One of the most important things I need to do in life is also one of the things I least like doing. I’m getting better at doing it, I think, both in accepting the need for it, and being willing to allow for it to happen.
What is that thing? It is the willingness to admit that I am either completely incorrect about something, or at very least sufficiently undereducated in that thing to make my understanding of it functionally incorrect.
Such is the case with the term, “race.”
You see, I had come to the errant conclusion that the term “race,” had a definite meaning. Further, I had ascribed to the word a great deal more significance and import than it by any means, truly has (in any sense of its usage).
I think firstly, I should tackle the worst abuse of the word—an abuse of which I myself was, until having been given correction by another, prone to make as much as anyone else, if not more so. The abuse comes in the form of the expression, “human race.”
It turns out that, in no sense can one make sense of the combination of the word “human” with the word “race.”
The truth is though, if you really dig into the “meaning(s) of” the word “race,” you find something quite unexpected—at least it was so for me. The word “race” really has no meaning. Most important of all, any “scientific” or “taxonomic” use of the word race can be accounted little more than “splitting hairs.”
Further, in a scientific sense, the word’s meaning is even less clear when one considers that in the “definition of” the race of a person or animal—and to be clear, yes, the scientific, taxonomic term can be used for animals—there appears to be next to no consistency in what “makes” a race.
Put simply, it’s a pretty solid bet that, no two scientists agree much of the time, what constitutes a “racial difference” in either animals or people.
In case you were confused about this, most folks like to state or imply, that the “usage type” of the term “race” as they use it is not the scientific one. Rather, they express and espouse a definition with even less meaning. The usage type for this definition is generally referred to as the “sociological” meaning, the meaning with regard to ethnicity (for which, might I point out, there is already a word).
Here’s the thing, in this second and worse definition, “black” and “white” become “races!” You heard me correctly, the absence of light and the combination of all colors are races according to many who use the sociological term “race!”
As if the naming of these “races” wasn’t bad enough, the defining characteristics of those “races” is entirely irresolute, and that’s become a “worse” thing, not a “better” one. Why? Because of the “interbreeding” (a rubbish term, considering “interbred” children can have children of their own, which makes them essentially the same as other humans in all ways that particularly matter) of the supposed races.
The “interbreeding issue” comes after the fact that, looking back in history, anybody with any level of independent thought or analysis cannot help but see that the definitions of various races have changed over time. Were the changes based on science, it would be one thing, they are not remotely so. Rather, it is a modification of arbitrary distinction as best I can tell at this point.
Let me be entirely clear, in no sense am I trying to indicate that there are not differences of note and significance between people of different people groups. It is pretty well established scientifically, that people of Jewish heritage are more susceptible to Epstein-Barr Virus than are other groups.
Equally, it is more common for folks of African heritage to suffer from hypertension and sickle-cell anemia.
These are two examples about which I happen to “know,” or at least, which I believe the scientific process currently “backs up.” I have zero intent to imply people of Jewish or African heritage are somehow less robust or in some way “flawed” as a result of these facts.
As a rule though, the use of the term “race” with regard to subsets or subsections of humanity is even less useful than I had previously believed.
Frankly, the term is only so useful at all—even from a scientific perspective. So questionable is it, that the entry on Wikipedia talking about it says:
“In biological taxonomy, race is an informal rank in the taxonomic hierarchy, below the level of subspecies.”
To begin with, that means that, when speaking biologically, we appear to not even address the concept of subspecies between humans, but drop from “species” directly to “race.”
All of this amounts to a sort of “final take” that says little of the discussion of race among humans, is at all beneficial in the larger sense.
Am I saying there is no benefit in discussing race among humanity? No. But I am saying that in most discussion, it is a “non starter” issue.
I can agree that there are physical differences between humans. I can agree that those differences can be used in a sort of (mostly insignificant) method or means of dividing humans.
I can agree with the idea that humans in different parts of the World have different customs, driven by a variety of considerations (some difficult to determine or understand).
The physical differences, it appears, cannot be helped. That’s okay, they seem to just help to make the World a more beautiful place in my opinion (yes, you’re entitled to disagree).
The cultural differences can be a bit more of an issue. People in all cultural groups must work to understand those of other groups. Where there are differences, decisions must be made as to how to deal with and handle them. Much of the time, they can just be permitted to exist. Sometimes though, it needs to be clear that the differences will be “bones of contention.”
In some cases, those things that cause one cultural to be different from another, will be so incompatible as to make them unacceptable when the two merge or clash. That is a matter for another article.
What does all of this come to when I “boil it down? For the most part, the term “race” is one I will be the much less willing to use or accept the use of from others. It isn’t quite a “rubbish term” altogether. It is, however, far less significant than ever I thought it before.
So here we are, at an end of time and hanging on the bleeding edge of my “word limitation.”
As such, I will wish you the best of days, and, as usual, thank you for your indulgence in reading to this point.