Thursday, September 15, 2005

Were Africans smarter than their white ensalvers?

In light of the assertions that race was a deciding factor in hurricane relief and rescue efforts went searching for a book in my book case. The book "Two Nations; Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal" by Andrew Hacker, was published in 1992 and at the time created quite a stir. I'm re-reading, how much has changed and how much has stayed the same?

Was hurricane response and rescue determined by race, did race have a hand in it? Was it really due to class differences, and a contempt of the poor no matter the race? Was it blue state versus red state politics? Or was it a combination of all of these issues?

Some where in all this thought and debate my mind went off in a different direction. "Was the African and black slave actually smarter than the whites who marginalized, enslaved and imprisoned them?"

My question was raised and debated inside my head because of what we now know about the brain. For instance, we know that for a child be able to walk correctly they must be allowed the crawl as infants. That crawling helps "wire" the brain to walk. "Wiring" the brain or brain development, for physical, emotions and intelligence also happens through movement in the first few months, years of life. The swaying of a care giver holding an infant helps in brain development. Infants in intensive care are often rocked and an incubator with a mildly rocking bed was invented. We now know that movement, which is innate, (you automatically rock a child when they are crying) is terribly important to childhood development.

Back in the 1960's two Peace Corps volunteers came back to Colorado. They had served in Africa and had noticed something about the way African mothers cared for their infants, they carried them with them where ever they went, whatever work they had to do. They carried their children with them by placing them in a shawl and then tied it around them. She observed how these mothers and babies interacted, and how calm and secure these babies were.

This was far different than the rather sterile western environment of the infant, mother relationship in the west. "Don't pick babies up often or carry them much, you'll spoil them," was what mothers heard from their own mothers, their family and doctors. These mythes were also perpetuated by leading doctors may have come from the wealthy or aristocratic classes in Europe and then America because it's hard to see how a European peasant woman would not go with the practical side of carrying her baby with her. The rising European middle class may have seen this as “what poor folk do” and in an attempt to emulate the rich aristicratic class, they may have discontinued its use.

Since Africans held their babies in shawls, this allowed infants to experience continual movement, so necessary for development. While white Europeans and Americans did not value this, possibly feeling instead that it was something the poor trash, heathens or slaves did, and spoiling besides) is it possible that all else being equal (nutrition, etc.) Africans were smarter than those who enslaved them? At least in Africa?

The argument that if they were smarter they wouldn’t have been enslaved doesn’t work either. Many smart people died in Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers.

It also is an argument for evolution. Infant monkeys and apes hold on to their mothers constantly (grasping is an automatic reflex in a human baby). If we are related, if we humans are primates, than the constant swaying of the mother while the babies hold on, wires ape and monkey brains too. And I believe research has shown that.

Why would the wiring similarities be there if we weren’t related?

I think I’ll go have a banana.

I knew about Snuglis in the 1970 and bought one in 1984, for my first child. And used that same Snugli for all my children. It is quite different than the Snuglis of today.
I do believe in evolution and in God.

1 comment:

Jasmine said...

Ha! A banana! Hilarious. Unfortunately, you do so much better a job of keeping up with politics than me, the poly sci major, that the banana comment is about all I can really comment on with authority. I hope that when Clytemnestra becomes the Polis (funny again), that we can at least know who is who?