Guest Commentary: The Concept of Race Is Nothing But Fiction

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San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi in San Francisco in April 2015
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi in San Francisco in April 2015

By Jeff Adachi

Race is the world’s most persistent deception.

Throughout history, the color of our skin and general shape of our facial features have been used to justify subjugation and genocide, served as shorthand to sum up strangers, signaled entree for some and exclusion for others.

But the concept fueling all of it — from slavery to bigoted YouTube comments — is 100 percent bunk. While racism is real, race itself is pseudoscience.

Author Robert Wald Sussmann, who wrote the book “The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea,” explores how the faulty concept of race embedded in our culture affects where we live, go to school and work. It influences our choice in friends and our treatment in the healthcare and justice systems.

The idea that variation in our phenotype dictates our intelligence, abilities, personal restraint, law-abidingness, aggression, economic and business practices, families and even brain size has persisted for centuries despite being dead wrong. It has been scientifically proven for decades that there is no inherent relationship between any of these factors and race, just as there is no relationship between them and “nose size, height, blood type or skin color,” Sussman says.

Today, the vast majority of researchers, anthropologists and scientists who have studied human variation agree that biological races simply do not exist, a fact Sussmann says is as clear as the fact that the earth is round and revolves around the sun.

So why does racism persist when there is so much scientific evidence to dismantle the concept at its core?

According to Sussmann, many leaders have deluded the public into believing in racist fallacies and that “basic policies of race and racism have been developed as a way to keep these leaders and their followers in control of the way we live our modern lives.”

History is replete with examples of how racism has been used to control people, such as the Spanish Inquisition, colonialism, religious missionaries, slavery, Nazism, Jim Crow laws and anti-immigration propaganda. So what then accounts for the fact that people look different, have different skin colors, languages, customs and cultures? Were human beings at one time just one race?

In 2005, Chinese geneticist Jin Li and his international team embarked on a study to prove Chinese people evolved independently of all other humans. Instead, Li found that DNA samples collected from more than 165 different ethnic groups in China all had a genetic marker that appeared 80,000 years ago in Africa.

Li concluded that Africans migrated to Asia 100,000 years ago, and his account has been supported by historians who concluded that features of Chinese in the Manchu and Tang Dynasties were distinctly African. Similarly, DNA evidence has also linked the DNA found in Native Americans and Europeans to Africa.

As people migrated throughout the world, intermarriage and isolation shaped their phenotype. Skin color changed depending on the amount of exposure to the sun; thus, dark skin was found in Africa, India and Australia. However, genetic traits of people who lived in the same region were not necessarily similar and do not necessarily correlate with one another.

Sussman cites A.R. Templeton, one of the world’s most recognized and respected geneticists, who said “human evolution and population structure has been and is characterized by many locally differentiated populations coexisting at any given time, but with sufficient contact to make all of humanity a single lineage sharing a common, long-term evolutionary fate.”

What becomes clear from our genetic history is that humans are more similar to one another as a group than we are to one another within a particular racial or genetic category. Race is not part of our biology, even as racism is deeply ingrained in our history.

Today, our ideas about ethnicity are more fluid. Nearly 7 percent of adults in the U.S. identify as mixed race. But racial politics remain stormy: From light skinned black Latina Zoe Saldana playing the title role in the Nina Simone movie to white former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal insisting she identifies as black to campus confrontations over who has the right to wear dreadlocks.

In the boiling cauldron of bigotry, identity, and controversy, it’s easy to forget there is only the human race.

Jeff Adachi is the San Francisco Public Defender and a founding member of the Bay Area-wide Public Defenders for Racial Justice.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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4 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: The Concept of Race Is Nothing But Fiction”

  1. Frankly

    While I appreciate and support the general message here… that all men (people) are created equal and that biological racial difference should be considered non-existent… I have a bit of a problem.

    I think we are better served to acknowledge some of the strong evidence of difference so that we can be more accommodating of difference.  For example, I know that many want to claim that the over-representation of blacks in professional athletics is due to social and economic factors; but, as a person that actually participated in athletics with people of all races, there is absolutely no question in my mind that blacks are more likely to be gifted with physical capabilities exceeding other races.

    On the one hand these are positive traits.  But then we should consider that certain traits can be more problematic at a social level.

    For example, Asians as a group tend to be over-represented in STEM academic and under-represented in most athletics.  There are only so many slots in institutions of higher learning.  And if those slots are apportioned due to measure of achievement in STEM academics, then Asians would secure a greater number of those spots at the expense of others lacking the same traits.

    Now I will get the angry argument that is is just that Asians tend to have a stronger work-ethic from a cultural perspective… and that nothing biological is at play.

    And I say, so what?   Regardless the root cause the differences clearly exist as represented in the outcomes.   To ignore these differences in outcomes in the name of political correctness and social justice hypersensitivity, I think, does a disservice to all but those with the most fortune of traits.

    When we incorporate homogamy to the assessment of race-based traits… the tendency for like people to marry and produce offspring more likely to have similar traits… until and unless we become a world more tending toward hetrogamy and producing more racially-blended and racially-nondescript people, I think there will always be certain traits that express themselves at a racial level.   And as a society we will be better off having a dialog about these differences and to do what we can to accommodate them instead of putting our head in the sand and claiming the people of every race are exactly the same.

    1. The Pugilist

      Most of the research on race and DNA shows that the physical traits are fairly surface and there is actually a greater difference in DNA within racial groups and than outside.  That tends to push the discussion back into environment and away from genetics.

  2. Biddlin

    “until and unless we become a world more tending toward hetrogamy and producing more racially-blended and racially-nondescript people,”

    Does this guy miss more news than the average foxnoise bankster?

    “2010 Census Shows Multiple-Race Population Grew Faster Than Single-Race Population”

    https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/race/cb12-182.html

    Many faiths teach and mitochondrial DNA confirms, that we all descend from a single African mother, making all of us, even Frankly, cousins. We’ve all got one like that………

  3. Jerry Waszczuk

    RACE PROBLEMS SOLUTION IN UC DAVIS.

    It is  hard to believe that Katehi made such statement.  It must be the Rahim Reed’s  and UC Davis Discrimination Officer  Wendi Delmedno’s idea

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    Sonseeahray Tonsall‏@tonsalltv

    Katehi tells Urban League UCD has committed to hiring 16 more black faculty members so students see teachers who look like them.

    RETWEETS2
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    10:06 PM – 21 Apr 2016

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