Much Ado About Nothing
Detours in Life
Some of the hardest detours we travel are those that require us to rethink what we thought we knew. This past weekend, three people died because of feelings about the subject of race. The topic of race is a social force and anyone claiming it isn’t has been living deep down at the bottom of the ocean.
For centuries the human race has debated the divisions of, the identification for, and the correlation between the various races, their impact on intelligence, physical potential, genetics, and disease. It cannot be denied that certain cultures are prone to specific illnesses while others seem to have no susceptibility at all. This should not be interpreted as a weakness, though. It is simply a characteristic of a great many things. Genetics has proven that certain cultures – i.e., races – have a particular connection to various healthcare concerns. This does not mean there is a correlation to potential or intelligence.
Throughout history the body of humans inhabiting this planet has been organized into racial groups, sometimes as few as three and other times as many as fifty. In 1998, the American Anthropological Association issued the following statement on race: “The idea of race has always carried more meanings than mere physical differences; indeed, physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.”
Race is not a biological fact and it has no true scientific importance as a means of division. It should not be used to segregate or discriminate. This may be a new detour in your thinking but it is fact, based upon pure scientific data, not greed, fear, nor baseless rhetoric.
In 2002 the American Anthropological Association published a paper remarking on the social foundations of race: “Although racial categories are legitimate subjects of empirical sociological investigation, it is important to recognize the danger of contributing to the popular concept of race as biological.” Please take a moment and reread that last sentence. Race is not a biological fact.
The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 had as its purpose a way to better understand genetic components of disease. A detailed map of humankind’s DNA sequence was constructed which allowed exploration of the various genetic differences across our vast planet. Their findings were a huge detour from what many of us believed and/or have been taught. We all are genetically 99.9 percent alike.
Within our specific DNA there are six billion bases of DNA with a .1 percent difference representing six million locations that differ between two individuals. Most of these differences are “neutral” which means they do not change the function of any genes.
Before your eyes glaze over, take a minute to think. A genome is nothing more than the genetic material of something, the complete set of the DNA that an organism has. In humans, the nuclear genome comprises approximately 3.2 billion nucleotides of DNA, including genes and chromosomes. So while having six million different sounds like a like, it actually is less than .1 percent. Imagine having one hundred pieces of tiny chocolate candy like M & M’s on a plate. Would you really argue if someone took just one? Of course you wouldn’t because the amount left is much greater and overrides that one piece.
Race is a social construct, a way of organizing people by culture and yes, sometimes by skin color. However, race itself is misleading. Those deemed Caucasian are of European descent while the term actually comes from the Middle East and referred to people from the Caucus Region, a mountain range in Turkey and Russia. Asian is a racial term to signify people of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian descent but Russia is also on the Asian continent. There are many natives of Bermuda which, technically as a former English colony would make them of European descent and yet, these people appear African because they are descended from slaves. If we assume most people from Bermuda are African, what do the descendants of the British pirates do? There would then be Caucasian-skinned Africans which is contradictory to the racial separation itself.
Racial designation is not a biological fact and will always be misleading because the human race did not remain living in just one place. Such descriptions and their resulting divisions are a social construct, a harmful collective construct. Certainly people should take pride in their ethnicity and the culture of their ancestors. However, this pride should not seek to silence or harm others.
There is no biological division of the races. We are human beings. Hatred based upon race is much ado about nothing. We are all part of the human race and it is time we started treating each other with humanity and respect.