A “race” is a grouping of people based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as different. The term was first used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century the term “race” began to refer to physical human traits. Modern science regards race as a social construct, created to assign identity based on rules made by society. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race has no inherent physical or biological meaning.
”Race is a social concept, not a scientific one,” said Dr. J. Craig Venter, head of the Celera Genomics Corporation in Rockville, Md. ”We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same small number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world.”
Dr. Venter and scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently announced that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome. Researchers then unanimously declared,
there is only one race — the human race.
Isn’t it amazing that this concept, which truly has no basis in biology or reality, continues to cause so much distress in American culture? And what about our history as a country? First the Europeans who came here did their best to exterminate the natives, setting them apart as “savages” and unclean by European standards. Then they brought in African natives to do the dirty work of planting, raising and harvesting crops, and so many other jobs they didn’t want to do, all based on “racial” differences.
“Race” has been used since the beginning of human existence to ostracize, hate and dominate others.
I wonder how many European-Americans have experienced racism themselves. When I lived in Thailand, during the Vietnam War, and Taipei Taiwan, I learned what it feels like to look different. In Bangkok, a field full of Thai soccer players rushed over as I walked by to yell, “Yankee GO Home!” In Taipei I knew enough Chinese language to understand when people were talking about me on the bus, calling me a “foreign devil” or “ghost.” Kids would yell at me in the alleys… Yes, I understand their dislike of American imperialism. I also didn’t enjoy being picked out in a crowd and blamed for everything they didn’t like about America.
My point is, all aspects of identification by appearance are inherently wrong, and don’t get me started on eugenics and the “master race.” We are all human and we look different. So what. Can any stereotype be seen as always dependable? No. Are any of us without shortcomings? No. In our country today and always, assumptions made about a person based on their appearance have killed far too many of us either by physical violence or emotional violence.
Why not just call it what it is: poor education & upbringing, hatefulness and boundless insecurity on the part of the racist.