I'm going to say something that will surely draw fire. Race, as a word with any presumptions of embodying meaningful information, is no longer useful. It is because, when we speak of "race", we aren't really talking in terms of old paradigms. Those long dead colonial assumptions about physical distinctions that are dependent upon genetic coding (and inevitably manifest in the context of culture), are passé. When we speak about ethnic sub-groups and their traits of enculturation, we're referring to something ephemeral that disappears for all intents and purposes, after a generation or two---all things being equal. But when we speak of "race" as something designating real biological difference or evolutionary distinctness, the new science of DNA tracing reveals how inadequate such antique ideas really are. And there's the rub. In modern America and for even longer in Europe, race is no longer officially recognized as a marker of limitation or separation...but...
Now, having said all that, I add this this caveat. In spite of the cutting edge understanding of what "race" really is and how insignificant it is to the greater human mission within life itself, it is still around for exploitation and will take more than science and social experiment alone to bannish it forever from the census forms. Me? I like to remember to keep the faith and to pass the good news along about the surprising cohesion of the human family... and maybe someday my grandkids will not even understand what I'm talking about apart from its value as a novelty of history.
I invite anyone to react to my hard won optimism about my grandchildren's future.
I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding the 'reality' of race as a physical, biological thing. Race, as such, does not exist. There is only one human race: human. The species is so closely related genetically that any local/temporal variations are simply not possible to be accurately identified as being distinct, biological races.
Here is how I make sense of the ongoing discussion of 'race' in modern society:
Biological, physical races do not exist. But the concept of 'race' continues to exist. It is very much analogous to an actual, real god not existing, while the concept of god/gods do certainly exist (or else we atheists would have no reason to call ourselves atheists).
A concept is a mental and/or cultural structure that exists within human minds, and usually purports to be 'about' something in the real world, though not all concepts actually do refer to anything real (e.g. the concept of 'god').
As such, there are no actual, biological races, but there are many people who believe in actual biological races.
In order to speak about belief in the concept of 'race' without coming off as a jerk, I have had some success using the word 'racial' instead of 'racist'. Therefore, I refer to someone who believes in 'race' as having 'racial beliefs' or a 'racial culture', rather than 'racist beliefs' or 'racist culture', which I reserve for those racial cultures/people who not only believe in 'race', but also believe that some 'races' are better than others.
What I find very helpful from this perspective is that it identifies 'race' as a purely cultural belief, having no true connection to anything biological. Thus, I can still talk about the problem of racism, which certainly still exists, while denying the existence of any connection between racism and biology.
Race does not exist, but racism certainly does, and is certainly a problem. It is a purely cultural problem of belief, based on peoples' superficial appearances.
I am not 'white', although many people with racial ideas would categorize me as 'white', even though there is no genetic/biological basis for this categorization. My friend is not 'black', although he may identify himself as 'black' or 'Black', and may participate in what he identifies as 'Black people' or 'Black community' or other label. What he is referring to, I would refer to instead as 'Black' culture, which is a broad category of culture, mainly having in common that 'Black' culture maintains a belief in 'race', and specifically a 'black' or 'Black' race. I can refer to 'Black' culture as a 'racial' culture, without accidentally labeling it as a 'racist' culture, which would be incorrect.
I no longer answer 'white' or 'Caucasian' on surveys. I either answer 'other' or 'none' or 'human'.
I like this perspective because it doesn't suffer from the typical problems of so-called 'colour-blindness'. I am not blind to colour, I just don't think it has anything to do with a person's value or even personal identity. I am aware of racism, do not deny it exists, and strive in my own way to counter it when I can, and especially within myself. Furthermore, I see value in doing things like promoting inclusion of people who are often categorized as 'people of colour', for the purpose of fighting back against racist beliefs, and even racial beliefs. I would be just as in favour of promoting inclusion of brown-eyed people if we lived in a world where many people were discriminated against because they happen to have brown eyes (as I do).
In fact, I find the realization of the scientific truth of the non-existence of biological race as something very eye-opening, inspiring, and indeed wondrous. I hope more people come to this realization in the future. Not just those who are 'racist', but also those with 'racial' beliefs and/or culture. The best long-term way to eliminate racism is to make people realize that 'race' doesn't even exist!
Sadly, I do not share your optimism. Since when do people let scientific truth get in the way of social norms, memetic imagery, identity politics and racial ideology? Darwin published On The Origin of Species in 1859. His definitive work should have put any notions of creationism to bed forever. How'd that work out? Next Darwin published The Descent of Man in 1871. This treatise, which proposed the "out of Africa" hypothesis should have connected all mankind to one another in a way that ended all conflict along tribal and racial lines forever. That wasn't an overwhelming success either.
People don't give a crap about what's true; only what's practical. I don't think that rich Whites in Beverly Hills will ever invite Mexicans in East LA to join their exclusive country clubs, not even the really rich ones. A full 1/2 of all Republicans still think that Obama is a Muslim from Kenya. STILL..? Do they really believe this or is there something more insidious deep down in the places that they don't talk about at parties? I have been looking forward to a post racial America my entire life. Unfortunately for all of us the promise of biological discovery doesn't easily translate to a change in public perception.
reply to John Salters Jr.~
That's OK. You're allowed to be less optimistic than me. But I think it's unfair to lump that sampling of racist American 'boneheads', (albeit sizeable still), into the general equations measuring overall trends toward an open society with high social cohesion. Keep the faith in mankind, if you have any. Things will keep changing...time is our ally.
actuallly the idea of "RACE" is relatively new it was a construct of the atlantic slave trade.
previously people named themselves by where they came from or their social / political group I.E. Han chinese,Igbo africans, greek in greece, scots in scotland etc.