1. I knew the general arc of racism/scientific racism, but I didn’t really know many of the names involved in the research. After the horrors the Nazis committed, I can certainly see how many people would realize racism is wrong, but I doubt that was the only thing that turned the tide against racism.

    • Travis Perry says:

      The Nazis definitely spelled the end of most of what we could call scientific racism. In academic circles, claiming any one race is superior to others is immediately rejected. That began after WWII–not to say there were not anti-racists prior to WWII, but the post-war world no longer had any tolerance for the racist side of the debate.

      On occasion, some modern academic will claim that race really is important in a way–that one race is more intelligent than others, for example. But saying such things is a quick road to pariah status in modern times. And why was the change in academia so enormous (because things didn’t used to be that way)? Pretty clearly the Nazis.

      But did the reaction to the Nazis destroy all racism, as opposed to all scientific racism? Agreed, the Nazis were not as important there. Though they did give all racists a massive black eye.

  2. notleia says:

    I still think that “race” is a more fluid concept than you give it credit for.

    You seem to be operating under the sense of scale for races that falls more in line with the 3 types along the lines of Cuvier, which, as you note, is a later idea (tho one of the earlier later ideas). Which would mean that you’re also projecting a definition of race on the pre-Enlightenment era that may be as equally anachronistic as you claim the CRTs of being.

    • notleia says:

      Like, you’ve been consistently representing the only “real” racism is this later one with scientific claptrap attached. As if it isn’t “real” racism if it isn’t on the scale of Cuvier’s or Linnaeus’s system.

      I’m sure I can come up with some horrible analogies that don’t make sense to anyone else, like if you were talking about the development of knitting without taking into account nalebinding, or somehow not considering nalebinding to be “real” needlework because it can’t really be done by machine. And what that might mean for crochet because crochet can’t be done by machine. (I told you this was a horrible analogy)

    • Travis Perry says:

      It’s hard to tell a story that spans thousands of years without simplification. Well, impossible, actually. That I have simplified is true. But the question is if my simplifications are in the spirit of the actual picture–and that actual picture is of race becoming increasingly important in American and European thought up through the early 20th Century. As opposed to being important from day one.

      To back up my ideas concerning what early Americans thought about race, there are Medieval references to Shem, Ham, and Japheth distributed over the world that I didn’t quote. I did quote the US Constitution and US Declaration of Independence and have noted, correctly I think, that the legal status of “white” referred to a person who could not be enslaved, who also was not an “Indian.” I also showed that in early Colonial America, both Africans and Europeans were held in indentured servanthood. Slavery came some decades later–and came to be justified later still–though it already existed in Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Why was that? I offer an explanation.

      I did some specific research after the post before this one and found info on the 1790 immigration act, which I edited back into the post. The act mentions only white people could become citizens. This would be repealed by the 14th Amendment for everyone except Indians, who were granted US citizenship on a tribe by tribe basis until 1924, when Congress passed a law declaring all American Indians living in the territory of the USA as US Citizens.

      There were a series of court cases in which non-Europeans sued to be considered white between 1790 and 1860. The courts at times ruled Syrians were white and at times ruled Syrians were not white. A Sikh applied for citizenship, apparently in part based on his light skin and blue eyes. The court ruled he was not white because he was not a Christian. This tells me that in a sense, the sense of race was not “fluid” as you call it, but ill-defined. But why ill defined? Because the sense that being white is something specific and we all know what that means was cooked up by racial theorists later on. Early in America, “white” was “not black” and “not Indian,” that is, defined by reactions to people definitely perceived as “other.” But without a clear positive meaning, not until later.

      But the animosity Europeans felt towards one another, Europeans of other nationalities, still existed anyway. Class discrimination existed anyway. Race was not the yardstick by which all things were measured, not at first.

      Critical Race Theorists, from what I have read, hold a number of principles, but two of the most important are 1) Racism is permanent. I.e. it has always defined our society and in fact always will (though its effects can be mitigated to a large degree). 2) Racism is central–it isn’t something that happened on the periphery of society, it instead is at the very core of what our society is.

      These sweeping generalizations about race and others made in recent times have convinced some people, but others detect overreach and in effect wind up becoming more dismissive of racism than they would be if not exposed to CRT. In this regard, CRT is increasing racism among some people. In my opinion, of course (but an opinion I can back up in specific ways).

      That’s why I feel CRT needs to be corrected. The most important correction: 1) Racism is not permanent. It was invented by a specific civilization at a specific time. Because it was created by humans, it can be dismantled by humans. And a second correction would be 2) Racism was not always central. Yes, it became central and still profoundly affects many things. But because it wasn’t always central, it can be removed.

      But these posts do not just criticize CRT. They will also run against claims there is no truth to systemic racism. There in fact has been systemic racism and there still is. Racism still is a major feature of our society and is a factor in the different outcomes of different races. It’s not the only factor and mostly isn’t the main factor–its importance in fact is a variable and not a fixed quantity, with a person’s family status being the most important predictor of future success. But race is also a factor–so racism, even systemic racism, should not be poo-pooed just because the CRT crowd gets a lot of things wrong.

      • notleia says:

        ?? I’ve never seen that CRTs claim that racism is permanent. Pervasive, yes. But I guess I can see how you arrived at “central” because of our differences on how “systemic” works.

        …..Unless by “permanence” you’re referring to the meme about how Black people can’t take off their signifiers at the end of the day like cops can. People perceived as white can transcend their birth status with the application of enough money, but there have been too many instances of Black people getting pulled over for driving “too nice” cars or getting the cops called on them because they’re going into “too nice” of a house (that they live in).

    • Brennan McPherson says:

      Notleia, do you mean that the definition of race has been fluid through history, or that the concept itself is more broad than how Travis is defining it, or something else?

      • notleia says:


        I think the animosity between, say, Slavs and Croats could be a form of racism even if it’s broadly considered white-on-white violence.

        IIRC CS Lewis had a more academically-focus book about some of the medievalist etymology about words like “kind” (I don’t remember “race” being in there, but “kind” a similar but weirder journey).

        So coming at it from a linguistic angle, because the usage of the word “race” or “kind” was hella murky in the past, the conceptus of what “race” or “kinds” of people must also have been hella murky.

        • Brennan McPherson says:

          I suppose it depends on each person’s intended definition of “racism,” more than anything else. Meaning, if you define racism broadly and say it existed all these years, you could be correct. But if Travis is defining it differently and saying it didn’t exist all these years, he could also be correct. My guess is that you define racism differently than I think of it, which I suppose would be basically, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial group.” So, because Person A is White or Jewish or Black, they are less worthy, should be discriminated against, or antagonized. A central necessity to the definition of racism that I intend when I use the word is that the person committing racism is doing it because of a belief that one race is superior to another. I think a very specific definition of racism is important for a number of reasons. The word gets thrown around a lot these days in bizarre ways, to the point where it’s almost a catch-all for any sort of disparity of life results between different racial groups. Which… is counter-productive. Because fixing an issue demands specificity. A bandaid doesn’t fix a sliver. A tweezers doesn’t fix a third-degree burn. So let’s not call all skin wounds slivers or burns. In the same way, disparity of life results between racial groups is caused by a boatload of factors, so being specific about each of those factors and exactly how they contribute (and how to fix them) is necessary to solving the issues. Wasn’t that the original goal of CRT and the reason for why they came up with the term systemic racism? (Which, I agree with Travis that the term unveils something real that previously was pretty much ignored or not thought about–although the extent of it is, of course, debatable, even within CRT circles.)

          • notleia says:

            You haven’t really done anything to convince me that the actual processes for fixing racism is different than those for fixing, say, sexism or classism, et al.

            Come to think of it, I dunno that you actually have concrete ideas or policy ideas for fixing racism, especially when you don’t seem to believe in the systemic nature of current American racism and seem to think it’s only a matter of a few errant bunghole individuals. Like, what do you have that’s different from the mainstream Democratic Party platform? Do you even approve of changing zoning laws to allow du/triplexes on zones traditionally only occupied by single-family housing? (That’s a specific NIMBY piece of bullcrap that I do not understand the pearl-clutching over.)

            • Brennan McPherson says:

              Once again, you ignore what I actually wrote. Of course there’s systemic issues that need to be fixed. Like access to quality schooling, and food, and mentorship for at-risk youth. The fix for being born into poverty is much different from fixing policies built on racism. Reverse Jim Crow and you still have poverty. I shouldn’t have to convince you of basic reality, Notleia, and honestly, I don’t have the time or the patience. IDK what the exact fix would be for the million or so issues that contribute to unequal life outcomes because I don’t specialize in those sectors, and it hardly matters what I think as a result, but I give from my personal income toward non-profits that DO specialize in addressing specifically schooling, food, and mentorship for at-risk youth – particularly black youth.

              So, what do you do?

              • notleia says:

                But how does it effect racial relations if poverty were reversed? It wouldn’t be completely solved, but it would be mitigated. MLK thought so, too.

                But if you want to make judgmental sounds about where I throw my money, I support the Land Stewardship Project, which has both environmental and economic goals for sustainable land use (which prioritizes the small family farmer). So maybe I don’t give people fish or teach them to fish with my tiny charitable funds, but I’m trying to make the lakes and riverways sustainable for future fishing in this somewhat tortured metaphor. Long-term sustainable planning makes economic sense, too. And I still have my yarn projects for more personal types of charity.

              • The government won’t (and can’t) magically fix everything. So, my ideas on how to fix things is that we help those in need.
                But how does it effect racial relations if poverty were reversed?” You just proved my point.

              • notleia says:

                “Government won’t magically fix everything” is an exaggerated version of an assertion that you treat as axiomatic but, in fact, is not.
                Learning about things is different from believing in those things, so I’m baffled by your unwillingness to do something as simple as play with them as hypotheticals.
                I’m tempted to throw out more progressive ideas if only to see if anything makes a dent in your antiprocess circuits, but that’s probably going to take a lot more effort than I actually want to put in it.

              • Every time I write something, you assume I mean something I don’t. Is that on purpose? Or am I just doing a bad job explaining myself? (honest question)

              • PS: I totally get that not everyone can give. You certainly can’t give to everything, either. It was more a rhetorical question in answer to your insinuation that what I say holds no weight because, in your opinion, I may have nothing to offer.

  3. Abigail Falanga says:

    This is a fascinating article! I appreciate the historical perspective, and will doubtless refer to this series again.

What do you think?