Friday, February 3, 2012

On Nonsense and Racism

I'm currently reading The Prevalence of Nonsense, which came out in 1967.  It's about exactly what you'd think it's about, pointing out all sorts of nonsensical beliefs that folks persist in having, which is all very cute until you get to Chapter 5, "Absurdities About Race," when authors Ashley Montagu and Edward Darling need to take time out of their busy book-writing schedule to tell us, with statistical and scientific backing and footnotes:

1)  No, there's no such thing as different human "races," such as a Black race and a White race.  We're all one race, with far more similarities than differences.  A member of the Maori tribe and a member of a New York hedge fund are part of the same race.

2)  The "white race" is not inherently more intelligent or superior than any other people, same as any other culture is not inherently more intelligent or superior.  Test scores of intelligence are cultivated by environment.

3)  There is not, nor has there ever been, an "Aryan race."  The notion was invented by Professor Max Muller in 1861 -- and then refuted by Professor Muller for decades thereafter.

4)  The whole idea of "mixed-blood" with relation to mixing cultures and causing "mongrel offspring" is ridiculous.  Blood is blood.  Besides, we're all various "mongrels," anyway, which has been proven to be a very good development for the human race.

5)  There is no such thing as a Jewish nose.  (I liked this one.  A doctor studied hundreds of Jews and hundreds of noses and discovered no correlation.  "The fact seems to be that Bavarians, American Indians, many Asiatic, Alpine, and Mediterranean peoples show a much higher percentage of hooked noses than do Jews.")

6)  Then there are a bunch of other sections exposing awful slurs equating non-whites with animals; for example, comparing Black hair to ape hair (White hair is more similar), comparing Black hands to ape hands (nope, human hands are human hands), comparing size of brain and head (humans are all relatively similar, and besides, size of brain and cranium has no relation to intelligence), specific cultures do not have specific odors (a definitive slur in the South, equating Black smell to the smell of animals), and there's no correlation between slope of forehead, high or low, and a high class or intellectualism of person.  (The whole idea of "lowbrow" and "highbrow" humor is therefore grounded in a lie.)

It's a terribly disturbing chapter.  I'm thankful that Montagu and Darling were motivated to put the lie to such hateful rubbish.

However, much as we wish it were otherwise, even knowing that we live now in 2012 rather than 1967, there is still an enormous amount of racism in every state in this country (and also in a vast amount of nations in the world, if not all of them).  It really should be considered culturalism over racism; the idea that my stereotyped idea of my culture is better than my stereotyped idea of your culture.  (Although I see that "culturalism" is an already defined term for something different.)

It's all about notions of personal superiority and inferiority, pure and simple.  The more we use 'race' and 'racism' as terms, the more we give credibility to the false notion that there's more than one race.  It's not true and it never was.  People are people, same as ignorance is ignorance.

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