Julianne Jennings: The development of a 'Great White Race'

"Historically, when different groups of people came into contact with one another, they offered different explanations for the phenotypic variations they saw. Because skin color was so noticeable, it was the most frequently explained trait and most systems of racial classification came to be based on these explanations. Race would later become both a classifier and ranking of human beings according to inferior and superior types. Although race is a concept developed in the west during the Enlightenment period, it eventually spread to many parts of the non-Western world through international commerce, including the slave trade and, later colonial conquest.

The predominant colonial theory of race was “the great chain of being…” the idea that human races could be lined up from most superior to most inferior. The chain starts from God and progresses downward to angels, demons, stars, moon, kings (the top of humanity’s social order is the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings), princes, nobles, men, wild animals, domesticated animals, trees, other plants, precious stones, precious metals, minerals, and then an arrangement of non-white people, with blacks at the bottom. There is no mention of Indians as they were considered proto-human and did not descend from the original pair (Adam and Eve)."

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Julianne Jennings: The Making of the Great White Race (Indian Country Today 3/26)

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