The Grand Replacement, or White Supremacy, or White Genocide. Is this an issue? Is it even rational to discuss racial issues in scientific terms? Or rather, should the exposition be about how to celebrate cultural/ethnicity distinctions while appreciating the power of demographic change politically? In a recent article, a liberal journalist with an interesting family ancestry prior to coming to America takes on the White Right. Should he?
There are in the present world order myriad opportunities to see individuals and groups square off in defense of their racial preferences. Some are on the attack. Also, there are many racial groups who have been threatened, attacked and abused by other groups. Even countries in history have suffered from racial policies aimed at eradicating groups of humans. From the polarized views between Black Lives Matter supporters to the present discussions from Whites who are aggregating feelings, statistics and demographic trends to claim a threat to their existence, present racial tensions are surfacing in ways that might make political sense, but do not make scientific sense. In the future these ideas will most likely need to be addressed with a caveat that places race only in an historical context. Race as a concept will need to be addressed differently, replacing the term with ethnicity. DNA has and will play a role in defining race, but there will not be a pure race for any group going forward. Do percentages of racial delineation make viable sense, then? That, though, is where we are at present based on the science available. Why use the term ‘race’ for classification anymore? It is now becoming ever more clear that science has changed the nature of our understanding.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, fomented by ever increasing changes in emigration, exploration, imperialism and globalization, citizens have come into contact with “the other”. It was in the twentieth century that a term was coined to address what was occurring in that century’s conflagrations, many of which were based on racial, or ethnic cleansing. Genocide became a word at that time. A task force arose, the Political Instability Task Force, to collect, assess and address data on whether the conflict might have risen to the status of a genocide. Though man has always tried to eliminate his adversaries (Greeks called them barbarians, Romans obliterated Carthage, Protestants and Catholics found it easy to wipe out each other legally and with religious justification, Native Americans and Aborigines were systematically culled), it became a problem of modern sensibilities when mass weapons and intensified government efforts were used in more recent times. Nations joined together in the post war years to write doctrines and attempted to stop genocides. Yet the Political Instability Task Force has established that there have sadly been more than forty genocides since then.
Perhaps we might move into a future era when it is no longer necessary to check a box on a form related to race. At the very least, future demographers will need to address the growing cosmopolitan nature of population movement and look for a new way to talk about ‘race’. Though today’s movement continues in a radical and sometimes erratic way, with wars, civil unrest, gang violence, economic disparity, religious persecution and environmental catastrophes impacting the increase in movement, many times people move to gain a better education or to sample the ways that other groups do things and then fall in love with the option and wish to stay. Perhaps we should now look at the inevitable and understand that we will need to accept that these new distributions will lead to more blending in future populations. Still, there is an alternative paradigm and it is not pleasant to consider. Science, also, makes this alternative, of giving each of us a percentage marker of how much of the different genomes are present in our unique DNA, both possible and horrifying and sometimes flawed…..and humorous. The Human Genome Project is one example. Back to describing why a clean-playing athlete should not play by the bully’s rules.
What started some one hundred thousand years ago (this figure is being amended constantly due to new information, too) is now weakening man’s claim to unique racial characteristics; man is mixing with other ethnicities at an ever increasing rate creating a new DNA blending. An interesting- and this will impact future politics and laws tremendously- though not yet answered question is whether what started then and is happening now is adding anything new to the human race- (back to the old nature or nurture argument). What Darwin understood enough to call to our attention a century and a half ago is now something scientists can trace through DNA. That search is continually offering new theories. The distinctions that evolved because of long term isolation of specific groups in an environment and culture that allowed for distinctions to prevail through evolution, we are now overwhelming that previous isolation and offering a whole new discussion opportunity.
As the Germans were one of the 20the century’s most egregious perpetrators of genocide, it is interesting (humorous?) to note that one of the most important places on earth tracing DNA is at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig and one of the most important labs is the Reich Lab. The Max Planck Society evolved from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. Planck is an interesting figure in this history, obviously.
David Reich is the head of the lab, of Jewish decent and obviously his family had issues with Germany. And, his name hails from that region. His dad is Walter Reich, former director of the Holocaust Museum in D.C., and one who has his own background of honor…and issues. Strange and humorous is the web of history.
Again, what science is teaching us is that former paradigms are no longer viable when discussing race. These labs are proliferating and advertising in an attempt to expand their databases and therefore our understanding of the past, while contributing to improved knowledge about medical conditions and solutions.
Still, we have just witnessed another example of white males feeling threatened by ‘the other’, which led to the tragedy in New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the safest places in the world, though it is its Petri dish of racial profiling and history. The Maori are the first settlers, but they have not been on the island even a millennia as yet. Not too long afterwards the Europeans first arrived at the islands in 1642, and in quick succession the English settled and took over the island from the Maori. Though the first contacts were not so contentious, contact led to a major disruption for the Maori, whose culture would be forevermore altered and weakened. What would their MNZGA be?
What has happened since then is a small subset of what is happening the world over, though of course the island nature of New Zealand makes it special. So does its location, as the island of Great Britain has had a radically different view, impact and outcome on its status in the world. The New Zealand government is involved in anthropology, archaeology and evolution in significant ways, most of which seek to move away from talk about race and towards ethnicity. Their science is the science of the future. We’re finding we can learn much from the world by the way New Zealand acts…think gun culture.
If that science is accepted widely enough, and here I mean by those who cling to falsehoods, to racism, to religious claims that are indefensible, then there will be no further arguments claiming superior status or privilege based on race. What should happen is a celebration of our differences, while respecting those that do not subjugate gender, sexual preference or class within a culture. Each decade we lose languages, species, weaken ethnicity and cultural distinctions. To leave everything to the corporate logo or the amalgamation of differences into a common offering should be avoided whenever possible, in my opinion. Regional differences, cultural distinctions and unique viewpoints should be celebrated, and understood. When traveling, I look for what is different, even unique. That is exciting. Seeing a Golden Arches is not a favorable outcome in traveling, nor or so many other corporate logos (while admittedly there are some logos that are very welcomed when sighted on the horizon, too).
America, long before it was named by Europeans, was settled more than 20,000 years ago by individuals moving east across Asia. After arriving, groups continued southward until both continents were inhabited. In more recent centuries, Europeans arrived in modern boats with modern weapons and unknown diseases. These Europeans would bring Africans as slaves to do their work.
We were amused by recent episodes of the Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It featured three African-Americans, Ava DuVernay, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Janet Mock. Coates has been a strong voice for Black justice and has spoken of reparations for descendants of slavery. DuVernay is the director of the Civil Rights film Selma. In working through their family histories, which is always concluded with DNA referencing for each participant, some fantastic revelations were exposed. As Coates’ roots around the city of Baltimore were uncovered, he found new information that revealed his family had been free before the Civil War and had property and significant wealth going into the Reconstruction. His personal claims for reparation are unwarranted. In a way, his voice is now likened to the one held by Elizabeth Warren, a white woman who has been embarrassed by DNA findings for claiming her Native American roots, but who also calls for reparations. Is there a difference between Warren and Coates, then in calling for reparations, or is a true descendant of slavery more appropriate? Would Coates be omitted from any list of recipients? Would DNA tests determine the list? For the strong Civil Rights director DuVernay, DNA and historical sleuthing determined that there were significant Caucasian aspects to her family tree. Enough so that whether DuVernay was actually ‘black’ was in question as the program unfolded her family history. In fact, that question is still relevant even so. Not until she turned the final page and saw the pie chart of percentages of genomes did she get the answer. Her percentage of African-American roots ended up, for her, a pleasing 56%. Are you ‘Black’ at that percentage? At 51%? At 48%? And, what if twins are one black and one white? What does that say?
To again return to games played by bullies, the opening article by Farhad Manjoo of the NYTimes addressing whether whites should be worried by changing demographics. The real news is that demographics matter, but what those labels mean is more nuanced. His family is an example of this change in demographics. They emigrated from South Africa, but were of Indian ancestry going back to earlier generations-(Race is a major issue in both countries’ histories, too). He moved to the States as a young child and is now a long-time citizen of this country. His roots don’t determine his voting option and for most other groups this also shouldn’t be a factor. Blacks also shouldn’t vote any particular way, as whites are still in power in nearly every state and city. Why they do is often because one party is embracing a position that seeks to protect the traditions of the past, or the status quo of power, or support for Judeo-Christian values. While these factors are important, they will always be under threat from change. My favorite clip to offer here is from a white former Marine who wanted to stop acculturation and miscegenation, to the point of planning to kill hundreds in his hometown mosque. He is now its leader.
A segue here is to look at these three animated graphs to show historical trends… One is of the largest cities by regions, a second by listing them in a group of ten over time and a third by projecting which cities will be the largest in 2100. Power and political interaction between them has driven a lot of history. What will happen for you Millennials going forward?
How to accept the useful changes and celebrate that which should remain protected in society is an important discussion. Should the majority decide the changes? Can the courts decide that which should be altered, or protected? Must a minority always have protection from threats?
If you look at demographics in the South, Southwest, and both coasts, these are the regions seeing the largest immigration, the faster growth in minorities and the incidence of more change in cultural offerings. This has been the case for over a hundred years in the U.S. As this continues to occur, the individuals in these groups will continue to intermarry and alter the equation. Each time this occurs, there is another example of what has been happening for the past 100,000 years. Only now it is happening with huge numbers involved. There is no indication in events or measurements of demographic changes that illustrate this change being held up, regardless of attempts and attitudes by some to the contrary.
Time is one the side of change, it always has been. Yet, I truly hope we can keep so many things that are examples of cultural differences. These don’t have to be maintained through the promotion of racist policies, though. By celebrating differences and embracing tradition as a good thing, we can meander the tricky path of change and stasis.
Reich lab https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reich_(geneticist)
Max Planck https://imprs.eva.mpg.de/index.html