Enlightenment & Racism

This weeks lectures really helped me grasp the concept of race more as I learned about the Enlightenment. With new ideas being spread and the revelation of the European people, they realized that they could and should be able to govern themselves. This was a time when people questioned the overbearing, religious authority that hadn’t seemed to pose a problem much before. Scientists experimented and went against religious beliefs in order to prove theories and create the scientific method. However, with this experimentation came a new concept of race than there was before. I have prior knowledge of Morton and how he conducted an experiment by measuring the capacity of human skulls, ranking them from the most superior “race” to the most inferior “race”. It’s important to note that this was the basis that many people went off of due to the fact that it was “science” and it was how they based their knowledge on “race” as a justification to oppress races that were considered inferior to them. To me, it’s shocking that no one else would try to refute his findings earlier, but maybe no one questioned his results. Nevertheless, the concept of race was greatly changed during the Enlightenment as intelligence and brain size were said to define one another and correlate with a certain “race”; rather than previously where race hadn’t begun to be much of a way to categorize people as much as religious background was.

It’s important to keep in mind what the concept of race is, which is explained in a lecture from last week as being a social construct from political, historical, and economic processes. Applying that to racism is important, since race is still relevant in American society today. For instance, historically African Americans were brought over from Africa and served as slaves in the southern states of our nation. Yet, with the assistance of abolitionists prior to the Civil War, progress was made in abolishing the inhuman act with the Emancipation Proclamation. However, racism still existed for many, many years until the Civil Rights movement came along and, African American church leaders and WWII veterans fought for equal rights. Even though strides were made and America is in a new era, racism still poses a problem. A few months ago, I took an online psychology test/quiz that was conducted at Harvard, on racial bias. Though I do not consider myself to be a racist person, due to the fact of history, society, and personal observation I still have a small racist bone in my body. I guess you could say it has something to do with the bias of how we were raised and the way that we perceive things. All of these are distinguishing features of racism. It is kind of difficult to pinpoint what specifically causes racism, but those multiple factors continue to govern our lives and the outcomes of life journeys we are planning.

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