Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quote for the Day: "Civilized" Holocausts?

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic blog on humanism and Holocaust history:

It is often said that racism is the result of a lack of education, that it must be defeated by civilization and progress. Nothing points to the silliness of that idea like the Holocaust. "Civilization" is irrelevant to racism. I don't even know what "civilization" means. When all your great theory, and awesome literature, and philosophy amounts to state bent on genocide, what is it worth? There were groups of hunter-gatherers wandering the Kalahari who were more civilized than Germany in 1943.

I'm grateful to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish site for the link to Coates's fine statement and an excerpt of it.

The illustration is by H. Strickland Constable, Ireland from One or Two Neglected Points of View (1899), and is online at Wikimedia Commons. It depicts theory commonly held by some 19th-century Europeans and Americans that Europeans (and their American descendants) are the pinnacle of evolution--except, as the chart illustrates, selected minority groups in Europe and Britain, including the Irish, were often placed in these charts along with non-Europeans as "unevolved."

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