What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and race all have in common? They’re lies. Fed to you by your parents, who were fed by their parents. And if you have children, you’ll probably feed them the same.
Before delving further into our own societal problems, let’s talk about dogs. Great danes, chihuahuas, huskies — they could not be more different. Yet they are members of the same species canis lupus, and more specifically the subspecies canis lupus familiaris. If species is the most specific taxonomic classification, then what are breeds? They are classifications based on physical similarity — resulting from generations of selective breeding — which breeders created to distinguish their product.
Put another way, it’s a concept created by people to distinguish between dogs based on how they look — a label from which we can profit. This situation is directly applicable to people. Biologically, we are all the same species. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the contrary.
This is the part where someone in the back brings up the thing with the skulls. Now, this is important — it’s how we identify the racists.
“Race” did not exist until the late sixteenth century; it’s a derivation of scientific ignorance, inflated ego and the need of a moral justification for slavery.
In 1779, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach concluded in “Decas craniorum” that the human species is made up of five races: Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow), Malay (brown), Ethiopian (Black) and American (red) — based on his examination of 60 skulls. He also spread the “degenerative hypothesis,” which was that Adam and Eve were Caucasians in Asia, and all other races degenerated from Caucasian into their current state due to environmental factors, namely sun exposure and poor diet.
Like any other expression of power and exceptionalism, Europeans took this idea and ran with it. Craniology, or the study of human skulls, became a justification of white supremacy. People of color were labelled as mentally and morally inferior. Until then, people were identified based on culture or religion — physical attributes were often related, but not limited to these groupings. However, people could always convert religions or become part of a new culture. There needed to be some easily identifiable, innate differentiation between those who were on top and those at the bottom.
Building off Blumenbach’s theories, pseudoscientists like Samuel Morton — a U.S. doctor in the early 19th century — derived a hierarchy of intelligence: first Caucasians, followed by East Asians, South Asians, Indigenous people and finally Black people. Morton’s ideas were taken as fact, adding to the ever-growing pile of excrement known as “racial anthropology,” and from that point on, it’s been a human centipede situation: swallowed from one generation to the next.
It’s very easy to distance oneself from unsavory aspects of the past, to blame mistakes on the past being ‘‘a different time.’’ The latter part is undeniably true; things have indeed changed since then; now lynchings happen in the courtroom and not the town square; legalese is used instead of a noose — yet the crowd of watchers is just as big. Mistakes must come before progress; however, it is only by willful ignorance or malicious intent that someone of this ‘‘modern era’’ would continue to follow the superstitions of the dead.
Now, this is not an argument for the ‘‘I don’t see color’’ camp. Not only is the notion of skin color blindness ridiculous, it is downright dehumanizing. Ignoring people’s physical differences means disregarding the challenges they face due to the institutionalized systems of inequality in this country.
The discussion above may seem to be a purposeful complication of identity. This is partly the case. However, this is because the issue is worth discussion. It is the world of academia that invented these problematic terms to divide their fellow human beings into neat categories. Notwithstanding this country’s long standing affinity for pretentious old white men, the longer we blindly follow outdated concepts under the veil of anti-racism, the longer we perpetuate the lie of U.S. equality. It is impossible to combat the institutions of racism without recognizing that race itself is one of them.
Until there is a reformation of what it means to be Black or white, Asian or Latinx — not of different races but different people of the same, human race — there is no hope of effectively combating this issue of inequality.
So how does such a fundamental change come about? As with all issues of corruption, it is necessary to go to the source. In this case: the education system. There’s the education kids receive at home — which no one can control — and that which they acquire at school. If parents choose to send their children to private institutions, they do so knowing that the curriculum can diverge from the standardizations dictated by the federal department of education. Despite how concerning a creationist-based “education” is, there is nothing to be done about that; thus, the weight of the future is placed on the malnourished shoulders of the public school system.
President Joe Biden recently appointed Miguel Cardona, Connecticut education commissioner, as the U.S. Secretary of Education. While hopes are high, this is a tall order. It remains to be seen what steps will be taken towards reforming this country’s broken educational system.
And yes, it is hard to think about these things. Splicing beliefs which are ingrained into our society is difficult — it involves directly challenging the system of power that rules our lives.
It’s uncomfortable when our beliefs are challenged. Stay comfortable in racism, or allow that discomfort to push you into action.
Like the saying goes: you reap what you sow. So sow the seeds of change, and feed their fruits to future generations.