Thursday, January 21, 2010

They Taught This in Schools

I am reading an anthology of early science fiction- Asimov, Clark, and the guys that went before them, as far back as the 30’s and 40’s. While the stories themselves are alright, I have been horrified at the blatant and accepted racism that punctuates the works. Africans, along with all darker-skinned people, are portrayed as obviously less-evolved (evolution also plays a huge role in these early sci-fi stories)- oh, the casual statements are only made here and there, asides, nothing constant or overwhelming- but enough to get the picture across, very clearly.

Reading these have, firstly, been rather annoying (the plots now, 70 years later, are so cliched that it is laughable- though I recognize that these are the writers who pioneered the cliches and made them popular, and at the time they were wildly creative- still, how many times can I read about the superiority of future man and the oddness of Martian creatures?) anyway, it’s been rather annoying, but also sobering, because this is part of the history of racism:

First, under the ethics of Conquering Lesser People and Enslaving Them, some preachers claimed the Bible encouraged this behavior. The people listened, and didn’t bother to do the read the Bible themselves, or perhaps they would have noticed things like this: - and so the conquering and enslaving continued.

Then, when science began to rule the day, some scientists taught that evolution was evidence that darker-skinned people weren’t quite human, and therefore it was perfectly acceptable to kill, rape and enslave. Of course, there was no scientific evidence that lighter-skinned people were more evolved, but nonetheless the people listened, didn’t bother to do the research themselves, and so killing, raping, and enslaving continued.

Then, of course, textbooks followed suit. The court case that brought evolution into the limelight was revolved around a science textbook (Civic Biology) that taught an evolutionary theory of humans, and the Christians went nuts. As far as I know, no one- on either side of the case- bothered to mention that the textbook taught an evolutionary theory of humans which included the ‘fact’ that dark-skinned people were lower on the evolutionary ladder. This is a book that had been popular in schools. Here’s a link to what it says about races:

So the teachers started teaching the inferiority of darker-skinned people, and of course, the students didn’t do the research themselves, just listened to bad teaching, and so the killing, raping, and oppression continued.

They taught this in schools. They wrote about it in books. They portrayed it in movies. They preached it in pulpits. For several generations, up to our grandparents’ time. And we wonder why we still have race issues today.


Gail said...

I know this is horrifying. However, I have ceased to be horrified by this type of thing and find that I am, instead, humbled.

It seems to me that having a cultural viewpoint that is part of you, and unrecognizable by you, is an inevitable part of being human. I have it, you have it, they had it. We can recognize theirs only because we're in a different time and have a different cultural viewpoint (equally flawed, we just don't know how). Our capacity to know ourselves objectively is nonexistent -- it is only God who really knows us and sees our true selves. Whatever glimmers of truth we see are gifts from God, and we should continually ask for wisdom and live by the guidance we receive. However, it will be tainted and we won't know it. It's humbling, isn't it? Thanks be to God for his grace.

Phvern said...

Yup! I think essentially you have hit on what is horrifying about it all: teaching something as truth which is really just an opinion, based on human perception and error. It is why it is so important that we are careful about we what we believe and what we teach and always need to be open to correction. And I think that is what bothers me- our laziness in simply accepting what our culture is telling us, rather than checking it all against the wisdom of God.