large at present, however it may be in the distant future.

Suppose that such checks had been in action during the last two or three centuries, or even for a shorter time in Britain, what a difference it would have made in the world, when we consider America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa ! No words can exaggerate the importance, in my opinion, of our colonization for the future history of the world.

The often made claim that Nazism was an isolated species of racism is a huge lie. It was the most extreme instance of a species of scientific racism which had been in existence for many decades by 1939.  One of the reasons it is presented and seen as a completely different thing is that most of its victims were white Europeans.  But it was founded on and inspired by the subjugation and genocide against non-white, non-European People.  Hitler was especially inspired by the genocide against the inhabitants of the Americas, as was Ernst Haeckel directly based on the theory of natural selection and as Darwin implied more circumspectly in The Descent of Man. 

It was a direct result of the scientific racism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries which was largely revitalized and strengthened by the theory of natural selection.  Perfectly respected, and at times for other reasons respectable, men and some women of science were coming to the same conclusions that Hitler and Hess and others did from making racism scientific.

While Mary Frances Berry is absolutely and powerfully correct in asserting what is important is the use that "others" made of the theory of natural selection, which has, throughout its history, 19th, early 20th, centuries, pre and post-WWII, especially now in the resurgent period of racism powered by Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology and billionaires here and in the country dominated by Putin, natural selection always will and can always be expected to support scientific racism, the subjugation and oppression and deaths of people deemed by those with power and resources and control of academia and science, probably most powerfully, those in control of the media,  as inferior.

While I have no problem with coming up with the citations to prove that what those "others" asserted and did was exactly in line with what Darwin said, even if he hadn't provided those letters, scientific writings, etc. to show that was his thinking, what became and still is important is what others do with the theory.  And it is always and inevitably going to lead to the same results it has in the past.  That would be the demonstrated character of the theory of natural selection even if Darwin had never provided those statements.  As can be seen in the section of the book that Josiah Strong made that statement from, he cited Darwin, from The Descent of Man as the reason he had such faith in his racism.

Mr. Darwin is not only disposed to see, in the superior vigor of our people, an illustration of his favorite theory of natural selection, but even intimates that the world's history thus far has been simply preparatory for our future, and tributary to it. He says:* "There is apparently much truth in the belief that the wonderful progress of the United States, as well as the character of the people, are the results of natural selection; for the more energetic, restless, and courageous men from all parts of Europe have emigrated during the last ten or twelve generations to that great country, and have there succeeded best. Looking at the distant future, I do not think that the Rev. Mr. Zincke takes an exaggerated view when he says: 'All other series of events--as that which resulted in the culture of mind in Greece, and that which resulted in the Empire of Rome--only appear to have purpose and value when viewed in connection with, or rather as subsidiary to, the great stream of Anglo-Saxon emigration to the West.'"

There is abundant reason to believe that the AngloSaxon race is to be, is, indeed, already becoming, more effective here than in the mother country. The marked superiority of this race is due, in large measure, to its highly mixed origin. Says Rawlinson:*"It is a general rule, now almost universally admitted by ethnologists, that the mixed races of mankind are superior to the pure ones"; and adds: "Even the Jews, who are so often cited as an example of a race at once pure and strong, may, with more reason, be adduced on the opposite side of the argument." The ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, were all mixed races. Among modern races, the most conspicuous example is afforded by the Anglo-Saxons. . .

Lest you be tempted to see that last part as some endorsement of racial equality, I, somehow, don't think that Strong would suspect that the mixing of "Anglo-Saxon" and African races or would admit to the powerful culture of mestizaje in the same way as he did the close-cousin marriage that produced the "Anglo-Saxons".  I never saw Darwin or any of his followers favoring that kind of  beneficial "race mixing".   He did say, in The Descent of Man,  "the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world". I'm sure Strong must have read that.

*  In studying Darwin's writing, in studying his life and that of his milieu, one thing that you can never discount or forget is the extent to which his family pride, his snobbery, his very British determination to carry on in the Darwin-Wedgewood family tradition marks everything he does.  I don't doubt that his cousin, Francis Galton knew that when he used in the most flattering way, their shared family heritage in writing his first major book on eugenics, Hereditary Genius.  He wanted Charles Darwin's further endorsement for eugenics and he knew his softest spot.  Not that he ever had much to worry about as Darwin had already endorsed his earliest articles on the subject.

Darwin's scientific racism, so floridly expressed when it was people from the Pacific Islands, the Australian region and the end of South America was somewhat muted, first hand, when it came to those of African ancestry because there was something of a family tradition of anti-slavery among the Darwin-Wedgewoods.  Though, as can be seen in him mentioning "South Africa" in the Gaskell letter and, especially, in his endorsement of even the most genocidally racist science of his colleagues, he was able to fudge that when it came to his theory.   Ever the snob, I have read that all it took was a visit from Gladstone to get Darwin to mute his rather vicious and scientifically expressed hatred of the Irish in so far as he favored home-rule after Gladstone visited him at Down.  Emma Darwin, though, on her husband's death, reverted to opposing home-rule after that.

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