Saturday, October 15, 2016

On Genteel Racism

On Genteel Racism: Ever since French aristocrat Arthur de Gobineau helped legitimize "scientific" racism in the 19th century (with his writings), there have been numerous cultural consequences. First in Europe, and later in the Americas, the idea that people could be categorically separated and classified according to certain genetic traits or physical features spread like wildfire. From anthropologists measuring skull sizes to psychologists recommending lobotomies (eugenics), "scientists" started to take racial theories to extreme lengths by the early 1900s. Yet what was particularly intriguing about the rise of scientific racism was how much it permeated Western culture in song, dance, art, advertising, and cuisine. Regarding song and dance, minstrel shows ("Jump Jim Crow") and blackface actors were widespread well into the 20th century. As for advertising, the creation of a character like Bibendum (by the Michelin tire company) has dubious origins at best (esp. since tires are generally black). Perhaps most controversial with cuisine is the nickname "jimmies" for chocolate sprinkles, which remains popular even today throughout the Northeastern region of the United States.

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