The Myth of Race

 

One of the most harmful effects of evolutionary theory is the concept of race. Despite having zero scientific validity to it, the idea that human beings can be categorized into general “races” that are supposedly connected to their biology has wormed its way into our world views. It needs to make a quick exit—stage left.

Thabiti Anwaybwile (pastor of Anacostia River Church in DC) said it this way: “Believing in race is like believing in unicorns, because neither exist.”

Certainly cultures exist. Certainly ethnicities exist. And certainly racism exists (largely fueled by the whole notion of race to begin with).

But unicorns do not, and neither does race.

Here is a definition of race, followed by four reasons you should evict the concept of race from your vocabulary and your worldview: 

“Race”

Dictionaries and biology textbooks define race this way: “Each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics.” When different races are listed, they often consist of African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Native-American, Native Hawaiian, and other sub-sets. Hispanics are considered (by those who consider such things) to not be a race but to be a subset of White.

Race is distinguished from culture/ethnicity. Race is supposedly fixed, objective, genetic and scientific. Culture is flexible, subjective, linguistic and social.

Here four reasons why you should reject the validity of race as a concept:

Race goes against logic

There is no logical grid for race. If a man can trace his ancestry back 500 years in Africa, and then immigrates to the United States, does that make him African-American? How long does he need to be in the United States before he becomes “American?” If immigration can change his racial status, in what sense is it biological?

And does it matter if his skin is white? What race is he then? Or his kids?

I suppose exceptions like this used to be just that—exceptions to the fixed concepts of race. But in today’s world, those exceptions are the rule. From our President (what race is someone with a Kenyan father, white mother, born in Hawaii, school in Asia, but the president of the Untied States?) to our friends, multi-ethnic marriages are becoming the norm. The concept of fixed races has simply become illogical.

And while we are on “illogical,” how can Hispanics be considered a subset of Caucasian, when the entire concept of “Hispanic” is connected to the mixing of African slaves with Spanish and Native Americans? Plus, Hispanics make up 20% of the American Population! If a concept of race misses—by definition—at least 20% of the population, it is ceased to become functional.

Race goes against science

Simply put: there is no scientific evidence that human beings can be categorized in any meaningful way by genetics.

University of New Mexico professor (Go Lobos!) Susan Chavez Cameron wrote a 2011 article surveying the history of scientific inquiry into race. She concluded that humans share at least 99.8% similarities in genes, but that the last .2% diversity is not connected to traits normally associated with race. In fact, only about .0002% of genetic diversity fits into what we might consider “racially identifiable” characteristics.

Chavez Cameron goes on to say that genetic diversity is actually greater within racial groups than it is outside of them. She ends her article by saying the concept of race “itself is passe” and “leads to harm” in counseling, medical treatment, and other areas.

Eloise Menses, Anthropology Professor at Eastern, has written a similar article covering the anthropologic evidences that humans can be categorized by race. She concludes:

“Essentially all anthropologists have given up the attempt to identify races of human beings. This is very simply because the best evidence indicates that there are physically no clear boundary lines between the various communities of people around the world. All of the traits that distinguish human beings from one another are found in all communities, although in varying degrees.”

Collin Kidd, a professor at University of  St. Andrews and the author of The Forging of Races, examined all manner of genetic diversity in humans, trying to categorize people by skin color, height/weight, stature, enzymes, hair types, and even ear wax types (who knew?). He concluded that while people can be divided along those lines, those divisions do not produce anything close to our concept of race.

Which should be obvious. You can have two people stand up side-by-side, and they can look identical, but be two different races; there is no underlying genetic differences that validate our desire to separate them by race.

Race goes against history

Throughout history, the concept of race has been used to oppress people. Here is the logic: if you agree that different races developed differently, and that these differences are genetic, then the obvious conclusion is that they are not equal. And if they are not equal, then some races (or at least one race) must be superior.

This gives way to banning inner-racial marriages—after all, you have to guard the purity of the elevated race. This gives justification for slavery—if people are inferior, ought they serve the superior?

In fact, much of our culture’s current understanding of race can be traced back to the German doctor Johan Blumenbach. In the early 1800’s, he examined skulls from around the world and declared that there were five races (Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, and American). Blumenbach is the first that I know of to divide races by color (white, yellow, brown, black, red).  But he also argued that because of this diversity, a hierarchy must be established.

Well, it turns out that not only is the concept of a hierarchy based on skin color absent of any scientific backing, but it also is the source of much harm. That harm has been manifest in perhaps every nation of the world, and certainly one of the main evils in American history. While the harm of the past cannot be undone, eliminating the concept of race from our world view would be a good start.

Race goes against the Bible

If you believe in a historic Adam and Eve, then this should be a no-brainer.

The Bible makes it clear that we are all descended from Adam, and that we are all one blood. Every human being has the same genetic core, because we all have a common ancestor. Genesis 1:27 describes the creation of all humans, and 2:7 shows that his occurred through the physical creation of Adam. His name means “man” because we would all come from him.

After the flood, the earth is populated again, but this time with a different approach. All the genetic diversity of the pre-diluvium world was in Noah’s three sons, and the divisions at Babel can trace their roads back to the ark (Gen 10:1-6).

This is why Paul says that all people on the earth are really “one blood” (Acts 17:26; KJV). The Holman says it this way: “From one man he has made every nation.”

The Bible never uses the concept of race, but it does use the concept of ethnicity. God is glorified with there is diversity in the church. The gospel is powerful enough to transcend cultures, social classes, languages, continents, and centuries. Heaven will be a diverse place, and the diversity comes from the transcendent power of the gospel, not from genetic make-up supposed classes of people.

I know our culture treats race like an idol, but the emperor has no clothes, and underneath our skin and hair, we are all pretty much the same. Celebrate diversity of cultures and ethnic groups, but run far away from the idea that humans can be meaningfully divided by race.

 

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