Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is There Really Such a Thing as Racism?

No, because there is no such thing as "race".

The genetic differences between groups of people with varying physical characteristics are negligible, and in fact are exceeded by the genetic variation within each of these groups. In fact, so-called "racial markers" such as skin color, hair texture, and eye shapes can just as easily be replaced by "races" that are defined by hair color (i.e., the "red-haired people"), eye color, height, etc.

For that matter, common skin hues can be found among people who share few other similarities; i.e., people from the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Australia Aboriginals.

That said, groups that have been geographically isolated tend to share similar physical characteristics and a similar culture. Most often, when people talk about "race", they are in fact referring to a culture that is shared among people who coincidentally share some general physical characteristics. In fact, some groups with a common culture have been called a "race" when they don't even share well-defined physical characteristics; Jews and "Hispanics" come to mind, as both groups span the entire spectrum of human appearance.

The idea of "race" is appealing because people like to categorize things, even if categorizations are inappropriate. For example, a person with a "white" parent and a "black" parent is considered "black" -- like politicians Obama and Rangel. Why aren't they considered white? At one time, they might have been called "mulattoes", but now they are "black". Are these changing labels the product of scientific breakthroughs in biology? Or are they just social conventions? And how about their children, and their children's children? What are they? Fact is, they might fall into many categories of (sub) culture, intelligence, language, etc., but their race, like everyone else's race, is undefined.

3 comments:

Lexcen said...

I can't fathom why Muslims label their critics as racist, for example.
Islam is not a race.

Anonymous said...

Saying there is no such thing as racism because race is a construct is a copout. Race and ethnic differences do exist, in genetic and cultural terms, even if such differences are minor in many cases, and we all know that 'racism' is a label for the ideologies of treating one such ethnic group as above another. It's good to understand and explain how such differences are of little meaning in a society that attempt to erase such boundaries.

Racism charge is overused massively in US politics as a cudgel by certain groups, (eg Jesse Jackson) who ironically are engaged in exactly the type of ethnic-based politics (in his case on behalf of African American community) that racist label represents (racism/segregation was about keeping a system that benefitted white Americans at expense of blacks).

A lot of 'progressives' tout the concept of 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism', which runs counter to the idea of treating all people of difference races the same. So I'd like your answer ot the question: Is 'diversity' racist?

I think it is. It is the same old ethnic spoils system in new clothes. Or we might say: Racism is as racism does.

shlemazl said...

You like to play with words a little too much. Not a bad argument if one is into sophism.

One can "prove" that 2+2=6, but it won't make true.