What’s wrong with evolution? Isn’t it right that we should teach it in our schools, since by now it’s become more of a fact than a theory? The sad truth is that there really is a link in evolution. There is a direct link between evolutionary thinking and racism, or thinking that one race is superior to another, and that we are descended from monkeys or apes or gorillas.
In the later part of the 19th century, when Darwin’s evolutionary theory became more popular, and in some quarters, was accepted as fact, scientists really did think that since we descended from these primates, animals who more closely resembled apes, with darker skin and physical characteristics, and that humans living in Africa were a lower form of humans, or even part ape.
Evolutionary thinking was so rampant in the later part of the 19th century that it resulted in the imprisoning of a pygmy, capturing him like an animal. This evolutionary thinking only continued into the 20th century and had a direct impact on Negroes who had been captured in Africa, taken as slaves to America.
This pygmy, Ota, served as an excellent evolutionary science exhibit at the St. Louis Word’s Fair in 1904. Eventually, Ota made it to the Bronx Zoo, where he again became an evolutionary specimen for people who visited the zoo.
Dr. Hornady, director of the Bronx Zoo, was a staunch believer in Darwin's theory. The New York Times on September 11, 1906, reported that he had concluded that there was "a close analogy of the African savage to the apes" and that he "maintained a hierarchical view of the races…."
The Bronx Zoo pygmy display was extremely successful. In other to raise money for the zoo, the director provided the New York Times with material for a sensational headline: On September 16, 40,000 visitors came to the zoo. The crowds were so enormous that a police officer was assigned to guard Ota full time because he was "always in danger of being grabbed, yanked, poked, and pulled to pieces by the mob."
But one black minister, Rev. Gordon did not appreciate the exhibit, seeing the likelihood of translating the feelings of this African pygmy to the people who were larger, but of the same skin color as Ota.
"Our race …is depressed enough without exhibiting one of us with the apes.”
Evolutionary theory won the day, however. That same month, the New York Times answered Rev. Gordon: "The reverend colored brother should be told that evolution …is now taught in the textbooks of all the schools, and that it is no more debatable than the multiplication table."
Eventually Ota was released form the cage. But this did not stop his torment. Visitors to the zoo chased him around the park.
On Sept. 18, the New York Times reported that there were 40,000 visitors to the zoo.
"Nearly every man, woman, and child of this crowd made for the monkey house to see the star attraction in the park — a wild man from Africa. They chased him about the grounds all day, howling, cheering, and yelling. Some of them poked him in the ribs, others tripped him up, all laughed at him.”
In 1910, he arrive at a black Negro community Lynchburg, Virginia, where he eventually became a baptized Christian.
But Ota grew increasingly depressed, hostile, irrational, and forlorn. When people spoke to him, they noticed that he had tears in his eyes when he told them he wanted to go home. Concluding that he would never be able to return to his native land, on March 20, 1916, Ota pressed a revolver to his chest and sent a bullet through his heart.
This but one example of how evolutionary thinking negatively affected people of other races, causing people, scientists, even government officials to think that there is a hierarchy of intelligence based on one’s race because of how closely related a race is to primates like apes.
This evolutionary thinking, as it solidified in the 20th century, affected African Americans throughout the century.
Military commanders in the early 20th century concluded that blacks were inferior, and even up into World War II, they did not think that blacks had the mental capacity to fight in the war, so they were given not fighting roles or fewer responsibilities.
Evolution also contributed to the thinking that since the black race was closer to apes, they should not be allowed to have children with whites. This thinking contribute greatly to the idea that blacks, former slaves, should be kept separate from whites; they should not be allowed to marry, have sex, etc.
Although this thinking, as it was partly based on evolution, was irrational, it led to having separate drinking fountains for no logical reason, other that if blacks used the same water, something might happen to the water.
One movie depicts this thinking that was common in the South: that drinking fountains should be separate, even though it came from the same source.
But the gist of this thinking and why it was and still is so dangerous, is that it claims that human beings changed from molecules to man over millions and millions of years, with one of the intermediate states of this succession being apes.
The natural conclusion is that since people of darker skin more closely resemble apes, with darker skin, they are more ape-like than human. Those with whiter skin are placed on a higher scale or hierarchy.
Racism, or the value of one’s race, is determined by evolution to be how close one’s race is to apes, or how dark or light it is. The logical implication this evolutionary thinking, as Ota and other Africans discovered, is that how you were treated depends on how closely your race resembles primates like apes.
Ota and others were treated horribly, and endured much suffering for the simple face that evolutionary thinking and “facts” meant that it did not matter how people of darker skin color were treated - facts that were no more debatable than multiplication tables. Eventually, America would discover that this thinking was not only wrong, it was evil and resulted in the unnecessary suffering of entire races of people who were thought to be inferior.
Unfortunately, many scientists and populist philosophers and atheists cling to this menagerie of science, accosting any who would dare to challenge their theory. But there is hope. There is reason that proves otherwise.
This entry is compiled and / or summarized from chapter one of the book, “One Race One Blood,” by Charles Ware and Ken Ham. The first chapter is Darwin’s Garden and tells the tale of Ota. A more detailed account of Ota’s like is in the book, “Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo,” by P.V. Bradford and H. Blume.
Another book that chronicle this tragedy wrought by evolutionary thinking, including Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga. by Pamela Newkirk. The book won the NAACP Image Award.
© 2019 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as on topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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