I recently engaged in a conversation about racism, and I won’t bore you with the larger debate. Instead, I’ll bore you with two threads.
- Taxonomically, modern humans have only one race
- Constructively, race is used as a proxy to otherwise justify otherness
Taxonomically, Homo sapiens is the species, and we so-called modern humans are Homo sapiens sapiens, which is an extended subspecies…and extended at that, perhaps a sub-subspecies.
Definitionally, race is an alternative name for a sub-subspecies, so technically, our current instantiation of humanity, version X.whatever, can be considered a race. However, as there are no extant human subspecies, there is clearly no need for racial delineation. The best we can muster is to say we’ve reserved a placeholder in the taxonomy.
To expand, in this taxonomy, Neanderthal and Australopithecus were competing species. Homo sapiens sapiens is meant to differentiate so-called modern humans from prior Homo sapins idaltu, from which we branched.
The summary is that there is no other extant parallel species to Homo sapiens and (clearly) no parallel subspecies to Homo sapiens sapiens.
Yet racists need races to operate on, and unless they are railing about races within other species, they’ve got no dog in this race. What to do?
How does one not only construct races where none exist but also convince others that this delineation is de facto race, if not de jure?
Colour and relatively recent geographical origin serve as good-enough proxies to differentiate classes under the guise of race. They create specious backstories et voilà.
As most people are decidedly neither scientific nor inquisitive, this is an easy feat. And it provides a sort of gossamer other against which to rail. This structure is so permeable, people have tossed religious affiliation into the mix with barely anyone noticing because race is just a code word for otherness.
The question becomes: how does one fight against something that doesn’t actually exist and whose definition morphs and adapts more readily than a virus?
DISCLAIMER: This post was written on my mobile, so it may have more flaws than usual. I reserve the right to edit it substantially when I have access to a full-size keyboard and monitor.