AFRICANS – BEASTS or HUMANS?
(Investigator 111, 2006 November)
BRIEF HISTORY OF RACISM
Classified with orang-utangs, hunted as vermin and kidnapped for slavery. Was such treatment of Black Africans right?
The book The Race War says, "At the start of the slave trading era in the early days of the sixteenth century, Africa was on the whole culturally no more backward – or advanced – than Europe…" (Segal 1967)
Despite approximate cultural equality, many Europeans regarded Negroes as semi human. This was a by-product of the slave trade since it gave European slave traders a rationale to blunt their conscience.
The orthodox, biblical, European view in the 16th century was that all people worldwide had a common origin:
God created man, a single pair, at a finite time in the not-very-distant past. Scientific versions of this belief in a single creation came to be known as 'monogenesis'. (Baxter & Sansom 1972, p. 135)
However, many European intellectuals adopted "polygenesis" – the idea that God created several inferior races prior to Adam and Eve and Africans descended from one such inferior race. One popular book on this theme was Prae Adamitae (1655) by Isaac La-Peyrere.
Polygenesis was attractive to 18th-century philosophers seeking to give a systematic explanation of the world:
Both Voltaire and Rousseau suggested that Negroes were naturally inferior to Europeans in their mental ability. David Hume argued that, "There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences… Such a uniform and constant difference could not have happened, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction betwixt these breeds of men." (Baxter & Sansom, pp 135-136)
A popular book that gave polygenesis an apparent scientific basis was History of Jamaica (1774) by Edward Long. Long called Africans "brutish, ignorant, idle, crafty, treacherous, bloody, thievish, mistrustful, and superstitious people" with "a covering of wool, like a bestial fleece, instead of hair" and inferior in "faculties of mind". He claimed that Europeans and Negroes belonged to different species.
Some writers classed Negroes with orang-utangs and chimps:
As early as 1713 naturalists began looking for a 'missing link' between men and apes and speculated on the possibility that Hottentots and orang-outangs might be side by side in the 'scale of life,' separated only by the fact that orang-outangs could not speak. (Baxter & Sansom, p. 136)
Referring to the Bushmen of South West Africa, The Weekend Australian Magazine said:
In Cape Province, until the 1870s the British hunting fraternity found them more exotic quarry than fox. A Bushman died in the Primate section of London Zoo at the turn of this century and the last permit to shoot Bushmen as vermin was issued in British Bechuanaland (Botswana) as recently as 1953. (Dec. 19-20, 1987, p. 4)
Racial prejudice against Black Africans continues widely today. For example, The White Man’s Bible of the "Church of the Creator" (founded in 1973) claims: "We of the Church Of The Creator believe he [the black African] does not deserve the "human" classification…" (p. 167)
And, more generally, racial prejudice against dark-skinned people still occurs worldwide. For example:
NOUMEA:–Three New Caledonians have been charged with inciting murder and racial hatred after allegedly producing a musical tape urging European-born settlers in the French Pacific territory to "exterminate" the indigenous Melanesian Kanaks. (The Advertiser, September 7, 1988, p. 7)
The Bible mentions the African nations of Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya and includes them with humans, not with beasts.
The Old Testament mentions Ethiopians some twenty times. Moses married one. (Numbers 12:1) Another rescued the prophet Jeremiah and also put his "trust in God". (Jeremiah 38:7-13; 39:15-18)
Skin color was so irrelevant the Bible mentions it but twice. Jeremiah 13:23 asks, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin?" And the girl in The Song of Solomon calls herself "dark" or "black". (1:5)
In the New Testament Jesus commanded his followers to make "disciples of all nations", and Acts Chapter 8 records how the first Ethiopian was converted. (Acts 8)
The Bible further declares that all people have a common ancestor, the "mother of all". (Genesis 3:20) Acts 17:26 says:
And he [God] made from one, every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth…
If true, it follows that all humans are in basic ways the same. Racism and the sort of nationalism that assumes an innate national superiority would be based on false assumptions.
Scientific proof of humanity's common origin came with DNA analysis in the 20th century. Negroes and Europeans are of one and the same human race. The genetic variation within any supposed race is greater than the variation between supposed races. In other words the supposed "races" are just that – "supposed".
Bamshed & Olson (2003) expressed it:
The outward signs on which most definitions of race are based – such as skin color and hair texture – are dictated by a handful of genes. But the other genes of two people of the same "race" can be very different. Conversely, two people of different "races" can share more genetic similarity than two individuals of the same race.
Slave traders and scientists who lumped beasts and Negroes in one category were mistaken.
The race myth is an example of people rejecting the Bible and being proved wrong. This has happened in many other areas of study from "A" for astronomy to "Z" for zoology. From such accumulating evidence we can rationally infer that, "Every word of God proves true." (Proverbs 30:5)
In 1990 the Parliament of South Africa repealed the Groups Areas and Land Acts (laws that prescribed where various "races" may live and work) and the Population Registration Act which classified South Africans according to race.
The Bible, however, opposed such distinctions 1,900 years earlier:
Here, there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)
Bamshed, M. J. and Olson, S. E. Does Race Exist, Scientific American, December 2003, pp 50-57.
Baxter, P & Sansom, B (editors) 1972 Race, Penguin.
Segal, R 1967 The Race War, Penguin, p. 46.
The Bible investigated: