A few days late to the @jbouie Enlightenment kerfuffle, but here's my scorching hot take. Also my attempt to respond to some of critiques by @CathyYoung63, @ortoiseortoise, etc.
"Hey idiot, Antiquity/Medieval people were already super racist."

Not in the same way, and that matters. E.g. here's a good discussion of what was going on in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Or take this image. It's the frontispiece to Athanasius Kircher's "China Illustrata" (1667), an encyclopedia-cum-travel guide for aspiring missionaries. Look how dignified the two mandarins are, how respectfully rendered.
Or check this drawing of Cusco, depicted by Pedro Cieza de Leon in his Cronicas del Peru (1553). Pure propaganda. Conquistador-ing is expensive, so he's trying to show how friendly and reasonable - "just like us!" - the Inca were.
It's hard to credit now, the Black Legend and all, but early Spanish colonialism placed much less emphasis on race (and much more on religion) than subsequent empires.* Anthony Pagden traces this super clearly.

* Yes, experts. I know.

Now savvy this peach of a pic from Judge Magazine (1899). Same message (go forth and civilize!), but an unbridgeable chasm separates them.

Except it was bridged. That's where the Enlightenment comes in.
Here's my take on it. The gist is that once you say everyone has a rational faculty (idiots, madmen, and those in their nonage, a la Locke, excluded), you need to explain why not everyone uses it.

Because clearly not all do, otherwise they'd all live like you!

The upshot is that Enlightenment liberalism (not synonymous with the Enlightenment writ large) needs a theory of difference.
For a variety of historically contingent reasons (as opposed to the parts of history that aren't contingent?), race and racism became that theory. And from that --> empire/colonialism/scientific racism.
Side note: that's why Jordan Peterson is spewing hot diarrhea when he argues that because of Stalin, everything descended from Marx is tainted. By that logic, classical liberalism, via Bentham, the Mills, etc., is tainted by colonialism. This is intellectual history for children.
But anyway, why should we care about any of this? Here are three more pics. The first is a British ad (1920s), the second is from French Algeria (1950s), and the third is obvious. But actually, they all say the same thing: we can force you to be free.
"Your differences are *obstacles* to rationality, but we can rebuild you. We have the technology." That's what the Enlightenment hath wrought. An account of racial difference that licenses conquest.
Everyone has a rational faculty, they just need to be compelled via bayonet point/Residential Schooling into using it. It's that simple.

NARRATOR: It wasn't that simple, but this was Twitter and people understood. Also, it helps to answer this question.

If you're really interested, Jennifer Pitts has the receipts. A pdf of the Introduction can be found here:


2nd Side note: "But what about non-European racists? They were racist too!"

Maybe. For instance, Rifa'a al-Tahtawi (1801-1873) called the Sudanese "a blackness in a blackness in a blackness" and likened them to animals. He didn't need Europe to teach him how to hate.
And again, it was all about licensing empire. But Tahtawi's bigotry was tethered to manners, dress, food, speech, etc. Physical form was incidental. It wasn't really about race as such. It was culture.

Ditto with Greek antiquity, where the relevant marker wasn't race, but rather citizenship in a polis. That's why "white" Athenian women, who couldn't be citizens, enjoyed the same political status as slaves. (Though the evidence is spotty and I don't really understand the lit).
tl;dr: Bouie is right about the link between the Enlightenment and racism. But it would be a mistake (one I don't believe he actually makes) to think that racism *exhausts* the Enlightenment's legacy, or even that there was just one Enlightenment.

But the exceptions prove the rule. We live in a world filled with difference. For a philosophy with universalistic pretension, that's a pretty significant problem. Racism offered a solution.

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More from @JeffreyASachs

Feb 20
This is a good thread, one that reveals once again how frequently proponents of these bills (in this case, Rufo) fail to understand the details of these bills. But the details matter!

In truth, it's actually worse than that.
The issue here is whether these bills "merely" prohibit educator speech based on the speech's content versus the feelings or sentiments that speech has on students. The Florida bills is pernicious because it seems, in its discussion of "discomfort", to do the latter.
In fact, MANY of the bills would prohibit speech based on the feelings or sentiments that speech generates in students. That's because a huge number prohibit inclusion of any curricular material that does the following:
Read 10 tweets
Feb 18
You know why anti-CRT activists never explain the language in these bills? Because they know that this is unexplainable.

You know why anti-CRT activists never want to talk about what these bills would actually do? Because they don't want to talk about this.

You know why anti-CRT activists always keep the focus on public K-12? Because they don't want you to know about this.

Read 9 tweets
Feb 15
New from @PENamerica: So far this year, 102 Educational Gag Orders (aka anti-CRT bills) have been introduced by state lawmakers, and a total of 112 are currently under consideration.

And more and more, they are targeting LGBTQ-related speech.

@PENamerica You've heard of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oklahoma's SB 1654 bars schools from using any books that "make as their primary subject the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender issues or recreational sexualization."
@PENamerica Tennessee HB 800 would bar teachers from using any classroom materials "that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles." South Carolina H 4605 does something similar.

Read 13 tweets
Feb 14
From the article: "Meanwhile, panellists in the Maru poll had little sympathy for those participating in the vaccine mandate protests, with 64% saying they believe democracy is threatened by the demonstrations, which should end immediately."
"Only 20% fully support the demonstrators...58% believe truckers participating in the protests who refuse to disperse should face fines and potential jail terms of up to two years, while 66% said anyone aiding and abetting the protests should be subject to the same penalties."
Don't let the fact that Batya believes you won't click through to read the article fool you. Canadians do not support the Freedom Convoy.
Read 5 tweets
Feb 10
Hegel sounds totally insufferable. Image
For those asking, it’s from this.

Ok you baying pack of merciless Hegel stans, you win. Here’s a little verse Heine wrote about Hegel to honor your victory.

Life in this world’s a fragmented business.
Our German professor will give me assistance.
He knows how to whip the whole thing into order,
Read 4 tweets
Feb 8
Now that I a) have a Politico Pro account; and b) am on strike, I find myself searching for all kinds of crazy language in bills. Right now I'm kind obsessed with this genre of ed bills, which essentially require schools to use material from rightwing orgs.

[SC HB 3002]
This is another one I flagged a few days ago. Lots more like this.

The other genre of bill I search for now and then are the ones that oh-so-cleverly try to smuggle religious proselytizing into public schools. Like Oklahoma SB 1161.
Read 6 tweets

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