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White Fragility — A Free Pass for Scientists?

Herero people

My colleague Chris Rufo reports in a series of tweets that Seattle is training white employees to “Interrupt Internalized Racial Superiority and Whiteness.” Employees are tutored to “practice self-talk that affirms [their] complicity in racism.” He concludes, “I’m going to keep pushing — because this is exactly the kind of thought-policing they want to implement everywhere.”

That’s one idea. Here’s another. Why stop with city employees and other powerless white people? (The powerlessness of big city employees is shown by the daily mounting urban chaos they permit.) How about a look up the chain of power?

“White Fragility” is the phrase of the moment. It’s taken from a book by University of Washington education professor Robin DiAngelo. It refers to an unwillingness on the part of white people to admit “complicity” with racism. Amid the current fury about America’s past and present, one powerful group is getting a free pass: scientists. Especially evolutionary biologists. On race, their profession has a shameful record. How about a dose of “self-talk” by Darwinists on the role their theory has played in promoting racial injustice? And worse.

African Genocide

Professor DiAngelo explains, “White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress.” There’s something to this. No one is more “protected” or “insulated” than scientists. I was struck by a remark by political scientist John West:

In my experience, scientists tend to blame racism on everyone else — politicians, preachers, the unwashed masses, pop culture. They don’t want to acknowledge the scientific community’s own culpability in spreading racist ideas. 

Such an acknowledgment would be healthy. Scientists should start with scientific racism in the 19th century. The Confederacy was founded on such thinking. I’ve shown that recently, examining the notorious Cornerstone Speech that Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens gave in 1861. The Southern states joined in rebellion as, so they saw it, the first republic based on science. 

That was the year after Darwin’s Origin of Species came out in the United States. Darwin theorized about the races in the The Descent of Man (1871). His vision included a racial hierarchy with Africans at the bottom and predicted racial genocide against “savage” humans. He wrote, “The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.”

Eugenists, seeking to breed a “New Man,” drew on Darwin’s work. Evolutionists labored to educate the public about human evolution by exhibiting Africans in zoos. See Dr. West’s award-winning documentary Human Zoos: America’s Forgotten History of Scientific Racism.

Follow the Science

Germany’s Second Reich, animated by the scientific consensus of the time, practiced genocide against Africans. That forgotten chapter in the history of white Europe is the subject of a newly updated documentary, Darwin, Africa, and Genocide: The Horror of Scientific Racism:

U.S. high school student learned about the new racial science in their biology textbooks. One of those, Hunter’s popular Civic Biology, was at the center of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial. It’s the biology text from which John Scopes taught. So did many instructors at the time.

Countless young Americans absorbed its message of an evolutionary racial hierarchy. Blacks again were at the bottom, per Darwin. The Hunter textbook taught, “At the present time there exist upon the earth five races of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure.” The races started with the “Ethiopian or negro type.” They attained their summit with “the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.”

Well Born and Poorly Born

The textbook covers “Charles Darwin and Natural Selection,” “Artificial Selection,“ and “Animal Breeding.” Turning to eugenics, “the science of being well born,” it says of the poorly born:

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways prevent intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race.

This was mainstream science. If there’s an inherited sin of racism among white Americans, a taint of “internalized racial superiority,” it cannot be “interrupted” without a hard look at the place of evolution in scientific thinking and teaching.

It’s not only evolutionists who need to “do the work,” as we now say, in recognizing this. The academic establishment has been complicit in covering up Darwinism’s past. Dr. DiAngelo’s University of Washington colleague Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist, admits that “science is an inherently political activity.” True, scientists act as a political group. They protect their interests. Sometimes that’s by denying the past and its impact on the present. That has to stop.