Racism is a terrible thing. It is also utterly illogical. The colour of one’s skin is determined by the amount of melanin—a naturally occurring pigment—a person has. Why would any sensible person think the amount of melanin in an individual’s genetic makeup has any effect on that individual’s intellectual capability or their moral character? It’s just plain ridiculous!
Therefore, it is not surprising to see community outrage and condemnation of all forms of racism. Racist views, attitudes, and speech are ugly, ignorant, unacceptable, and should be publicly condemned, and it is encouraging to see that an anti-racist attitude is now widespread among the Australian community. This is, no doubt, why activist organisations like Black Lives Matter have gained so much traction in the past year, and why Australian sporting institutions like the AFL and Cricket Australia, among others, have introduced anti-racist provisions to their Codes of Conduct and why Cricketers have introduced a pre-game public ceremony to ‘take a knee’ in support of Black Lives Matter.
In the past couple of years, there have been widespread calls for monuments to famous historical figures who also held politically incorrect - and in many cases, outright racist - views, to be removed. In the USA and around the world, statues of Christopher Columbus, mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, slave traders Edward Colston and Robert Milligan, Presidents Jefferson Davis and Theodore Roosevelt, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Belgian King Leopold, and many others, have been removed from public display.
In addition, products with names that carry racist overtones have been renamed or banned. Allen’s Lollies brands ‘Redskins’ and ‘Chicos’ have been renamed to ‘Red Rippers’ and ‘Cheekies’, ‘Coon’ cheese is now called ‘Cheer’, and golliwog dolls are verboten.
Yet, in Australia, there is an elephant in the room that everyone appears to be ignoring: the city of Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, named in honour of Charles Darwin who ostensibly held blatantly racist views!
One can get a glimpse of Darwin’s racism when reading the full title of his famous book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life published in 1859. However, Darwin did not apply his evolutionary ideas to human beings in this book. Instead, he waited until his ideas had time to spread and permeate through the intellectual class so that the application of his evolutionary ideas would be more palatable. Thus, in 1871, Darwin published his lesser known The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex in which he propagated his views on human evolution. Darwin asks whether
…man tends to increase at so rapid a rate, as to lead to occasional severe struggles for existence, and consequently to beneficial variations, whether in body or mind, being preserved, and injurious ones eliminated. Do the races or species of men, whichever term may be applied, encroach on and replace each other, so that some finally become extinct? We shall see that all these questions, as indeed is obvious in respect to most of them, must be answered in the affirmative, in the same manner as with the lower animals.
So Darwin clearly believes that the same theories of natural selection in the struggle for life applies to human beings as much as it does to animals. Indeed, he asserted that:
Extinction follows chiefly from the competition of tribe with tribe, and race with race. Various checks are always in action, as specified in a former chapter, which serve to keep down the numbers of each savage tribe—such as periodical famines, the wandering of the parents and the consequent deaths of infants, pro-longed suckling, the stealing of women, wars, accidents, sickness, licentiousness, especially infanticide, and, perhaps, lessened fertility from less nutritious food, and many hardships. If from any cause any one of these checks is lessened, even in a slight degree, the tribe thus favoured will tend to increase; and when one of two adjoining tribes becomes more numerous and powerful than the other, the contest is soon settled by war, slaughter, cannibalism, slavery, and absorption. Even when a weaker tribe is not thus abruptly swept away, if it once begins to decrease, it generally goes on decreasing until it is extinct.
So a “savage tribe” will inevitably become extinct due to various causes including “pro-longed suckling,” “licentiousness,” and “infanticide.” Darwin goes on to state:
When civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race. Of the causes which lead to the victory of civilised nations, some are plain and some very obscure. We can see that the cultivation of the land will be fatal in many ways to savages, for they cannot, or will not, change their habits. New diseases and vices are highly destructive; and it appears that in every nation a new disease causes much death, until those who are most susceptible to its destructive influence are gradually weeded out.
Darwin’s disdain for the ‘savage tribes’ and ‘barbarians,’ and his apparent aloofness toward their state and future plight is clear from his statements above. So who are these savage tribes and barbarians?