A subversive idea: The end of race

What if one of the things you thought were true simply weren't?  Could you let go of your old beliefs?  What if they struck at the core of some of your most basic concepts of self?  In earlier times, people have confronted this unnerving reality, generally as the scientific revolution rolled over their old ideas.  We seem to think we are immune, that everything we know is the truth.

Thomas Kuhn, in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, argued that science is not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge.  Instead, "science is a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions."  After such revolutions, "one conceptual world view is replaced by another."  It is time for another revolution, and this one involves the entire concept of race.

As a scientific fact, the black race doesn't exist.  Neither does the white or Asian.  There is no race gene.  In the year 2000, when the scientists at the National Institutes of Health announced that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome, the researchers unanimously declared that there is only one race: the human race.

The Hispanic "race" didn't even exist until the 1970 census – they needed some classification for "them."  Here is a subversive idea: what if there truly isn't any "them"?  What if the whole concept of "them" is simply a creation of our classification?  One can take data and classify it in a myriad of ways, but the classification doesn't become real in any physical sense. 

If we treat the idea of race like any other scientific concept, old, invalid thinking must be discarded when new discoveries are made.  Often this demands a profound shift in thinking.  Copernicus's discovery that the Earth is not the center of the universe is an example of a similar realization that demanded this type of profound shift.

In the 18th century, Goethe captured this reality when discussing the profound impact of Copernicus's discoveries:

Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus. The world had scarcely become known as round and complete in itself when it was asked to waive the tremendous privilege of being the center of the universe. Never, perhaps, was a greater demand made on mankind – for by this admission so many things vanished in mist and smoke! What became of our Eden, our world of innocence, piety and poetry; the testimony of the senses; the conviction of a poetic – religious faith? No wonder his contemporaries did not wish to let all this go and offered every possible resistance to a doctrine which in its converts authorized and demanded a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed not even dreamed of.

Whether we like it or not, there is no scientific basis for the concept of race, and focusing on a human invention will never solve the problem of racism.  Let the revolution begin.

John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change.  He is also president and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.EICEnterprises.org, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world primarily through K-12 education.

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