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Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
, 12 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
God forbid a slave accidentally get treated ok because someone didn't recognize them- that slave might get ideas!

And a moment of genuine emotional connection with an enslaved person can make people on the top question the entire institution.
So for slave societies to work, you don't just need a lot of slaves. You need a free class that's learned how to not have empathy for slaves.

And for *that* to actually work, you also need enslaved people to be instantly recognizable.
does anyone see where this is going
So coinciding with the Enlightenment, we had:

-loss of religion as the ok/not ok to enslave dividing line

-lots of enslaved Africans, for reasons that up till now were logistical, not race-based

-but now there's a stark visual difference between the enslaved and the free.
But the longer this state of affairs went on, the harder it got to maintain. @Robtaber and other historians working on, say, colonial Haiti, find that colonial slavemasters and gov'ts had to WORK HARD to reassure themselves that slavery was ok. Bc generally we have empathy.
White colonists were raised by enslaved black nurses, not their moms. That's a hell of an emotional bond. Poor whites & free blacks intermarried freely in many colonial societies, until they made laws against it.
Point is, in spite of everything, empathy keeps finding a way to crack the armor. Stark visual differences & abuse will get you a long way, but what you really need to keep slaves down is laws.

And for laws, you need some kind of solid-sounding justification. So they made some.
There was now market demand for reasons why black people were inferior and treating them badly was just and natural.

And since Europe was also colonizing the rest of the world, they also needed reasons why it was ok to do that to the peoples of Asia, Australia, etc.
Natural history was blossoming during the Enlightenment. Scholars were eagerly out how the flora & fauna of various continents differed & trying to puzzle out what that meant.

So that field was a natural choice for explaining differences btwn people on different continents.
We can't forget that the Englightenment was an intellectual movement happening in the hot sticky high days of European colonialism.

Colonizing the world gave Europe a nail it needed to pound, & it picked natural history as the hammer. Boom: Enlightenment-borne scientific racism.
So. If you want long treatises on exactly which Enlightenment-era thinker provided what justifications for white superiority, @jbouie's threads from earlier today are a great start.



Wikipedia is also your friend.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygenis…
But to make any sense of the powdered-wig quotes, you gotta understand first:

-what was happening at the time,
-what people were trying to accomplish,
-and what tools they had at their disposal.

W/o that, throwing around Quotes From Great Thinkers(TM) is just showboating.
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