In making this site, I knew I wanted to make it about evolution, so naturally I thought of Charles Darwin- even found an image easily. Then I thought about how we was prolly a wealthy white man and possibly a slave owner. Well, turns out he did really well for his time.
I read a few articles about it and of course everything around Darwin is charged. This Independent Feature was really interesting. Did Charles Darwin believe in racial inequality? authored by Marek Kohn in 2009.
The highlights for me are that Darwin was outspoken in his opposition to slavery in principle. These researchers believe Darwin’s research was influenced by witnessing acts of cruelty inflicted on slaves. He did believe that Europeans were superior in intellect and technology and would therefore destroy “savage” cultures around the world. Kohn provides the full context here:
Though he hoped that man would by then have reached a “more civilised state … even than the Caucasian,” he expressed no hope that extermination might be prevented by the kind of moral and political pressure that had by then achieved the prohibition of slavery in the US.
No doubt we still hope today that indigenous people will survive and mercifully several indigenous cultures have survived. While Darwin suffered cultural bias about the intelligence and resilience of BIPoC people, he did see their humanity putting him on the right side of herstory.
What strikes me as incredibly relevant to the moment is his acknowledgement that the caucasian has room to improve. The difference is that the time for hoping is over. The change needs to happen immediately and quickly.
It seems increasingly possible that Darwin’s cultural bias goes deeper. He seems to have had the whole situation backward- the caucasian project of denying our emotional truth about life through ratiocination actually distorts reality to the point of atrocity. The mental gymnastics that lead one to believe torturing anyone is justified is far more savage than a wearing a loin cloth. Perhaps this explains his failure to predict the fate of indigenous people.
I of course have empathy for his inability to understand the full extent of his bias. I keep thinking that I’ve gotten to the bottom of mine only to have had earth shattering realizations in the past weeks about policing, slavery never ending, structural racism and the non-stop distortion of that reality by the media and our culture. The grift is so expansive and all encompassing – one can only be grateful to have finally had one more illusion disappear.
So the project must go on. We cannot stop now. We cannot go back. For the sake of humanity we must seize the present moment to evolve into embracing our rationality and our humanity. This culture of violence teaches us to quiet the voice that screams out in the face of injustice but we can be silent no more. We need to heed our hearts and put our thoughts and actions in service of that voice – not used them to quiet them. We need an Evolution.