Interest in the origin of the so-called race arose into the 17th century when the white “race” was in the ascendant; hence it was naturally assumed that the white race was the original, and that the Ham story was true. In the latter part of the 18th century, however, Blumenbach, a German anthropologist , improved on this theory, declaring that while it was true that the white race was the first, yet the other so-called races were in no way inherently inferior, and that the difference was due to environment. He stressed particularly, the equality of the Negro with the rest of the human race.
For the white race, Blumenbach coined the word “Caucasian,” and he did it in a manner characteristic of much of what still passes for science in all matters of race. In his collection of skulls was one of a woman found on Mt. Caucasus in Georgia, Asiatic Russia. It was a shapely, handsome skull, and Blumenbach thinking it was typical of the white race dubbed it “Caucasian.”
Later, this proceeding vastly amused Thomas Huxley, who ranks near to Darwin in his efforts to solve the riddle of Man. “Of all the odd myths that have arisen in the scientific world,” said Huxley, “the ‘Caucasian mystery’ invented quite innocently by Blumenbach, is the oddest. A Georgian woman’s skull was the handsomest in his collection. Hence it became his model exemplar of human skulls from which all others might be regarded as deviations; and out of this by some strange intellectual hocus-pocus grew up the notion that the Caucasian man is the proto-typic ‘Adamic’ man and his country the primitive centre of our kind.”
Huxley, on his part, declared that there were only two “races,” the ulotrician or woolly-haired, and the lissotrichian, or silky-haired. Color, features, and the rest didn’t count, he said. Haddon agreed with him but name a third, the frizzly-haired. Others have named as many as sixty-three races.
And there you are. When you enter the field of anthropology, you are right back in the intellectual bogs of the Middle Ages when learned theologians used to argue where Cain got his wife; or how many angels could dance on the point of a needle; or if Christ was the Son of God how could he be as old as God. In time the theologian came to be regarded as a symbol of boredom and asininity. The word, ethnologist, is rapidly drifting into the same category.
The so-called races do have points in physical difference, but so also do all individuals of which these races are composed. Nevertheless, certain professors and doctors of philosophy under the influence of capitalism and also to satisfy their own egos insisted that there were hard and fast and even air-tight divisions. Fair-skinned humanity was then encroaching on the lands of dark-skinned ones and the capitalists had to have some theory to quiet the conscientious victims of their own race and also to keep their own status right with God. Moreover, the colleges were maintained by the richer whites who looked down on the poorer whites. From looking down on poor whites to looking down on darker peoples is but a step.
Color discrimination thus began. Tobacco and cotton were needed in Virginia for sale to Europe. Tobacco was at one time currency in Virginia. White serfs were growing it. These were not succeeding very well. Black men were then imported. They proved capable and willing workers. The doctrine of upper class white superiority over lower-class whites which had been operating alone for thousands of years suddenly moved then into larger quarters so to speak, and took in the Negro, putting him in the lowest rank because of his difference in color. Had the Negro been an incompetent and an unwilling worker, like the Indian, he would never have got the very bad name he did. It was his very assimilability, his capacity for progress that caused the slave-holders to invent the doctrine of inferiority in order to keep him down. Fifty-one years after the Negro’s arrival in Virginia, a law was passed to prevent his buying white people. Louisiana passed such a law as late as 1818.
Source: J.A. Rogers, Sex & Race. Vol. 1. p. 24-5.