“Race” Is Not Real

We need to get beyond skin.

Here are some facts about the concept of “race” that for some reason people just don’t realize:

Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even language. The English language didn’t even have the word ‘race’ until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.

Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.

Human subspecies don’t exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven’t been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most similar of all species.

Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent, athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone’s skin color doesn’t necessarily tell you anything else about him or her.

Most variation is within, not between, “races.” Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.

This information is from a California Newsreel report (thanks to Mixed American Life for posting).

“Race” is a silly concept that we have let divide us for way too long. Words do matter and as long as we believe that this word “race” has meaning we act on it. Let’s get over this erroneously used word. We are not different races.

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10 thoughts on ““Race” Is Not Real

  1. Good post. Race is a silly word and all it seems to do is cause problems. What people need to do is stop trying find ways in how we are different, but really look at how everyone is alike despite skin color.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      Indeed.

    • Have you found some good ways to explain to people that we are alike despite our phenotype? Since cultures are truly different I find that to be a challenge; as difficult as explaining that animals have real feelings and shouldn’t be locked up in a cage where they can’t turn around in factory farms. Sorry for the digression. I just watched an Animal Rights video yesterday.

      PS – I suppose the word race does cause problems; but people’s racism (and other types of hate) is the worse problem.

  2. I’ve found that it’s an uphill battle to try to convince people that race is not real. If the word race was banished tomorrow they would simply replace it with the words phenotype, haplotype and haplogroup. Since discrimination by phenotype is real I’ve stopped trying to explain to people that race is not real. It would be nice though if the census and textbooks would stop using the word ‘race’ as if it is real.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      I agree that people have so bought into the concept of “race” that getting them off that is not likely to happen. But I so believe in the power of our language that I still try to blow that concept up when I can. I know I am a bit crazy for fighting that particular fight. LOL. And I do agree that when we get people off “race” switching to some other way of dividing us is not going to necessarily be an improvement. A bit maddening isn’t it?

  3. thetruth says:

    Look, Earnest.

    I’m a black man. There are differences between black and white people. Whether you want to label these as conferring and defining “”ethnicity” or “phenotype” or “racial group” is irrelevant. The differences do exist even if they don’t mean as much racists think they do. As a people I want black Americans to live and work and succeed. Neither MLK nor Malcolm X nor the legions of other blacks who died for our rights would want anything less. If they didn’t believe black people existed, who did they die fighting for?

    I think the only reason this blog even exists is because you just have a hard-on for white women, Earnest. At the very top of the white social totem pole–the law partners, the CEOs, the haute society– where do you see the blacks? You don’t.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      I appreciate your comment and reading, though we disagree. That there are cultural differences between blacks and whites does not mean they are attributable to race. There are also cultural differences between Southern blacks and a black African from Kenya. As there are differences between a white American and a White Russian. I am not sure why you think you want blacks to succeed more than I do. We simply may have a different idea of how we get to success. One key for me is eliminating the barriers of racism, from which our false notions of what divides us comes from. You may have a different way for working to get blacks there. But you shouldn’t assume my way is not as equally rooted in trying to see blacks, and others held back by racism, succeed.

      Your comment on the motivation for the blog is just silly and doesn’t do the rest of your comments justice. Thanks.

      • applestoapples says:

        I disagree with your first point but won’t go into it. There is a reason the NFL, NBA are dominated by blacks, a small minority, and not whites, the large majority. But I digress.

        I remember during the last Olympics a Greek participant made a racist remark about Africans. Curiosity got the best of me and I visited her Facebook page. Do you know what I found? I saw red-blooded Americans cheering her on, backing up nationalist Greeks spouting broken English tirades about black people’s inferiority. She hadn’t done anything wrong they said. Political correctness is the real wrong they said. White people are the real victims they said. These Americans weren’t even white supremacists; they looked like normal people giving their opinion with pictures of their kids and their yards and their dogs.

        What does a white American and a Greek have in common?

        I have also seen this phenomena with respects to Russians unfortunately. On at least one conservative outlet I keep abreast of (I like to know what the other side is thinking), several popular Russian commentators–with very Russian names– write racist comments about blacks and are nevertheless given Likes by an overwhelmingly American readership. There have also been Russian immigrant guest articles with insulting things to say about blacks. Nods and approvals. Now granted this is a far right publication but the proof is in the pudding.

        What does a white American and a Russian have in common?

        Only yesterday I was on YouTube and saw two reportedly Asian American commentators saying they dislike blacks because of “bad eperiences”. I am obviously against racism; I am simply not against race, ethnic group, whatever you want to call it. These exist and have profound effects on people. Sweeping this fact under the rug will only do harm. You say ethnic groups don’t exist–well if that’s true–how can you still talk about black people? How can black people exist? Racism, while harmful, is not what holds black people back the most. Education and jobs are what hold black people back. Black women have it right. They’re graduating. and advocating tight knight communities and solidarity. If black men did this too, racism would solve itself.

        The greatest help in this fight are tight knight communities, the Church, parents involved in education and success. That’s all.

  4. Also, race may not be real, but the belief in race is real.

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