Sunday, September 7, 2014

Race, Shmace

I get extremely tired of professionally outraged "spokesmen" -- like Rev. Al "Mighty Mouth" Sharpton, for example -- reliably harping on any "racial" aspect of crime or political troubles.  Most people have recognized that the trouble in Ferguson, Missouri happened more because of the militarization of the cops than the usual racial troubles.  Indeed, there are several political movements afoot to stop the army's practice of dumping old tanks, rocket-launchers, grenades, etc. on local police departments, which should do a helluva lot more to prevent cop excesses than all the "racism" speeches that reliably get on the 6 o' clock news -- speeches that usually end on a theme of "you owe me, Whitey" (and imply "gimme the money").

Look, what we call "race" is 90% illusion and 10% culture.  Yes, different bloodlines of humans have slight physical differences -- skin and hair and eye color, height, allergies, details of bone structure, weaknesses or immunities to different diseases, etc. -- but in fact there are fewer differences between "races" of humans than between breeds of dogs, or cats, or horses.  There's less difference between an African Pygmy and an African Watusi than between a Shetland pony and a Clydesdale draft-horse, less difference between a "white" man and a "black" one than between a Persian cat and a Siamese, or between a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard.  Any geneticist or biologist could tell you as much.

Certainly minor physical differences -- skin color, eye shape, even length of ear-lobes -- have been used throughout history as excuses for one group of people to dominate and exploit others, but (as Aesop pointed out nearly 3000 years ago) evil will take any excuse: "race", religion, land of origin, language, last name, or any other human characteristic you can think of.  Why?  Because it's fun -- and profitable.  It's very flattering to believe that you're naturally and automatically superior to a whole slew of other people, without any effort on your part.  (If you've ever seen pictures of a modern neo-Nazi rally, you'd have noticed how stupid and ugly most of them look;  one has to be a pretty nowhere human being to have nothing to be proud of but the color of one's skin.)  It's also wonderfully useful to have an identifiable bunch of people whom one can order around at will, and use for cheap labor and unpopular jobs.  So long as humans indulge in arrogance and thoughtless greed, we'll continue to see eruptions of niggerization -- under any excuse.  We'll also see opportunists making political and financial hay out of the resistance -- likewise, under any excuse.

The real irony to this story is that the modern "races" are no more than 15,000 years old, and that the breeds of humans have diverged and converged once before this.  Thanks to DNA and archeology, we now know that Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, Java Man and Denisovan Man were not different species of human but different breeds -- races -- and Neanderthal was probably the oldest of the lot.  Just when they diverged is difficult to tell, but they eventually re-encountered each other -- and interbred -- somewhere around 30,000 years ago.  So, for at least 10,000 years there was just one "race" -- human -- wandering around the world, slowly improving their survival techniques, always looking for better hunting-grounds, until their wanderings took groups of them far enough apart that they began genetically diverging again.  In other words, we're all the result of "race mixing", "mongrelization", and all that.

Yes, different bloodlines can have various genetic strengths and weaknesses, culture exacerbates the differences, and politicking makes it worse, but "race" itself is a joke -- a joke that's outworn and overdue to be forgotten.

--Leslie <;)))><     



Paradoctor said...

It takes living only a few millennia in place for a human group's melanin level to adapt to the local sunlight. 'Race' is basically a genetic tan; it's skin deep.

But racism - or to be precise tribalism - goes deeper. By instinct we exaggerate small differences. This is controlled by culture, so we can exaggerate differences of skin tone, or hair color, or clothing styles, or tribal affiliation, or religion, and so on.

So though race doesn't really exist, racism really does! It's one of Mother Nature's little jokes.

Aya Katz said...

People waste too much time worrying about race. Human breeds diverge and then merge and diverge again. But just like many other kinds of affiliation, if people believe in race, then it's real.

Leslie Fish said...

I keep harping on "culture" -- the way a whole society thinks -- as the real problem, because a whole society can think well or very badly. A culture, or at least parts of it, can last for a very long time (millennia, in the case of the Arabs!), but "culture" is one part of our environment that we *can* choose. In the last century our society has chosen to throw away racism, sexism, religion-ism, and a few other bigotries -- slow though the progress has been, because there are still a lot of people who profit from them (on both sides of the problem). All it would take to make "race" and racism "unreal" is to *choose* it. That choice would move faster, I suspect, if we could find a way to make racism -- and racism politicking -- unprofitable. Any ideas on how to do that?