Friday, October 19, 2007

Douche Bag Of The Week: Addendum

I'm making this a separate post so as y'all don't miss it. When I was first thinking about how I was going to compose this week's Douche Bag of the Week post, I kept reminding myself to include a reference to a post made a couple of weeks ago over on I Need More Cowbell*.

In my sloth this morning, I completely forgot. I got too wound up about the anti-homo aspect. Anyway, she referenced a PBS series that describes how in many cases, the DNA of people of the same race aren't as close as the DNA of folks of different races. I think that is the perfect antidote for the thinking that we are all so different.

If you want to read her full post, go to the link above. Here is an excerpt that makes my particular case:

"My first thought, when the son told me what had happened, was that I'd love for his class to see Race: the Power of an Illusion, a 3-part PBS documentary.

Part I involves a high school science class in which the students do DNA swabs and blood pricks, then type their DNA. Before they get the results, they form hypotheses about whom they believe they'll be most closely linked to genetically.

Not surprisingly, they predict along racial/ethnic lines; the black kids believe they will be the closest, genetically speaking, to the other black kids, the white kids predict they will be most like other Caucasian kids. Ditto for the Asian and Latino kids.

The results, of course, come back the opposite of what they'd thought: one African-American young man finds he is genetically most similar to a white, blond, Russian classmate. A Caucasian student finds that in addition to having a 100% match with someone in the Balkans (which he expected, given his family history), he is also a 100% match for an African individual, which he did not expect. Another white student is most similar to an Asian girl in his class.

The film goes on to talk about race being a social construct, and the history behind that. It talks about the 2 migrations of people -- the first dying out, the second being modern humans. ALL of us. It covers how we all came about on the same timeline, that there are no separate species of humans, no lines from an earlier time, no group that is more/less advanced, and how any visual differences are a result of geographic adaptations after migration, not from genetic coding.

In other words, none of us are closer to monkeys than any of the rest of us.

Basically, it breaks it down, in scientific terms, that race has no biological basis; no gene, or group of genes, is common to a particular race. Race can't be identified genetically. I was surprised to learn that there is twice the genetic variation between 2 penguins — which, to my eye, look identical — as there is between any two humans.

But ... past science did make a false connection between genes and race and intelligence, past science was used to purposefully construct the social aspects of race. (In fact, the film covers how the Nazis actually had used American racial research to form their bullshit theories. And we all know how that turned out.)

If a particular group of people can be shown, according to "scientific evidence", to be savage, to be less intelligent, less capable of self-governance ... closer to animals than your own group ... how much easier to justify taking their land and confining them to reservations? How much easier to rationalize enslaving those who are less than human? How much easier to convince ourselves that beating, lynching those who are "closer to monkeys" is necessary to keep them in line? That selling them as property is ok? How much easier is it to send those who are "inferior" to concentration camps? How much easier to justify Jim Crow laws, miscegenation laws, if some folks are shown to be closer to animals than others?

Pretty damned easy, according to history."
Well said!


michael sean morris said...

Bravo. I've always said this. Race is the exclusive property of the race industry, from the KKK to the NAACP. There is only one race - the human race - and everything else we think we know about "race" is merely culturally or ethnically based.

There are vested interests who are keeping racism alive, equally personified by David Duke as by Al Sharpton. Ethnic prejudice is loathsome, but at least we know it's cultural, and not encoded into our DNA.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is this: People assume that genes for skin color are somehow linked to the myriad of genes involved in brain structure, body build, etc. They aren't. They just aren't. And there is no evolutionary reason for them to be linked.

It's probably a safe assumption that brain capacity, etc, was pretty much set in the species before the travels from the original species home.

And there's very little reason to believe that the Mediterranean region would have a higher selective pressure for "intelligence" than sub-Saharan Africa. So, on the whole, you'd expect that, other than minor random drift that happens everywhere, intellectual capacity wouldn't be very different from South Africa to the top of Siberia.

(And you always have to separate "intellectual capacity" from "intelligence", imo. The first is biological, the second is basically how much and how well you are taught. If Einstein had grown up with access to no education opportunities, he might well have grown up to be not a very bright person.)

The only things influenced by genes encoding skin color - or eye color, or hair color - are the colors of skin, eyes, and ears.

They are not linked to any complex concepts such as "intellectual capacity", not "athletic prowess", not "criminality" (shiver... ugly that people think this is somehow genetic).

The width of your nose does not define your wisdom. It's absurd on it's face. And it angers me when others don't understand that.

Y | O | Y said...

Atari--Your nose comment reminded me of the Rwandan strife between the Tutsis and the Hutus. I remember reading that two of the "defining features" among the groups were the shapes of their noses and how tall they are. I'm sure the genocide goes deeper than that (or maybe it doesn't), but it was these physical features that were used to ID people of one group or another. Amazing that humans, even of the same race from the same geographical area, can seize upon such inane features to delineate between those who are "good" and those that are "bad."

We are all pretty much the same but yet our minds construct this separateness that leads to such conflict and misery. Why we choose to concentrate on the little that makes us different rather than the things that make us the same is beyond me.

more cowbell said...

wow, hey, thanks for the nod! This is the kind of stuff I wish they'd teach in school from the get-go, not just as a reaction to some screwed up situation like what happened in my son's class. If all of us got this info - along with realistic history - from the time we were still eating Pla-Doh and crayons, what a different place this could be.