Opinion

No Blacks, No Whites, No Yellows, No Reds, No Races Here. Period

Updated 3 years ago Peter McCarthy, David Stone
One Race: Human
One Race: Human
Artwork by Eigenes Werk, Creative Commons License

Way back in 1950, UNESCO issued a statement that there is no biological basis for racial categories. Yet we see race everywhere in our news media, in our neighborhoods, in our culture. Why?

"I never should have made it through twelve years of schooling before entering a university, without ever hearing the important news that most anthropologists reject the concept of biological races," journalist Guy Harrison was quoted in Newsweek for an article, There Is No Such Thing As Race.

Augustin Fuentes wrote, "There are no specific racial genes. There are no genes that make blacks in the USA more susceptible to high blood pressure, just as there are no genes for particular kinds of cancers that can be assigned to only one racial grouping. There is no neurological patterning that distinguishes races from one another, nor are there patterns in muscle development and structure, digestive tracts, hand-eye coordination, or any other such measures," in Psychology Today

And in American Scientist, John Shea wrote, "An anthropologist who proposed using race as a serious way of describing human variability would be laughed out of the profession."

You might think that distinguished, informed opinions like these would demolish the nonsense of race, as Ashley Montagu may have imagined he did with his 1945 book Man's Most Dangerous Myth. But you and he would be wrong.

Look at any newspaper, read about entertainment options, walk through any major city, people are unreasonably thrown into categories based on phony racial characteristics.

And they are phony because, the truth is, we all came out of Africa, all of us, no exceptions. All skin color tells us is how near the Equator our ancestors lived. 

Still, we have "black comedians" and "white voters" and all manner of other human descriptions beginning with a designation of color, which we know or should know means nothing beneath the surface.

Of course, we have embedded in our cultures a structure of social categories into which we wedge blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics and so forth, ignoring the fact that many "whites" are darker skinned than many "blacks" and Hispanics are so all over the place that jamming them all in a single room and shutting the door makes less sense than Donald Trump's views on Muslims.

Our government embraces the categories as muscularly as our mass media. Census categories are hard set on racial identity, and programs are organized around skin color.

Racism is endemic in our system. It's the American way. It always has been. Wisdom, insight and learning have not been powerful enough to break down the bulwark of ignorance. And the reasons are obvious.

Setting people aside in racial categories is a strategy of power, of the majority sustaining a "them and us" separation that serves the interests of those who reap the most benefits. Regardless of how fair-minded you believe yourself to be, you cannot escape the stigmatizing values associated with skin color and rooted deep in American culture.

But even though this news source is a tiny slice of the media universe, we believe change must start somewhere. Except where it makes sense in opinion pieces such as this one, we will no longer describe individuals according to racial concepts.

It serves no one well to move destructive myths forward. For that reason, Barack Obama will no longer be a "black president," a category used in some circles to diminish the office and in others to uplift it. And we are going to have athletes, entertainers and movies without racial prefixes, hyphenated or otherwise.

We think that will do our small part in clearing air polluted with bad ideas.


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