Institutionalized Racism in American Anthropology

William Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo director in 1906 had the man, Ota Benga, caged in the Monkey House with an orangutan as an exhibition for zoo visitors to highlight the inferiority of people with a different color skin. 

Eugenics Began in America

The single greatest humiliation of American Christianity is its long endorsement of slavery and even longer endorsement of racism — a dark cloud still clearly visible at eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings — a cloud that mocks the vision of Martin Luther King and the leaders of the civil rights movement.

I took an anthropology class in College that (right or wrong) ended my desire to have an education through the American university system. This is what happened. One day the professor pulled down a chart that had three men on it; one man was Caucasian, one man was Asian, one man was Negro. He pointed at the attributes on each man and argued why the white man was at the top of each category of attributes. It wasn’t until then did I realize that I was in a class of mostly white young men as they as a group turned around and looked at me; some uncomfortably, others curious and still others arrogantly. I went to my school counselor a couple of days later to see if I could change classes. It was too late. I could not change. The deadline had passed.

My counselor then began to chastise me for not consulting her before signing up for the class. I explained it was the only anthropology class that fit my work schedule so I chose it. She had no empathy for me. I did not enroll for the next semester. 

The video below outlines the making of the thought pattern I encountered in college. The story of Ota Benga illustrates the ideas that formed the thinking of the early 1900’s that still has influence on the minds of people all over the world. The ideas were deeply embedded in the mind of my college anthropology professor. Even though the facts at the time did not support the racist ideas, the ideas went full force into the minds of men of influence and had catastrophic results for the world at large that stains the fabric of the present and will go on to destroy the world as we know it. 

In the “History of Jamaica” (1774), a Christian apologist for slavery appears to have attacked the climate hypothesis because he found polygenesis more congenial to his belief that Africans deserved to be enslaved. They were, he wrote, subhuman and “brutish, ignorant, idle, crafty, treacherous, bloody, thievish, mistrustful and superstitious,” as well as “incestuous, savage, cruel and vindictive, devourers of human flesh, and quaffers of human blood.” He compared blacks to orangutans and claimed that African tribes had had sexual relations with primates. “The Negroes themselves,” he wrote, “bear witness that such intercourses actually happen.” and_still_is_used_to_oppress/

The video follows the life of the African man, Ota benga, as he becomes acquainted with the ways of America even having the experience of William Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo director in 1906 caging him in the Monkey House with an orangutan as an exhibition for zoo visitors. 

There is a lot of evidence that has been destroyed in order to hide certain people’s involvement and actions of which family and institutions don’t want to be held accountable. Who can blame them for this. But there has been some historical documents and memories that have not been destroyed and we are able to piece the truth together with them.

The Human Zoo – Sciences’s Dirty Secret – Scientific Racism Video


Iris J Chapman is a researcher, lifetime Bible reader and blogger.

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