43. THE MYTH OF RACE AND RACIAL DIFFERENCES

Nationalist and ethnic conflicts are fratricides that turn on absurdities. They can only be sustained by myth. The arguments and bloody disputes take place over tiny, almost imperceptible nuances within society- what Sigmund Freud calls the “narcissism of minor differences”…nationalist myths stand on such minuscule differences…tiny specks over which to argue and establish an identity. – Christopher Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (above)

In its amicus brief in Loving, the NAACP noted that physical anthropology and human genetics disproved…that “pure races” either exist in the present or have existed in the past…and that cultural level is dependent upon racial attributes…theories longed deemed nonsensical throughout the world’s community of natural scientists. -Professor Dorothy E. Roberts1

For all practical purposes race is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth. – Sir David Cannadine 2

 

We uncritically assume that, unlike most other so-called civilized countries in the world, which work towards giving race no special legal status, Canada must always continue to do so with respect to our Indian peoples. This is partly because they are, according to Canada’s Indian and non-Indian elites, racially unique from the rest of Canadians.

But this so-called “blood” racial uniqueness – this mandatory racial “apartness”- that our elites decree must always be respected and continued – is it really that real, concrete and substantial?

The concept of race is mainly an illusion – a mental construct – perhaps genetically and historically a necessary illusion – a necessary construct – originating in Man’s emotional and psychological need to feel that he “belongs” – that’s he’s special and different from the “other”- that he’s a part of something bigger than himself.

But it’s an illusion nonetheless.

“Race,” or “racial differences” – such substantive and seemingly conclusive and definitive concepts used to categorize and divide humans, and which engender such strong and intense emotions – on close analysis, turn out to be largely imaginative social constructs only, with very little scientific validity.

Sir David Cannadine writes in The Undivided Past:

According to the findings of the Human Genome Project, people of all backgrounds, locations and “races” share more than 99.9 percent of their DNA, and in the cases of the remaining 0.1 percent there is more variation within stereotypical racial groups than between them. This means that 99.9 percent of the genes of a “black” person are the same as those of a “white” person, and that the genes of any “black” person may be more similar to the genes of a “white” person, than to another “black” person. Thus understood, race is a biologically meaningless concept and category, literally no more than skin deep. It is neither innate nor permanent, for skin color can change dramatically from one generation to another as the result of mixed-race marriages.

He further writes, quoting numerous other scientists:

Scientists have reached general agreement in recognizing that mankind is one: that all men belong to the same species, Homo Sapiens. Genes responsible for the hereditary differences between men were always few when compared to the whole genetic constitution of man and the vast number of genes common to all human beings regardless of the population to which they belong. It follow(s) that the likenesses among men are far greater than their differences….For all practical purposes race is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth….Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood.

Are there that many social differences between the races and ethnicities of the world? – between Indians and non-Indians in Canada? When you think of the preponderance of similarities, you realize that relative to those,  there are not many.

In fact the races and ethnicities of the world have almost everything in common. Professor Wilson, in The Social Conquest of Earth, described human nature as “the inherited regularities of mental development common to our species.”

He then set out a famous alphabetical list – famous amongst world-class anthropologists – either unknown to or deliberately ignored by Indian industry academics – of 67 social behaviors and institutions (“universals of culture”) common to virtually all human societies:

Age-grading, athletic sports, bodily adornment, calendar, cleanliness training, community organization, cooking, cooperative labor, cosmology, courtship, dancing, decorative art, divination, division of labor, dream interpretation, education, eschatology, ethics, ethno-botany, etiquette, faith healing, family feasting, fire making, folklore, food taboos, funeral rites, games, gestures, gift-giving, government, greetings, hair styles, hospitality, housing, hygiene, incest taboos, inheritance rules, joking, kin groups, kinship nomenclature, language, law, luck superstitions, magic, marriage, mealtimes, medicine, obstetrics, penal sanctions, personal names , population policy, postnatal care, pregnancy usages, property rights, propitiation of supernatural beings, puberty customs, religious ritual, residence rules, sexual restrictions, soul concepts, status differentiation, surgery, tool-making, trade, visiting, weather control and weaving.

Of course Indians and non-Indians in Canada share all these universals of culture! And conversely, one is hard-pressed to name just one cultural characteristic of Canadian Indians that is not shared by Canadian non-Indians. The conclusion is inescapable: genetically, “racially,” socially, and in every other way that counts, there is no difference!

So why are we seeing the unity glass 1% empty when it’s 99% full?

Because we’re letting our baser instincts – our autopilot, default tribalistic side – our amygdala (see below) – call the shots.

Because our leaders, especially our indigenous leaders, have all the power and money reasons in the world to perpetuate these racist fallacies.

In neglecting or refusing to infuse and inform our politics and law with this basic, undeniable science- in not fighting this – in letting it prevail so – we are departing from all our past, enlightened practices, attitudes and values.

We are being un-Canadian.

 

  1. From Loving v. Virginia as a Civil Rights Decision, New York Law School Law Review, Volume 59, 2014/2015. This famous 1967 Unites States Supreme Court legal decision  overturned the right of American States to ban interracial marriage, and was the subject of the 2016 Hollywood movie, Loving.
  2. From The Undivided Past, above

By: Peter Best