Racism: A Virulent but Curable Social Disease

By Hattery, Angela J.; McGettigan, Timothy et al. | Theory in Action, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Racism: A Virulent but Curable Social Disease


Hattery, Angela J., McGettigan, Timothy, Smith, Earl, Theory in Action


Potential doesn't win a gold medal; doing it is the only thing that counts.

Daniel F. Chambliss, Champions: The Making of Olympic Swimmers (1989)

INTRODUCTION

As in the old Hans Christian Andersen tale about the gullible emperor (Andersen and Tudor, 1945), people the world over have been duped through the power of suggestion (Thomas, 1928) into believing that humans are all clothed in non-existent racial costumes. Our ignorance has made naked fools of us all.

There is no single "race gene" (Garcia, 2007, p. 2) that can be specified as a basis for biological distinction-or, much less, that establishes a scientific basis for ranking different groups into hierarchies (Lombardo, 2011). This is not to say that genetics has zero influence on human capabilities (Tucker and Collins, 2012). Indisputably, people need brains and bodies in order to exist, however, the genetic complexities that give rise to human similarity and difference are so subtle, extensive and multi-faceted that it is absurd to tout any singly-perceived difference (e.g., skin color) as a phenomenon that reliably and uniformly delineates one human group from another.

The pseudoscience of racial differentiation, which is often referred to as the eugenics movement (Rosen, 2004), was all the rage in the 19th century-and, in certain unenlightened circles, remained popular well into the twentieth century (Gillette, 2007; Lombardo, 2011). Adolph Hitler ultimately became the most renowned advocate of eugenicsrabidly extolling the racial superiority of Aryans while deploring racially inferior Jews, blacks, gypsies, Slavs, and homosexuals to name a few. Consequently, subsequent to WWII, the scientific community has resoundingly rejected eugenics as a legitimate area of scientific inquiry. Rather than good science, Hitler's antics exposed eugenics as nothing more than a gloss for virulent racism.

While neo-eugenicists such as, Entine and Hermstein and Murray, lament the passing of what they characterize as serious scientific considerations of race-based merit, the majority of scientists view the situation differently. Biologists have largely rejected race as a meaningful biological category (Graves, 2004; Sykes, 2001, p. 46), much less as a legitimate basis upon which to rank, celebrate, or deplore various human groups (Gould, 1996). Due to ethnocentric and racist prejudice, many people are falsely convinced that racial categories are more clearly defined than, in reality, they either are or can be (Unander, 2000).

As it is generally understood, race is intended to describe identifiable patterns of intraspecies biological differentiation. Certainly, Homo sapiens exhibits a wide range of physiological variation, however, no matter how we define or delineate racial groups, their members tend to exhibit more wfr/zm-group than between-gvowp variation (Diamond, 1997). Once again, geneticists have never been able to identify even a single "race gene" (Sforza, et al., 1994). The minimal cosmetic variation that humans exhibit is roughly equivalent to the morphological variation that Gregor Mendel (Mawer, 2006) observed among his garden peas: variable expression of a singular allele complex. In other words, humans (like all sexually-reproduced life forms) exhibit a variety of cosmetic differences, but, like peas in a pod, we are all made of essentially the same biological stuff.

This is worth re-emphasizing because this fact more than any other illustrates that racial categories are more of a product of racist wishful thinking than substantive biological distinctions. To reiterate, the people who are lumped into different racial groups generally exhibit more biological commonalities with people in other racial groups than they do with the other members of the so-called racial groups into which they have been shoe-homed (Little and Kennedy, 2010, p., 216).

To be blunt, many Americans-again, largely due to ethnocentric and racist misconceptions-are convinced that the black vs. …

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