I think if we were honest enough to admit it, we are all bigoted in some way. Our gender or religion doesn’t really qualify us as superior to anyone else, but we tend to fall back on these identities and, consciously or not, assume they give us a reason to feel that we are not only in possession of a special truth, but that it grants us the privilege to feel better than others.
When we examine the issue of race, however, the bigotry is inherent because racial groups are inclined to assign superior characteristics to their own. It’s called human nature.
There is something else “human” that we need to address, over and above skin color, eye color, hair and other visible differences.
“All human variants in DNA in all people alive today trace their origins to countless common ancestors, all of whom lived in Africa more than sixty thousand years ago. As humans, everyone is related by common ancient ancestry, and ultimately, everyone is African.”
That is the message of a new book by Daniel J. Fairbanks, the dean of the College of Science and Health at Utah Valley University, a distinguished research geneticist and author. “Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race” ($18.00. Prometheus Books, softcover). In a world where race is a component of our lives, Fairbanks says, “Unfortunately, few people are aware of how much is known about the genetic basis of race—or more accurately, the lack thereof.”
“To many, the notion that race is inherited seems self-evident. Yet extensive genetic research has demonstrated that the genetic variation associated with what most people perceive as race represents a small proportion of overall genetic variation. When viewed on a global scale, there are no discrete genetic boundaries separating so-called races.”
It’s hard to argue with DNA, a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions of all known living organisms. Its scientific name is deoxyribonucleic acid and, along with proteins and carbohydrates, it composes the three major macromolecules deemed essential for all known forms of life. Most DNA molecules consist of two biopolymer stands coiled around each other to form a double helix.
What we take to be “race” traces back some one hundred thousand years ago when our species, humans, all lived in Africa. Those early ancestors began to migrate from Africa eventually inhabiting the entire globe. That makes the “human race” one race.
So much evil has been done in the name of race that much of our history and the world’s stems from the notion that the variations, Caucasian, Negro, Asian, are determinative of various traits we attribute to these and other “races.” If we step back a bit, we will conclude we are talking about cultural differences, often the result of geological differences. As Fairbanks notes, regarding the findings of DNA research, “According to their estimates, people worldwide differ on average by about 0.1 percent, evidence that all humans are genetically quite similar to one another.”
It is hard, if not impossible, to argue with the science involved. “The oldest remains of what anthropologists call ‘anatomically modern humans’ (skeletons with features that resemble modern humans) are exclusively from Africa, dating to about two hundred thousand years ago. By contrast, the earliest remains of anatomically modern humans outside of Africa thus far discovered are about one hundred thousand years old.”
The migration out of Africa is dated to about sixty thousand to seventy thousand years ago “and their descendants, through many generations, eventually populated the rest of the world.”
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, “most of the mutations that became variants affecting skin, eye, and hair pigmentation happened outside of Africa in the distant descendants of people who originally left Africa..” Those variations then spread through their descendants within broad geographic regions.”
Those other people you see around you? You are related to all of them.
© Alan Caruba, 2015