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Racism racist

The belief that the genetic differences between groups of humans are important. People who believe there are differences usually believe that what they consider their own group is superior to some other group. The political expression may be a wish to deny the members of the other group normal political rights, such as the vote.

In western societies the people designated as inferior were usually Africans and some Asians.

In Europe racism has also expressed itself as a hatred of Jews (anti-semitism). As a people these are distinguished by culture and religion but not by genetic difference.

Basil Davidson has shown (Black Mother) that the belief in the inferiority of Africans did not begin until after the slave trade had begun. Until then African rulers were treated as the equal of European rulers. That is, the belief in racial inferiority was a result of the psychological need to deny the humanity of people being used cruelly.

Racial discrimination has occurred throughout western society though there are now legal prohibitions in most countries. Only South Africa (Apartheid) and Germany (Nazis 1933-45) have had thorough-going legal racial separation, but Fiji has legal handicaps for citizens of Indian descent. Japan has a whole class of people, the Burakumin, who are treated unequally, as well as people of Korean descent. In India society is divided into classes known as Castes, some of which find it difficult to move out of laboring work. In the United States racial discrimination, formerly common in the southern states, is now illegal, having been ruled unconstitutional. There remain many examples in many countries of unofficial and private racial discrimination, such as in real estate and de facto segregated living areas, common in the United States.

There is no scientific evidence that the superficial differences of facial shape and skin color have any effect on thinking ability. However, dark skin (with melanin) may have an advantage in conditions of high ultra-violet light caused by industrial chemicals. In high latitudes (near the poles) therefore there might be advantages in inter-marriage on a wide scale to disseminate melanin quickly through the population. Those without melanin will probably have a higher rate of skin cancer.

In general the genetic differences between humans are very small: in the region of tens of genes (out of 50,000). The differences between individuals of a geographical neighborhood are as great as those between continental separations. This reflects the fact that modern humanity has evolved rather recently (perhaps 40,000 years) from a small stock so that the whole range of genes are dispersed among all members of the human community.

The racists may of course stop using genes as their basis and turn to culture. But there is no evidence of separate cultures either. The range of human customs is very large but even the most remote-seeming peoples share the traditional human stories (Idries Shah - World Tales Allen Lane 1979), indicating that there is a common human culture. Every traditional culture shows influence from others, sometimes surprisingly distant. All human cultures are probably deficient in some aspects of what would make for the complete human being. The present and foreseeable future seems to see the creation of a new world culture incorporating elements of the various cultures.

Adolf Hitler believed there was an "Aryan" race. There is no scientific evidence for this. There is an Indo-European group of languages which seems to have originated with a single root language somewhere in north Central Eurasia. This was sometimes called Aryan (before Hitler). Ariana is believed to be centered on the city of Balkh (Wazirabad) in Afghanistan . The speakers share the genetic inheritance of the rest of the Eurasian population. They share the cultural inheritance of Eurasia and Africa.

It is notable that in Anglo-Saxon countries people with even a small number of African ancestors are still designated "non-white" , indicating that this is a ritual or symbolic classification. Thus a person with 31 "white" ancestors is visually predominantly "white" . The 32nd African ancestor causes him or her to be labeled "black" . (In Hispanic countries there are further classifications including "Mestizo" = Mixed.) But it would seem sensible to answer questions of race? with "Human" .

Cultural, national or religious differences, as in Yugoslavia , can be as effective as racial differences in causing hatred. In Burundi and Rwanda the civil war is about feudalism rather than race.

Idries Shah - World Tales




World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places

Last revised 28/07/09


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