For a guy who's 200 years old, Charles Darwin sure is keeping me busy today.
So I received a comment from a reader who was too bashful to post in the open post. She complains that she "see[s] [my] blog as a great representation of black feminism" and therefore "doesn't know how to feel" about the fact that I endorse Darwin and his theories of evolution.
I've read the quotes suggesting that Darwin was a racist who saw black people and the aboriginal tribes of Australia as inferior to white people. And I have seen the arguments that Darwin's theories in fact led to slavery and are the foundation of Nazi eugenics, which - if we consider certain timelines, especially in the case of the former - are weak ones.
I can only say the following: Darwin could very well have thought, at the time that he was developing his theories, that the races he encountered represented different stages of evolution of the homo sapien. Given the popular thinking of the time, it would not be surprising. I do know that he was considered an abolitionist, and I also know that frankly, he is impossible for me to ignore. His findings are still being discussed today as more evidence is being gathered, and as someone with a slightly more than passing interest in this evidence, I cannot render him irrelevant as I might other less significant (to me at least) historical figures; I can't boycott his music or stop drinking his champagne. I tend to think he was more misguided than hateful, but I'm sure the same has been said about much more frightful characters.
Remember too that not all people who believe that species evolved believe in all the tenets of Darwinist theory. In fact, there are some with which we must disagree, namely, of course, his prediction that those he called 'weaker races' would not prosper and would become extinct.
In short, I don't know if Darwin was a racist. He may very well have been. But if I want to discuss evolution, I have to acknowledge him and the work he produced.