Week 2 Reflection Post

Although I have studied racism in previous classes, we did not spend time on where modern racism originated from, and I had no idea of the connection with the European Enlightenment.  The Enlightenment was a revolt and times of revolutions against the prevailing monarchy and inherited forms of status and divinely appointed rulers, instead favoring self-governing.  Supporters of the Enlightenment thought of people in a more universal and equal capacity for reason, rather than in terms of inherited relation to God.  The Enlightenment moved the concept of race out of religion and a concept of all people being of the same human race.  This also meant that people looked for different ways to organize groups of people, this is when scientists started looking towards ‘scientific’ differences, scholars began to think of races as categories within the human race, or as different subspecies.  This was the first of two ways the Enlightenment lead to the current concept of race.  As taxonomists attempted to find ways to divide the human race into distinct groups, physical traits were analyzed and categorized.  Although the groups were never ranked, taxonomists asserted that Caucasians were the superior group, unsurprisingly as this movement came out of Europe.  The second aspect of the Enlightenment that shaped our current concept of race, is the idea of universalism, or that all humans are born with the same abilities and rights, which was in opposition to the previous forms of government that relied heavily on religion and divine power.  Although this sounds like it would create tolerance and could not possibly contribute to our current system of race, because it was believed that there was this universalism between all people, new justifications had to be found that would allow for groups of people to be treated poorly and reasons they were not actually equal.  I enjoyed learning more about the history of racism, particularly outside of only the US.  Our readings and lectures were a great introduction and discussion to how changes in thought during the Enlightenment lead to our current system of race and racism.

 

One thought on “Week 2 Reflection Post

  1. I was also surprised when I discovered that throughout all of the Anthropology courses that I’ve taken, I have also never heard of the
    European Enlightenment. You described the The Enlightenment very well saying “was a revolt and times of revolutions against the prevailing monarchy and inherited forms of status and divinely appointed rulers, instead favoring self-governing. ” You also mentioned that people look for different ways to organize groups of people and this is when scientists started looking towards ‘scientific’ differences, scholars began to think of races as categories within the human race, or as different. While I agree, I am curious to know why people feel the need to categorize each other in society instead of maintaining and equal “playing field.”

Leave a Reply