The next time I’m asked to identify my “race” on a form, I’m going to check “other” and write “human” in the blank.

In poking around and doing some research it turns out that race is mostly an archaic term that holds little scientific value. Race is roughly equated to sub-species, and in humans there is currently only one species with no sub-species. Geneticists and anthropologists are in near universal agreement that all humans came “out of Africa” and migrated to the other continents (and of course some stayed in Africa). But that consensus only came about in the early 1980’s via DNA analysis; before then it was thought that humans somehow evolved independently on each continent without a single origin. In response to the amount of ultraviolet light in different geographic locations, some humans evolved different skin pigmentation, but this genetic variation is way too slight to be considered a different race or sub-species. The genetic information regarding skin color is similar to that which dictates hair and eye color. Once you go deeper than the skin, all human tissues and fluids are the same color among the races. “All human brains are gray” one person wrote. If pressed to distinguish humans by physical traits and generic makeup, some scientists suggest that blood type is more significant than anything else. Geneticists remind us that there is just as much genetic diversity within a race as between races.

Race is really a sociological conceit that was conceived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s mainly by Americans and Europeans to justify the exploitation of non-Americans and non-Europeans. Races were categorized into a hierarchy based on a supposed superiority that included attributes like intelligence and stamina. Every time you use the term race you are partly alluding to that hierarchy. Many scientist (and others) place the word race in quotes, as “race”, to delegitimize it as a term.

What I’ve just written may be top-of-mind obvious to some people. (“Duh, Lou”, I can already hear them say.) To others it may be more buried down in the subconscious. It’s a huge cliche to say “all humans are the same”. We live in a world where we think and speak constantly about race and race relations. There’s still a large disconnect between what we know and how we think and behave.

Like I said, the next time I’m asked to identify my “race” on a form, I’m going to check “other” and write “human” in the blank, just to remind myself.

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