What does ‘Scientific Racism’ refer to and how significant was it in the project of liberal imperialism?
The concept of ‘scientific racism’ claims that certain racial groups of people are naturally superior compared to other groups (Aristide 2015). Therefore, the concept of scientific racism originates from the prevalence of differences between groups of people. The prevalence of cultural prejudice is one of the aspects that highlight the existence of scientific racism in society. According to Aristide (2015), ‘racism acquired a scientific character primarily as a result of intellectual developments in Western Europe’ (para. 1). One of the notable supporters of the concept of ‘scientific racism’ during the 19th century includes Charles Lummis (1859-1928). Lummis perceived himself as superior.
The proponents of the concept of ‘scientific racism’ led to racial codification in Europe whereby individuals were organised on the basis of racial hierarchy. People of European descent were perceived to be superior in comparison with other racial groups. The concept of scientific racism in Europe led to the emergence of two categories of people include the savages and the civilised race. The concept of scientific racism influenced many scientists amongst them Charles Darwin to base their studies and theories on evolution along racial lines. Koditschek (2012) emphasizes that ‘the appearance of Darwin’s origin of species theory was accompanied by overwhelming evidence of human antiquity’ (p. 14). Other supporters of the concept of scientific racism include James Hunt and Robert Knox, who argued that Whites and Blacks are separate species (Koditschek 2012).
According to Aristide (2015), liberal imperialism refers to ‘the propensity of liberal democratic regimes to use force in enforcing regime change or impose democratisation’ (para. 1). Liberal imperialism has become a dominant issue in the contemporary political environment. The proponents of the concept of liberal imperialism argue that the interest of some racial or ethnic groups should be protected by imposing political policies. This indicates that there is a connection between the concept of ‘scientific racism’ and liberal imperialism. This paper examines the meaning of the concept of scientific racism and its significance in the liberal imperialism project. Thus, the paper examines the significance of scientific racism in the implementation of liberal imperialism.
Scientific racism and liberal imperialism
The concept of liberal imperialism originated in the 19th century and has been supported by different parties and countries. Britain has been one of the greatest supporters of the liberal model of imperialism. Traditionally, the concept of scientific racism was very relevant in enhancing the liberal imperialism project. Its significance is evidenced by the fact that some countries were able to impose their rule on other countries, which led to the creation of empires. This aspect was very common during the colonial era. Mantena (2010) argues that ‘the British imperial discourses since the early 19th century retreated in political significance’ (par. 1). The concept of liberal imperialism was based on the theory of imperial legitimacy, which led to the moral justification of the creation of empires. Subsequently, the ‘dominant’ countries were of the perception that they could impose a form of government in their respective colonies (Mantena 2010).
The concept of scientific racism is also used by pro-war western countries in justifying their decision to invade other countries and territories. Mark (2016) is of the view that ‘while professing opposition to racism, the pro-war liberal is a cheerleader of the most dangerous and deadly form of racism in the world today (para. 1). Teo (2010) argues that the concept of scientific racism is still cherished today by countries that have entrenched liberal imperialism in their governance. This aspect is underlined some Western imperialist countries such as the United States foreign policy towards other countries. For example, the decision by the United States and its allies to invade Syria underline the fact that the US and its allies consider themselves superior and hence the capability to make a decision on the course of governance in Syria. Additionally, the United States and its allies have imposed ‘No Fly Zones’ in Syria, while its aircrafts are not restricted to fly in the said ‘No Fly Zones’ (Mark 2016). On the basis of scientific racism, the United States and its allies have over the years invaded Asian countries such as Iraq in an effort to protect the interests of the respective countries’ citizens. Despite the fact that the actions by the dominant countries in the respective territories might lead to loss of life, for example as a result of bombing the territories in an effort to seize control, the dominant countries are in most cases not answerable to any authority (Mark 2016). This aspect underlines the fact that scientific racism has been used by liberal imperialists in justifying their involvement in unethical and illegal practices.
The liberal imperialists were of the opinion that territorial expansion through the establishment of colonies would have contributed to the attainment of the intended outcome of the liberal project. According to Fitzpatrick (2008), the liberal imperialists were of the view that the establishment of colonies would have led to the creation of a unified state. For example, German liberal imperialists intended to create a ‘New Germany’ by establishing overseas colonies, which would be under Germany’s control.
Scientific racism was considered as a strategy of establishing dominance or control over territories. Thus, scientific racism was extensively used as a strategy for influencing public policy. This aspect underlines the fact that scientific racism was widely applied in justifying political inequality between races depending on the degree to which they were considered superior or inferior (Barnett 2009). The application of scientific racism by liberal imperialists is evidenced by the invasion of territories by liberalists. However, the growth in liberal imperialism ideologies led to the emergence of resistance, rebellion, and instability within the colonies.
Racial segregation and civil rights era
The concept of scientific racism was also extensively applied by liberal imperialists as a way of profiling communities. According to Fitzpatrick (2012), the concept of scientific racism accentuates that some racial groups are superior because of their genetic predisposition. Thus, scientific racism formed the foundation on which liberal imperialists imposed oppressive and antisocial rule over the inferior communities. Racial profiling formed the foundation on which liberal imperialists-imposed control over communities. Scientific racism led to the classification of people on the basis of their skin colour, and place of origin. Different people were characterised by distinct characteristics that were inherent in their race. Africans were considered to be negligent, relaxed, and black while Asians were considered to be materialistic, yellow, and easily distracted (Chua 2011). Conversely, Europeans were perceived to be white, inventive, and gentle (Ruiz 2010). Aspect underlines the fact that scientific racism was widely used as a strategy to propagate racial discrimination. Additionally, scientific racism was widely used during the 19th century to justify slavery, which mainly targeted the communities that were considered inferior such as Africans. Therefore, scientific racism was thus extensively used in propagating unethical political goals by the liberal imperialists.
The liberal imperialists exploited racial differences inherent in different communities in justifying their dominance over other communities. For example, in the United States, scientific racism was applied by liberal imperialists in promoting the concept of racial segregation. Wade (2014) affirms that racial segregation in the United States was based on the principle of ‘separate but equal’. During this phase, the White perceived themselves to be superior compared to Black (Herrnsterin & Murray 2010). Similarly, the prevalence of scientific racism is also evidenced during the civil rights era. For example, in an interview with Alex Haley in 1966, George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, affirmed his belief that black people are inferior to their white counterparts. Additionally, the leader argued that black people who interacted with the white performed relatively higher in a test compared to ‘pure-black niggers’ (Legacy Roots 2017). This assertion indicates that the concept indicates that the concept of scientific racism has been extensively propagated by the proponents of liberal imperialism.
The element of scientific racism was also evidenced by the application of intelligence tests by liberal imperialists in different facets. One of the notable areas in which intelligence tests were applied relates to the selection of people belonging to different races in order to determine the extent to which they can fit in their respective fields. Herrnsterin and Murray (2010) assert that whites were considered to be more intelligent compared to Africans. Similarly, Asians were considered to be relatively intelligent compared to Africans. The liberal imperialists were of the perception that differences in the level of intelligence explain the variation in economic success between the African and other Western countries that were considered to be more dominant. Intelligence tests were widely applied in selecting employees (Dutt 2009). The application of intelligence tests, which underlines the application of scientific racism, was not only limited to Europe but was also applied in some African countries by liberal imperialists. For example, Zulu children were subjected to many standardised tests during the 1930s, which underlines the prevalence of racial differences between the Bantu and European children’s capabilities (Dubow 2007).
Scientific racism was also significant in propagating the concept of dominance across different races. One of the aspects that highlight this aspect relates to the establishment of human zoos (Dubow 2007). This phenomenon was largely prevalent within the European liberal countries. The colonialists were largely known for the establishment of human zoos in an effort to underline their dominance. Therefore, scientific racism was used as a way of underlining the prevailing racial differences between the White and Africans (Gordon). Amongst the cities that were widely known for ‘human zoos’ or people shows include Barcelona, Antwerp, Paris, Milan, London, Warsaw and New York. For example, PediaPress (2011) affirms that ‘Joice Heth, an African American slave, was displayed by P.T Barnum in 1836’ (p. 186). Similarly, Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy was displayed at Bronx Zoo in an effort to depict the ‘missing link’ between orang-utans and humans (PediaPress 2011).
The purpose of establishing the human zoos or African villages was to underline the significant differences between Whites and Blacks (Knox 2009). According to Gordon (2009), human zoos were used as a way of illustrating the uncivilised nature of African communities. This assertion is underlined by the fact that the ‘human zoos’ were used as a way of depicting how the African communities appearance or look, code of dressing and the manner in which they conducted their activities in an uncivilised manner (Gordon 2009). Thus, human zoos were used by the liberal imperialists in Europe as a way of contrasting racial differences. Human zoos were used to signal the close link between Africans and animals. Gordon (2009) affirms that ‘the exhibits were initially sanctioned as scientific, however, they quickly became more and more theoretical and commercialised’ (p. 151). The human zoos were also referred to as ‘people shows’, and were a strategy used by liberal imperialists to bolster their concept of scientific racism. PediaPress (2011) emphasises that human zoos were considered to be objects of public curiosity.
The concept of scientific racism emphasises the differences between individuals belonging to a different races. The above analysis reveals that the concept of scientific racism was widely exploited by liberal imperialists in different facets. Its application arose from the fact that it enabled liberal imperialists to propagate their agenda. Liberal imperialists exploited the concept of scientific liberalism in an effort to propagate their political agenda. For example, liberal imperialists exploited the concept of scientific racism in justifying their political agenda in establishing colonies through invasion of territories occupied by other communities. Thus, scientific racism was largely relied in establishing empires during the colonial era. This was made possible by the fact that the liberal imperialists were of the view that some individuals are characterised by significant differences, which emanate from their genetic or natural characteristics (Wade 2014). Thus, individuals who perceived themselves to be superior imposed their rule over communities that were considered inferior.
The analysis further reveals scientific racism was exploited by liberal imperialists in imposing dominance over other communities. For example, the liberal imperialists used the concept of scientific racism in justifying their involvement in the slave trade, which largely targeted communities that were considered inferior such as Africans. Additionally, the analysis reveals that scientific racism formed the basis on which the dominant communities propagated racial segregation. The application of scientific racism was not only limited to Western countries but was also evident in African countries, which is evidenced by application of intelligence tests and standardised tests in selecting employees and students from different communities. Scientific racism was also used by liberal imperialists in communicating their dominance over some communities. This aspect is underlined by the establishment of human zoos across Europe and the US. The human zoos largely targeted African communities and were used in illustrating the uncivilised nature of African communities. In summary, the concept of scientific racism was very significant to liberal imperialists in that it was used to justify their liberal imperialists’ involvement in antisocial and unethical practices.
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