Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy

scientificamerican.com

As museums reopen let’s introduce ourselves, and our children, to the original Black ancestors of all human beings

After a year of lockdown, museums, libraries and bookstores across America are reopening. This cultural reawakening’s beginning coincided with both the Juneteenth holiday and the one-year anniversary of the one of the largest protests in American history against racial injustice. As bookstores reopen, many are organizing displays of children’s books that celebrate Black history. What you won’t find in even the biggest collections of books is the story of the dark-skinned early people who launched human civilization. The global scientific community overwhelmingly accepts that all living humans are of African descent. Most scientific articles about our African origins focus on genetics. The part of the story that is not widely shared is about the creation of human culture. We are all descended genetically, and also culturally, from dark-skinned ancestors. Early humans from the African continent are the ones who first invented tools; the use of fire; language; and religion. These dark skinned early people laid down the foundation for human culture. Considering the short life span of our early ancestors, these original innovators were probably also very young. No one who follows artistic trends will be surprised to learn that, from the beginning, human culture was essentially invented by teenagers. And by culture I don’t just mean the arts, I mean the whole shebang. I want to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies. Under the guise of “religious freedom,” the legalistic wing of creationists loudly insists that their point of view deserves equal time in the classroom. Science education in the U.S. is constantly on the defensive against antievolution activists who want biblical stories to be taught as fact. In fact, the first wave of legal fights against evolution was supported by the Klan in the 1920s. Ever since then, entrenched racism and the ban on teaching evolution in the schools have gone hand in hand. In his piece, What We Get Wrong About the Evolution Debate, Adam Shapiro argues that “the history of American controversies over evolution has long been entangled with the history of American educational racism.” At the heart of white evangelical creationism is the mythology of an unbroken white lineage that stretches back to a light-skinned Adam and Eve. In literal interpretations of the Christian Bible, white skin was created in God’s image. Dark skin has a different, more problematic origin. As the biblical story goes, the curse or mark of Cain for killing his brother was a darkening of his descendants’ skin. Historically, many congregations in the U.S. pointed to this story of Cain as evidence that Black skin was created as a punishment.

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