This from NOVA|Does Race Exist.


The premise of the NOVA article is yes, there is such a thing as race.  There are gradients, and there is mixing of genes, such that not everyone can be defined as belonging to a race.  


The author points out, race is not just about skin color.   In some cases, skeletons can be more readily identified as a particular race, than by looking at the living person.  So racial variation isn't just skin deep, it's bone deep.


I've often stated that "Race doesn't exist.  But Racism is real".   Is that accurate?  If we deny that race exists, can we talk about the concept?  Or does acknowledgement of "race", lead to racism?  And regardless of the utility of the concept, if it's real, it's real.  If it's not, it's not.


(these images are from wikimedia commons, and are meant to represent archaic concepts  of race, and evolution of societal racial constructs)

File:Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary b1 218-0.jpg


It's true that "height" exists.  We can see there are taller people, and shorter people, and people in between, without ascribing characteristics like temperament, character, intelligence, "worthiness" - whatever that is - to one of the heights.  People of different heights can produce offspring who are taller, shorter, or average height.  Can "race" be thought of in the same way?  Maybe more complex, multidimensional, but by analogy?

File:Critique of the Theory of Evolution Fig 076.jpg


From PBS:  Race does not exist.  "Race, the power of an illusion".  (Alan Goodman).

Long essay.  It gives a coherent argument for stating that there is no such thing as "race".  But then again, he is specific as defining race as having discrete categories, as opposed to being a multidimensional gradient.


I don't know about the DNA argument.  It's used a lot.  Stating that people are mostly alike due to their DNA being mostly alike, seems to me as problematic.  A single gene mutation can cause profound developmental delay, or a lethal childhood disease, or any of a myriad of genetic diseases that affect health, mental ability, temperament, or other trait.  Still 100% human, but far different experience of life.  In addition, what about the DNA difference between women and men?  Biologically, a very small DNA difference - less than 1.2% - but the effect of that small percentage results in sexes that have many, significant differences in biology and in experiences of life.

It's worthy of introspection.  Now I'm leaning towards, "race" does exist; is a much more nuanced concept than can be but into boxes as "people who are this race are like this, people who are that race are like that".  As for talents, humanity, temperament, abilities, character - I see no reason why those should be more in one race than another.  


File:Deniker's Races de l'Europe (1899).jpg

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Replies to This Discussion

Your analogy to height is apt.

I do hope race exists. People evolved over time and distance with very different experiences. Those who evolved on fields of ice think and act differently than those evolved on a tropical island. There are commonalities, such as a need for nourishment, water, sexuality, self-preservation. However, they experienced very different kinds of foods and behaviors needed to survive. People who evolved near the north and south poles ate differently, had different tasks, different origins stories than people who evolved near the equator. Aside from food differences, there were work differences, and threat differences, and time to think and invent. A culture needing all their time to hunt and gather have little time for thinking or contemplating. 

I ate muktukUguruk and Pickled Moose Nose in Alaska, and in Indonesia I ate Nasi KebuliOpor Ayam, and  Chicken Curry. OK, that takes us from far north to equator, now how about going around the world. Just think of all the flavors and textures of foods in different places, the many beers made, according to their base for fermenting. I would hate to see any of these traditions fade into a stew with no distinct flavor or character. I want this diversity in tastes. There is beauty in diversity of clothing, hair styles, architecture, music and musicl instruments, and origin myths. All are welcome in my life, as well as the stories that go with them. 

Joan, I think you are right, "race" exists.  It would also be empowering to acknowledge the concept, in a way that does not promote racism.  It's a difficult mental contortion to claim there is no such thing as race, but that the life experiences of people are affected by their race.  Or by racism, which by definition is a set of attitudes of people of one, or some, races, against people of one, or some other races.

I like the variety of humans too.  By immersing myself in a lifetime of interracial relationships and friendships, my life is so much better than it would have been otherwise.  I'm very grateful.



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