De Jure Maurorum in Europa
(On the Rights of Blacks in Europe):
A Black Civil Rights Activist in
Europe in the Eighteenth Century
In the Western European tradition, that is to say, the tradition as reflected in Germany, France, England, and Italy and as imported into the United States, there has been a need to create stereotypes. Gilman observes in his critical work that "our need to create stereotypes has given rise to a fantastic variety of images of the Other, some of them quite remote from observable fact but all of them at one time or another solemnly accepted as veritable truth" ( 1985:11). Indeed, the most powerful stereotypes in nineteenth-century Western Europe (and I hasten to add that the incipience is to be found toward the middle of the eighteenth century) and the United States were those that associated images of race and sexuality. As will be explained later, the stereotyping of the subject of this essay arose when self-integration was threatened. He was viewed as different, and his difference threatened order and control for some. The difference was due to his race. Again Gilman states: "In 'seeing' (constructing a representational system for) the Other, we search for anatomical signs of difference such as physiognomy and skin color. The Other's physical features, from skin color to sexual structures such as the shape of the genitalia, are always the antitheses of the idealized self's" ( 1985:25). Here the links between "pathology," "sexuality," and "grace" become even more overt: sexual anatomy is so important a part of self- image that "sexually different" is tantamount to "pathological"--the Other is "impaired," "sick," "diseased." Similarly, physiognomy or skin color that is perceived as different is immediately associated with "pathology" and "sexuality."