Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Is the White Race Superior to Others? (Short answer: No. That's Just Silly).

Here's another of my Quora writings.

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“Races” of humanity do not exist as facts in nature, as anthropologists in general are happy to tell you:
With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.
You should read the whole AAA Statement on Race that quotation came from. It’s a consensus statement from the whole profession.
Physical anthropologists in particular are happy to tell you the same thing:
Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogenous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past.
(Emphasis mine).

That’s a consensus statement by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (http://www.virginia.edu/woodson/...) that’s worth reading so you can get a sense of what kind of variation they do find if they aren’t finding “races” as you understand them.

“Race science” is old science, man, and we’re way beyond that.

Now that I’ve cleared away the whole concept of a “white race” existing in nature, what is it exactly? It’s a cultural concept, just like the caste system of India. From outside, we can look at India and say “There’s no way to tell for sure if someone is Brahmin or Kshatriya or Untouchable by looking at them,” but the distinctions sure make sense to people in the system. Look at President Obama…everyone accepts that he belongs to the “black” race, though a full 50% of his genes came from this lady


His “black” status is a social and cultural fact, not a genetic one. If Michelle Obama were a white woman, then Malia and Sasha would still be called “black” because their father is “black.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting to reverse the rule so that anyone with a white parent were classified as “white.” In that case, the only “blacks” in the US would be recent immigrant families from Africa and the Caribbean. It makes exactly as much sense as the rule we have.

As a social and cultural fact, not a genetic one, race is of great interest to Social Anthropologists and Cultural Anthropologists and Sociologists.

Now that we’re clear on what race is (and that it’s all facts in our heads, not facts in our bodies) let’s quickly deal with whether one of these social and cultural categories, the white race, shows superiority in general over other races.

Is evidence of superiority in a country’s wealth? Well, comparative wealth all depends on the period we’re looking at. In the 15th and 16th centuries, for example, China accounted for 25%-30% of the economy of the whole world. Right now, after a bad patch, it’s back up to 17% and apparently rising. It’s following the upward path that the Japanese followed in the 19th century. (The rise, fall, and comeback of the Chinese economy over the past 800 years). Looking at another point in history, the ancestors of Iraqis had the best of everything and left a legacy of inventions that we still can’t live without: cities, writing, temples, wheeled vehicles, kings, and beer among them (Sumer). So, the superiority of European descendants in inventiveness, organization, or culture is hard to see from the facts.

How about physical superiority? Oh, there are some superb pale-skinned athletes out there, all right. How many of them can outrun this guy?

That’s Usain Bolt, if you didn’t know.

How many could out-punch this guy?

That's Muhammad Ali.

How many could out-organize a movement or out-speak this guy?

That's Martin Luther King, Jr.

Or how many could teach themselves everything from basic literacy to history, politics, and public speaking while at the same moving on an impressive theological journey, as this man did in a short life?


That's Malcolm X.

I wouldn’t put a typical white man who is convinced of his superiority against any of these extraordinary men. Do you think David Duke could match their abilities or accomplishments?


Or Craig Cobb?


Don’t make me laugh.

Someone smart once advised that we should judge people on the content of their characters, not the colour of their skins. That sounds like sensible advice to me.

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