Progression of racism in U.S. linked to need to feel superior over others
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Feb 14, 2013 | 1813 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bishop Michael Reynolds speaks Wednesday during the Black Ministries Awareness Celebration at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. Reynolds lectured on the progression of racism in the United States. The three-day event ended today. Banner Photo, DAVID DAVIS
Bishop Michael Reynolds speaks Wednesday during the Black Ministries Awareness Celebration at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. Reynolds lectured on the progression of racism in the United States. The three-day event ended today. Banner Photo, DAVID DAVIS
If the first day of the Black Ministries Awareness Celebration was a lesson in race relations, then the second day on Wednesday was a lesson on the progression of racism in the United States.

Church of God Bishop Dr. Michael Reynolds of Chicago said the ideological division of race hinges on the notion of one group being superior to another in all aspects of life. “Race” was conceived to make someone feel superior and, “... It has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do with harnessing people’s resources,” he said.

The three-day seminar is sponsored by the Black Ministries Department of the Church of God and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. During a 90-minute lecture, he told his audience racism exists most where there is the most need for resources. There was a need for “race” to justify enslaving Africans in the United States.

“Not only did you need to have a race policy. You had to have a race theology to make sure they understood God wanted them in that particular place,” he said. “You also create a race that is superior. (The thought at the time was) Native Americans were in the way of our Manifest Destiny. God gave us a calling to possess everything from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and anything between there belongs to us, whether there are people already living there or not.”

Once the land was taken, a subordinate class had to be created in order to declare the new land was civilized.

“Of course, it couldn’t be civilized until the superior race showed up to provide that civilization,” he said. “You have to understand the history of where this ‘race’ has come from. Systematic racism comes out of ideological racism. Then you begin to put in place institutional racism, but not within one institution, but within multiple institutions.”

For example, the legal, education and public health care systems bestowed advantages based on appearance.

“People are looking at your external appearances and granting you privileges and denying you privileges,” he said.

Reynolds said institutional racism led to “weird science” that looked at a preferred set of findings and determined them to be true.

“Science investigated every part of the Negro body. You can find manuals for the Negro’s ankle, the Negro’s foot, the Negro hand and the Negro arm because there was a determination that we’re going to find the gene that shows the Negro is different and needs to be segregated,” he said. “Every part of the Negro was compared to the other races because it was so inferior.”

That belief was so institutionally entrenched that African-Americans in the Army could not fly airplanes. [A decision-maker] said that because the blood vessels to the Negro brain were so small, the vessels would constrict. Less blood would flow through the restricted vessels and cause Negroes to lose consciousness, he said. However, that was of secondary concern since Negroes purportedly did not have the intelligence to fly a plane in the first place, the speaker noted.

“This was scientifically determined, not because a man flew in a plane. It was ‘scientifically proven’ by doctors on the ground, but the Tuskegee Airmen turned that around,” Reynolds said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, syphilis in the United States was rampant in the 1920s. An aggressive treatment approach was initiated in 1929 with mercury and bismuth. The treatment required months, the cure rate was less than 30 percent and the side effects were toxic and sometimes fatal.

“Syphilis was ravishing people’s lives and messing up people’s worlds,” he said.

So, in 1932, the Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began a study to record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of justifying treatment programs for blacks. It was called the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," according to the CDC.

The study initially involved 600 black men — 399 with syphilis and 201 who did not have the disease. The study was conducted without the benefit of patients' informed consent. Researchers told the men they were being treated for "bad blood," a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue. In truth, they did not receive the proper treatment needed to cure their illness. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Although originally projected to last six months, the study actually went on for 40 years, according to the CDC.

“Let’s tell them they have ‘bad blood,’” Reynolds told his audience. “I still don’t know what ‘bad blood’ is, but I don’t want it.”

The test ended in 1972 after The Associated Press ran stories condemning the study though penicillin had became the accepted treatment of choice for the disease in 1945.

“Scientists believed the African-American man was less developed in evolutionary terms than the rest of the people in the world and because they were less developed, it was believed they would have a longer resistance to the disease. Therefore, scientists could study the African-American male and discover how to save the rest of the races,” Reynolds said.

He said Texas was admitted as a slave state because its leaders declared blacks were inferior.

“I’m telling you that when we sit here today and say this thing (racism) was in a little box, it affected every piece of our society, what we thought and decisions that we made,” he said. “When we look at the issues surrounding science, it leads to eugenics.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, eugenics is “a science that deals with the improvement of hereditary qualities in a series of generations of a race or breed especially by social control of human mating and reproduction,” and “the process or means of race improvement (as by restricting mating to superior types suited to each other).”

The term “eugenics” was coined by Sir Francis Galton in about 1883. It is derived from the Greek word eugenes, meaning "well-born, of good stock, of noble race."

According to several websites, Galton (Feb. 16, 1822 to Jan. 17, 1911) was a British explorer, anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin. Though he studied medicine at Cambridge University, he never received a degree.

As a young man, he traveled widely in Europe and Africa, making useful contributions in zoology and geography. He was among the first to recognize the implications of Darwin's theory of evolution, eventually coining the word eugenics to denote the science of planned human betterment through selective mating. Galton proposed that a system of arranged marriages between men of distinction and women of wealth would eventually produce a gifted race.

The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1926, supported Galton's theories. U.S. eugenicists also supported restriction on immigration from nations with “inferior” stock, such as Italy, Greece and countries of eastern Europe, and argued for the sterilization of “insane, retarded and epileptic citizens.”

Sterilization laws were passed in more than half the states, and isolated instances of involuntary sterilization continued into the 1970s.

The assumptions of eugenicists came under sharp criticism beginning in the 1930s and were discredited after the German Nazis used eugenics to support the extermination of Jews, blacks and homosexuals

North Carolina's eugenics program which operated from 1933 to 1977, was the most aggressive of the 32 states that had eugenics programs. An IQ of 70 or lower meant sterilization was appropriate in North Carolina and the North Carolina Eugenics Board almost always approved proposals brought before them by local welfare boards.

Of all states, only North Carolina gave social workers the power to designate people for sterilization.

“Hitler used the American scientific study of eugenics to put forth the society of pure blood of the Aryan race,” Reynolds said. “We had already done the research for him in advance. Planned Parenthood was connected to that process to sterilize women, so that you could get rid of defective people in our society. They just happened to be people who were not desirable in our society.”

Reynolds is pastor of the New Life Church of God in Chicago. He is an associate professor of Christian ministries at Trinity College and affiliate professor of pastoral theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity. He also serves as executive director and associate dean at Trinity International University at the South Chicago Regional Campus in Dolton, Ill.