Week Six

Official freedom in the Americas is a strange thing. Essentially it was only freedom for a certain group of people and everyone else was left to find other ways to advocate for their own rights. The Caudillos was one of these methods which we learned about last week. However the reading for week six focuses on the abolition of slavery and freedom for slaves in the Americas. Although as mentioned in Dawson, the abolition of slavery and independence from colonial rule did not neccessarily mean that everyone was equal in society.

“Scientific racism” became popular in the time after independence, which saw  “whiteness [as] a scientific virtue. Whites were [deemed] smarter, more rational, more fit to govern, and more fit to be citizens of any society” (Dawson 75). This allowed for the white elites to exclude pretty much everyone from politics, therefore making decisions based upon their own interests because they were “smarter”. For example, many Indigenous peoples had their land taken away and/or had to relocate and be forced into labour. Not only that, but scientific racism  allowed and encouraged many other things- ie. “eras[ing] the stain of blackness or Indianness through intermarriage or reclassification” (76).

Dawson also talks a lot about Brazil and Cuba because they were the last two now-countries in Latin America to abolish slavery since they relied on it for their economies so much. Both also had large populations of free people of colour, but each reacted to their population demographics differently. Cuba tightened their caste hierarchy while Brazil loosened theirs. White Cubans also created and promoted an image of Afro-Cubans as kidnappers and practicioners of witchcraft so as to “exclude [them] from positions of privilege” (87). When I was reading this part the word propaganda came to my mind again, it seems like a somewhat similar situation as the casta paintings. The white Cubans were leading the people to believe a certain thing about Afro-Cubans which was done to stop them from moving up in society. I suppose the same thing could be said for everywhere else that used scientific racism to conserve societal hierarchy. As we see with the caste system in Latin America and its affects today, I wonder how big of a part scientific racism played in perpetuating it. It was pretty much the non-colonial, new idea way of keeping racial divides in Latin America (and I’m sure other places too) especially in a post slavery society.

Do you think scientific racism could be viewed as another form of propaganda?


4 thoughts on “Week Six”

  1. I really liked how you connected the casta paintings and their role in influencing how people viewed certain ethnicities, and their role in society, to how Afro-Cubans were portrayed after they gained their official freedom – it’s a reminder of how the elites in power never stopped trying to influence the masses and their perceptions of ethnic groups viewed as “lesser than” by those elites.

  2. I find it interesting how you discussed the ways in which “scientific racism” helped perpetuate the ideas of societies (often to the benefit of the elites). Just as we are not as removed from slavery as we like to think, the concept of manipulating science into creating a dichotomy of superiority and inferiority is still a part of our society today, most prevalently within a gendered context. There are some that still believe that gender roles are a result of biological differences rather than societal construction, evidently proving that we still have a long way to go. In answer to your question, I think scientific racism definitely can be a form of propaganda as it promoted ideas with the intention of it being spread as truth.

  3. I definitely believe that scientific racism is a form of propaganda, and unfortunately, it stuck around for quite long. Nowadays, we see people who are still “scientifically racist”, associating whiteness to supremacy and backing it up by flawed “studies”. This creates social stigmas that often limit the ability of people of colour to succeed. Because of this limitation, the ‘propaganda’ is strengthened as it’s like a positive feedback loop, making it difficult for it to go away.

  4. Hey! Great post. I strongly believe that scientific racism is a form of propaganda, as it can be used to convince a population of an idea which can be exploited to further a political agenda. Like you mention, Whites could employ racism as a method to control Black success, thereby keeping their grasp on power in a country.

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