Who Says Black Women Don’t Breastfeed? I’ll Give You A Hint: It Isn’t Carlos Linnaeus!


Maybe we shouldn’t have laughed, but my classmates and I, and the professor all had a real good howl in class last week at the foolery that was (and continues to be) Carlos Linnaeus’ science — his scientific racism.

Carlos Linnaeus was a physician from the 18th century, and who many have called the ‘Father of Taxonomy’. He got this name because of his methods for ranking and classification — of people, plants and various other things. During this ‘Enlightenment Era,’ there was much of this kind of discourse that created the framework of racial categorization. Below, I’ve posted just the way he did this — as far as categorizing each different groups, based on the continent location, where white  people — the ‘Europeaus’, were seen as possessing characteristics where them came out on top, of course:

  1. Americanus: reddish, choleric, and erect; hair black, straight, thick; wide nostrils, scanty beard; obstinate, merry, free; paints himself with fine red lines; regulated by customs.
  2. Asiaticus: sallow, melancholy, stiff; hair black; dark eyes; severe, haughty, avaricious; covered with loose garments; ruled by opinions.
  3. Africanus: black, phlegmatic, relaxed; hair black, frizzled; skin silky; nose flat; lips tumid; women without shame, they lactate profusely; crafty, indolent, negligent; anoints himself with grease; governed by caprice.
  4. Europeaeus: white, sanguine, muscular; hair long, flowing; eyes blue; gentle, acute, inventive; covers himself with close vestments; governed by laws.

Lactating profusely, a characteristic of the ‘Africanus’, was obviously seen as a stigma — along with anointing ourselves with grease. Of course it’s pretty sad that this ideology has pervaded the science world for so long, and that these types of attitudes still remain rampant and people still celebrate this (DWM) Dead White Man — OK, maybe he may have made some contribution somewhere to the world of science. I think the laugh that my classmates and I shared about this are some of the best things about being a part of a decolonial alterNative anthropology.

What are your thoughts? African American Breastfeeding

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