by Simon Goodman, De Montfort University, in collaboration with the BPS Social Psychology Section committee
As the protests for the Black Lives Matter movement continue throughout the world, in the UK this has turned public attention to the country’s colonial and slave-owning past. This comes at a time when minority groups are being infected and dying at disproportionately higher levels from coronavirus and leading figures in the government appear to accept race science, eugenics, and with it the idea that there is a meaningful relationship between race and IQ. This post will show that the history of ‘race science’ is a history of racism, as it was developed to support and justify colonialism and has no scientific basis. Instead, psychologists, like everyone else, need to actively reject the notion of race as a meaningful concept, while also recognising that despite race not being real, racism very much is.
While most psychologists tend to treat race as a common-sense idea (McCann-Mortimer, Augoustinos & LeCouteur, 2004), Montague (1964) showed the concept to be anything but scientific. He traced the use of the term race to Georges Le Clerc Buffon in 1749 in his six classifications of humans. Based on the religious thinking of the day, the races were deemed to have been created by God, but with ‘degradation’ from the original – and best – Caucasian race. While Caucasian may sound like a scientific term it actually comes from the Caucus mountains, on the border of Russia and Georgia, where it was then believed the Garden of Eden was, with Adam and Eve being the first Caucasians.
By Halina Bryan
It happened four thousand miles away, some people and newspapers say.
However the oppression, brutalisation and trauma transcend time and space, and are relentlessly present in the lives of black people, here in the UK.
The time we and our ancestors have given, waiting for our humanity to be acknowledged and represented in social equality and change.
Yet, this continues to be a promise undelivered, denied, with conscious efforts made to keep black people and justice estranged.
So many are content to turn their eyes and hearts away from, or ‘justify’ our suffering and pain.
Systemic racism often moves in the shadows, at other times in plain sight of day.
It always inflicts indescribable pain and trauma along its way.
Its insidious roots and branches are deep and far reaching.
But for many our testimonies, calls and cries for action and change, are rejected and claimed to be unwarranted preaching.
PSC is a network of people interested in applying psychology to generate social and political action. You don't have to be a member of PSC to contribute to the blog