A short how-to on defeating racism.
"This life of separateness may be compared to a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning." --Buddha
"We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness." --Thich Nhat Hanh
During my senior year in undergraduate school, I took a class called “Darwinism”. This class was designed to explore the far-reaching impact of the theories of Charles Darwin. I learned how he influenced the political, artistic, economic, and scientific communities with his landmark books The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. It was then that I first began to consciously think on the interdisciplinary level and to look for truths that manifested themselves micro- and macrocosmically. One such idea I explored was the faith and confidence people placed in social systems. It led me to the following thoughts on monetary exchange as it relates to capitalism or economic Darwinism. One, the usefulness of currency as “legal tender for all debts public and private” is directly proportional to the amount of faith we have that the next person will see it as such. Two, the dollar is fiat money; it has no intrinsic value, so, if all those in possession of this currency lose confidence in it, it would cause the economy to collapse. Our economic system requires confidence in order for it to work. If there is no confidence, no belief in the system, the system would crash. Money is merely a token of this belief. This led me to my third point: the success of any social construct depends on the strength of belief of the people who support that system. Any system can be destroyed by undermining people’s faith in that system’s fundamental principles. So, since we’re on the topic of Darwinism, let us take a look at how this principle of belief applies to the social construct of racism, a system of oppression co-opted by social Darwinists and used to justify colonization, slavery, genocide, and prejudice,
There is no such thing as race or the subdivisions of the species Homo sapiens sometimes referred to as Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid. There is no anthropological or biological scientific proof to support the idea of race within the human population. Genetic differences between people of dissimilar geographical origin are a direct result of at least two factors: adaptation to environment and prolonged isolation from other human groups. For example, people with a higher percentage of body fat like the Inuit are well-adapted to cold climates, whereas people with a smaller percentage of body fat to body weight ratio are better suited for warm climates. This would not constitute a separate race between the peoples with these different characteristics. However, it is an indicator of how the peoples have responded to their environment over several millennia. Not only does fat keep you warm, but it also is stored energy which allows a person to go longer without eating in a cold ecosystem where food is a little harder to come by.
If there is no such thing as race, then why is it so widely believed in? The answer lies in our genetic programming. As a species, we are hierarchal by nature. This trait is present in our closest relatives (chimpanzees) and in many of our distant ones. While I can understand why an adaptation for hierarchal social structure benefitted our prehistoric ancestors—the individuals who were best adapted to their environment (alpha males and females) mated and produced offspring better suited to survive—I believe that this genetic trait contributes greatly to our self-destructive tendencies. Octavia Butler writes in her novel Dawn, “You are hierarchal…When human intelligence served it instead of guiding it, when human intelligence did not even acknowledge it as a problem, but took pride in it or did not notice it at all…That was like ignoring cancer. I think your people did not realize what a dangerous thing they were doing.” In order to reinforce this hierarchal genetic trait that we take pride in, we form and build ideas to support it. Racism is such an idea.
Although there is no such thing as race, racism exists as a construct that serves to satisfy a primal need to procure the requisite resources for survival. Capitalism is no different. Nor is sexism. These –isms fall under a larger category called social Darwinism—survival of the fittest for civilized humans.
Take note that racism, sexism, and capitalism create divisions within the species. Racism separates humans into categories largely determined by physical appearance, mental capability, and continent of origin. Sexism, instead of the view that male and female are one species called human, divides the species along gender lines. Capitalism parts the community into socio-economic groups. Because of this separateness, there is inequality, as the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education proved.
What does a continued belief in race prove? It proves that too many of us are still more concerned with differences than commonalities. It proves that many of us are not yet ready give up ridership on the American express to success; afterall, membership has its privileges. It proves that we are xenophobic and not the neighborly people we profess ourselves to be.
Yet, the belief in race is not always malevolent. There are those who believe in race because there was a psychological, political, and physical safety in adopting the attitude of race consciousness (i.e. you may not believe you’re black, but the people who are coming to terrorize, disenfranchise, and hang you do). There are those who hold on to the idea of race as a means to preserve their culture. Indeed, there are those who believe that race and culture are one and the same. I applaud their drive to protect their culture, for I believe diversity to be a biological and ideological imperative. In much the same way Malaria would never wipe out the entire human race because of the sickle cell trait, so too will the cultural importance of respecting the Earth prevent its less caring inhabitants from ravaging it. The more diverse human culture is, the better suited we are to survive and the more enriched our lives will be. Still, culture, a sociological construct, should not be equated with a biological one.
How can we defeat racism? Like the stock market, racism will crash once the underlying principles that support it receive a vote of no confidence. Scientists have already done much of the groundwork. They have exposed the idea of race as simply not true . Though the idea of race may benefit some in the short term, in the long run, there is little or nothing to gain for those who hold on to this sociological currency. There is only the sentiment of those clutching to a threadbare illusion: the existence of races.
Web Site: The Hozeh
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|Reviewed by Pete Grasso
|Interesting article... Thank you for posting.
I have a few questions based on the issues of racism, science, and Darwinism as is applicable to this post.
1) You mentioned a popular theory within Darwinism that is often referred to as "Common Ancestry". Darwinism suggested that all living things are the descendants of the common ancestors (hence the premise of your article). Thus if we could trace our ancestors back far enough, we would find that we would be related to chimpanzees, gorillas, etc.; even further back to dogs, frogs, fish, plants and bacteria. One of the major "evidences" to support the idea of common ancestry is the similarities that exist between organisms, whether in terms of morphology, biochemistry, or gene sequences. Yet similarity is only circumstantial evidence of common ancestry because it can also be explained by the idea of common creator. Unfortunately, the human mind has a great capacity to find relationships even where none exists. Lining up bacteria, fish, frogs, etc., is no more evidence of common ancestry then lining up the commonalities of bicycle, motorcycle, automobile, airplane, and space shuttle. Thus, similarity is only evidence of common ancestry if one assumes that evolution is true in the first place or it could also be explained as a common beginning whereby the creator use the same materials in his creation.
2)Complex molecular systems in organisms pose a considerable challenge to Darwinian evolution. Many of the proteins involved in processes within the cell need to interact together for a particular function. Proteins are comprised of a specific sequence of building blocks, the order of which is encoded in DNA. According to evolution, such sequences can only be the result of random mutation, yet random processes cannot produce information. Moreover, because many such proteins are required to co-exist simultaneously, it is impossible for the sequence to have evolved, as only a full system of proteins has a function. This the basis of the argument of "irreducible complexity".
3) Interestingly, science and Darwinism would suggest the opposite to your thesis that if validated, the natural conclusion would be racism. Let me explain... If life burst onto the scene at the onset, for the conditions were just right, what is to say that one pond of life is not superior to another pond of life during this start? What is to say that one evolutionary tract that is retarded in development is not greater than one that is more advance? They very nature of this theory would lend to the creation of castes. However, if humanity is traced back to one beginning, and that beginning was made in the image of God -- the caste barrier is broken.
Just some food for thought.