A Neanderthal asks what would happen if the government were to stop tracking everyone’s race.
America’s longtime obsession with race seems to be turning into a collective psychosis—one that has also infected me.
Americans are bombarded daily with news stories and commentaries, some accurate and some wildly false, about racial disparities, injustices and prejudices. Employees of large organizations are subjected to a similar bombardment from offices of diversity and inclusion.
Of course, there are historic reasons for the obsession. But continuing to feed an obsession is not the way to treat an obsession. Maybe it’s time for a five-step treatment plan.
Step One: Recognize that race is a social construct with no basis in genetics, and accept that all humans, whatever features and skin color they developed recently (in the context of eons of evolutionary time) have the same roots in Africa.
Step Two: Continue to acknowledge and teach the history of what humans of all skin shades and facial features have inflicted on each other in recent history and throughout history because of social constructs and corresponding tribalism. But also acknowledge and teach that all peoples have the same propensity for good and evil, and all have ugly skeletons in their ancestral closet.
Step Three: Stop using the ridiculous and contrived racial categories of White, African American, Hispanic (or Latino), Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American. Here’s why:
All but the “White” category are geographic identifiers, not races. They identify where the peoples in each group ended up after the great migration of Homo sapiens from Africa.
By contrast, “White” is a skin color (sort of), not a geographical reference. At least when whites were labeled as Caucasian, that was in reference to the Caucasus region; but even that was misleading, as not all whites are from the region.
For the “White” category to conform to the other categories, it would have to be relabeled as “European.” But that wouldn’t be accurate either, because there are marked differences in appearance, culture and income between Northern Europeans and Southern Europeans, as well as between them and whites in Russia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Moreover, there’s the pesky complication of Spaniards and Portuguese being European and also Hispanic.
The worst aspect of the official categories is that they mask the rich diversity of the nation and world – the myriad ethnicities, tribes, and nationalities, each with its own values, beliefs, cultural norms, customs, myths, heroes, and histories of being both victims and victimizers.
There are thousands of unique ethnic groups, and a large percentage fall under the White category. The thousands are spread across all social classes, ranging from East Indian Americans who rank at the top in household income to Pennsylvania German Americans who rank near the bottom.
I’ll leave it to mathematicians to determine the number of possible permutations of ethnic groups, tribes, nationalities, classes, religions, and ideologies. For sure, there are far more than the official five racial categories.
On top of this complexity is the fact that the official categories do not capture the mixing of chromosomes between peoples, or what is known today as intermarriage—a mixing that began with some Homo sapiens mating with Neanderthals.
In any event, to fully understand socioeconomic problems and find the right fixes, it’s necessary to drill down beyond the superficial racial categories and into ethnocultural differences.
For example, it’s one thing to say that Asians excel academically and economically, but it’s another to determine which of the myriad Asian ethnicities and nationalities excel and which don’t, and what accounts for the difference.
Step Four: Learn from countries that don’t keep track of race. What are the downsides and upsides of not tracking race? Do the countries have more or fewer racial problems than the U.S. and more or less racial divisiveness?
Step Five: Focus on root problems instead of race and superficial skin color.
Race has become a convenient and often misleading explanation for socioeconomic problems—a crutch used by lazy intellects and a bludgeon used by race mongers, especially those who reside in newsrooms.
Example: Stories have become de rigueur about discrimination being the cause of certain non-whites having lower income, lower test scores, lower home ownership, and fewer opportunities. But there are few stories about other possible causes, such as a higher incidence of one-parent households—a family arrangement that also has become common among the white lower class. Headlines like this are common: Blacks and Hispanics Lag Whites in Home Ownership. Ones like this are non-existent: Single-Parent Households Lag Two-Parent Households in Home Ownership.
It would be naïve and idealistic to think that the five steps would lead to a utopia where people don’t see themselves and others in racial terms. But it stands to reason that there would be less obsession with race if there were less emphasis on the contrived racial categories.
Take it from an expert. As an Italian, I don’t see myself as one of the official races and don’t have an identity crisis over it.
You see, the Italian peninsula has been crisscrossed over millennia by Neanderthals, North Africans, Persians, Syrians, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Lombards, Berbers, Normans, Franks, Gauls, and worst of all, marauding American tourists on cruise ships. Each group that tromped through mixed its chromosomes with the existing population.
An Italian friend of mine calls himself an octoroon; that is, one-eighth African. Actually, he’s 100% African, like all humans, except those of us who are part Neanderthal.