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Tommy Carey

Professor Lo
Race and Social Justice
6th June 2016
Inquiry and Critical Thinking:
Inquiry and critical thinking to me means to really dive in and analyze a piece of
scholarly work whether its from a book, article, video, etc. Its the process of not only learning
new material, but to better understand the material and the message behind whats being
analyzed and why. The why is important because its what critical thinking is about. The
process of understanding the material in class is important and getting students to become more
aware about certain topics can inspire them to continue to learn about certain concepts pertaining
to the class. Inquiry can also mean to seek out information. This can be anything from research,
or physically talking to someone about something youre looking into. Inquiry is an important
tool to have because learning new things and why can be vital tools to have and going out of
your way to acquire new skills and concepts can help in the future. These two tie in together well
because they are essential part of the same process. Inquiry being the want to learn and study
something new to you and then going on to analyze the new material using critical thinking both
correlate to why theyre related. Inquiry and critical thinking were both used throughout the year
for a multitude of assignments related to analyzing articles and books. Bing able to apply
yourself to the work is what was important.

Assignments:
Black Bodies, White Science

While reading Black Bodies, White Science, the Author Brian Wallis takes the reader
back to 1850 to learn about and analyze the findings of the Swiss Paleontologist Louis Agassiz.
Agassiz was introduced to the idea that Africans were a different type of species and he would
photograph his findings with a style he called daguerreotypes and this was where he would
photograph the African American slaves and compare their physical appearance to those of a
white person. Agassiz was very fascinated with the study of skull types as a classification of race,
he would compare a white person's skull to a black person and make the argument that since the
jaw line of an African American goes out further than the average white person, that they are
infact not human and more monkey like based on how their skulls appear. Agassiz evidence for
these finding is very vague in my opinion and I feel that he is just making generalizations and
racial assumptions seeing his minimal background on the knowledge of slavery in the United
States during this time period. Another problem of his is who he work with in Samuel Morton
and Mortons idea of races not having the ability to evolve and stay static forever which is
scientifically proven wrong seeing that the human race evolves everyday. The Author presents
this evidence by giving the reader examples of the finding of Agassiz and Morton and what they
were working on pertaining to photographing of African Americans and how they were making
racist assumptions based on their physical appearance. A lot of the evidence seen in this reading
is coming mostly from the Author insight about Agassizs colleagues and he brings up how one
of his mentors, Baron Cuvier, was a very perversive paleontologist who made very racist
remarks about the African American female body and this was mostly because of the abuse he
would do to the victim. If you examine their work, you can tell that its mostly just general
assumptions, no real solid evidence.

I personally wouldnt say that his evidence is very convincing. You can tell that all the
data and facts they created during this time period is mostly based on racist assumptions and the
general opinion about slaves and how their body functions. The law even said during this time
that they count as 3/5th of a man so obviously people arent going to treat them like theyre a
human being which is generally disgusting looking back at it now. I do think that there are some
interesting things that Agassiz pointed out pertaining to the structure of skulls with different
races, but then again maybe that was just a unique situation with the African Americans jaw line
being just a little bit out further than the white person he was comparing it with.
Again, the evidence presented is mostly based off assumptions and racial stereotyping,
theres nothing really convincing that pops out while looking at the daguerreotypes and
examining the bodies of the slaves where you would say that they arent human. I just think
this is something where during the time period of slavery that people were ignorant to the
African American race and the idea that they were indeed actually people. The way the
photographs of these slaves were taken too is very contradicting to their real identity. The
photographs seemed like they almost altered the way the men and women looked by making
their complexion different, compared to the average white American.

The Anthropological Construction of Indians


While reader through The Anthropological Construction of Indians by Thomas Biolsi,
the Author almost contradicts himself through most of the passage. Its understandable that the
author has a problem with Mekeels inconsistency on the topic but the real question is why does
he still praise him? This would be the most obvious fallacy in the article.
Throughout the reading, Biolsi discredits Mekeel for his racism about the Native
Americans and calls Mekeel's ideology racist. At the same time though, Biolsi praises Mekeel for

his anthropology work and goes on about how great hes done in his field and how great of an
anthropologist he is. For example on page 135, right after discussing how predigest Mekeel is
towards this race, Biolsi goes on about how Mekeel was an Anthropologist like no other and
how other anthropologists might of have had racial assumptions already about the Native
American race but since its Mekeel its totally acceptable because of his previous work and how
prestigious of an Anthropologist he is. Its also very interesting how Biolsi almost sort of backs
up Mekeel like in the middle of the treaties are traditional part Biolsi keeps saying how Mekeel
just didnt know and wasnt aware of the different practices these Natives were doing so hes
kind of making excuses for him in a way for his ignorance towards their cultural practices saying
how they arent human.
One thing to recognize is how the Natives were being kicked out of the East and basically
herded to the so called Indiana territory and Mekeel was in charge of deciding if they should be
apart of society or not and maybe he was being pressured to tell them to leave following orders
of the men controlling the area. Another interesting fallacy in this text and probably the biggest
one is in the last paragraph where Biolsi talks about all of Mekeels great accomplishments and
what hes done for the Anthropology community but during this entire reading, he trashes his
racist ideology and all the concepts he had regarding Indians and their culture beliefs and just
their way of life in general. Biolsi is a scientist in his own right and a lot of the things Mekeel
said, Biolsi doesnt exactly argue which discredits him as an Author over all. Its necessary to
stick to your original idea and not to branch off and go the complete opposite way of the
argument.
It didnt seem like Biolsi was doing this on purpose because he really was trying to state
facts and argue what Meekel did and make a case that he was presumptively racist but at the

same time, he was clearly found of his work and really contradicted his entire argument
throughout the reading. Maybe if he wouldve stuck firm with his opinion and didnt go back and
forth the whole time, it wouldve made for a more convincing argument. My only question about
the reading would be why exactly do we examine the findings of scientist from over 300 years
ago? Clearly they didnt have the resources we have today to examine these types of things and
yes I know its important to be knowledgeable about the topic but we should really look at the
era and how reasoning pertaining to race would sway to the side of the people in power and you
always want to make sure those people are happy so youll do anything possible to be on their
side and do anything that they feel is true about any sort of topic pertaining to race.

Reason for choosing these assignments:


Reading and writing about Black Bodies, White Science by Brian Wallis required us as
students to critically think about the material being brought up in the reading. The overall
objective of this assignment was to take a look at and analyze what Wallis was saying about the
Swiss doctors experiences with the examination of the African American body. This required
inquiry and critical thinking because of the examination of the impact of the false science
making readers think about how this could be different. Reading The Anthropological
Construction of Indians by Thomas Biolsi, it was required to analyze the text and furthermore
examine why the author has contradictions about the material that he covers. This required
inquiry and critical thinking because the reading had to look further into what the author was
discussing and to give your impression on the contradictions the Author had. The critical
thinking aspect came into play when you were looking at the claims and the arguments the
Author put forward.