Today I logged onto the Huffington Post to check the latest in the news, and I saw a story where a white supremacist found out on a talk show that he’s only 86% white. The rest is 14% sub-Saharan African, which is apparently home to some of the darkest-skinned people on the planet. If I’ve done this correctly, I’ve embedded a video from NewsBreaker onto this post. If not, here’s a link to the article itself.

Shocking, right? And kind of funny, too. According to Cobb, even one drop of black clood makes you black. So sadly, he wouldn’t be allowed in his own “enclave”, were it to actually be set up.

But as much as this Cobb guy and other people who proclaim the (insert race here) race is superior, I’ve got news for them. I’ve learned something recently in my sociology class that I thought was mind-blowing. Apparently “race” as we understand it is a social construction, not a biological thing. It’s something we create in our minds to help us humans categorize, because apparently we love categorizing things.

In biology though, there’s actually little difference between humans of different races. There’s more differences between two penguins of the same species than there are between a black guy and a white guy. And the more scientists look for a biological basis about race, the more they find evidence to the contrary. Even things like melanin content, which determines skin color, and differences in susceptibility to certain diseases, something documented in the various races we’ve created, are determined by a number of traits that all humans share and could occur in people around the world at any time.

Even more mind-boggling is that definitions of race aren’t static: in Brazil, there are around 500 different races, while in the US there are about four or five. And races can changed. Someone from Mexico could be Spanish or Native American, and nobody could see the difference. President Obama could consider himself white if he wanted to, considering his parentage, but he’s black by choice. And not only are the races we define ourselves by subject to change where you go, the traits associated with races can change too:

He not only broke records, he broke down erroneous beliefs.

Before the 1936 Olympics, Americans assumed that because blacks, Native Americans, and Chinese mostly lived in poverty, they were degenerate and inferior in both mind and body (these beliefs never took into account socioeconomic situation, lack of education, or discrimination, even when statisticians published “findings” supporting these beliefs). However, after Jesse Owens took home the gold, race enthusiasts changed their beliefs in order to jibe with Owens’ success at the Olympics. They changed their attitudes to say that because African-Americans had been physically honed for strength and speed while in slavery, their physical abilities were superior, while their brains were inferior to the white man’s brain. I don’t know if Neil deGrasse Tyson plays sports, but that last part is definitely false, and it just shows how fluid beliefs about race are. And just as not all whites are smart or athletically superior, neither are all blacks, Asians, or Native Americans either of those or anything else. Everybody’s different, even as we’re all the same.

And finally, even on the genetic level there’s little to differentiate us from people of different races. If I were to get my blood typed and compare it to others in a worldwide database (and I’m actually looking into doing that, by the way), statistically speaking I’d be just as genetically similar to a Yoruban man as I would be to a Japanese woman or a child in the Amazonian rainforests. So on almost every level, race is not actually biological, but really just a product of our minds.

Reborn City

So why am I writing all this, besides to make fun of the Cobbs guy’s beliefs and possibly blow a few minds? Because all this relates in a strange way to my novel Reborn City. When I wrote the novel back in high school, I still thought there was at least a small basis to differences to races, and that reflects in the novel, where most of the gangs are divided up by race. I didn’t even factor in that there are different subgroups in races, like instead of just all Hispanic/Latino, there are Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, Nicaraguan, etc. I just knew I wanted to include a racially-diverse cast of characters and at the same time show how races work together would always win out over races fighting against each other.

Too bad I find out all this mind-boggling information after the book comes out, right? But now that I’m better armed, I’ll try to be a little smarter about it all. I’ll still include a racially diverse cast, but I won’t write it with the belief that races are homogenous or static or anything. I’ll just have people with very diverse backgrounds and that won’t even be a huge factor in the works I write, but instead just something interesting about my writing style.

However, that doesn’t mean one should ignore race because it doesn’t to exist, or because race shouldn’t matter. The fact is, people still see race as an actual, biological thing, and the belief is the basis of a lot of problems, controversies and discussions in the United States and the greater world. Ignoring it would be like ignoring your health in the hope you won’t get sick; it just won’t work. Instead, one should acknowledge race as a social construction, try to see through it, and if possible help others see through it.

That’s my opinion, anyway. You can agree or disagree as you like.

I’ll try and write a post tomorrow if I can. Until then, good night everybody!

  1. datmama4 says:

    I think the whole “race” thing is just so odd…I mean, we’re all part of the human “race,” so everything else is skin tone and cultural differences. As a Bible believer, I’ve always assumed Adam and Eve were probably a light brown color, since the gene combinations for dark skin and light skin would have all been present in that first pair of people—Gregor Mendel’s studies on inherited traits pretty much summed that up.

    I sometimes wonder if people put such an emphasis on skin color only because it’s habit, and they’re too apathetic to bother changing their views.

    • Probably. People have a hard time giving up their old habits, usually either because it’s something they’ve defined their lives by or because it’s connected to their salary.

      By the way, did you know that white skin probably developed as a way to take in more sunlight to produce Vitamin D? People with lighter skin in Europe produced more Vitamin D and were healthier than those with darker skin, allowing them to reproduce and give birth to offspring with lighter skin.
      Funny how that works out.

  2. Rami… that’s racist! 😉 I kid of course. You’re quite right, the concept of race is very much a social construct from the 19th century, a time at which Europeans were colonizing the world and looking to characterize what they were witnessing. Basically, they were able to overpower and conquer other peoples, and feeling the need to both justify and explain this, they invented a color-coated hierarchical system of races.

    • Actually it dates back to the 17th and 16th centuries, when slavery was getting into full swing. Europeans were looking for differences between the tribes to see which slaves were better at this or that. This later involved into the racist beliefs we often see today.
      But you are right, they did invent it to explain and justify their actions.

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