“Race” In The Third Millenium
by George Winkel
My 1999 CD-ROM edition of Encyclopedia Britannica defines “a race” as “a biological grouping within the human species possessing genetically transmitted traits that are sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type.”
I think the whole problem is focused right here. The accepted definition is missing a critical element. Actually “race’s” definition requires the working together of two separate parts. The definition of “a race” should read: “(1) Belief that there is (2) a biological grouping within the human species possessing genetically transmitted traits that are sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type.”
These, the (1) and (2), are clearly two different concepts. They mean fundamentally different things. Moreover, the first part is pure belief. Because a factor of “race” depends on belief, the whole concept of it is strictly in the realm of belief, and therefore in the discussion below it will be assumed expressed inside of quotation marks (“race”).
Of course, the second part of race is very real. Variations in the frequencies of numerous visible and invisible inherited human features — genetically transmitted traits — undulate smoothly around our world. Although our eyes may perceive many of these genetic features easily, clearly — as Johann Blumenbach (anthropologist who in 1775 mapped our geographic races) himself wrote — “… you see that all do so run into one another, and that one variety of mankind does so sensibly pass into the other that you cannot mark out the limits between them.” The seamless web of our human family has no creases, no folds, no beginning, and no end. No race-lines exist in nature.
The first part of the definition above — belief — sketches the race-lines. Imaginary lines. In fact, the whole paraphernalia of racial nomenclature is sheer belief superimposed on seamless human physiognomy. The combination may make a belief-structure as unshakable as a hypnotic suggestion. The imaginary superstructure of race is ballooned out, moreover, to absurd dimensions when racial classifications are applied to people who do not show some arbitrary minimum of the requisite “genetically transmitted traits” needed to make them subjectively appear members of a race. Assignment of such persons’ race can depend on government record-keeping (i.e., race reported on berth certificates, marriage licenses, census records, etc.) — or it can depend ultimately on what they say they are.
Further straining the belief-system of race is the well-known fact that genetically transmitted racial traits pass separately, their features are inherited separately. The “biological grouping” of race will not stay together. Instead, races will cross again and again in the progeny of interracial marriages, leaving no rational way whatsoever to phenotypically assign such children to a category in the classical “grouping” of “full” geographic races. Multiracial childrens’ race is not systematically based either on their physical appearance or on their several ancestral racial homelands. Instead, it may be cobbled together by combining a child’s ethnicities (if known) in a coined biracial name such as “Eurasian,” “Hispanic,” “Mulatto,” and so on. Over the past three generations, many children have had a race thrust on them by fiat — they were assigned to the “black” race by the former “One-Drop rule.”
It is also important to realize these five points: (1) Race in humans is biologically thin, tenuous. Human races are much less clearly defined genetically than the racial divisions we recognize in plant and animal species (e.g., the different dog & horse breeds). (2) The concept of race must not be confused with the concept of species. All human beings alive today are the same species. The signal mark of our oneness is our ability (and willingness) each to procreate with all the others, producing live, fit, fertile — beautiful — children. (3) The notion of genetic purity, erroneously lifted from “species,” is absurd to all racial biology, and it is especially absurd to tenuous human racial biology. (4) All the human beings alive today are kin of one another many times over within the past 100,000 years. Moreover, no political or geographic barriers on Earth ever completely stopped two-way gene-flow for the various peoples of the world during that time. (5) Racial purity, therefore, is absurd, supporting no rational sense of loyalty analogous to nationalism or patriotism. There is no reason in nature, and no reason in our free society, for people to feel obliged to endogamously inbreed themselves to same-race spouses, or to practice any less discretionary level of racial discrimination than goes into marrying interracially.
Another important point: Race is totally different from ethnicity, culture, and nationality. Race, the part with physical existence, is only inherited — “genetically transmitted traits.” Ethnicity, culture and nationality, on the other hand, are only learned. But these last form such core beliefs that no one seriously advocates their abandonment. The force of these acquired identities shows, however, the tenacious strength which belief in race can have, too, especially if it is entwined with ethnicity, culture, or nationality as it is for some minority peoples. Nonetheless, I say because the physical part of race is neutral, innocent inherited biology, fundamentally equal among all humanity, race should be disentwined from ethnicity, culture, and nationality as much as it can be. We can and should make race’s innocent (beautiful) “biological grouping” of “genetically transmitted traits” completely off-limits to mankind’s’ incessant warring and ethnic strife.
In conclusion, our peoples’ right to freely enjoy exogamy (i.e., dating, marrying out) in their pursuit of happiness is one of the many strong justifications for jettisoning belief in race. As shown above, race is only a belief. The fact that one of race’s two integral component parts is real has been a source of confusion the past 225 years, deceiving even scientists. Nonetheless, the belief-component of race renders the whole construct mythical — projects it wholly into the realm of belief, superstition, religion — just as multiplying any number by zero equals zero. So, race is only an outmoded, disposable belief. It is not needed in our new Third Millennium.
George Winkel practices appellate defense law in the California Fourth Appellate District, the State Supreme Court, and occasionally before the U.S. Ninth Circuit.
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Copyright © 2000 George Winkel and The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved.