24
Oct
09

The Legacy of Liberal Tolerance

The 19th century German anthropologist (the combination of ‘German’ and ‘Anthropology’ is a clear red flag) Johann Friedrich Blumenbach specialized in the study of human races and racial taxonomy. He postulated that physical characteristics constitute an idea of race, which also determine certain forms of character. Blumenbach, to the surprise of his European readers, asserted that “our black brethren” have “a natural tenderness of heart…which has never been benumbered or extirpated on board the transport vessels or on the West India sugar plantations by the brutality of their white executioners.” In fact “they can scarcely be considered inferior to any other race.” He cites the physical anthropologist Niebuhr to support this astonishing claim: “The principal characteristic of the Negro, especially when he is reasonably treated, honesty towards his masters and benefactors.” Wow! A race of people who harmoniously contract into servitude with the utmost humility and gratefulness, if we can just learn to treat them tolerantly. Is Starbucks the 21st century progeny of Blumenbach? Do we not hear an echo of Blumenbach in Starbucks’ Global Responsibility Report? If Blumenbach were alive today, would he not be a distinguished professor of business ethics/theorist of imperialist conquest or a socially responsible CEO?

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