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Racism: A scientific delusion

Melvin B. Miller
Racism: A scientific delusion
“These protests are really against all the injustices of the criminal justice system” (Photo: Dan Drew)

Many Americans consider as racist acts both the shooting death of the unarmed Michael Brown and the failure of the grand jury to indict his killer, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Such incidents of police abuse occur all too frequently. Racism has been a human affliction for centuries.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, scientists developed the concept of race to define the significance of physical differences in humans from different places. Those with different color skin or hair or eyes were considered to belong to different racial groups. Such distinctions provided a convenient standard for people to assert their racial superiority over others.

Racial hostility has continued despite biblical injunctions to treat one another as members of the same human family. Although there is evidence we are all descendants of the human species that originated in Africa, that has been insufficient to elevate the status of the African. However, the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA more than 60 years ago has provided scientific evidence of the universality of the human family.

For generations, many Americans have been taught, either directly or indirectly, that whites are superior to blacks. In fact, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney stated the position most succinctly in the Dred Scott case in 1857 that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” It is that expectation of black subservience which cost Michael Brown his life.

This attitude is so subconsciously ingrained in the minds of some whites that little will end it short of a high requiem Mass. But there is hope for the young. The scientific evidence is building that race is an arbitrary construct with little biological basis. Since the sequencing of the human genome was completed in 2003, it has become increasingly clear that of the 20,000 or so human genes, very few distinguish us from one another.

Americans are engaged in serious conflicts over an illusory concept. It is no wonder, then, that people refuse to admit that their negative actions have been motivated by race. For example, what is it that generates much of the hostility to President Obama other than his race? A white president with Obama’s record of achievement would be hailed as a national hero. In the six years of his presidency, the Dow Jones rose from 7,949 in January 2009 to around almost 18,000 today; unemployment dropped from 7.8 percent to 5.8 percent; the deficit fell from 9.8 percent of GDP to 2.8 percent; and consumer confidence rose from 37.7 to 88.7.

Science has established the truth of racial equality, but scientific proofs are not always persuasive to the average person. However, the growing interest in genealogy should generate more broadmindedness. Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has just completed a series of programs for WBGH-TV entitled “Finding Your Roots.” Very few of the celebrities who participated were aware of all the ethnic groups that contributed to their DNA. A scientist at Cambridge’s Broad Institute indicated that regressing anyone’s genes back far enough would essentially find almost everyone related.

With so much evidence refuting the concept of race, those who nonetheless insist on their bigotry should become honorary members of the Flat Earth Society. How strange is it that our great nation would jeopardize its historical reputation by tolerating racism, which we now know is based upon a phantom concept.