“While most people are repulsed by the idea, when we spend money on saving and prolonging some lives, we are making judgments about how much those lives (and others that we don’t try as hard to save) are worth.”—Michael Specter on the A.L.S. Ice-Bucket Challenge. (via newyorker)
But I think it says something about white people that they’re more okay with the idea of their ancestors being isolated from all interracial contact for the majority of history
than they are the idea of their ancestors knowing and cooperating with non-white people
I think that this basic idea, the kind of imagined total isolation, feeds into the idea that there are “racial achievements”. Everyone’s seen those kind of posts, or heard something like that from someone they know.
Now, I’m going to go ahead and show you where this idea came from. It was quite literally invented as a justification for the chattel enslavement of people considered “Black”.
Here’s a pretty concise version of what I mean from Enlightenment Thinker Immanuel Kant:
The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the trifling. Mr. [David] Hume challenges anyone to cite a single example in which a Negro has shown talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who are transported elsewhere from their countries, although many of them have even been set free, still not a single one was ever found who presented anything great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality, even though among the whites some continually rise aloft from the lowest rabble and through superior gifts earn respect in the world. So fundamental is the difference between these two races of man.
That their temperament has not become entirely adequate to any climate can also be inferred from the fact that it is hard to find any other reason why this race, which is too weak for hard labour and too indifferent for industrious work, and which is incapable of any culture even though there are enough examples and encouragement in the vicinity [namely, the example set by the European colonial settlers], stands far below even the Negro, who occupies the lowest of all other levels which we have mentioned as racial differences .
As an interesting aside, even though the scholar who wrote the excoriating paper above notes the hypocrisy inherent in touting Kant as the best of Enlightenment moral philosophers, they still repeat the same old historically inaccurate lies they have been told over and over in a classroom, as part and parcel of an education they paid dearly for:
We should also remember that Enlightenment colonialism was the first time that whites were largely exposed to other races, and that Mendel and Darwin were not even born yet.
As anyone who’s been following this blog for five minutes knows by now, that is a double untruth.
1. That all Europeans during this time were “whites”
2. That these “Whites” had NOT already been exposed to “other races”.
Even among proponents of taking the CRT scalpel to some of out most deeply biased aspects of education, are still in far too many ways, writing in a vacuum.
This is why interdisciplinary research and academic writing is SO. CRUCIALLY. IMPORTANT.
Robert Bernasconi has argued that it is Immanuel Kant who should be credited with having “invented” the concept of race, since it is Kant “who gave the concept sufficient definition for subsequent users to believe that they were addressing something whose scientific status could at least be debated.”
Can anyone actually provide a reputable and non-biased source to prove that Beethoven was, in fact, a PoC?
With the already foregone expectation and conclusion:
If not, I think it’s safe to say that as he was born in Germany to European parents, he was PROBABLY WHITE and can PoC PLEASE stop trying to take credit for the achievements of white people?
And there you have the progression of one of the most insidiously long-lived versions of racism. A version that is codified right into the structure of our educational system.
After all, if you’ve taken History of Modern Philosophy, one of the most popular humanities requirements and/or degree-requirement satisfying electives, you know Kant. Or at least, you remember the phrase “Kantian Synthesis” from high school.
The concept that the “Fathers of Modern Philosophy” came up with their ideas in a complete and total vacuum, isolated from all other nations and what we would now call “Races”, is a white supremacist ideal that all Americans are spoon-fed starting in high school, sometimes earlier.
We are told that they were influenced by Greek and Roman philosophers, ignoring the fact that these ancient texts were preserved mainly in the Islamic world during the European Medieval period, and were brought back starting in the 1200s* by travelers from both areas of the world who copied out surviving manuscripts from the Classical period.
And of course, if you want to learn anything about what has been dubbed “Eastern Philosophy”, you must take an entirely separate class; often one that does not count toward your humanities degree.
Yes, this is an art history blog. But it is also more that that, because the appalling lack of interdisciplinary research and publishing on these rather specific topics, in addition to the overspecialization of academic departments, leaves gaps in theory so wide you could drive a snowplow through them.
Even the most highly educated people will still believe that Early and Late Medieval as well as Early Modern Europe was racially isolated.
This myth serves nothing but white supremacy and bad history.
It serves nothing but 200 more films with all-white casts.
This is the MYTH of European culture that has leaked into ours. And to my understanding, a great deal of European cultures as well. This is something we should all be thinking about, because to think is to question, and to question is the first step of change.