January 8, 2014

NPR: First ever anti-racist was racist

As I've been pointing out for years, much of what white liberal education reformers are demanding for (or, perhaps, of) black children today (universal pre-K, longer school hours, no summer vacations, taxpayer-supported boarding schools, etc.) is highly reminiscent of the boarding schools that white liberal reformers a century ago successfully demanded for aboriginal peoples in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. 

Whether the current white liberal reformers will be recalled more fondly than their predecessors has yet to be determined.

From NPR:
The Ugly, Fascinating History Of The Word 'Racism' 
by GENE DEMBY 
Richard Henry Pratt was the first person the Oxford English Dictionary records using the word "racism," in a speech decrying it. But his own legacy on race is checkered. 
The Oxford English Dictionary's first recorded utterance of the word racism was by a man named Richard Henry Pratt in 1902. Pratt was railing against the evils of racial segregation. 
"Segregating any class or race of people apart from the rest of the people kills the progress of the segregated people or makes their growth very slow. Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism."
Although Pratt might have been the first person to inveigh against racism and its deleterious effects by name, he is much better-remembered for a very different coinage: Kill the Indian...save the man. 
"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one," Pratt said. "In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man." 
We're still living with the after-effects of what Pratt thought and did. His story serves as a useful parable for why discussions of racism remain so deeply contentious even now. 
But let's back up a bit. 
Beginning in the 1880s, a group of well-heeled white men would travel to upstate New York each year to attend the Lake Mohonk Conference Of The Friend Of the Indian. Their primary focus was a solution to "the Indian problem," the need for the government to deal with the Native American groups living in lands that had been forcibly seized from them. The Plains Wars had decimated the Native American population, but they were coming to an end. There was a general feeling among these men and other U.S. leaders that the remaining Native Americans would be wiped out within a generation or two, destroyed by disease and starvation. 
The Lake Mohonk attendees wanted to stop that from happening, and they pressed lawmakers to change the government's policies toward Indians. Pratt, in particular, was a staunch advocate of folding Native Americans into white life — assimilation through education. 
He persuaded Congress to let him test out his ideas, and they gave him an abandoned military post in Carlisle, Pa., to set up a boarding school for Native children. He was also able to convince many Native Americans, including some tribal leaders, to send their children far away from home, and leave them in his charge. ...
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School would become a model for dozens of other unaffiliated boarding schools for Indian children. But Pratt's plans had lasting, disastrous ramifications. 
He pushed for the total erasure of Native cultures among his students. "No bilingualism was accommodated at these boarding schools," said Christina Snyder, a historian at Indiana University. The students' native tongues were strictly forbidden — a rule that was enforced through beating. Since they were rounded up from different tribes, the only way they could communicate with each other at the schools was in English. 
"In Indian civilization I am a Baptist," Pratt once told a convention of Baptist ministers, "because I believe in immersing the Indians in our civilization and when we get them under, holding them there until they are thoroughly soaked." 
"The most significant consequence of this policy is the loss of languages," Snyder says. "All native languages are [now] endangered and some of them are extinct."
Pratt also saw to it that his charges were Christianized. Carlisle students had to attend church each Sunday, although he allowed each student to choose the denomination to which she would belong. 
When students would return home to the reservations — which Pratt objected to, because he felt it would slow down their assimilation — there was a huge cultural gap between them and their families. They dressed differently. They had a new religion. And they spoke a different language.  ...
"For his time, Pratt was definitely a progressive," Snyder said. Indeed, he thought his ideas were the only thing keeping Native peoples from being entirely wiped out by disease and starvation. "That's one of the dirty little secrets of American progressivism — that [progress] was still shaped around ideas of whiteness." 
Snyder said that Pratt replaced the popular idea that some *groups *were natively inferior to others with the idea that some *cultures *that were the problem, and needed to be corrected or destroyed. In other words, he swapped biological determinism for cultural imperialism.
Given the sheer scale of the physical and cultural violence he helped set in motion, was Pratt himself a practitioner of the very ill he decried at the Lake Mohonk convention? Was he a racist? 

Obviously, Pratt was a Boasian culturalist avant-la-lettre. But he was a white man, so that makes him, despite being anti-racist, racist. (This stuff really isn't all that complicated.)

Of course, it's now evident that some of the problems of American Indians are biological -- specifically, they lack Darwinian adaptations for dealing with alcohol and some infectious diseases. In Australia, Aboriginals were dying so fast of novel infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that liberal reformers' hopes were focused on children of mixed parentage. The goal was to educate them so they could marry whites and have children with strong immune systems. Of course, this government-sponsored miscegenation campaign was racist.

The infectious diseases have been reasonably well controlled with vaccines and antibiotics, but alcoholism remains an immense problem for aborigines. Perhaps someday somebody will come up with a medical remedy for this tragic problem. Or would researching that be racist?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kinda amusing that in today's upside down world, encouraging miscegenation is now seen as racist by today's progressives.

Bert said...

Oh my goodness, Gene Demby. I've had some run-ins with him in the past. If any of you guys want a laugh, read the comments of some of his past stuff. He's a hilarious, thin-skinned, passive aggressive fraud. He's one of those elitist blacks who lives among white liberals and pretends to have a superficial connection with blacks because, well, that's what he gets paid to do.

JayMan said...

Sounds like the quintessential Yankee social justice (or order?) warrior, and perhaps one of the original ones and a forerunner to today's crusaders. The New Englanders pursued a similar campaign after the Civil War. The sentiment persists to today, just with a different victim/underdeveloped group.

Daniel said...

It used to be illegal in Australia to sell alcohol to aborigines. Everyone could see that it had a terrible effect on them.
Then this law was declared racist. It was made legal to sell alcohol (grog) to them.

The result was, of course, hopeless alcoholism - and terrible alcohol-fueled violence. Especially horrific was violence committed by male aborigines against female aborigines.

Covering this problem in the press was declared racist.

Removing children out of the squalid, violent situations that had been created was declared racist.

Then something changed. Rampart sexual abuse of children was uncovered in aboriginal communities. In some communities more than half of children under the age of five were testing positive for chlamydia.

The federal government totally banned alcohol in Aboriginal communities in the jurisdiction known as the Northern Territory where they had legal control. (They also banned pornography and introduced control of welfare payments).

These measures were declared racist. Left-wing activists campaigned against this 'new paternalism'.

Basically ALL behavior by whites towards aborigines in Australia is racist. But how could it not be? Whites and aborigines are VERY different.
Tell any Australian who's had dealings with Aborigines that "there's no such thing as race" and they'll just look at you like you're an idiot. Oh indeed there is such a thing as race.

As I always reply when someone makes the accusation of 'racist'.
Reality is racist.

(P.S. a translation - 'Aboriginal communities' actually means: welfare ghettoes in the desert.)

Anonymous said...

@Bert : Gene blocked me on Twitter and I don't even follow him. I'm not even sure I ever had an exchange with him.

Over on CodeSwitch he will respond to any and every comment that is critical of his view point. I recall one particularly amusing exchange where he wrote the knockout game didn't exist.

Well one White middle age NPR employee interjected, he said he was pummeled by Blacks on his way home. Gene was seething, comments were closed not long after.

AMac said...

Re "Racist"

Interestingly, during the days of the Red Scare back in the 1950s, this word had an entirely different spelling: "Commie!"

Of course, Who?-Whom? informs us that this modern revision is not only better in an orthographic sense, but also an improvement on moral grounds.

jgress said...

To be fair, Pratt isn't being called a racist simply because he is white, but because racism has acquired such a broad meaning that it can no longer disambiguate the very different notions of biologically- and culturally-based differences among ethnic groups. Racism now means nothing more than noticing differences in behavior between ethnic groups, without even addressing the question of whether these differences are grounded in culture or biology.

Also, I wouldn't call Pratt a Boasian culturalist. True, they both shared the assumption that differences in behavior were entirely based in culture, rather than biology. However, Pratt and Boas had very different attitudes to evaluating these cultural differences. Pratt clearly believed that some cultures were objectively superior to others, whereas Boas was a true cultural relativist: to him, you could not evaluate one culture according to the values of another, since all moral values are themselves culturally contingent.

Belisarius said...

This is the great irony of leftism; no matter how hard they work to keep up with all the current pieties, in 20 years or so their current belief system will be seen as bigoted/racist/ignorant. Thirty years ago the "official" attitude toward marriage was that it was an institution of the bourgeois patriarchy that must be destroyed. I remember the lawsuits from unmarried couples that were denied residency in apartments because they weren’t married. Now we’re told by the same people who insisted 30 years ago that marriage is just a piece of paper that denying “marriage equality” is a monstrous injustice.

I tell lefties all the time- you may feel very self-satisfied and superior right now, but the next generation will say “How could ignorant hillbillies like you not have been for/against (insert latest lefty belief) back in 2014? I mean, it’s so obvious.” What that belief will be is unknowable- it has yet to be agreed upon by the hive mind. Every lefty, right now, is bigoted/racist/ignorant in some way that has yet to be decided.

Anonymous said...

"The Ugly, Fascinating History Of The Word 'Racism'"

Adjectology in action.

"Ugly"

How about the 'ugly, stupid, and demented' history of PC.
The 'brutal' occupation of Palestinians?
The 'nasty' ways of Jewish elites.
The 'savage' ways of rappers.

Libs own the adjectives while cons must stick to white bread nouns with no spice and sauce.

People notice spices and sauces more strongly.

Anonymous said...

This is something that's always fascinated me. Despite a few token gestures, the main thrust of liberal attitude and policy toward blacks and Hispanics is to turn them into darker-skinned whites. (Fred Reed often alludes to this.) The end expectation by liberals is that blacks, Hispanics and everyone else will act much like liberal whites.

Well, besides being unrealistic from a biological standpoint, it's flat out "racist," at least in the way that liberals use the term racist. It presumes that liberal white cultural is best and all others should act as liberal whites do. Blacks should care more about education, just like liberal whites. Hispanics should enjoy high-brow movies like liberal whites. Muslims should treat women just like liberal whites.

It never dawns on the liberal whites that maybe, just maybe, other people may be happier - as well as better suited to - living their lives in a different way.

Liberal whites are completely oblivious to their cultural chauvinism. It's just bizarre how it never dawns on them since their whole weltanschauung is based on the equality of cultures.

Anonymous said...

"Kinda amusing that in today's upside down world, encouraging miscegenation is now seen as racist by today's progressives." - The aborigines have recessive traits, so in this case the arrow would be non-white -> white. Obviously that increases racism.

Anonymous said...

Indian Health Services does dispense a lot of Campral.

Anonymous said...

Whites . . . 400 years of trying to make Black people White.
No matter how much it costs and how much time it takes, we will keep working toward this goal.

panjoomby said...

i prefer "empiricist" :)

peterike said...

For kicks I read some of the comments on the NPR site -- idiots, just abject idiots. But anyway, there was a link to this very Sailerian little story. We have, tah-dah! -- the first "Latino" Bachelor on TV.

Latino? Yeah, boy, he sure looks it. They article actually calls him a "bachelor of color."

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/01/06/260119028/the-first-latino-bachelor-makes-his-debut

TangoMan said...

Latino? Yeah, boy, he sure looks it. They article actually calls him a "bachelor of color."

This guy is a "bachelor of color" (Photo Here) and George Zimmerman is a "White Hispanic."

Anonymous said...

Hey, at least the Carlisle Indian School gave the world Jim Thorpe.

Anonymous said...

that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.

Substitute white for Indian and this is the official doctrine of the left today. Of course in practice it has become just plain kill him, but you can't chop wood without making splinters, eh?

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. If correct, the inventing of this word in 1902 predates Hirschfeld (1933) and Trotsky (1930). The cultural marxists must have been working very hard to uncover this one!

However, it seems that Pratt's use of the term did not catch on in the way that the others did, which were probably invented independently. Nor does it obviate the purpose behind the Frankfurt School's (re)invention of the term.