Jeremy Popkin’s talk “Haitian Revolution and the Origins of Modern Democracy” discussed the many revolutions Haiti underwent (1776, 1789, and 1804) to establish itself as a democracy. Popkin provided insight into how the Haitian Revolution is often overlooked, forgotten, and/or disregarded. However, as unique as the Haitian Revolution was for becoming the first African-American run democracy in the New World, there may be legitimate reasons for historians to overlook the revolution.
What has the Haitian Revolution resulted in? Was it truly successful? Historians choose to delve into significant historical events. Why? Significant events, such as the American revolution, are more apt to influence subsequent historical occurrences. An event like the Haitian Revolution, although having potential to empower freed African-Americans and former slaves, did not change the world sphere. Rather, the event passed by. Some people may point to racial injustices, I would point to how the Haitians’ independence didn’t involve high stake powers and was separated from the, at the time, main-stream world.
This is my personal reflection regarding the Haitian Revolution. Although many historians will continually point to racial injustices, I would argue it would be worthwhile for them to at least consider this point of view, and at least bring it up, or counter it, when calling for people to reconsider overlooked historical events.
Evolution at this point in our history serves as the dominant conception of the ways that biological life on this planet has arisen in its modern form. From ideas of natural selection, diversity of species, and the inter-relatedness of species evolution and its many contributors continue to form the way we understand our past and future. Most recognizable, Charles Darwin’s contributions to evolution and our conception of life on earth was unquestionably revolutionary during his time period. However as we continue to move forward as a species the legacy and the roots of evolution and particularly Darwin’s ideas must be re-examined and critically analyzed. Specifically Darwin’s typological thinking, species centered humanism, and visual orientation of species must be examined in relation to its historical effects.
Professor Judy Stone outlined the historical contexts of Darwin’s ideas as being the product of notions on evolution, population genetics , natural selection, and biological classification. That is Darwin was working in a particular context that valued the separation of species and noted their separations in deviation of linear genealogies that seem to be moving toward a next step. This idea however worked in direct contradiction with his working knowledge of the ways that all humans in particular are of the same genealogy. How can humans be the same yet different at the same time? Stone noted this as a root flaw to his legacy in evolution as this topological thinking as a conceptual model implicitly and explicitly delineates racial boundaries, genetic determinisms, and creates racial hierarchies.
Now why does this matter today? Surely there is no way this explicit practice of racial classification persist today, I mean we aren’t a society that condones Eugenics or Racial Darwinism in national studies or surveys. Well no, but also kinda. To start, I believe we still assert this notion of genetic determinism in the ways we go about arguments between populations. That is, this notion that certain segments of society has caused their own predicaments and the segments that have succeeded are clearly superior in intelligence, craftiness, or etc. Now this is not verbatim arguments but this is the sentiment and in part language used by scientist, politicians, and educators today. This is a conception of reality that Darwin helped create.
Judy Stone said herself that variable traits within populations aren’t the cause of some cosmological destination of species or indication of superiority but the result of complex biological mutations that have arisen out of environmental factors over thousands and thousand of years. We cant just accept these artificial racial boundaries as objective science, and although Darwin contributed to our conception of past, present, and future we must continue to challenge. We must continue to question and analyze and thwart the legacies of evolutionary scientist, not because they were inherently bad men or women but because they were the product of a point in history and as such we must take from them the ideas we can build on a eradicate the ideas that continue to separate us.