Saturday, 25 May 2013 20:54

On Being A Racist

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Humans have long divided themselves into tribes and sects, allowing superstition, religion and culture to flame hatred one to the other.  It has caused slavery, genocide, and the destruction of entire civilizations that were at the forefront of knowledge; a mammoth loss to the whole of humankind.  Was any of it worth it?  Is bigotry and racism simply part of our genetic makeup that cannot be overcome?  Can we justify calling others racist?  And, more to the point, is any of it valid?

On Being a Racist

Bigotry and racism go hand in hand

Michael Burgess wrote an enjoyable, light-hearted blog—Insulted to be called Australian—on these pages in November, 2012.  His blog was based on an item in the Sydney Morning Herald detailing how a New Zealand woman living in the UK was called an Australian—and didn’t care much for it—by a woman from Czechoslovakia, also living in the UK, and so the Kiwi (no, that’s not a racial slur) took it to court, and won.

It seems likely there was more to the story that went unreported, but even assuming there was or was not some other factor involved, the message is that the first tendency in these matters is to sue somebody.  The amount of the award was trifling and in this the court acted correctly (in my view) but the cost of the court action to the UK taxpayer was not likely so trifling.  Most such cases that get to court result from non-pigmented persons (I’m trying not to get sued here) calling a pigmented person a name of derision based upon their degree of pigmentation.  Frankly, if that is the only weapon in ones arsenal, I would have thought you should avoid a slanging match in the first place.   Terms such as pure-blood and mixed-blood are meaningless when applied to humans.  It is not a scientific reality and are terms denoted for selective breeding purposes in other animals; a tool of husbandry.  And it is not very useful even in that context.  Still, we humans like to use mixed blood or mixed race to describe someone else of, in our belief, mixed ancestry.  There is no such thing.  Blood transfusions occur around the clock in hospitals, on battlefields, in triage centres and on disaster sites.  Nothing denotes the origin of the donor blood being transfused and nothing is imparted to the donee.  So, why are we all so touchy about other people?   And it seems that the more ‘mixed-race’ one is, the more offended and sensitive one is likely to be.

An incident occurred during a break in a sports broadcast in Darwin a short while ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  A long-time and well known sports commentator, believing himself to be off the air, his microphone closed as it should have been, made a quip to his colleagues to the effect that without stadium lights it was hard to see Indigenous Australian players unless they smiled.  It is an old quip, much used by others and never particularly funny to begin with.  Nonetheless it aroused the ire of some and he was suspended.  The fate of the technician whose job it was to shut off the microphones and who, if he had done his job, would not have embroiled his employer in such an awkward circumstance was not mentioned.  I hope he got fired for his incompetence, but that is just, once again, my opinion.  The incident was later discussed as a news item on another ABC programme, The Drum, on Thursday, May 9, 2013.  One of the panellists, Ellen Fanning, the host of Observer Effect, was asked if she thought the remark was, indeed, racially inflammatory or should have been ignored as insensitive but clearly, given the circumstances, not intended to vilify anyone or any group, merely a characterization.  Her response was damning as well as surprising, at least to me.  She said, “If they are offended by this, ergo, it is racist”.  Really?  So, if someone suffering some degree of delusional paranoia takes offence at something someone says, that should be the only test?  You’re a hard woman, Ellen.  And why is it racist because some non-pigmented person says it but not too often the other way around?  Charles Ramsey, the man who assisted the Cleveland women who were kidnapped and held captive for several years, was giving his version of events on TV.  He quipped to the effect that he knew something was really wrong when a pretty, young, white girl asked a black man for help.  That, of course, is not what he meant by the comment.  I chuckled when I heard it for it neatly summed up the intensity of the situation, the extraordinariness of it.  It was not meant by Mr Ramsey to be either racist or even controversial.  He was enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame and good on him.  Still, it was a damning thing to say out loud on national TV but, to the best of my knowledge, no one has complained about it.  No politically correct busybodies came out of the woodwork to whinge and whine and threaten to sue as many people as possible.  So, why not?  Was it because it was non-pigmented people being made the butt?  Who cares?

You see, the thing is, none of the foregoing preamble has any validity whatsoever in terms of racism.  There are no separate races of people in this world.  There is only one race of humans and that is us, all of us.  The last time we shared this planet with another race of humans was some thirty-five thousand years ago when Neanderthal walked among us.  Those characteristics we use, erroneously and ridiculously, to denote race are nothing more than the result of limited gene pool mathematics.  We have not speciated; we do not come in varieties of human beings.  Anthropologists can seemingly prove the isolation of Indigenous Australians, at least in the arid inland, for more than forty-thousand years.  Some paleoanthropologists are prepared to claim an existence in isolation of more than sixty-thousand years.  Nonetheless, if these people were to breed with another group of people with a similar history of isolation, their offspring would be viable human beings, not mules or hybrids.  Our expertise in genetics would even allow us to predict what characteristics the offspring would have, with remarkable accuracy.   In conversation with anthropologists some years ago, they assured me that it was quite possible only a short time before to know which town certain Chinese males were born because of very limited travel and the small size of the villages and precincts.  See?  Limited gene pool mathematics at work.

German National Socialist scientists tried to identify racial types in the nineteen-thirties and forties to satisfy their own warped agenda.  They took many thousands of scientific measurements and conducted thousands of pseudo-scientific tests, and all to no avail.  They failed to positively identify even one nominated group of humans, not even the existence of a true Aryan race.  One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to classifying humans.  Nor do any groups of humans precede any others in terms of evolution.  White-Supremacists are prone to believe that pigmented people are an inferior early breed of human and that non-pigmented people are a higher order of evolutionary refinement.  I suppose it would do little good to explain to them that if it works that way at all, then it is likely the other way around.  Our closest cousins, the Chimpanzee, are non-pigmented under all that hair.  It is only when some humans began to exploit melanin that we were able to recolonize the equatorial regions of our planet.  The rest of us just got cancer and kicked out of the breeding pool.

However, if you are one of those people whose beliefs are not open to argument, then I invite you to try it for yourself.  Take a piece of paper and write out a list of the various races you can come up with.  Then have a look at an atlas and try and sort the people of different countries or regions into your list.  It won’t work.  And just like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to make the wrong pieces fit perfectly is not only impossible, it ruins the picture.  One more thing that you might want to try is to put your list into some kind of numbered order, like the most intelligent, or the most handsome or industrious.  I am willing to bet that the only time the race with which you have identified yourself is anywhere near the bottom of the list, is when your list is sorted into some derogatory characteristic.  And that makes you a bigot as well as a racist.  So, shame on you.

David Edwards

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