A Survey of Theories Concerning Race
Sep 19, 2009 by someotherdude
The following post will track the intellectual trajectories of racial theories, in the social sciences, in the United States. I will attempt to lay out this history in a chronological sequence, fully aware that many of the theoretical concepts that have been developed recently are also theories I use to analyze the past. (I point this out because, academics must be prepared to understand that their work is being produced within a historical context, much like the theorists we analyze, thus a bit of humility must accompany our work). It's customary to begin with the work by Charles Davenport, but it is essential to understand the context within which he was working in.
Imperialism and Whites/Europeans
At the turn of the last century, the United States was experiencing an identity crisis--that is a racial identity crisis. The United States, along with the other Imperial powers of the region (such as Britain, France, Spain), had been successfully, colonizing huge swaths of land as a result of their genocidal wars with the Native Americans and the cheap labor of African slaves. The moral and philosophical basis of imperial conquest was built on the belief that European racial superiority gave it the freedom to hold dominion over its racial inferiors. Although the United States and each European power had its own particular understanding of the racial hierarchy, they all placed Whites/Europeans at the top, while Black/Africans were at the bottom, and Asian, Hispanic and Indians were placed within that hierarchy contingent on the local historical beliefs concerning racial difference. An example is the war with Mexico which was framed as a war between the racially pure and freedom-loving Anglo-Saxon Protestants against the racially ambiguous and tyranny-embracing Roman Catholic Mexicans, and the United States' victory reinforced the racial understanding within which that war was fought. The United States had also witnessed a brutal Civil War over racial cattle-slavery and "free-labor" (that is the free-labor of white men), which ended with the resounding revival of white freedom and the Anglo-Saxon brotherhood of the Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow segregation and the regulation of Black bodies. As United States' colonialism began to consume more and more Indian land, regulate Black bodies, and control Asian labor, the racial distinctiveness of whites become more pronounced and protected by a legal system which viewed the "inalienable rights" of white men, as its ultimate priority. When the United States entered the Spanish-American War; religion became a way to racialize and "other" the European Roman-Catholic Spanish as inferiors to the Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who would better "civilize" the newly acquired Imperial subjects of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba. After these strings of outstanding Imperial successes, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant solidarity was at its zenith and triumphant. The "ethnic nationalism of whiteness, underpinned by Protestantism, had penetrated and came to dominate the American psyche... whiteness, Protestantism, American nationalism, and imperialism were bound tightly together in the moral conception of whites by the turn of the century" (Blum 2005).
Biology, Culture, and Environment
In spite of these overwhelming victories, the late 1910s and the early 1920s began to witness a flood of books decrying the masses of "new" immigration, from Southern Europe and Eastern Europe, and its impact on the racial quality of the American people, which were Anglo-Saxon and Northern European. In essence, the newer immigrants were not "white enough," and were a threat to the genetic pool of the superior ‘native' Americans. This idea has its roots in the theory of permanently fixed racial identities, of which Charles Davenport set the standard. He articulated a theory which understood each nation and ethnicity, within Europe, as a separate and distinct race, with distinctive genetic variation as a result of natural selection. There was a racial hierarchy within Europe .....
He was the director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1910, where he developed the Eugenics Record Office. Human hereditary and the biological basis of racial categories would be the focus of his groundbreaking book Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, which would be the text book that articulated the dominant racial narrative of Anglo-Saxon America. The other races, of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, were totally separate and removed species, fear of genetic intermingling was hardly a concern, (since "mixing" was very rare). And yet there was still a paranoid obsession with possible "infections" of weak white blood mixing with the superior white blood. Thus political action became imperative to regulate the influx of migrations from the racially inferior parts of the globe. The United States was in a very precarious position, according to this very influential racial science; it was the only Aryan nation which was dealing with all the racially "inferior species" of the world. On the one hand, it used its contact with the "racially inferior" to inform the scientific racism and eugenics of the era, however these contacts also left it open for "infection." By the 1920s, Davenports' research would go on to be the scientific basis for the United States to
consolidated its Anglo-Protestant ethnic character in a series of legislative actions: the Volstead Act of 1920 prohibited the consumption of alcohol; the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 shaped immigration flows around a quota system designed to preserve WASP dominance; and Al Smith, a Roman Catholic of part-Irish extraction, was defeated in his bid for the presidency in 1928. Nativist commentators glowed with praise for a U.S. Congress whose ethnic composition matched that of the Continental Congress of 1787. In communities large and small, powerful Protestant voluntary associations like the Ku Klux Klan, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Masons, and American Protective Association (APA) nurtured the bonds of white Protestant ethnicity and enforced Anglo-American hegemony (Kaufmann, 2).
Charles Davenport and the Eugenics Records Office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories would inform social policy within Germany, as well. The desire to keep the biological make-up of the Aryan races pure was seen as a natural self-defense. However, by the 1930s, Davenports theories were falling out of favor....
Franz Boas, a Jewish-German immigrant, called into question the notion that biology was the single determinate factor of racial differences. In his The Mind of Primitive Man, he developed a view of race which takes into account the cultural relatively of human existence. He used three categories for determining a "human civilization": abstraction, inhibition and choice and it would be the particularities of a culture's historical, social and geographic conditions which would tell us more than only biological explanations. Furthermore, he went on to describe all populations as having complete and equally developed cultures. And yet he could not completely move beyond biological racism, when he asserts, "anatomical facts point to the conclusion that the races of Africa, Australia, and Melanesia are to a certain extant inferior to the races of Asia, America, and Europe." (PAGE ?) Contrary to Davenport, Boaz uses geographic and social context to measure and asses the human behaviors in other cultures, instead of innate genetic differences. However, similar to Davenport, he uses white European culture as the standard by which to measure the linier development of other cultures and their "progress." And like Davenport, he never questions the notion of racial categories, in the first place.
Next Week I'll go over the era of "Assimilation, Cultural Pluralism and Culture", these are my notes and collections of paragraphs for other papers.
 Although Protestantism was witnessing a slowly growing Latino population within its ranks (Atencio 1999; Barton 1999; Barton 2006) and its dominion within the Black community was total (Butler 1990; Marsden 2001; Smith and Emerson 2001), it was still a religion dominated by White Anglo-Americans, in which racial superiority took precedent over religious commitments.
Barton, Paul. 1999. "Inter-ethinic Relations Between Mexican American and Anglo American Methodists in the U.S. Southwest, 1836-1938," in Protestantes/Protestants: Hispanic Christianity within Mainline Traditions, edited by David Maldonado, Jr. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
------. 2006. Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Blum, Edward J. 2005. Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.
Bonomi, Patricia U. 2003. Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America, New York: Oxford University Press.
Boas, Franz. "The Mind of Primitive Man." The Journal of American Folk-lore. Vol.14, No.52 (January-March, 1901) pp.1-11.
Chavez-Sauceda, Teresa. 1999. "Race, Religion, and la Raza: An Exploration of the Racialization of Latinos in the United States and the Role of the Protestant Church," in Protestantes/Protestants: Hispanic Christianity within Mainline Traditions, edited by David Maldonado, Jr. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Davenport, Charles. 1911. Heredity in Relation to Eugenics. New York: H Holt and Company.
Jacobson, Matthew Frye. 1998. Whiteness of a Different Color: European immigrants and the alchemy of race. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Kaufman, Eric P. 2004. The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America: The Decline of Dominant Ethnicity in the United States, London: Harvard University Press.
Kidd, Colin. 2006. The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Marty, Martin. 1986. Protestantism in the United State: Righteous Empire, 2nd Edition, New York, NY: Scribner Book Company.
Sep 20, 2009, 22:29:46 libjpn wrote:
Interesting stuff, but am I misreading where the starting point is for ractial theories? As a linguist, I think the starting point is not the latter half of the nineteenth century but the first half/and the latter half of the 1700's. It was at this time that explorers were encountering various peoples, and trying to make sense of that occupied the thoughts of intellectuals. In linguistics, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Franz Bopp and others argued that there was a morphological hierarchy to languages, being isolating=savagery, agglutinative=barbarian, inflectional=civilized. In fact, William Jones, who is often cited as the 'discoverer' of Indo-European, developed his theory because he was attempting to prove theories of race through language. Or is the starting point of Charles Davenport for "permanently fixed racial identities" is different from this?
Sep 21, 2009, 02:24:08 someotherdude wrote:
Whoa, good question. You’re right; language was one of the ways in which racial distinction became drawn. And religion, and region, and sizes of craniums, etc., I think biology became more “obvious” because it began to consolidate assumptions with the eye. Phenotype! And biological racism still dominates how we see/use race now.
I think we (or my generation of “race men”) start with Davenport for a couple of reasons. First, is he is developing his theories during the rise of the modern U.S. university system. It’s no longer a place to churn out clergy and “train” dynastic wealthy men. The relationship between the State and the University became much more bound, providing information regulating bodies on the periphery of Empire and bodies within the State. Second, the view that biology and race were related was already popularly accepted in the sciences and the culture at large, what Davenport and his cohorts did, is form the research within the university system, using its new privileged position to decimate knowledge.
Sep 21, 2009, 02:38:58 someotherdude wrote:
I mean, the modern disciplines (Anthro, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, etc.) were formed, during his era.
Sep 21, 2009, 08:12:08 russell wrote:
<i>Interesting stuff, but am I misreading where the starting point is for ractial theories?</i>
Doesn't every culture think they're superior to every other culture?
And don't they elaborate theories to support that belief?
Or is the question here the degree to which race is the marker to determine who is part of the "good" culture and who is not?
Sep 21, 2009, 09:47:24 someotherdude wrote:
No doubt, “othering” or constructing “the other” while developing a community identity, seems to be “typical” for social organizing. And yet, the social context and historical moment gives it its special and unique look.
Racialist thinking, as it concerns European “othering” is closely related to the rise of capitalism and a new type of imperialism, the advent of the Renaissance and the development of the idea of Modernity, and for most, the material consequences on those on the receiving end of this “enlightened” thinking.
Sep 21, 2009, 11:19:44 russell wrote:
[i]Racialist thinking, as it concerns European “othering” is closely related to the rise of capitalism and a new type of imperialism[/i]
You might find it interesting to check the etymology of "barbarian".
Or the reaction of the Japanese to the arrival of Europeans.
What's different about Anglo or other northern European "othering"?
Sep 21, 2009, 13:24:49 libjpn wrote:
The question of whether othering and a belief in innate superiority is unavoidable is a very interesting one. As a counterexample, the Beothuk and the Basque fishermen who visited Nova Scotia were quite friendly, but they were both exploiting a resource (cod) that, at the time, seemed infinite. It was only when French and English began settling there that the familiar pattern asserts itself. I'd argue that othering isn't built in, but only arises when two groups are fighting over the same finite resources. Unfortunately, that is generally the default situation.
Sep 22, 2009, 03:22:32 someotherdude wrote:
I guess what interests me, are the material and social consequences of the “othering.”
So, the first thing I would concern myself with, is how the Spanish/Europeans (Christopher Columbus, the Italian, although Italy as a nation-state isn’t even known, yet and his motley crew) viewed First Contact, in 1492. Religion was still the standard by which Europe was organizing itself. The Islamic Rule was still fresh, in the minds of Southern Europeans and it is the same year the Spanish Inquisition was revving up, and Jewish converts into Christianity were now being questioned about their conversions. Slowly, the Spanish elite and the Clergy began to develop a theory which claimed, that Jewishness was in the blood (biology), so conversion may not be possible. The material consequences of this were enormous; land and wealth were stripped or limited. Although this belief did not dominate Spanish/Portuguese (Iberian) thinking, it did have a powerful influence concerning the relationship with blood (biology) and identity. Back to Columbus, since the folks he came into contact with were not Christian, this becomes one of the first justifications to dominate and subjugate the new people. Gold and conversion was the justification and rationalization for conquest in the New World. As the Spanish spread throughout the New World, its brutality made it hard to convert new souls for Spain AND Rome (as in Roman Catholicism). This brutality and the lack of Spanish/European women, made maintaining Empire that much more difficult, thus a change in Conquest, began to emerge. Indigenous folks who accepted Empire and Christianity were spared while those who rejected Empire were “cleared”. The children of this union would become the Mestizos who then begin to construct a different identity while building nation-states.
For the Anglo-Protestants, religion was also the usual way to differentiate/other. So much so, converting slaves was not an option, because it would grant citizenship of elected leaders and clergy. Attempting to convert Indians presented the same problem. There is a famous case I cannot recall, now, however a African Christian slave sought certain rights and was repelled, it became obvious that religion would no longer be the only way to organize “difference.” Now, it became apparent, that some Northern Europeans believed conversion was enough, so German Moravians were surprised when their Indian neighbors who embraced European culture (which included religion) were cleared for White settlements. The Cherokee Nation was another example of Indians embracing European culture (their elite were all trained in Calvinist denominations), however as Andrew Jackson expanded the vote to include non-landowning whites, this just exasperated the hunger for land among white men, in the US. Ironies abound, because owning land became one of the most popular ways to claim liberty, so it was imperative for those who did not own land to prove their worth by getting it!
After the Louisiana Purchase, the laws concerning Anglo-American racial hierarchy overrode the French conception of racial mixing. So, overnight many French whites and creoles became Black, losing inherit ants and rights. This also happened to many Mexicans who fought for and against the United States, after the war, if one could not prove themselves to be White, they could not lay claim to Constitutional rights. I suspect the Spanish Empire would have incorporated both the Louisianans and Cherokees as full members of Empire, as long as they rejected Indian and African cultures and ideas. When clearing Indians, the US government would begin populating the “virgin frontier” with new Northern Europeans immigrants who were desperate to prove their ability to become White men.
I wish I could tell you the precise era, wherein religion morphs into race, but like most cultural phenomena, it was a slow gradual process.
Books that go over this stuff:
American Holocaust by David Stannard (He compares and contrasts Spanish/Roman Catholic and Anglo-America/Protestant Empires’ notion of race and colonialism, and “American” for him is North & South America)
Puritan Conquistadors: Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700 by Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra
Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism by Reginald Horsman
How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev
The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class by David Roediger
Sep 22, 2009, 03:30:44 someotherdude wrote:
[i]For the Anglo-Protestants, religion was also the usual way to differentiate/other. So much so, converting slaves was not an option, because it would grant citizenship of elected leaders and clergy.[/i]
For the Anglo-Protestants, religion was also the usual way to differentiate/other. So much so, converting slaves was not an option, because it would grant citizenship of slaves, thus the right to elect civic leaders and clergy.
Sep 22, 2009, 03:54:46 someotherdude wrote:
For an even better analysis of the legal implications of Anglo-American "othering":
[url=http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3...]Whiteness as Property[/url]
Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege - a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned, whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power.
Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law's misperception of group identity and in the Court's reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.
Sep 23, 2009, 05:55:51 marbel wrote:
We had [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wik...]Jacobus Capitein[/url] who started out as a slave from Ghana, came to the Netherlands, became a missionary for the protestant church, went to Africa, wanted to marry one of the local woman to become more widely accepted but the Dutch Church didn't like him marrying a non-Christian so they send a (white) Christian woman from the Netherlands to marry him.
Sep 23, 2009, 10:59:13 libjpn wrote:
marbel! Nice to see you.
You bring up a point that I wanted to make is that so much of our evidence about racism is from English speaking people that we may conflate aspects of the particular kind of racism that has developed in Anglo-American contexts and universal problems with have with othering. Even in Anglo-American aspects, there is a tendency to take them as the same whereas there are differences that have developed based on their antecedents.
Sep 23, 2009, 12:21:41 someotherdude wrote:
No doubt, even the creation of the “Anglo” category, by the early colonialists is a social construction. In [i]Race & Manifest Destiny[/i], Horsman argues that the “Anglo” identity was created to lay claim to the “real” traditions of Britain, alleging that the Crown and those who followed it were really Normans. But once it stuck, it stuck.
The Dutch are interesting, because, on the one hand they were part of the original settlement of New York (New Amsterdam) and they were moderately experiencing the Anglo-Conformity regime. That is, the Dutch Reformed church conducted much of its liturgy in their language (German Lutherans experienced something similar, most of them went to the North-West to avoid some of this), however in the end, they were part of the ruling elite.
White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History by Fredrickson, touches on the relationships between the Dutch and English in two separate nations.
The Dutch Reformed church in the US eventually became a progressive force, while in South Africa the picture is mix. In the Netherlands, correct me if I’m wrong marbel, Abraham Kuyper seemed to be progressive on some issues while a reactionary in others, (what I know about Dutch Calvinism in the Netherlands is limited to Abraham Kuyper.)
Sep 24, 2009, 00:20:47 Ugh wrote:
HEY OCSTEVE - (OT), is Sunfest worth going to? We'll be up at Bethany Beach this weekend and were wondering if we should jaunt down to OC to take a peek (and I would try to meet up with you but will be managing the 6 mo. old, along with both sets of grandparents and the brother in law and his 2 kids).
Sep 24, 2009, 23:57:26 DonaldJ wrote:
On a tangential, but related topic, the latest New Yorker has an article on the Dreyfuss (or Dreyfus?) affair. I didn't know or had forgotten that it started out as merely a case of wildly incompetent counterintelligence work fingering the wrong man, and then became linked to anti-semitism because the wrongly accused man was Jewish. It connects here because there's a bit of discussion about anti-semitism in France, and an interesting throwaway line that I appreciated (because I use the comparison a lot) that compares late 19th century anti-semitism with the current outbreak of anti-Muslim sentiment among some in Europe and here.
Sep 24, 2009, 23:59:52 DonaldJ wrote:
"then became linked to anti-semitism"
That was poorly phrased. I meant that what started out as an injustice due to imcompetent investigative work turned into an injustice based on anti-semitism.
Actually, that wasn't well phrased either, but you know what I mean.
Sep 27, 2009, 02:30:23 someotherdude wrote:
The Dreyus Affair also went far in understanding one's religion/ethnicity as a political identity, instead of an identity grounded in "faith" or "blood" or "nation"
Sep 27, 2009, 22:07:52 OCSteve wrote:
Sorry Ugh, I was away from home and mostly offline. Sunfest – if you passed you didn’t miss much. It’s pretty lame – last ditch effort to milk some $ from folks before the season is really dead.
Oct 02, 2009, 20:38:29 Ugh wrote:
OCSteve - no problem. We popped down and took a look around at both Sunfest and the Boardwalk for a couple hours. Was good to see what OC was like, I didn't realize it was so big (and what's with the bazillion mini-golf courses?).
Very nice beach, not sure what I think about the rest of the town.
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