Sunday, September 18, 2005


The Measure of a Man

“The black African’s body was dissected by white antomists, his intelligence gauged by white educators, and the very existence of his soul debated by white philosophers and theologians. Few of these Caucasians doubted their racial superiority, or questioned its divine origin. Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson believed Negroes were capable of only limited mental achievement; so did Rousseau, despite his embrace of the Noble Savage ideal. David Hume, in his essay “Of National Characters (1748),” wrote, “I am apt to suspect the negroes…to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor any individual eminent in action or speculation.”…
Despite their different starting points, most racial thinkers based many of their most important conclusions on the same criterion – the African’s penis. It was stared at, feared (and in some cases desired), weighed, interpreted via Scripture, meditated on by zoologists and anthropologists, preserved in specimen jars, and, most of all, calibrated. And, in nearly every instance, its size was deemed proof that the Negro was less a man than a beast.”

From A Mind of Its Own : A Cultural History of the Penis
by David M. Friedman

Image from Robert Mapplethorpe's Black Book

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