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20. Identity beyond Notions of Race

New Identity Classifier

In article #19 (GKIS) it is mentioned that the disassociation between our underlying genetic structures and our understanding of human differences, question most diagnostic tools we use to classify ourselves. For example, we often categorize humans on appearances, which can be deceptive. This is particularly relevant with regard to questions about “race”.

interrace-marriage

1. Categorizing humans on appearances is deceptive

A case in point is skin colour. Over long periods of time certain genes were turned on in the peoples who wandered inland and north across upper latitudes; others turned off. Particular pigments disappeared in those who travelled farthest from the sun and selection forces tended to grade our hue according to distance from the equator.

For this reason … our colour may have more to say about where our ancestors lived over the past 10,000-20,000 years than about their genetic divergence over the previous 60,000 years.[1]

If our outward systems of classification are suspect then it is imperative to disband them in favour of the one method that provides the most fundamental understanding of who we are: namely DNA.

Human genetics is the new identity classifier and necessitates a radical shift in thinking: a major change in paradigm.

Universal Compatibility

The unique hub, from which all subsequent human characteristics evolved, was mankind’s ‘ancestral singularity’ that came about in Africa some 150,000 to 200,000 years ago.

spreading-homo-sapiens

2. Modern humans trace their origins to a common hub in Africa 150,000 to 200,000 years ago

This common point was a bottleneck in which the numbers of survivors had dwindled to near-extinction. As a result, our genetic diversity is relatively narrow. Since then, every living human has arisen from the same protoplasmic flow over the surface of the globe.

Further changes came about, like the introduction of small amounts of DNA from non-modern humans (e.g. Neanderthals and Denisovans) who shared many of our attributes but didn’t survive along the evolutionary trajectory.

However, the sum of modifications within modern humans over space and time were never enough to sever genetic compatibility; they were never enough to create barriers to reproduction; they were never enough to make any of us into a separate species. Nothing severed the bond of our “communal identity” (article #17 GKIS).

Origins of Racism

After modern humans spread out across and beyond their African homeland in amoeba-like flows around the globe, inevitable reencounters took place.

Himalayas

3. Geographic barriers like the Himalayas separated human cousins for thousands of years before reencounters took place

In Shelter and Shadows Raymond Keogh states that “…the groups that split away from the beachcomber shore on the Arabian Sea, round 40,000 years ago, and made their way up the Indus River—in time arriving north of the Himalayas—encountered other groups that had come north on the far side of the same mountain mass. It is anyone’s guess how the meetings turned out. After such a long period of segregation, strangers would not recognise that they were distant cousins.”[2]

Relative advantages and disadvantages quickly became apparent among different groups. As a general principal, a society which had to overcome more obstacles in the course of their survival gained the upper hand over societies which existed without the same number of social, technological, biological and environmental challenges.

For example, groups that had to face new threats on a continual basis while moving into cooler climates gained a range of advantages compared to those that remained in relatively static ecological environments.

Furthermore, societies that were closer to centres of technological developments gained over those that were more isolated. Historically, parts of Europe progressed at a faster pace than the rest of the world or outlying regions of the Continent. For example, the Roman Empire evolved more rapidly than isolated regions like Ireland.

Centres of innovation shifted towards northern Europe in post-Roman times and in modern history (e.g. industrial revolution in Britain) giving the elites who were part of that advancement certainty that they belonged to a “superior race”. The corollary of this form of thinking was the view that the “other” who was comparative backward was fundamentally inferior.

Nazis

4. Nazi notions of human genetics were totally erroneous

In cases where appearances happened to be distinct (e.g. white versus those of colour) the attitude of superiority became based on skin colour.

At the same time other reasons had to be given to explain the presence of “racially inferior” whites. The obvious answer was to explain differences on the basis of substandard genetics (e.g. Nazi Germany). However, the Third Reich’s understanding of human genetics on the eve of the findings of Crick and Watson was totally erroneous.

The Future of “Race”

Modern transportation has ensured that global genetic flows are overlapping with unprecedented speed. And although these genetic streams might remain separate for a time because of cultural barriers and racial attitudes, mixing is occurring at an accelerating pace and will continue to do so.

Mixed_cultures

5. Fresh blends of people are appearing on the planet’s surface within which the future shape of mankind is slowly becoming visible

What is actually happening at a more fundamental level is the reunification and re-blending of the entire human genome as genetic appendages that have been long divided begin to intermingle with each other. Fresh blends of people are appearing on the planet’s surface within which the future shape of mankind is slowly becoming visible.

Re-blending is disintegrating artificial barriers between segments of humanity and gradually diminishing inequalities.

This process is set to continue until a fully blended society becomes the norm. It may take several hundred years to be achieved because deep-seated prejudices take time to break down. But, eventually, our current notions of “race” will appear nonsensical.

The rise of globalisation; growing multiculturalism; greater opportunities in education and employment for people of all origins are contributing to an improvement in abilities, particularly for those whose parents and ancestors have not had access to educational facilities in the past.

The recognition that our human identity is based on a narrow DNA base is also helping to ameliorate false notions of intrinsic barriers separating segments of humanity. These factors are contributing to the further erosion of “race” as a dividing factor between humans; but there is some way to go before mankind will be completely rid of racism.

Refs

[1] Oppenheimer, S. 2004. Out of Eden. Robinson. London.

[2] R. M. Keogh and Shadows. An Awakening to Our Common Identity. Our Own Identity here here

GKIS Gerald Keogh Identity Series

Photo acknowledgements:

Wikimedia Commons: 1 National Park Service 2 NordNordWest; 3 NASA https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63432 4 National Archives and Records Administration

5 Our Own Identity

Coming Next

Identity beyond Notions of Culture