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?


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