Abstractness of Racism
"The United States of America - the piping hot, effervescing “melting pot of the world”. This term was coined in the late 1880’s due to mass European emigration for various reasons. Instead of refusing these fleeing souls, the idea of acceptance, regardless of race, was universally preached. The melting pot was used to symbolize the creation of a cohesive, new American culture and identity. This, in some ways did occur. However, this preconception is more than wrong. Our society is a salad bowl; an uneven mixture of different ingredients mixed randomly that all come together to represent a salad yet still hold fast to their own, respective identities. This “salad” has had and still has many problems.
Throughout history and in recent times, Racial tensions have proliferated greatly and have become more profound and frequent, raising questions about the future of our nation, due to our inability to resolve these domestic issues. As complicated as these issues are, they are based on the abstract concept that is Race. Race is not real. Race is merely a social category we choose and are influenced to abide by, not something that is scientifically backed nor is it genetically driven. Through the examination of societal implicit biases, the true science behind human identity and appearance and decades of research, the overbearing blanket perspective that Race is hereditary will sanguinely dissolve or change.
Conceptual Abstraction: Is Math Racist?
To challenge a generalized and accepted notion, one must attack directly. Race is not a biological nor genetic attribute. Race, similar to concepts like Arithmetic, are abstract – “existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence” and defined as ‘insufficiently factual”, “difficult to understand” and “dissociated from any specific instance by Merriam Webster. All of these definitions ring true for the topic of race. Adam Rutherford, British geneticist and author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, states that he is “unaware of any group of people that can be defined by their DNA in a scientifically satisfactory way” and proceeds to states that in terms of science and “as far as genetics are concerned, race does not exist” (Rutherford 218-219). With this, Rutherford also states that genetic sciences are founded on the “studies of racial inequalities of a racist”.
To solidify this argument, that race is abstract we compare it to the previous mentioned abstract concept, mathematics. Francis Galton, the Victorian scientist and half cousin of Charles Darwin, measured the biometrics of different people of different ethnic backgrounds and categorized them, mathematically, through statistics. Galton utilizes this quantitative data to validate He labels Chinese as “materialistic”, “Negroes” as vastly inferior, “Hindoos” as lacking in “strength and business habits” and that the “Arab[s]…” are merely “eaters …of other men’s produce… a destroyer” (Rutherford 227). Despite his biased views and corrupted motivation for this development, Galton invented modern statistical tools we continue to use to this day and began the trek in human biometrics. He introduced the idea of “nature versus nurture”, which propounds conflict between these two factors, when in actuality they work together conjunctly. (Rutherford).
Race has played a significant role in the studying and research of genetics. Galton was not the only prominent geneticist who spouted racist views. James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA – expressed racist views shown by his various tests, measuring the capacity and actuality of human intelligence in different categories, groups and settings, all of which based upon the color of one’s skin (Malloy). Though morally, one wishes that the way he talks about race has no logical legitimacy but there is some truth to it. Jason Malloy states that Watson’s “Intelligence tests do reveal large differences between European and sub-Saharan African nations, the evidence does link these differences to universally valued outcomes, both within and between nations” (Malloy). One can easily argue that this is due to environmental factors. No research is needed to justify the fact the European cities are more developed than Sub-Saharan communities. With development, there is a greater chance for better education and employment.
Nonetheless, the science which was developed to validate intellect capacity due to physical differences between humans, has ironically done the opposite; Modern Genetics have proven that there is no essential foundation for people of different groups. The quickest rebuttal to this is the fact that different groups of people have different values in terms of pigmentation. Skin color, and specifically the lightness or darkness, is determined by one gene mutation. Elizabeth Kolbert of the National Geographic explains the simplicity of the difference in skin color as “the mutation that’s most responsible for giving Europeans lighter skin is a single tweak in a gene known as SLC24A5, which consists of roughly 20,000 base pairs. In one position, where most sub-Saharan Africans have a G, Europeans have an A (Kolbert)”. The difference of one letter, one chemical is the basis for our separation and categorization of humans. Yes, there are various inherited and physical traits, the most recognizable being physiognomies, that are concomitant with certain populations, however, these traits do not belong solely to groups they are initially categorized with or with any group. A clear example of this are the physical similarities between various Hispanic people and those of Middle Eastern descent.
Common physical features do not equate to common genetics but still are grouped into a racial category. In his article, Rutherford presents this example that Tibetans, who are visually similar to many other Asians, would be grouped as Chinese. However, Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude, rendering Chinese people more similar to Europeans than their superficially similar neighbors, in terms of genetics and adaptation (Rutherford). These regional adaptations are concrete, yet the means in which we comprehend and act upon that physical difference is based solely upon the if we categorize these features with other features, which then get grouped as commonalties for a race. Humans are too “horny and mobile”, and in that way we are the same. We are not separated by Race - Race doesn’t exist, yet racism does.
A question which is utilized frequently in order to solidify the fact that race is real is that “If Race Is Not Real, why is Racism Real?” Upon first encounter, one sees it as common sense. There’s no way Race is not real if people still treat others differently. This is the intended point. People and Society naturally categorize things, as stated in the Blindspot. However, one can still choose how they interact and go about this individual or groups of those different from oneself. Back to Math, Statistics, developed by Galton, were solely invented in order to prove White Superiority over other races. Math itself is an abstract concept in which society as a whole has globally accepted as a truth. No one questions if One is One or if 76 is truly 76, it is merely known and understood. Same goes for race. No one questions why we automatically categorize people with attributes. There is nothing wrong with categorizing people into groups, until these groups are inaccurately labeled in some ways. A group of Jews, whether it be those of Israel or those of the Jewish faith, are a group of Jews, not stingy or frugal.
The thin, almost-transparent line between categorization and stereotyping must be broadened, in order to defer this active racism. Additionally, Racism served, and can be argued that it still serves, as justification. The media does an unfortunately excellent job of playing off this tension and vulnerability by utilizing almost a macro-level version of confirmation bias and general stereotypes. The best known examples are White Extremists such as the Ku Klux Klan. Their overtly violent racism is merely justified by the fact that White Culture is American Culture, expressed through chants such as “You will not replace us”. Another form of justification is the need for them to ameliorate society. Some felt a moral responsibility to Eugenics, the negative connotation of this word, which played a large role in the forced and unknown sterilization of 20,000 minority men and women in California. Seen as helping control poverty and crime in the United States, these medical staff prided themselves as heroes, when really they committed 20,000+ murders. This shows the solidifying of racism.
This engrained idealism of racial superiority has plagued our nation for too long. Our natural categorization is not wrong, but the values and that certain groups are branded by are. The word “Race” typically is utilized in a negative means, in order to differentiate different people. Race was and is a societal construct of institutionalism, developed in order to justify the oppression of those of color. Race is not real, but people who utilize physical and ethnic differences are. The only way to ameliorate this issue is by breaking societal norms and pushing for more integration, breaking known mold that is the “common” American and smoldering the various ethnic identities into one, conjunctive melting pot.