“Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human.”

–Alveda King – 2009

Scientific racism is the act of using scientific findings to investigate the differences between the human races and their distinct qualities. In history, this type of research was conducted in order to suppress individuals and to justify the superiority of some.

One example of scientific racism is a theory named drapetomania. Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A Cartwright in 1851 which he claimed caused black slaves to flee captivity or to disobey authority. Cartwright described the disorder as unknown to the medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the fleeing of black slaves, was well known to planters and overseers. His findings were widely reprinted in the American colonies. He stated that the disorder was a consequence of masters who “made themselves too familiar with slaves, treating them as equals.”

In addition to identifying drapetomania, Cartwright prescribed a remedy. In the case of slaves “sulky and dissatisfied without cause,” Cartwright suggested “whipping the devil out of them” as a preventative measure.