the disparaging comparison or likening of a member of a racial or ethnic minority group to an ape or monkey: simianization of Black celebrities in cartoons and caricature art.
The derogatory comparison predates the theory of evolution, but it truly flourished in the 19th century. In that era, geopolitical dominance elevated European cultural standards above those of colonized peoples. Darwin shook the foundation of scientific and spiritual beliefs about the origin of humankind and its place in the natural world. Erroneous and racist pseudoscientific stereotypes about differences among racial groups were spread.
During that turbulent social period, everything from slavery to Manifest Destiny was rationalized with dehumanizing language that likened the Other to apelike animals—from Asians and the Indigenous people of Australia and the Americas to Jewish and Irish people, and especially people of African descent.
Today, established scientific evidence refutes every dehumanizing conclusion about inherent racial inequalities. Despite surface variation in human appearances, there are more genetic differences within any one racial group than between groups. But the taint of racial pseudoscience is still associated with these simian slurs. Referring to a member of a racial or ethnic minority group as an ape or monkey still carries the weight of more than a century of racist dehumanization and the atrocities it was used to justify.
- sim·i·an·ize [sim-ee-uh-nahyz] /ˈsɪm i əˌnaɪz/ verb (used with object) sim·i·an·ized, sim·i·an·iz·ing.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023