March 30, 2022
When greedy power-trippers perpetrate unspeakable acts of exploitation, they often rationalize their loathsome acts after the fact. Such is the case with the Atlantic slave trade. European kidnappers of African people used racism to justify slavery and enforce a shameful system of forced labor and a disgraceful social hierarchy. Learn how the ideas of 15th-century Europe have reverberated through the centuries and catch up on some of the hopeful antiracist things happening to overcome the tragic legacies of racism and slavery. Special guest appearances by Lord and Lady Douchebag and the Six Million Dollar Man.
The date: 2/18/1453 The location: Portugal Estimated human population: 371 million Estimated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration: 281 parts per million
- Saturday Night Live skit: “Lord and Lady Douchebag”
- Biographic information on Henry the Navigator primarily comes from Aileen Gallagher’s book Prince Henry, The Navigator: Pioneer of Modern Exploration.
- “The Invention of Race” is an audio story by the Center for Documentary Studies.
- “Seeing White” is the series on whiteness and racism from the Scene on Radio podcast.
- Ibram X. Kendi wrote Stamped from the Beginning, a book about how racist ideas were created, spread, and became rooted in American society.
- Dorothy Roberts wrote Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century, a book about the fallacy of race as a biological concept.
- African slaves in what became the US go back to before 1619.
- Book review of Benjamin Isaac’s The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity.
- The New York Times created an interactive article on the history of slavery in America.
- The Smithsonian’s maps on the growth of the slave population in America.
- David Roediger from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture wrote the article “Historical Foundations of Race.”
- The Western States Center runs the “Dismantling Racism Project,” which produced the report A History: The Construction of Race and Racism.
- The racial slur database – yes, this actually exists.
Asher Miller I'm Asher Miller. Rob Dietz I'm Rob Dietz. Jason Bradford I'm Jason Bradford. Welcome to Crazy Town where three middle-aged white guys mansplain racism. Melody Travers This is producer Melody Traverse. In this season of Crazy Town, Jason, Asher, Rob are exploring the watershed moments in history that have led humanity into the cascading crises we face in the 21st century. Today's episode is about the surreal invention of racism, its use in justifying slavery, and the socioeconomic shitshow that followed. The watershed moment took place in the year 1453. At the time, the estimated carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 281 parts per million, and the global human population was 371 million. Asher Miller Rob, Jason, I've got a question for you. If you could give yourself a title, and it didn't have anything to do with anything you've actually accomplished or anything real about you, what titles would you pick for yourselves? Rob Dietz Sort of like Wicked Witch of the West, or something like that? Like we have a - Asher Miller Do you want to be the Wicked Witch of the West? Rob Dietz No, no, but unfortunately, my mind went to things I've heard other people call me. I'd be like - Asher Miller They've called you that? Rob Dietz No. But I'd be like Colonel Dipshit, Sarcastic Bastard from the South, or something like that. Yeah. Asher Miller That's a long title. Jason Bradford Yeah, that's a good one. Apropos, but anyhow. Rob Dietz So you're gonna call me Colonel Dipshit for the rest of this show? Jason Bradford I'll think about it. Well, I have a question, Asher. Some clarification the rules Asher Miller Yeah. Jason Bradford Can I be called a Laird? The Scottish term for- Asher Miller Oh, Laird. Yeah. Jason Bradford Is that okay? Asher Miller Is that similar to Lord? Jason Bradford Yeah, it's Lord, but it's Scottish. I'm doing this because my wife was really into those Outlander books. Asher Miller Oh, yeah. Jason Bradford And stuff like that. And then there's that show the TV show that came out and she kind of gotten a little bit into that. Rob Dietz I was thinking better one for you is Tared. Kind of like for turd. Jason Bradford Okay, thanks. Yeah, but I would be, oh my gosh, you know. I used to walk around calling her . . . And she liked that. Anyhow, getting a little personal. Rob Dietz Okay, so Tared, Laird Tared, and Colonel dipshit at your service I guess Jason Bradford I'd be Laird MacDongle. Asher Miller MacDongle? Jason Bradford Yeah. Asher Miller Interesting. Well... Rob Dietz I guess we gotta . . . Why do you ask? Asher Miller You didn't ask me what I would be called. Jason Bradford Yeah. What would you be called? Asher Miller Lord Douchebag, of course. Jason Bradford Well, that's been done. Lord and Lady Douchebag. Asher Miller Okay, the real reason I bring it up is because I wanted to introduce somebody to you guys. Okay, sweet Henry the Navigator. And as far as I know, Henry the Navigator never actually set sail on the Atlantic. I think the guy's been on a boat, but yeah, calling him the navigator might be a bit of a stretch. Rob Dietz Yeah, as I understand it, he was basically a financier. Never went on a voyage just paid for them. Asher Miller Well, we'll get to his story. I'm probably being a little unfair, you know, to diss him for that name since he was given the name like centuries after the guy died. Rob Dietz Oh, he didn't like promote himself as the navigator? Asher Miller No. But then again I don't feel so bad because the guy was an evil bastard. So, fuck him. Okay. But here's why he's important and I want to talk about him before we get to our watershed moment today. So Prince Henry the Navigator, okay, let's go back in time. Jason Bradford Ooh, a prince. Asher Miller Yeah, he was the third son, I think of a king and then he became the uncle of a king. He's arguably the most influential figure behind, well behind a lot, but behind Portugal's sort of short lived global empire. Rob Dietz Oh, wait a second. If it's arguable, let's talk about Cristiano Ronaldo for a second. Asher Miller Yeah, so that's a second empire. I'm talking about the first empire. Rob Dietz Okay. Asher Miller Now, maybe some people are still learning about this in school, but at one point, this tiny little country, Portugal was the dominant force on the seas. And Henry had a huge role to play behind that. He made a huge amount of money. Like one of the things he did was he had like a monopoly on the manufacturing of soap. Jason Bradford That was a big deal. Asher Miller That was a big deal. Yeah, I don't know what kind of soap it was. Jason Bradford Back to basics. I love it. Asher Miller And you know, what he did was he actually used a lot of the wealth that he accumulated to finance both the invention of new sailing technologies, new sails, new types of ships, which are really key and actually being able to cross the Atlantic or go further down the Atlantic and - Rob Dietz So he in his day was like the these billionaires today that are launching rockets to space. Asher Miller Yeah, he's like the Elon Musk's - Rob Dietz He was launching really nice boats. Jason Bradford Yeah. He didn't really gone on them too much, but he invented a bunch of stuff related to them. Asher Miller Right. And he also, you know, he was, I think, the originator of the first sugar plantations, which had a really profound role in the history of certainly the Western Hemisphere. Jason Bradford Yeah, Halloween. Asher Miller Yeah. Right. And the formations of the first colonies in the North Atlantic and in the western coast of Africa. But the reason I actually want to bring him up was because of his role in the creation of the African slave trade. Jason Bradford Oh, that's a downer. Asher Miller Yeah, I know. That's what I'm saying. Like, fuck the guy. You know, if I insult him a little bit . . . But here's the thing. It's not actually Henry so much I want to talk about. I mean, Henry had a huge role to play obviously. But it's this guy, his name was Gomes Eanes de Zurara, okay. I'm mispronouncing his name. I don't even - I'm trying to give a Spanish pronunciation, but I wouldn't even know how to give him a Portuguese pronunciation. Ever heard of this guy? Jason Bradford No. Rob Dietz Rings a bell. But you know, there's so many loose fragments of '80's movies floating around up here. It's on you to bring it up. Asher Miller He's not a 1980s villain, he's not in any of that stuff. Okay, so- Rob Dietz He didn't fight Rocky one time? Asher Miller No, and he wasn't in WWE or WWF, or any of that stuff either. No, back in 1452 the king of Portugal charged Zurara, who was like the chronicler of the kingdom to document the life of his uncle, right. The Kings uncle, Prince Henry. And it was in that book, "The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea." I mean, you could get it at any bookstore I think these days, right. It's just flying off the shelf. Rob Dietz Right. Asher Miller 'Now, Guinea, I should just say, Guinea was the term the Portuguese came up with to describe lands in Africa that were south of the, I guess, the Senegal River. Jason Bradford Oh, it's the huge area then. Asher Miller Yeah. And it was in that book that the historian Ibram Kendi argues that racism was first invented. Jason Bradford It was invented in the biography of this guy, Henry. Asher Miller Yeah. Jason Bradford Interesting. Rob Dietz So I realized where this is ringing a bell from. So a few years ago, I know you listened to it, as well, Asher. Jason, maybe you did, too. We listened to the "Seeing White" series from a podcast called, "Scene on Radio." Jason Bradford Yeah, great series. Rob Dietz And basically the host, John Biewin, relied a lot on Ibram Kendi's work and explored racism, how the institution developed in the United States and the sort of power dynamics involved there. And so yeah, it's kind of a, I don't know. . . It was definitely a new thing to me. And I highly recommend that podcast. Asher Miller Yeah. And so you know, Kendi and others have argued that it was Zurara's depiction of Africans that is sort of innately inferior to Europeans that was used as a justification. And I think this is the key thing, after the fact, for what was really motivated by greed. Like it was a justification for why these Africans were enslaved. Rob Dietz So the Portuguese were already over there kidnapping people, tearing up families, doing their their evil shit. Asher Miller Yeah. Rob Dietz And then they came up with, hey, there's a reason why this is okay. Asher Miller Yeah. And it was - You know, this was, again, very early days that this was happening, that this that this biography was written. But that's the thing I think I wanted to sort of explore today in this watershed moment. Jason Bradford What about the Pope? Wasn't the Pope involved in some of this stuff, too? Asher Miller Oh, yeah, the Pope definitely has a role to play in this. And we're gonna actually be talking about the Pope later. Wait for that. Jason Bradford Okay. Well, this is- I'm really comfortable talking about race and stuff. This is really easy, relaxing to me. Ah geez. Okay. But you know, what's fascinating to me is this after the fact justification thing that is happening at the society level, right? It's the same thing that happens in the human mind. The mind will narrate an explanation for what has been done. And it'll just make stuff up, Asher Miller Right, to try to make sense of something. Jason Bradford To make sense of something. So, our subconscious is generating all sorts of motivations for us that lead to behavior. And we're kind of unaware of them a lot of the time. But then our so called rational mind essentially rationalizes like, "Oh, we did this because. . ." All to make us make us feel better about ourselves. Rob Dietz You know, Jason, you had a conversation with me a few years ago that this is bringing up in my mind. You were talking about helping people transition from conventional farming to organic. And you you had said, it's not that you explained that organic is better for reasons X, Y, and Z, and then somebody is going to change their mind and do it. It was more like, Oh, no, let's start farming organically, here's the field, and they start doing it. And then they come up with all the reasons themselves to justify it. It's like behavior change, then the thinking change. Asher Miller Yeah, I think that's true and I think it's a really interesting parallel to make. I am not going to give Zurara and these guys as much credit for the motivation behind this justification because it was - and this what we're going to talk about. It was an ongoing belief system that was built in a justification for exploitation. And the most inhumane treatment of others that's probably imaginable. Rob Dietz Yeah, yeah. I mean, in fact, let's not give him any credit. And to demonstrate that we've got some poll quotes from that book that you mentioned that's just flying off the shelves. Asher Miller Let's hear them. Rob Dietz So obviously, these are translated from the original language, but this one just reminded me of you, Jason. Here's Zurara talking about how awesome Prince Henry -- what is it? -- Henry the Asshole? Henry the Navigator. "This noble prince was of good height and stout frame. Big and strong of limb. Strength of heart and keenness of mind were in him to a very excellent degree." The flowery nature of these! It goes on: "And beyond comparison, he was ambitious of achieving great and lofty deeds." So maybe the nickname you got for yourself -- could it fit a description like that? Jason Bradford Yeah, Laird MacDongle. Asher Miller You know, when they buried Zurara, they couldn't get that brown stain off his nose. Jason Bradford What's amazing is how much harder it was to write back then, but how he was just going on with a bunch of bullshit anyway. Rob Dietz Right. I like that, "The lofty deeds of Lord MacDongle." That sounds like a really good- Asher Miller That book is gonna fly off the shelves too. Rob Dietz And of course, these flowery, over-the-top descriptions of Henry are juxtaposed with his just horrendous descriptions of the folks from Africa and I can't- I'm not even going to read them. Because fuck that guy. Jason Bradford Okay, that's right. Well, and I think it'd be interesting to talk about this. Bring it to the U.S., and put what happened here in some kind of historical context. Because in the U.S., slavery and racism are closely linked, right? But slavery didn't start in the 1400's, right? It has existed across the globe for as long as we can go back in history and check on it Rob Dietz Well again, it began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when Jabba the Hut chained up Princess Leia. Jason Bradford I mean, yeah, evidence right there. It's like universal. So there's evidence of slavery across Europe, across Asia, across Africa, the Americas, as far back as anyone can look. This stuff was happening. Rob Dietz Yeah. I mean, even that word slavery, if you look at the root of it, and my Latin teacher would be proud of me here, comes from Slav, which is the name that the Western Europeans gave to the Eastern European people. Asher Miller Right. And they had been sold into slavery following repeated conquest. Rob Dietz Right. Jason Bradford Yeah. Yeah, that's my point. Historically, slavery was typically the result of some sort of conquests and you capture people, and even though you know, there may have been religious differences between people that were fighting each other, racism wasn't used as a justification for enslaving people. Asher Miller Until our friend, Zurara. Rob Dietz Well, we know from basically every episode of Crazy Town that there's always nuance. There's always complexities here. It's not cut and dry. That Zurara is the inventor of racism, some academics, there's one, this guy, Benjamin Isaac, who's got a book called, "Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity." Who has presented some evidence that racism existed in Europe going back to ancient Greece. You know, it's hard to pinpoint. But Zurara is a really good example of someone who popularized racism in Portugal and exported that to other. . . Asher Miller I'm sure that the history is a lot more nuanced and messy and complex. And I think that trying to pinpoint the source, you know, the origin story of racism is actually not really the point here. The point for why I think Zurara's writings in 1452 are such a watershed moment is that they reflect what became, and maybe even inspire, what became the merger of these two dominant systems that really shaped the world. And were part of what brings us to Crazy Town where we are now. These two dominant systems of racism and the exploitation of people. Jason Bradford Yeah, so using it as a justification. Bringing the two together. Asher Miller Yeah. Jason Bradford Okay. Well, now before we talk more broadly about how racism has led us into Crazy Town, let's just put sort of this African slave trade into context a little bit. So, first of all, there were about 12 and a half million men, women and children of African descent that were forced into the transatlantic slave trade. So 12 and a half million people on these little boats at the time, right, coming across the Atlantic Ocean. They were just like rounded up in their homeland, and put on boats and sailed away. That's just astonishing. That's a lot. Rob Dietz Well, and that's . . . This topic is really hard. I have this visceral moment of remembering from childhood seeing that illustration of how to pack a slave boat. And, you know, to say, put on a boat is such an understatement. I mean, the conditions, the breakup of families, and it's just, I don't know . . . I mean, I obviously our shtick here is we make light of things, and we joke a lot with each other. But some of these topics, it's just so depraved. And you know, you can't believe that we're capable of doing this to each other. So yeah, it's a tough one. I mean, just looking back at the history of it, maybe throw a few more stats around on it, that slave trade grew pretty slowly before 1600. But like everything you have this the economic incentives that really pushed them. So you had sugar spreading around, you had tobacco plantations. Later, you would have cotton. But thanks to the profits you could earn from these commodities that they're like, "Hey, we need more labor. Hey, we can exploit the shit out of these people. And, hey, we can justify it with these ridiculous racist ideas." Jason Bradford And what's fascinating also to think about is, Congress eventually banned the importation of slaves in 1808. However, the slave population in the US just kept growing from a little over 1 million in 1810, according to census data, to nearly 4 million in 1860. And that represented over 10%, of the entire US population. Yeah, but of course, the slave owning states definitely had the majority of that. So there were some places that were really dominated by slave populations. And there are some stunning maps published by Smithsonian Magazine that go over this, and we will link to those in our show notes. Asher Miller Yeah, there's these visuals showing kind of population density, and changes over time. Including the spread West, you know, as the U.S. grew. Rob Dietz Yeah, I mean, you can talk about the Atlantic slave trade sort of ending, but then there was a within continent slave trade that was thriving. I mean, of course, you had whatever people being born and the population increasing, but you also had people moving slaves all around, up and down the eastern seaboard. And as you said, Asher, moving them out west. Jason Bradford There was a fascinating study on the economics of this where the southern states are actually not very profitable from an agricultural perspective. And they were really depleting the soils. And so the yields were poor, and you know, synthetic fertilizers hadn't really been invented of course at this point. So there was marginal and negative income on a lot of their crops. And so they were all, you know, excited about their ability to sell slaves. And that was a huge part of politics in the U.S. Asher Miller Yeah. And I just will mention briefly, we're spending a lot of our time talking about the U.S. You know, more Africans were stolen from Africa as part of the slave trade and sent to Brazil even then the United States. So wasn't obviously isolated to U.S. Rob Dietz Yeah, the Caribbean islands as well. Asher Miller Yeah. I think obviously, we could spend a lot of time talking about this, and probably not doing it anywhere near justice. But I think again, just trying to put this a little bit into context. I think it is important to remember that even after slavery ended in the U.S., you know, the impact of slavery. And obviously, more broadly, the impact of systemic racism against black Americans. That legacy is alive with us to this day. Sadly, you only have to look at the disparities in health, and education, wealth, incarceration rates, disenfranchisement, exposure to pollution, on and on and on and on just to see how much it remains still very much embedded in the American experience. Rob Dietz Yeah, there's a historian, David Roediger. He has this quote that sums up I think what you're talking about really nicely. It says, "the world got along without race for the overwhelming majority of its history, the U.S. has never been without it." When I read that quote, I also found this graphic that basically breaks down how long the U.S. has had slavery, then how long it was in the Jim Crow era with segregation, and then the post-segregation civil rights to now. And that the current era is a pretty small piece of our history. And that's why we are in this, you know, this time that we are now where you have systemic racism still running rampant. Jason Bradford Yeah, like landownership, for example. And all of the giving away land, the U.S. government did that for settlers. But it was very hard if you're an African American to get that free land and established as a farmer, for example, and create that family wealth. Asher Miller And more recently, the G.I. Bill. And there are organizations that do a really great job of documenting some of these disparities that are worth looking at. And we can reference those. Jason Bradford I grew up on the West Coast of America. And, you know, for me, what's interesting is there's a whole history there that is not just limited to African American experience of racism, but we had a whole set of immigrants coming across the Pacific. And we had a lot of issues in how we dealt with those folks as well. Rob Dietz Yeah, there's some good stats on this too. Like between the 19th and 20th centuries, there were over 600 separate pieces of anti-Asian legislation that got passed that were limiting citizenship opportunities for Asians. They had almost no rights and white people could kill Asians basically with impunity because they couldn't testify in court. Asher Miller It's just, it's unbelievable. You start digging into this history . . . Yeah. Well, I think thinking about racism in the larger context, right. I mean, we've spoken a lot about the history of the slave trade, and the impact of that in the United States, I think it's interesting to think a little bit about whiteness. So, Rob, you referenced that podcast series - Rob Dietz Yeah, "Seeing White." Asher Miller - that we recommend to people. Thinking about what it means to be white and how there have been changing definitions of what it means to be white over time in the United States. The professor, writer, and scholar named Dorothy Roberts has written a lot about this in a book called "Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century." But part of what she talks about in that book is not just what's happening now, but looking at the history of changes in how we define race. Over time, she points out that since a very first U.S. census was taken in 1790, the racial groupings in the census have changed 24 times over about 200 years. Asher Miller So, we have a shift here then from the heinousness of racism, to the ridiculousness of racism, and the mental gymnastics that people will perform in order to hang on to their privilege or their power. So, give me some examples of this - Who is white in the U.S.? Asher Miller Yeah, I mean, so if you think about it, people that are now considered white . . . Like me, for example, right? I'm Jewish, half-American, half-Dutch, basically. Right? Rob Dietz Can I interrupt you first. I have a funnier story. A few years ago, a child that I know was talking about you because I was working with you. And this child said, "Oh, are you going to see that Indian guy?" Because it was summer I guess. Asher Miller Oh I had a tan. Rob Dietz You were tan... Jason Bradford I'm so jealous. Asher Miller I tan nicely. Jason Bradford Oh it's incredible. Rob Dietz It was one of those examples of like, the meaninglessness of skin color. Asher Miller My semitic roots coming out. But, oh, what I was saying is like now, if I feel census I've got essentially one option, right? Like white, non-Hispanic. That was always the case for Jews in the United States, you know. Being considered part of white America. And the same thing is true if you look at Irish, Italians . . . Rob Dietz So, there's not a thing in the census that says space-laser-wielding Jew as one of the races? Asher Miller I mean, if Marjorie Taylor Green becomes President someday, that may change. Rob Dietz I don't think she's in line. I think she's gonna be - Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is her next political move. Asher Miller Oh right. But yeah, so think about that. Like you, Jason. You must be so conflicted inside I mean, your lineage you go right back to the Mayflower. So, white as white can be. But you also, what, you have Italian in your family, and maybe some Irish? Jason Bradford I do. Yeah. So you know we call those bog trotters on the Irish side, and spaghetti slippers on the Italian side. And yeah, they got together and they made they made me. Asher Miller Can we just reference where that's from. Rob Dietz Yeah, that's the - Ah, what is it called? The racial slur database. A real thing that we found on the - Rob Dietz - on the internets. Yeah, good lord. Yeah. Asher Miller .org Jason Bradford Those are some of the nicer ones. Rob Dietz Yeah. I don't know who's behind that project. That's a little odd. Jason Bradford Yeah. Well, you know, so how did that happen? How did all these folks, the Italians, the Irish, the Slavs, and the Jews, they became white? Well, in some respect, you know, America was called this sort of melting pot, and you would adopt American culture. So I think there's a tremendous pressure for these folks as they come on as immigrants. And they don't speak English necessarily. But then their kids generation starts adopting whatever the American culture is of the time. And because they, you know, they kind of look white, they get granted this sort of entry into whiteness, I think is what's going on. Asher Miller Yeah, there's a pressure, a desire, a benefit of assimilation to kind of like, quote-unquote white culture and sort of passing as white. I mean, not to say that this was like, part of my experience, but I was an immigrant kid. I moved to the United States when I was, you know, six years old and coming from Israel had what people thought was a funny name. And I had a funny accent. And I just wanted to assimilate so badly. I refused to speak Hebrew anymore at home. Yeah, I changed my name to Steve. Jason Bradford Did you? Asher Miller Yeah, for like, for a couple months or so something like that. Jason Bradford This is a reveal. Asher Miller Yeah. Because I wanted so much to fit in with this culture. The reason I changed my name to Steve is because it was Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, and I got to see him on TV. Rob Dietz I was gonna say not Steven, but Steve. Asher Miller Yeah. Just a small example. Rob Dietz That was cool. When he changed his name, he could suddenly see a mile down the road. He could jump over buildings. Jason Bradford I loved that show! Rob Dietz Plus, he got to go on dates with the Bionic Woman. Asher Miller I don't know why I ever changed my name back. Deep regret. Rob Dietz You didn't - were you down at the courthouse with a legal process as a six year old? It is I Steve! Asher Miller As you can imagine, my family for a while were scratching their heads. They tried to laugh it off for a little bit. And then eventually, you give them credit. They're like, "Okay, this is what he wants to do." They actually started calling me Steve, and at that point, I was like, "No." Rob Dietz It was too weird here your mom and dad say, "Steve." So you were back to Asher. Asher Miller Yeah. Again, I want to point out, if we think about, you know, we talked a little bit about racism more broadly in United States. Right? Not being limited to the African, African-American black experience. But also dynamic more broadly. I think we also have to point out the obvious which racism is ubiquitous across the world, right? It's not just a U.S. phenomenon. It has a particular I would say, a particular role within American society that is deep and profound, right? That's unique. But it's not like it doesn't exist in other places, you know. It manifests itself in really ugly ways in many, many, many, many, many places. Jason Bradford Yeah, many have pointed out that first you have these religious reasons, right? The Pope declares this is okay, or whatever. But then of course, as society changes, and you get sort of the Enlightenment period, suddenly science or the so called tools of science start getting used as justification for racism. Asher Miller They needed a new justification, right? You can't say this was God's will that this group of people were subservient or could be enslaved or could be treated like crap, right? You have to have another justification. Jason Bradford Right. So as you get into the 1800's, that starts to become more and more important in the early 20th century. Rob Dietz Yeah, well, you know, Jason, you're a man of science, right? Jason Bradford Yes, thank you. Rob Dietz We know you are Dr. Jason Bradford, PhD. Asher Miller No, that's not his real title, remember? He's Laird . . . Rob Dietz Oh yeah, he's Laird MacDongle. Asher Miller Dr. Laird. Jason Bradford Dr. Laird MacDongle. Rob Dietz Well, and also, I've hung out with you enough that I know you're a plant biologist, you're running around tropics, looking at what was it? The Quianiaceae family? Jason Bradford Sorry, the Cunoniaceae family. Asher Miller He's name dropping these Latin names for - Rob Dietz Well, you got one named after you, right like the Cunoniaceae - Bradfordi Jason Bradford No, no. Geissois bradfordii, endemic to New Caledonia or Nouvelle Caledonie Rob Dietz You're making the argument even better, you know all this stuff. Well, so you know, this whole scientific classification, that's the Linnaean system, right? Named after Carl Linnaeus. Jason Bradford Yes. I know all about that. Yes, I use it. Rob Dietz Yeah, we did a little looking. And, you know . . . Jason Bradford Oh, Linnaeus by the way. He described the genus that I first got into this with, wimonia, was described by Linnaeus. I have a direct kind of relationship. An origin story. So Linnaeus and I were kind of tight. Right? Rob Dietz Yeah. Great. Well, so as soon as you start looking under the first layer on some of these guys from that era, you find some pretty shitty stuff. So Linnaeus didn't just classify tropical plants and beetles and mammals, he also, of course, divided the human species into four, quote-unquote, natural varieties. Okay? So, of course, the pinnacle of beauty and intelligence was Homo sapiens Europeaus. And, you know, these are the vigorous muscular - Sounds like frickin' Zurara all over again. Asher Miller Yeah, you can just see him like looking at himself in the mirror trying to come up with these, like build himself up. Rob Dietz Yeah, he's like flexing his pecs, and coming up with even better adjectives: bulging chest. So number two in his hierarchy here was Homo sapiens Americanus, who were ill tempered and impassive. Those are mostly Indigenous people in the Americas. Then he gets to Homo sapiens Asiaticus who are melancholy and stern. And then of course, at the bottom, he gets to Homo sapiens afer. And again, I'm not even gonna read his bullshit. Asher Miller Don't you wish we could have a time machine so you go back and punch these guys in the face. I mean, seriously. Rob Dietz I wish you could stay on this side, but there was the portal and your fist would go through and hit in the face while he's flexing his pecs in the mirror. Asher Miller Yeah, the portal is the mirror. It goes right through. Mirror, mirror on the wall, which version of humans is the fairest of them all. Pow! Rob Dietz You sort of think like these -I'm sure Linnaeus was a really intelligent person, but at the same time such an idiot too. Jason Bradford And this is the crazy thing, right? It's like, you have sort of a lot of this sort of pseudoscience happening where, again, it ties back to justifying whatever power dominance hierarchy you're in right now. Asher Miller And that is why we wanted to talk about this watershed moment that, you know, Zurara, writing this chronicle of Henry the Navigator and creating a racial justification. Because what it is, race and all these forms of differentiation that we see is used as a tool for economic exploitation, you know, and maintaining power over those who don't have it. It's about maintaining power for an elite, whoever that elite is. Rob Dietz Yeah, that's the thread you always follow when you're looking at racism, what are the power dynamics? And who's exploiting who? Jason Bradford Yeah, and it's interesting, because even U.S. history we had all these indentured servants that would come over - very poor Europeans Asher Miller Right. Yeah, in the colonial era before the United States was formed, right? Jason Bradford Yes. They would basically get sponsored, paid, their trip would be paid for, then they'd land somewhere and next thing you know they're indebted to somebody and they'd be working for them for a certain period of time. And that is different from the chattel slavery of Africans in early U.S. history. But of course, these become wedge populations. These two folks, the indentured servants and the chattel slave, have a lot in common, right? They're being absurdly exploited. Asher Miller And there are actually historical examples of them organizing together and writing and trying to create in the sense their own societies, and they were completely cracked down upon. Yeah, so I think you're right. I think we see often that these are used a wedge all the way back. Jason Bradford Yeah, yes. You still see that today, you know. Rob Dietz You're talking about pitting them against each other though, right? Jason Bradford Yes. Rob Dietz Like somehow you have these indentured servants that are supposed to be made to feel superior to the slaves and so you put them against each other rather than where they should be united against - The system is just repeating itself and trying to maintain power. Asher Miller Ad that dynamic has persisted throughout. You know, I think it's probably true in many cultures and societies in many ways. But in the United States that dynamic has played out repeatedly. And if you sort of fast forward, and you look at the struggle, the civil rights struggle, you know, for women to get the right to vote, and for African Americans to also receive rights to vote after other things, after the Civil War, there were efforts by some, basically black women, to tie those together. To come together to fight for those rights in tandem. And there are stories of how white suffragettes tried to shut that down. There's an amazing speech given by Sojourner Truth, where she says, "Ain't I a woman," talking about about this. Rob Dietz Yeah, that really hits home. I think you saw this in all of these rights movements. I mean, when MLK was leading civil rights, he had this kind of evolution of his discussion and his speeches where there's the famous one where he said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." He kind of broadened out from civil rights for African Americans to poverty and an anti-war stance and sort of realizing it's any equality, it's this exploitation that we need to do away with for everybody. Jason Bradford Yeah. And this really ties back to a framework that we've talked about before, which is the notion of cultural materialism. And Marvin Harris has sort of described in which infrastructure, so how, say the economic system, the power structures, these sort of things, drives society laws. And that's called the structure, and also the superstructure, or sort of norms and belief systems. And this is, I think, really applicable in this case where the exploitation of people and of course, our exploitation of nature, is supporting particular structures of power and the whole sort of system itself. But what we then do, even if a lot of a lot of people are suffering as a consequence, and nature itself is also being exploited horrifically to our long term detriment, we find ways of justifying what is. And a belief system like racial superiority, it's just one of those. Rob Dietz Yeah, I feel like I saw that a fair amount growing up. Like you'd hear some racist expounding on their racist views, but trying to base it in what they see in society around them with no realization that that's built on this horrendous history of oppression. You know, it's just like, "Oh, I'm just gonna blame it on the fact that you have more melanin in your skin." But I think it really is tied to what you're talking about. This is the infrastructure that we have now. So my beliefs, I don't even say “my” -- whoever was saying it, their beliefs are now tied to this bogus explanation. Jason Bradford Yeah, so correlation without understanding causation. Rob Dietz Yeah. I also have had this weird thought recently, just trying to like figure out why do we do this? Why do we take someone who looks different and make them out to be something different? And I've just been wondering, are there some innate things about us? And the thing that I got - I don't know, maybe this means something, maybe it doesn't. But we're such visual creatures, it's very easy to look and say, "Oh, you have darker skin than I do, or you have lighter skin than I do." And I wonder if we have a penchant for categorizing things based on visual cues, we also have a penchant for scapegoating that we've talked about a lot in this podcast, maybe combining those two things sort of makes it easy, when you when you add to that the cultural materialism piece, for people to end up in this camp. Jason Bradford Yeah, I mean, you could think of plenty of '80's movies where there's the different high school groups and they all have their different looks about them, right? And they're trying to create this in-group sense and out-grouping others that re don't have the same fancy '80's hair or whatever, or aren't wearing the same golf clothing, or whatever it is. Asher Miller And then they all come together in detention. Jason Bradford Yes. Asher Miller You know, in "The Breakfast Club," and all get along. Rob Dietz If we're gonna talk about racism and John Hughes, that's a whole other episode that we could fill up like that. So. . . Asher Miller That's true. I mean, yeah. We talked about this in our last season, and when we talked about hidden drivers, we talked about cognitive biases and these things that are kind of like traits that have developed over our evolutionary history. Which are not, by the way, we are not saying are justifications for racism. Jason Bradford Right, right. Asher Miller But we're pointing out that it's something that I think we have to be particularly sensitive to, to recognize that there might be a tendency, and I'm particularly concerned - As we were saying before, race is not the only conceptualized source of differentiation that we have. It's one that's deeply embedded in our history. It's still very deeply embedded in our society. I think we're seeing maybe some positive signs of at least awareness of that, and more of a collective conversation about it being systemic. But I'm particularly concerned that for all the things that we talk about here on Crazy Town, all the issues that we face . . . The fact that we're hurtling towards these environmental limits, so we're going to be dealing with a lot more unraveling of social cohesion, and stability, and norms in times of great stress and uncertainty. If you combine that with this tendency for in-group/out-group things and maybe historical patterns of differentiation, or just an innate way of saying, "Well, that person looks different than me, or behaves differently than me," it's a recipe for really bad shit to happen, you know? And I think we have to be really, really vigilant about it. Jason Bradford Yeah, we have to focus on what binds us rather than what separates us. Asher Miller And the most important thing is, don't name your kid Zurara. Henry, I think you can get away with Jason Bradford Yeah, or Laird MacDongle is fine. Asher Miller And no Linnaeus, okay? Rob Dietz Colonel dipshit is off the table, too. Rob Dietz Hey, you guys, we got another good review. This time, on the Pod Chaser app from someone named cataclysm. Perfect username for this show, huh? Jason Bradford Yep. Rob Dietz So Cataclysm says, "Crazy Town gives you a podcast where they actually keep thinking about serious issues like energy consumption, and overpopulation for an extended period of time without getting distracted by the latest blunders in politics or popular culture. And unbelievably, it's entertaining to listen to." It is kind of unbelievable, isn't it? Jason Bradford Yeah. I actually I appreciate that insight. Because you're right, we try to stay highbrow. Cataclysm, thank you. You're right on. You're spot on. Rob Dietz Anyway, please follow the cataclysm, if you can, and write us a review, thanks. George Costanza Every decision I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. Rob Dietz Okay, it's pretty clear, we're not going to have the recipe for ending racism. But there are a lot of things that we can all try to do to help this situation. And the very first one, I think, is do some self work, right? Try to understand and study the history. Sort of like what we've been doing and preparation for discussing this. And if you're like us, you know, if you happen to be in the United States, white and privileged, try to figure out what that means, where you can step back and shut up and let others lead the way and basically not exploit that privilege and continue that. I really had a tough moment. I moved to Oregon, and was utterly unaware of its sorted racist history. I mean, you know, anywhere you go in the United States, you could probably find a good, sorted, racist story. But Oregon was particularly bad with Sunset laws. Basically, expelling people of color from its municipalities, and you see the effects today, just in the demographics. I think Portland's the whitest big city in the country. You know, these things linger on. So I think having a good sense of that history and really recognizing the power dynamics that have flowed from that is a really good starting point. Asher Miller In the case of Oregon, it's not just history. We still have a lot of white supremacist groups around. Itt's definitely a part of the dynamic. Rob Dietz Yeah, for sure. Jason Bradford I had this really interesting experience when my great grandfather was getting on in age. You know, it was this typical thing where the families had spread out and they're all in their careers. And so, what you do if you've got enough money and you had saved enough, is you hire helpers, right? And this woman started coming in to the house to clean up, cook for him, make sure he got his meds, etc. And then it really developed a real relationship where as he got more and more needy, she became kind of his full time helper. And eventually, he bought a house that she and her husband and two kids lived in with him. And when he passed, that was their house. He basically bought it for them. And he just became part of their family. Now, what's fascinating to me is that they were an immigrant family from Latin America. And I remember him talking to me, maybe one of the last conversations I had with him, and he's very reflective of the time. And he was basically saying, you know, I spent most of my life as a racist. I really looked down on people like this, and he was in tears. And he was acknowledging that and how sad he was that he didn't recognize how wonderful these folks, or any human can be. And he saw how loving, and how they lived together, and how they treated each other, and how they cared for him. And I was just like, floored. So I think there is opportunities for anybody to change like that. Rob Dietz That's a really sweet story, Jason, because I thought you were gonna go to this place that you see the rest of the family was really upset because they didn't get the money and he gave it to the caregiver. Jason Bradford Oh no, not at all. Rob Dietz It's not that at all. So I'm like, that's a really good example. Jason Bradford We thought it was fantastic. Rob Dietz Yeah, I mean, that's a really good example of what we're talking about. Like reckoning with your own stuff and your own views. And trying to get to the bottom of it. Asher Miller And giving up some privilege. Yeah, right. I mean, I think there's a lot of individual internal work, and behavioral work, that all of us who are in a situation where we've benefited from white privilege, to recognize our own prejudices, think about our own behaviors, and our contribution, and how we continue to contribute to a system. Rob Dietz Yeah. Even through silence. Asher Miller Absolutely. Yeah, I think that that's true. And not everyone is in a position to do things to try to rebalance, in a sense. But if you are, like your grandfather, I mean, that was a major gesture - which obviously was not done from a racial lens or something. Right? This was done because he had a relationship with them. So that's the whole point. I guess I would add in thinking about doing the opposite, and it's not so much of doing the opposite, but it's going further, right? So I think what we're seeing right now, and I see it as a positive step, for sure, is a movement to kind of address legacy stuff, right? Statues, the names on buildings, the names of roads. . . So you know, whatever it is. Rob Dietz I am glad you brought this up. I love this stuff. Seriously. We live in this matrix of names and monuments and stuff. Asher Miller And you grew up in the South. Rob Dietz Yeah. So there's been three examples in very recent history that have kind of blown me away, and that I'm going to share with you guys. So one, a few years ago, I took this civil disobedience course. And the teacher of it, she had put all these cool historic photos, like MLK speaking at the Lincoln Memorial, and a bunch of other photos up on the wall. And at some point, he said, "Go take one of these photos. Pick your favorite, and then explain why you like it." And I saw this one of this woman who, it turns out her name is Bree Newsome, and she was on top of this flagpole in front of the South Carolina Capitol, tearing the Confederate flag down. I think this happened about five years ago. And I was like, what a bad ass. She just went there, climbed it. She knew that she was going to get arrested, and she was probably trying not to be harmed in the process. But really awesome direct, like, "I'm taking down this symbol of oppression and I'm gonna pay the price for it." That's one example. Another, when I lived in the D.C. area, there was a point where I was living in Virginia, just off of Lee Highway, which of course named after Robert E. Lee. And that's just been changed to Langston Boulevard, which is interesting in the Crazy Town perspective. From this show about racism, where it goes from Robert E. Lee to John Langston, who was the first African American from Virginia to be elected to Congress, but also from Highway to Boulevard, because they sort of wanted it to be more like a main street than have this superhighway type name. So yeah, it's kind of a little two piece - bonus piece, there. Okay, the third thing that's really got me amped is I live most of the time in Portland now, and I'm pretty close to Mount Tabor, which used to be a big part of the water infrastructure of the city. Now it's a park, so it's got forested, extinct volcano, and . . . Jason Bradford that's pretty cool. Rob Dietz Yeah, it's a neat spot. You can get out in the woods in the middle of the city. And right at the top of it, there was this monument to a guy named Harvey Scott, who was the chief editor, the head of the Oregonian newspaper way back in the day. And famously, he was against women's suffrage and kind of one of these - Asher Miller Assholes. Rob Dietz Yeah, white guy douchebags. He probably read Zurara's book or some shit. So you know, a lot of people didn't like that this is the monument. It's sort of looming over the city and at some point, it got torn down. And so then you just had this blank pedestal that was sitting there for a while. And finally, a sculptor actually put a new bust up on this pedestal, and it was of York. And York was a person who had been enslaved, and he was a member of the Lewis and Clark party. Asher Miller Right. I remember reading about York. Rob Dietz Yeah, so he was in he was an integral member. Like he was really good at taking care of people who got sick. He was good at hunting, and just you know, a full on wilderness explorer that is badass going across the continent. And after the mission was successful, he asked Clarke if he could have his freedom and Clark refused. Because maybe he read Zurara's - I don't know what the hell is wrong with people. But anyway, this bust of York went up there. And while I was looking into this, I found out another fact that just frickin' blew my mind. So the original statue of Harvey Scott was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, who it turns out is the guy that made the giant base relief Confederate monument. The biggest Confederate monument in the world at frickin' Stone Mountain. Asher Miller Oh right! Rob Dietz Yeah, with Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and whoever the last guy, Lord McDongle? Stonewall Jackson, was up there. Rob Dietz Laird, Laird. Rob Dietz Oh yeah, sorry. Oh, this guy. I can't stand him - Gutzon Borglum. Asher Miller So, he carved out a niche for himself for making statues of the most reprehensible people in the U.S. Rob Dietz I think he had this huge white supremacist agenda and carved it into the frickin' landscape. Asher Miller I think we should name a venereal disease after that dude. I got Gutzoned. Gutzoned Borglumed. Rob Dietz Yeah, yeah. Gutzonditus Borglumitis of the testicles or something. So it's an ongoing drama, actually, because then the York bust was torn down. So the city, I think, is trying to figure out what it wants to do. Right now it's an empty pedestal. And I say take it all out. Let's just have it be nature and be done with it, but I wouldn't mind having the York statue back. Asher Miller Yeah. So but my point was, all these things, I think are really positive signs. I am supportive. But I would challenge us to go further, right. I mean, sometimes I worry that these kinds of changes, changing the names of schools, changing the names of streets, taking down statues, it can be easy to sort of rest on your laurels and pat yourself on the back and say, we've made this this correction. But a true reckoning - And I think there's an argument to be made that we shouldn't erase our history because we need to grapple with it. But beyond that, it's more about, let's get to the true legacy of these people. You know, it's not the fact that they have a name on a building. It's their direct impact and their collective impact of a system that continues to further exploit and generate completely unequal results for people. So we have to get to the true sources of this injustice. Jason Bradford Like the tax code. I mean, for God's sakes, if as much time was spent on the tax code as we spent on this stuff, maybe there'd be a difference right now. Asher Miller Right. So we need to get to the economic roots, the systemic roots of these things. And we need to play, I think you talked about this, Rob, where when we look at our own behavior, sometimes behavior is complacency, it's silence. I think we need to take it upon ourselves to say that splintering of identities, or somehow trying to say, you know, this group has got a worse off than this group, or whatever. . . We need to see that all of this differentiation and exploitation is about maintaining power for an elite group of people. So we need to come together in a sense to get to the source of all of that. Rob Dietz Yeah. And if all this fails, work on inventing that time machine so you can punch Zurara in the face. Asher Miller Please. And if you do let me know. I'll be the first to go. Jason Bradford He'll be a test a test pilot. Asher Miller Absolutely. Rob Dietz We want to give a special thanks to Elana Zuber, our star researcher of the watershed moments through history. Without her work, there's no way we could have covered such sweeping topics this season. Asher Miller Yeah, and we also want to thank our other outstanding volunteers. Anya Steuer provides original artwork for us and Taylor Antal prepares the transcripts for each episode. Jason Bradford And a big, big thank you to our producer Melody Travers, who helps us bozos stay professional. Rob Dietz And finally, thanks to you, our listeners. If you want to help others find their way to Crazy Town, please drop us a five star rating and hit that share button when you hear an episode you like. Jason Bradford Hey, guys, amazing, amazing sponsor this week. This is something I've been looking for and some people have stepped up. I'm talking about the metaverse sustainability coalition. Yeah, no, it's a big deal. In the metaverse, we cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes we made in the universe. We need sustainable development and communities. 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