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Refutation of Racism

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1. Introduction

PDF Version This essay identifies and discusses the inconsistencies, misconceptions and misrepresentations that characterise racist ideas. A definition of racism will first be established, followed by an examination of its most fundamental premise; that race is a scientifically or epistemologically valid schema for human biological variation. Following that, the various ways in which racism manifests itself will be discussed.

2. Defining Racism

The definition of racism is disputed and commonly imprecise. It is most often used to describe negative racial discrimination or prejudice, however this fails to recognise that positive discrimination—such as racial pride, or where racial groups are afforded special exceptions or treatment—is effectively the same thing.

Racism is also sometimes incorrectly identified as being limited to institutionalised prejudice, whereby it is claimed that only those belonging to certain “privileged” or “powerful” racial groups can be legitimately regarded as racist.

Stripped of non-essentials and distortions, the following represents the definition of racism that will be used throughout this essay:

Racism is where the biological traits that are used to define a person's race are treated as being necessarily accompanied by characteristics that are not so, or where these traits are met with a rationally unjustifiable reaction.

As an aside, a similar definition could be used for sexism or other “isms” which identify some other category as being causally responsible for a range of characteristics that are in reality unrelated, coincidental or dependent on a third factor.

2.1. Flawed Definitions

Definitions of racism which correspond to those that were dismissed above deserve to be addressed before moving on.

2.1.1. Prejudice Based Definitions

Benjamin (2016) proposed “prejudice based on race” as a condensed form of “racial prejudice or discrimination” (itself being a dictionary definition) after deciding “discrimination” was redundant. While this definition is perhaps closer to how most people understand the term, prejudice implies a negative judgement, thus leaving positive discrimination and racial pride outside of its scope despite these sharing the same basic premise; that race is causally responsible for characteristics beyond those that are used to define race in the first place.

To suggest that only either positive or negative characteristics are causally linked to race is arbitrary. At the very least such characteristics would have to exist on a continuum of preferability, thus implying the racial superiority and inferiority that such definitions of racism are attempting to avoid.

My chosen definition differs by encompassing all judgement based on race, whether positive or negative. It also accounts for the fact that ideologies can (and often do) rely heavily or entirely on falsehoods or misrepresentations of reality by allowing for subjective racial classifications (“biological traits that are used to define a person's race” rather than “biological traits that define a person's race”).

2.1.2. Social Justice Definitions

Social justice definitions of racism generally take one of two forms. Firstly there are those which maintain a similarity with more standard definitions of racism by treating it as something that requires deliberate thought and action, while adding an additional condition such that only those who belong to dominant or privileged racial group (in terms of either numbers, or according to some interpretation of “power”) are capable of being racist:

It is important to push for the understanding that racism is 'prejudice plus power' and therefore people of color cannot be racist against whites in the United States. People of color can be prejudiced against whites but clearly do not have the power as a group to enforce that prejudice. Katz (2003)

Secondly there are those which go even further by declaring that racism is perpetrated passively, simply by belonging to the aforementioned privileged groups:

All white individuals in our society are racists. Even if a white is totally free from all conscious racial prejudices, he remains a racist, for he receives benefits distributed by a white racist society through its institutions. National Education Association (1973)

The great irony of social justice definitions of racism is that they are racist according to more widely understood definitions. They consist of and prescribe vague, sweeping judgements and condemnations based on race, unapologetically dispensing with any pretense of treating people as individuals.

Such definitions are an attempt to hijack the word for political purposes; to make racism acceptable (or even righteous) as long as the target is a member of a historically and/or institutionally privileged racial group, are antagonistic to individualism and Western civilisation in general, and serve only to reinforce racial divisions.

Holding irrational unjust beliefs and acting on them is an equal-opportunity peril. We do our students (white and not white) a disservice by indoctrinating them into a belief system that charges white people with being de facto racists (by virtue of being the beneficiaries of historic and present institutional race-based oppression) while providing an exemption to black people from being held accountable for racist beliefs (racism) or practices (race-based oppression).

A white person [...] who does not believe in the superiority or inferiority of races and does not discriminate on the basis of race is not racist. Hoyt Jr. (2012)

The vague and superficial way in which concepts of power and privilege are used by social justice definitions of racism make them almost completely devoid of meaning. Both power and privilege exist in countless forms and are expressed in myriad ways (most of which are completely unrelated to race), such that they cannot be quantified in such simple terms as to support notions like “only White people can be racist” or “all White people are racist and have no choice in the matter”.

One cannot possibly measure the cumulative advantages and disadvantages of a given person, much less do so for entire groups where all contexts are taken into account. Every individual is affected differently by racial prejudice and discrimination, with some suffering greatly as a result of it, and others being completely unaffected by it. Elevating race to be a universally overriding means of determining how acceptable or justified it is for a person to treat other people with contempt or prejudice is racism; focusing on race while either ignoring or making presumptions about any other factors that might be relevant.

Furthermore, the suggestion that the members of historically oppressed or excluded racial groups are incapable of being racist is deeply condescending. It is a declaration that such people have reduced moral responsibility for any contemptible or offensive attitudes they may hold, such that they need special rules which constitute a kind of racially motivated pity. This strips individuals of both their agency and individuality, replacing these with a collective racial identity.

Lastly, the “power” aspect of these definitions is entirely superfluous. All its addition achieves is to shield certain racial groups from being labelled “racist”. It does not change the fact that, for example, a black person who hates white people is wrong for the same reasons as a white person who is racist against black people. The rejection of the word “racism” as a description of one these cases does not make the position any less irrational or change the essential ways in which they are the same.

Far from being “socially just”, social justice definitions of racism are in fact simply examples of actual racism. As a result, they fall within the purview of this essay and will be treated and discussed accordingly.

3. Racial Categorisation

3.1. What Are Races?

Before any discussion of racism can take place, one needs to know what is meant by “race”. Its precise etymology is uncertain, but it has been suggested that the word can be traced back to the Italian “razza”, simply denoting “a group with common features”, and broadly speaking means “a subset of humankind possessing distinct physical characteristics that are a product of their biogeographical history.”

The validity of racist ideas depends on more than biological or genetic differences between populations that have lived and developed apart from each other for extended periods of time (which undeniably exist); it requires that these differences exist in such a way that enables the identification of meaningful, consistent and objective subdivisions. If such subdivisions cannot be identified, then any claims made about “racial groups” are necessarily inaccurate.

The most commonly used “folk” racial categories are Caucasoid (White), Mongoloid (Asian), and Negroid (Black), though the addition of one, two or several more categories (for example, Australoid or Amerindian) is not uncommon. These terms have been widely declared obsolete within the scientific community (Wade et al., 2016; Marks, 2008; Berg et al., 2005; Graves, 2003; Biondi & Rickards, 2002; Brown & Armelagos, 2001; Witzig, 1996; Begley, 1995—and many others).

The principal common thread [...] is the uncertainty that continues to accompany just what is signified by the word “race,” a term that we would be much better off without but that has so far resisted expulsion from our vocabularies. Tattersall & De Salle (2011, p.55)

3.2. Conceptual Knowledge

To begin, one has to ask: What is the point of categorising anything? Categorisation—or rather conceptualisation—is a vital function of the human mind. Without the ability to form abstractions, humans would be confined to the perceptual level and would have to treat every existent as unique and in isolation.

Concepts are mental integrations of two or more units (Rand, 1966, p.10); a unit being an existent which is regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members. To be valid, concepts must firstly be based on empirical observations of reality and be logically consistent, otherwise they are not concepts but floating abstractions. Secondly, concepts must not be arbitrarily thrown together because their purpose is to maximise cognitive efficacy by storing only the essentials.

One must be selective when forming concepts as there are a practically infinite number of ways one could categorise entities. For example, one would not seek to conceptualise red chairs as distinct from chairs of all other colours because it would be superfluous abstraction; nothing is gained by its formation or retention. This leads to a second type of invalid concept, the anti-concept, which is a rationally unusable abstraction which serves no purpose, but rather destroys legitimate concepts.

Another point to make about concepts is that they may only be useful or relevant within the context of certain fields of study; for example the concept “electron” may be useful to a particle physicist, but not to the average person in their daily life. Similarly, subspecies or races (which are roughly synonymous) are concepts relevant within fields such as evolutionary biology and zoology, but it is unclear how they can be useful outside of these.

In addition, the contextual nature of knowledge means that certain pieces of information may only be worth considering when more pertinent or instructive information is unavailable. For example, if you had watched a weekly weather forecast several days ago which predicted sunny weather all week, you would not use that information to decide whether or not to wear a raincoat or use a an umbrella if, upon looking outside, you could see it pouring down with rain. Applying this principle to the idea of race reveals that racism often involves an inversion of one's epistemic hierarchy by prioritising less pertinent facts over more pertinent ones.

With this basic understanding of concept formation, and the contextual nature of knowledge, it is possible to examine concepts of race in terms of their consistency, selectivity, grounding in reality, relevance and priority.

3.3. Biological Variation and Taxonomy

Taxonomy is the science or practice of classification, with the term most commonly referring to the classification of living organisms. The central purpose of biological taxonomy is to enable the identification of the same sets of organisms by independent observers so that associated scientific study is reliably repeatable (repetition being a requirement for the testing of any scientific hypotheses). Of course, there are also less specialised applications for such classification; for example knowing how to identify a scorpion or a wasp will allow you to avoid being stung by them.

Whilst there are some broad commonalities between different models of taxonomic classification, there is no overall consensus in the scientific community. For example, a large minority use the five-kingdom or six-kingdom models instead of the more recent and commonly accepted three-domain model, while the “species problem” describes the ongoing debate amongst scientists surrounding how species should be defined. Wilkins (2006) describes no less than 26 species concepts, all being useful in different ways and to different degrees depending on what exactly is being studied.

The disagreement means that species counts could easily differ by an order of magnitude or more when the same data are examined by different taxonomies. Mallet (2001a)

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) is known as the father of modern taxonomy (Harris, 2005) and he grouped species according to shared physical characteristics simply for ease of identification. Linnaeus used a rank-based nomenclature which organised living organisms into hierarchical, nested rankings which have since been developed into the widely-recognised rankings still used today, such as species, genus, domain, kingdom and so on.

Linnaeus' work has been built upon since Charles Darwin originated the theory of evolution and taxonomists have revised Linnaean classifications to better coincide with Darwin's principle of common descent. Many revisions to these classifications have been made in recent times by utilising molecular systematics applied to DNA sequences. Advances in genetics and evolutionary biology allow for classification based on genetic and biological relatedness rather than simple physical similarities.

The species is widely considered to be the fundamental taxon and according to the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature is “the basic rank of classification” (Mallet, 2001a). Whilst various definitions of species exist, genetic isolation (that is, a lack of gene flow to and from other populations as a result of some form of reproductive incompatibility, and conversely, the ability within the population to produce offspring which is normally fertile, whether the offspring is male or female) is perhaps the most common theme which characterises the various definitions; a theme expressed by Ernst W. Mayr (1942), one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists.

Different methodologies necessarily lead to different ways of defining a species. For example, phylogenetics deals with evolutionary relationships and so its definitions revolve around the branching ancestral structure which occurs as a result of a particular pattern/sequence of reproduction, whereas other taxonomic definitions may concentrate on the morphological or habitual reasons for such patterns. Nevertheless, the theme of reproductive isolation is implicit in each case.

Irrespective of the way species is defined, the consensus among scientists is that humans (homo sapiens) constitute a single species, and this species is generally regarded as monotypic (that is, it has a single subspecies which constitutes the entire species; homo sapiens sapiens). Those who argue that human races are valid categories view the human race as polytypic; that is, posessing numerous subspecies or races.

The key to the current confusion is that, however varied they may seem to the eye (and the human eye is practiced indeed at discerning even tiny differences), all human beings nonetheless belong to the same species, Homo sapiens. Individual cases of infertility aside, all humans today are completely interfertile. Tattersall & De Salle (2011, p.50)

Despite its widespread use, the definition of the subspecies taxon is subject to even less consensus within the scientific community than that of the species (Templeton, 1998, p.632). The straightforward reason for this is that a subspecies represents an attempt to differentiate between organisms which are often extremely similar. In phylogenetics the subspecies is disregarded altogether as it is not a discrete evolutionary unit (Cracraft, 1983), however the methodology behind phylogenetics can still be used to investigate subspecific patterns of ancestry.

According to O'Brien and Mayr (1991) “members of a subspecies would share a unique, geographic locale, a set of phylogenetically concordant phenotypic characters, and a unique natural history relative to other subdivisions of the species. Although subspecies are not reproductively isolated, they will normally be allopatric and exhibit recognisable phylogenetic partitioning.” Even this is open to interpretation, since words like “normally” and “relative” are not without some ambiguity.

When a biologist uses the term “species”, other biologists still have a good idea of what is being discussed [...] even if they disagree about its precise definition. [...] In contrast “race” does not have this biological utility. It's doubtful that it did even when taxonomy was first being developed as a science. And there is little prospect that it ever will. Tattersall & De Salle (2011, p.62)

Most authors have acknowledged that race is an unscientific term that can have biological significance only when it represents a uniform, closely inbred group—as in pure breeds of domesticated animals. These conditions are never met in humans. Bussey-Jones et al. (2005)

With all the above in mind, the following section intends to examine some of the scientific research into human biological variation in an attempt to discern firstly whether humans can be categorised according to physical (phenotypical) characteristics, genetic traits/patterns or ancestral relationships, secondly whether such categories constitute human subspecies or races, and thirdly whether such categories (if valid) support the traditional or “folk” racial categories mentioned earlier. It should also be noted that phenotype, genotype and ancestry are all necessarily linked due to all three resulting from the same bioevolutionary processes; however they present distinct methods for attempting to measure and categorise differences between groups of organisms, and so will be discussed as such.

Additionally, widespread rejection of the validity of human races within the scientific community does not necessarily mean that racial concepts are epistemologically void or flawed, which is why the meaning and purpose of concepts themselves were described above. Whether human races are valid biological categories depends significantly upon how race is defined, and this will be taken into account.

3.4. Phenotypical Categorisation

3.4.1. Skin Colour

Perhaps the most obvious way in which people attempt to distinguish between different races is by skin colour, which is primarily a result of genetic adaptation to the environment (or more specifically, climate). The lighter or darker pigmentation is caused by a compound called melanin; the more melanin, the darker the skin. Its primary function is to protect the skin against damage from the ionising radiation of the sun's ultra-violet rays: If you have too little melanin in a very sunny environment, your skin will be more prone to damage and there is a higher risk of skin cancer. Hence, the populations which were exposed to sunny environments (for example, Africa, India and South-East Asia) have adapted to produce more melanin than those which were not (for example, those from Europe and Russia).

There are only six or so genes which are known to control or affect skin colour (Khan, 2009), and they do not correspond well with traditional perceptions of race, with other characteristics, or with genetic distance. For example, two of the most genetically distant human populations, Kenyans and Melanesians, share a similar skin colour, whereas populations that are genetically much closer can have very different skin colours. Of course, supporters of scientific racism will never rely simply on skin-colour as an indicator of race, arguing that a collection of linked characteristics are required.

3.4.2. Morphology

One possible method of racial categorisation involves morphological characteristics such as skull shape, facial structure, muscle density, height, eye colour and hair texture. Morphology driven methods of racial categorisation were used extensively in race-related research prior to World War II, but have since fallen out of favour for reasons which will be discussed below.

Of course, correlations do exist when you consider physical characteristics, in terms of the populations that they correspond to, and in terms of how these characteristics correspond to each other, but not in such a way that allows any kind of clear or consistent categorisation.

Stanford University professor and biologist Paul R. Ehrlich (2000, p.291) explained this issue as follows: “For human beings, whether we plot skin color, height, indices of nose or face shape, frequencies of genes controlling blood groups, or any other characteristic, the resulting maps are in most cases utterly different from one trait to the next.” Similar observations have been made by many scientists:

Visible physical differences do not correlate with one another, leading to the possibility of different classifications for the same individual organisms. Keita & Kittles (1997)

[T]he physical features focused on as racial are seen to be distributed not uniformly over the continents, but as a series of gradients. This creates real problems in asserting a qualitative difference between nearby populations (such as Ethiopians and Persians), but no such qualitative difference between distant populations (such as Ghanaians and Ethiopians), when in fact all such differences are quantitative. Marks (2006)

For example, sub-Saharan Africans, East Indians, and Australian aborigines have dark skin, but differ in other anatomical traits, such as body proportions, skull proportions, hair type, or ear wax consistency. Graves (2006)

Morphological characteristics are really what one is referring to when using “folk” racial categories such as “White” and “Black” and these categories are based on typologies; that is, they are based on generalised types which are defined by certain physical characteristics. Beacuse these generalised types denote distant populations, the problem arises that human morphological differences are gradational, such that it therefore becomes very difficult to reliably categorise people who do not fit these extremes. This gradient of variation is known as a cline.

For example, Siberian people can look “half-way between” the generalised typologies of Asian and White people, north-Africans can look “half-way between” the generalised typologies of Black and White people, and then there are yet more intermediate groupings between these groupings, and more between those, and so on.

In short, while human biological variation certainly seems to be real, the ways that we cut it up, name and describe it are the product of our scientific imagination. Morning (2005)

The gradational nature of the variation of physical characteristics and the lack of concordance between them are not the only problems with this kind of racial classification. For racial groups to be significant from an evolutionary perspective, they need to show some kind of evolutionary unity, however it has been shown that morphological differences and similarities do not reflect evolutionary lineage. One the one hand, parallel (or convergent) evolution means it is possible even for distant, distinct species to evolve to be morphologically similar to each other, while on the other hand it is possible for morphological differences to greatly exaggerate overall biological distinctiveness: For example chimpanzees—which are roughly two to three times as biologically diverse as humans—are morphologically indistinct whereas humans show a much greater level of morphological diversity (Kittles & Weiss, 2003; Kaessmann et al., 1999).

Also, while externally visible characteristics can frequently be used to define subspecies, these characteristics often have no evolutionary significance. It is for these reasons that morphological categorisation is generally not accepted by evolutionary biologists (Templeton, 1998), and considering that morphology is the guiding factor which resulted in the most commonly understood folk racial categories, this represents a strong initial argument against their validity.

Current systematic theory emphasizes that taxonomy at all levels should reflect evolutionary relationships. For instance, the term ‘Negro’ was once a racial designation for numerous groups in tropical Africa and Pacific Oceania (Melanesians). These groups share a broadly similar external phenotype; this classification illustrates ‘race’ as type, defined by anatomical complexes. Although the actual relationship between African ‘Negroes’ and Oceanic ‘Negroes’ was sometimes questioned, these groups were placed in the same taxon. Molecular and genetic studies later showed that the Oceanic ‘Negroes’ were more closely related to mainland Asians. Keita et al. (2004)

Indeed if one attempts to take multiple physical characteristics to define racial groups, you arrive at categorisations that are not indicative of their evolutionary history. Graves (2006)

Nobody can agree on how many racial groups there are, exactly who is in each one, or what to call them. Sailer (2000)

Another problem with racial categorisation based on physical characteristics is that it relies upon a lack of change over time, however outwardly visible physical characteristics of any given population can change without any genetic changes. This usually results from changes in environment or lifestyle, for example changes in diet, regularity of exercise, work habits etc.

For example, the average height of adult males in Japan increased an estimated 10 cm (4 in) in the span of only a few decades after 1950. This time span is too short to permit major genetic changes; changes in the Japanese diet account for the height increase. Given how rapidly some phenotypic traits can change in response to environmental conditions, they form a poor basis for defining fixed, biological races. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopædia (2007)

Even when using a single characteristic the number of possible racial categories is almost endless, since any number of arbitrary dividing lines can be made. Physical differences are either not significant or structured enough to warrant being used as a basis for racial categories. Individuals who are closer to the typical image of a particular “race” may well be, with some accuracy, recognised as having a certain geographical ancestry, however this in no way precludes the gradational nature of morphological differences which prevents objective and clear categorisation.

Broad aesthetic and physical (morphological) categorisation is obviously possible, but there are no characteristics which correlate with each other in such a way that allows for consistent groups to be defined. If you group people by skull shape in some way, the resulting groups would not be the same as groups based on skin tone, or height, or eye colour, or foot size, or elbow shape, or any conceivable physical characteristic. This, combined with the fact that any delineations between individuals made to differentiate such groupings are subjectively assumed rather than objectively identified, means that physical and aesthetic racial categorisation fails to provide a meaningful foundation for scientific study into human biological variation.

Outside of a scientific context, morphological categorisation does present a small amount of utility given that many people share a similar understanding of racial terminology and the typologies to which such terms refer. Racial categories can be used as purely physical descriptions, but will usually still need to be accompanied by other physical characteristics for a useful degree of specificity to be reached. When using racial categories in this way one must simply be conscious that terms such as White, Black and Asian are very broad generalisations of complex patterns of physical characteristics.

[…] it seems that the morphological characteristics that racialist scientists and others do find useful are determined by simple variations in very specific regions, and are quite direct results of climactic selective pressures. Brown & Armelagos (2001)

These [racial] traits are quite literally superficial, in that they affect exposed surfaces of the body. It is reasonable to suggest that variation in these traits may reflect differential selection by climate in various parts of the world. Owens & King (1999)

3.5. Genetic Categorisation

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 (and since the completion of the working draft in 2000) there have been numerous studies into patterns of genetic variation among humans, which some argue have demonstrated a scientific basis for race. The following section intends to ascertain whether claims of such a basis are valid.

In 1972, evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin published a landmark paper titled “The Apportionment of Human Diversity” which identified that most of the variation (80-85%) found within the human species is found within local geographic groups and differences attributable to traditional “race” groups are a minor part of human genetic variability (1-15%). Lewontin argued that this, combined with the fact that genetic variation amongst humans accounts for approximately only 0.01% of the total genome, means that race is biologically insignificant. For many years Lewontin's work remained uncontested and supported the prevalent contemporary ideas about race.

Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D. (1998), professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, analysed DNA from global human populations revealing the patterns of human evolution over the last one million years. He shows that while there is plenty of genetic variation in humans, most of the variation is individual variation. Between-population variation exists, but it is either too small, in terms of quantitative variation, or it is not the right qualitative type of variation. “I'm not saying these results don't recognise genetic differences among human populations,” Templeton cautioned, “there are differences, but they don't define historical lineages that have persisted for a long time. The point is, for race to have any scientific validity and integrity it has to have generality beyond any one species. If it doesn't, the concept is meaningless.

A study carried out by Rosenberg et al. (2002) showed that 93% to 95% of human genetic variation was intra-populational, and that the alleles (one of two or more alternative forms of a gene at a specific position on the chromosome) specific to one population still only had a median relative frequency of around 1% within that population. Comparable studies using different samples have found similar results, whereby between 85% and 95% of genetic variation is intra-populational (Barbujani et al., 1997; Ramachandran et al., 2005; Li et al., 2008), thus verifying Lewontin's statistical findings.

In 2003, Cambridge statistician A.W.F. Edwards wrote “Human Genetic Diversity: Lewontin's Fallacy” which criticised Lewontin's conclusions regarding race. Leroi (2005) later echoed Edwards' criticisms in the New York Times. Whilst Lewontin's statistical findings were correct, and have since been verified numerous times, Edwards argued that Lewontin's conclusion—that race was proven to be genetically insignificant by these findings—was flawed. Edwards drew attention to Lewontin's locus-by-locus approach which did not take correlations between specific genes or gene frequencies into account. Edwards argued that the “‘taxonomic significance’ of genetic data in fact often arises from correlations amongst the different loci”.

It should also be noted that while there is more variation amongst age groups than between them, this does not invalidate the existence of age or raise any doubts about the obvious effects that age has. Similarly, more variation within populations than between them does not mean the inter-populational differences are necessarily insignificant. Small quantitative variation can result in substantial qualitative difference (this can be demonstrated by small genetic anomalies resulting in severe birth defects).

Because most alleles are widespread, genetic differences among human populations derive mainly from gradations in allele frequencies rather than from distinctive “diagnostic” genotypes. Rosenberg et al. (2002)

The Rosenberg paper cited here is a prominent example of recent studies into human genetic diversity which are highly concerned with genetic frequency patterns. Even though the authors themselves state that the paper does not support as such, the Rosenberg paper in particular is often referenced in support of the existence of race due to the apparent identification of several discrete clusters which broadly coincide with continental population groups (see Fig. 1 below), and which correspond to self-reported ancestry. Further evaluation is necessary to determine the true implications of such studies.

Estimated population structure diagram from the 2002 Rosenberg paper
Fig. 1. Estimated population structure diagram from the 2002 Rosenberg paper.

The 2002 Rosenberg paper, and its 2005 follow-up in response to Serre and Pääbo (2004), are often wrongly interpreted as evidence for the existence of race. The papers reported six clusters which are represented in Figure 1 by the various colours used. Individuals were then placed in one or more of the clusters with the probability of them “fitting” within a particular cluster being represented by the length of the coloured lines. Race realists have made the mistake of thinking this means these clusters represent the discovery of human racial groups when this is far from being the case.

An examination of the methodology used by these studies reveals that it is possible for the same data to indicate multiple different sets of clusters depending upon the variables given to the computer program being used (in this case, a program called Structure). Deborah Bolnick (2008) examined and discussed the statistical methods used in both of the Rosenberg papers as well as in a paper by Bamshad et al. (2003), explaining that the program Structure is used to find patterns in genetic material by examining frequencies and making correlations. What is often overlooked is that K—the variable which represents the number of clusters identified—is given to the program prior to the analysis. Thus, it is absolutely insignificant that the program indicated six major clusters because the program was told to do so.

Also, what was not published in the Rosenberg paper is that K was set to values higher than six and that the optimum number of clusters according to the program was a particular iteration of sixteen (for runs where K was made greater than six, the program yielded multiple highly probable sets of clusters). The results for K values higher than six were not published simply because such results are very difficult to interpret, reflecting the highly complex patterns of variation which exist amongst humans.

So why has so much emphasis been placed on the results of the analysis using K = 6? Despite the fact that Rosenberg et al. (2002) presented no evidence that K = 6 represented the most likely number of genetic clusters in their data set, virtually all references to this study in both the scientific literature and the popular press mention the identification of either 5 or 6 genetic clusters. […] I would suggest that these particular results have been emphasized simply because they fit the general notion in our society that continental groupings are biologically significant. This notion is a legacy of traditional racial thought and seems to persist even when not clearly supported by biological data. Bolnick (2008, p.77)

The ability to extrapolate genetic clusters which coincide with folk racial groups is entirely to be expected and does not constitute a basis for a scientific definition of race. Undeniably, certain genes are responsible for the physical characteristics which have historically defined racial categories and these characteristics are clearly observable. Human patterns of migration and reproductive isolation caused the observed clustering, as well as numerous other patterns of clustering which are not compatible with traditional racial categories (for example, clustering representative of local populations or clustering of genes which are found throughout the human species). The problem is that no particular correlations or groupings are objectively more significant than any other and, as with physical differentiation, the variables and markers used to identify any groups are decided upon before any investigation even takes place which means the groupings are constructed rather than discovered.

A study by Witherspoon et al. (2007) showed that when examining relatively small amounts of genetic markers (in this case, single nucleotide polymorphisms) it is difficult to place individuals in categories, as members from one geographic population may be shown to be more genetically similar to a member of a different geographic population than to their own. However, increasing the number of loci used in the sample increases the resolution, and when thousands are used individuals can be placed in specific phylogeographic populations with 100% accuracy. Thus, it is shown that there is certainly genetic difference between geographically dispersed populations which is demonstrably predictable by examination of genetic information.

This is entirely compatible with what has been pointed out above. Increased resolution and accuracy gained from greater numbers of SNPs/loci used means that resultant populational groupings can be more and more precise, and therefore smaller and smaller. Eventually one will simply be examining the entirety of the genome and have the genotype of a specific individual. Crucially, there exists no “natural” point to stop at. This simply reflects the generally accepted view that human biological variation is clinial.

The fact that, given enough genetic data, individuals can be correctly assigned to their populations of origin is compatible with the observation that most human genetic variation is found within populations, not between them. It is also compatible with our finding that, even when themost distinct populations are considered and hundreds of loci are used, individuals are frequently more similar to members of other populations than to members of their own population. Witherspoon et al. (2007)

There is doubtless a geographic structure in human genome diversity; given a sufficient number of markers, allelic differences can reach significance between virtually any pairs of populations or groups thereof, including populations separated by very few kilometers. [...] An unambiguous clustering of humans in groups has so far proved impossible. Therefore, overemphasizing results that apparently suggest a deep subdivision of humans leads to an oversimplified view of human diversity. Barbujani & Belle (2006)

Anthropologists long ago discovered that human physical traits vary gradually, with groups that are close geographic neighbors being more similar than groups that are geographically separated. This pattern of variation, known as clinal variation, is also observed for many alleles that vary from one human group to another. Another observation is that traits or alleles that vary from one group to another do not vary at the same rate. This pattern is referred to as nonconcordant variation. Because the variation of physical traits is clinal and nonconcordant, anthropologists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries discovered that the more traits and the more human groups they measured, the fewer discrete differences they observed among races and the more categories they had to create to classify human beings. The number of races observed expanded to the 30s and 50s, and eventually anthropologists concluded that there were no discrete races (Marks, 2002). 20th and 21st Century biomedical researchers have discovered this same feature when evaluating human variation at the level of alleles and allele frequencies. Nature has not created four or five distinct, nonoverlapping genetic groups of people. Ossorio & Duster (2006)

[The biological reality for humans] is one of continuous variation, clines, and genetic boundaries that cross the geographic space without surrounding and thus defining specific isolated groups of populations. Barbujani (2005)

By analyzing the data from a sufficiently large number of genes, one could identify hundreds of thousands of local populations at a minimum, each with a slightly different profile of gene frequencies. But this analysis would not answer the question of how many basic races there are. No reasonable multiplication of the list of races could cope with the observed continuity and complexity of genetic variation. Thus, most scientists have given up racial classification as a futile exercise. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopædia (2007)

As mentioned above, some gene forms are distributed in a way that roughly matches folk racial categories, which means self-identification as one of the major racial groups will often correspond very well with examples of genetic clustering. It is predictable, considering the amount of geographical isolation that population groups have had, that some genetic differences will cluster around these population groups, for example it is well known that certain diseases are more common amongst particular “races”. In certain areas these clusters may be useful, medicine being one example, but due to the vagueness of these groups and the fact that the genetic clusters that correspond with traditional racial categories do not often correspond with other geo-populational genetic clusters, this is not illustrative of a broadly applicable method of dividing the human species into races.

Racist arguments which rely on genetic difference drastically oversimplify things by taking a relatively minute number of genetic traits, pointing out that they correlate well with their preconceived racial categories, and suggesting that this proves that these categories are valid and accurate representations of human sub-lineages or races when this is clearly not the case.

While there are indeed genes whose allelic frequencies differ markedly between geographical regions and can be used for taxonomic purposes, these are not typical of the human genome in general. Feldman & Lewontin (2008, p.90).

“The idea of a single way of categorising biological race assumes that traits come packaged together, even ‘colour-coded for our convenience’, as anthropologist Jonathan Marks jokes.” (Adelman, 2003). In other words, if biological race was present in such a way we would find that skin colour or other “racial” markers would correspond with an assortment of other genetic traits. If this was the case, knowing an individual's “race” would enable us to accurately (or at least roughly) predict his or her other genes and traits, but in reality it does not.

There is no question that some gene forms do occur more frequently in some populations than in others; the alleles that code for blue eyes, the A, B and O blood groups, and of course, the alleles that influence skin colour; but just because a relatively high proportion of members of a certain population may carry a specific gene form doesn't mean all (or even most) of the members do, nor does it mean such gene forms are absent from other population groups.

The above is crucial to understand. There are no definitive “racial genes”, there are only differences in the frequency of particular gene alleles between populations. For example, if a particular allele has a 20% frequency within one population, and a 10% frequency within another, when attempting to place an individual in one of these populations the likelihood of being part of either population is adjusted in accordance with the difference between these frequencies, depending on whether the individual possesses the allele or not, even though the allele is only present in a minority of individuals within both populations. The accumulation of vast numbers of these differing frequencies are what allow for clustering to be asserted.

It's also important to underline that these genetic frequency distributions are not found on “racial” terms; but on populational terms related to vague geographic clustering and ancestry. In effect, whilst it is possible to accurately predict a person's geographical origins based on their genome, it is impossible to predict a person's genome based on their geographical origins (Feldman & Lewontin, 2008, p.93). If we were to classify races based on their (slight) differences in genetic make-up, there would be too many “races” to name; the boundaries of which are subjective, mobile and/or overlapping depending on which genetic traits are considered.

Even if it was found that one population was found to have a significant number of gene forms that were specific to itself, it still wouldn't necessarily mean they were racially distinct from other populations because it would depend on what those gene forms actually did (much of the genetic difference amongst humans is found in the non-coding regions of the genome, commonly referred to as “junk” DNA). If a group of people had a thousand gene forms which no other population had, but these gene forms had no significant impact on the biology of those people, then there would be no practical reason for racially categorising them apart from other populations, even if such an occurrence would likely be of interest to geneticists.

Because of a history of extensive migration and gene flow, however, human genetic variation tends to be distributed in a continuous fashion and seldom has marked geographic discontinuities. Thus, populations are never “pure” in a genetic sense, and definite boundaries between individuals or populations (e.g. “races”) will be necessarily somewhat inaccurate and arbitrary. Jorde & Wooding (2004)

Ultimately, the use of genetics to support racist ideas is often a deliberate attempt to mislead, since racism is ultimately an anthropological and social issue which requires practical and visible justification, therefore racial genetic difference in itself does not justify many of the more common racist ideas about the differences between the “races”. Quantitative genetic variation between races must also be qualitative (that is, have some significant effect) for it to be useful in a wider context than genetics alone. For example, it would have to be shown that such genetic differences directly cause anthropologically or socially significant differences such as criminality. Regardless, genetic differences do not reveal objective racial categories.

3.6. Ancestral Categorisation

Another suggested method of racial categorisation is through the determination of ancestry. Rather than through direct genetic comparison as discussed above, it is possible to estimate the phylogeographical ancestry of individuals by analysing their DNA (particularly that found in the mitochondria or Y-chromosome, as DNA from these sources does not recombine and is inherited from a single parent; the mother in the case of mtDNA and the father in the case of Y-chromosome DNA). Whilst this is possible, it still does not allow for the identification of distinct sub-lineages or “races” and it simply means that it is possible to investigate the ancestral structure of human populations and to track ancestral relationships back through time.

A phylogenetic tree (see Fig. 2 below) is akin to a family tree for groups of living organisms and represents the categorisation of organisms into species according to their evolutionary relatedness (unlike Linnean taxonomy which primarily categorises based upon morphological differences). Cladistics is the form of biological systematics which classifies organisms based on shared ancestry and therefore makes significant use of phylogenetic trees.

As mentioned previously, phylogenetic taxonomy disregards subspecies entirely. This is because phylogenetic species (or more broadly, clades) must be monophyletic, meaning that they must possess a single common ancestor and all of its descendants. Subspecies do not meet these criteria and are therefore not regarded as discrete evolutionary units. The human species posesses a common ancestor however no identifiable common ancestor exists for distinct human races due to significant gene-flow and relatively recent geographical dispersion from Africa (around 65,000 years ago according to the dominant “out of Africa” theory (Mountain et al., 1995)).

An example of a phylogenetic tree
Fig. 2. An example of a phylogenetic tree.

Using mtDNA it is possible to determine the most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all humans ;  a woman known as Mitochondrial Eve, believed to have lived around 140,000 years ago in what is now Ethiopia, Kenya or Tanzania. Mitochondrial Eve lived significantly earlier than the out of Africa migration around 65,000 years ago. Similarly, Y-chromosomal Adam is the name given to the most recent common patrilineal ancestor of all humans who lived between 35,000 and 89,000 years ago (Rohde, 2003).

Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam should not be confused with the MRCA of all humanity (traced through both paternal and maternal ancestors) who is believed to have lived far more recently, with probabilistic studies suggesting as recently as 3,000 years ago (Rohde et al. 2004). Such recent common ancestry (in evolutionary terms) limits the amount of ancestral divergence that can have occurred.

Due to the rapid mutation rate of mtDNA, it exaggerates real genetic difference, so it is really only a marker of lineage and not of quantitative or qualitative genetic difference. Using these markers as a way of categorising people into races is impossible without it being totally arbitrary, as the above methods simply allow the creation of a “family tree” for whole human race, but there is no indication of where delineations “should” be drawn (or indeed, that they should be drawn at all).

You can group people based on particular mutations which are found using this method, mutations which do broadly correspond with geographical populations, however you could group people based on any other genetic characteristic(s) and the resulting groups would be no less valid than ones resulting from groups based on mtDNA or haplogroups, despite not similarly corresponding with geographical populations.

Since nobody has a “pure racial lineage” (as there is no definition of what constitutes or defines a particular race), how can we say (for example) that the “Caucasoid” (or “White”) race exists? Obviously there aren't even many people who are completely of “Caucasoid lineage” (itself being an ambiguous concept) so the answer to this question is simply; you can't. Any lines drawn between races in this way are arbitrary.

Some supporters of racist ideas may say the “White race” includes those of European descent; but what about immigrants? How far back does the ancestry have to be located in Europe? Then, if you trace back far enough; 40-100 thousand years ago, all Europeans are immigrants from Africa. Where is the line drawn? Again it all becomes arbitrary and no lines can be drawn which hold any particular significance relative to any other lines that could possibly be drawn.

“Ancestry” has a clear meaning in the context of tracing the familial descent of individual human beings, and it has equally clear meaning when applied to groups of species that, like individuals, are discrete entities. But when it is applied to populations within species, reticulation renders this term merely confusing. An individual can derive his or her ancestry from a number of populations possessing different geographical origins and histories of intermixing. [...] We are still left with the difficulty that “races,” with their complex geographical and cultural histories, defy an operational criteria for delineation. Tattersall & De Salle (2011, p.53)

The lack of monophyletic racial groupings amongst human beings renders any attempt to categorise humans based on ancestral relationships futile, and the profound methodological and conceptual problems with using cladistics to support concepts of race invalidate such an approach. Lieberman & Jackson (1995) emphasise that “the molecular and biochemical proponents of this model explicitly use racial categories in their initial grouping of samples”. For example, the large and highly diverse macroethnic groups of East Indians, North Africans, and Europeans are presumptively grouped as Caucasians prior to the analysis of their DNA variation. This limits and skews interpretations, obscures other lineage relationships, de-emphasises the impact of more immediate clinal environmental factors on genomic diversity, and can cloud our understanding of the true patterns of affinity. They argue that however significant the empirical research, these studies use the term race in conceptually imprecise and careless ways. They suggest that the authors of these studies find support for racial distinctions only because they began by assuming the validity of race.

3.7. An Evolutionary Perspective

Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to search for patterns using the methods described above, one must not lose sight of the fact that evolution is the driving force behind morphology, genetics and ancestry, and so rather than blindly looking for patterns without justification, it is important to ask why would any patterns exist in the first place?

Evolution describes the process of natural selection, whereby certain traits have a higher probability of being passed on to subsequent generations due to being conducive to an organism's chances of survival. An example might be the fur of an animal which lives in snowy conditions: Individuals with fur that is closer to being white are better camouflaged against predators and so have a greater chance of survival, meaning their genes are more likely to be found in subsequent generations than those with a darker coloured fur.

This process causes traits inimical to survival to be gradually bred out, thus determining the composition of the gene pool of the species as a whole. Eventually, when subspecific gene pools become sufficiently divergent, the sub-groups involved are no-longer able to interbreed and speciation can be said to have occurred. Needless to say, human populations are nowhere near divergent enough to have become separate species, however racists argue that they are divergent enough to be called subspecies or races.

A common argument to this effect involves drawing an analogy between human races and breeds of dog, or types of apple. Such analogies are false, because they ignore the fact that dogs and apples have been selectively and purposefully bred by humans to produce or emphasise specific characteristics, which is obviously not the case for humans. Nevertheless, culture, politics and geography have kept certain populations contained to varying degrees throughout history and could be argued to impact evolution in a similar (but much more organic and subtle) way.

However, culture and politics are sets of ideas which do not correspond to particular groups or remain constant given an evolutionary time-scale (cultural and political similarities can arise between groups even when they have little or no contact with each other, and change a great deal over time). Conversely, geography is relatively constant and corresponds directly to particular populations.

Over many thousands of years, humans have migrated across the globe, inhabiting many types of terrain and subject to a wide range of conditions; from the frozen tundras of Canada and Greenland, to the deserts of North Africa, to the jungles of Central and South America. Since movement was severely limited until relatively recently, due to the lack of roads and rapid transportation, there was very little gene flow between distant or isolated populations, which explains the visible physical/biological differences between people with ancestors from different parts of the world. The different conditions faced by disparate populations have resulted in the propagation of different traits, the most obvious example being that of skin colour as discussed earlier.

Biological differences have arisen from populations being spread out across great distances and by their living in a wide range of (particularly climatic) conditions, however bearing in mind the complexity of migration patterns, the time-scale involved, and the fact that human populations were rarely completely isolated from all others, this simply provides an evolutionary basis for the clinial nature of any biological differences that have come about. Furthermore, the differences are influenced primarily, if not completely, by differences in climate and are therefore restricted to traits such as skin colour which provide evolutionary advantages under particular climatic conditions.

3.8. Conclusions Regarding Categorisation

Our growing knowledge of the genome and human evolutionary history helps us understand why all efforts to locate the source of innate racial differences were doomed; they don't exist. Most geneticists and anthropologists who study human variation agree that humans just don't come bundled into three or four separate groups according to skin colour and other physical traits. Correlations and clusters of genetic similarity exist, but there is no single way of categorising human beings into races that stands out from the rest as being especially significant.

Traditional 'racial' designations in humans are not bounded, discrete categories but are fluid, socially defined constructs that have some poorly understood correlations with various biological elements and health outcomes. Charmaine & Dunston (2004)

The fact is, there are no physical, biological or genetic characteristics, no lineage, no traits, not even one gene allele that turns up in all members of one so-called race, yet which is absent from others, and the fact that correlations made using any morphological, genetic or ancestral data are entirely dependent on the methods used makes objective racial categorisation impossible. The human species does not have distinct biological sub-types; it just has variations as one travels around the world. It has been pointed out that for each trait used to classify people into “races”, each gives us different and overlapping “races” depending on the trait selected.

Though scientific advancement in genetics has not progressed to the point of making it possible to identify all human traits and their associated genes, it has progressed enough to show that human biological/genetic variation is not categorical but gradational (clinial) and extremely complex. Many who believe in the scientific reality of race accept that races only exist as broad clusters but will often contradict this position by treating categories such as White, Black and Asian as if they have an definitive scientific meaning. These terms refer to massive oversimplifications of very complex patterns of biologicial variation, to the point that they are of no scientific use, and so the question of what is meant by “the White race” or “the Black race”, and why it is significant, will invariably be met with an unsatisfactory answer.

The referents of terms such as Black, White and Asian are vague approximations that seek to group people based on physical traits that are related to geographical populations. This vagueness does not mean that the differences associated with race should be completely disregarded, it just means that the reality of the imprecision involved must be kept in mind. Any correlations between “race” and any other characteristics must be further examined to determine specific biological causes which will necessarily only be present within a subset of a given population or within multiple differently sized subsets of multiple populations.

Approximations can provide some utility in certain contexts; for example people can refer to “red” and “orange” and have a mutual understanding of what is meant, despite there not being universally accepted or applicable points on the colour spectrum at which to place the dividing lines between colours. The difference is that race is not a single variable like colour, but a vast range of variables that correlate to widely varying degrees. This is the extent to which “race” can be said to exist.

The Claims of Racism

Race & Character

Most advocates of racist ideas don't merely argue that specific races exist; but that one's race has a multitude of other effects; on one's behaviour, on one's knowledge, even on one's trivial predispositions such as aptitude for being musical. These claims are by and large, if not completely, fallacious. It is not simply the idea that genes can affect behaviour, but that there exists “racial behaviour”. In this respect, racism is the idea that the content of one's character, not merely the means of creating one's character, is inherited from a collective of ancestors. It is the idea that one's values, behavioural patterns and choices are actually governed by biological factors which are uncontrollable and (as yet) largely unknowable. It is the idea that one's racial lineage is a moral and intellectual determinant.

In this way, racism seeks to invalidate the attribute which sets humans apart from all other known species; the faculty of reason. Racism overlooks the self-evident human ability to choose and to evaluate things volitionally and replaces it with chemical predetermination, lowering humans to the level of non-rational animals, unable to shape their own destiny and thereby blameless, virtue-less, amoral and drifting towards a fate upon which they can have no effect. This is a version of the doctrine of innate ideas or inherited knowledge; a doctrine which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science.

Ideas, knowledge, values (and the behavioural patterns which stem from these) being attributed to genes is nonsense; much less attributing these things to “racial genes” (which themselves can't be decisively identified). For example, no behaviour that can be seen within any Black person is completely absent from all White people and vice versa; and when considering the character of individuals, “racial potential” or racial aggregates have no relevance, as their individual character overrides any such inferences once it has been identified. It has been suggested that this line of reasoning commits the ecological fallacy, but firstly such criticism completely misses the point, and secondly it assumes particular character traits have already been presumed to be “racially” caused, when this is not the case. No behaviour is caused by genes, period. The entirely separate existence of ideas and biology is such an obvious and irrefutable fact that it does not warrant further explanation.

The primary consideration here is that our conscious actions stem from ideas; from knowledge. Genetics simply affect one's “biological” potential and limitations rather than control one's choices and actions. A person will commit a crime because of an idea and a choice, not because of a genetic trigger which causes them to automatically commit crimes. To this end, ideas and knowledge can be learned by anyone (at least to some degree), of any race, and if one holds evil ideas one will make evil decisions and choose to commit evil acts regardless of race, regardless of genetics. Racism implies that ideas and knowledge are (to some extent at least) inherited, which is a false claim. Humans are (conceptually speaking) born tabula rasa; they cannot act volitionally without knowledge or without learning, as there is no item of knowledge or pattern of behaviour which is not learned. Humans do not have instinctive behaviour (that is, automatic knowledge and automatic behavioural patterns). Biological reflexes such as blinking, breathing, sweating, digestion; do not qualify as instinctive behaviour. Humans begin life with no knowledge, and an initially limited conceptual faculty which needs time to develop. We rely primarily on our perceptual faculty to begin with. As we develop concepts we learn ways to act in accordance with the reality we perceive. Without knowledge and ideas we simply cannot act.

Genes in general may influence temperament (one's emotional reactions which are a result of chemical reactions within the brain) but this does not equate to behavioural determinism, nor does it evidence the existence of racial behavioural differences, as temperament varies enormously amongst races, even amongst families. In any case, temperament is not a first cause of behaviour; it is a result of the application of previously acquired knowledge or ideas. Temperament describes the extent to which certain reactions occur; for example, a person with relatively high levels of testosterone might react more aggressively to a certain situation than another person with lower testosterone levels. Furthermore, genetic influence is no more prevalent than a person or institution “persuading” you to do something and actions are ultimately chosen.

Genes also partially determine one's cognitive apparatus. The brain is biological, and so the way in which a person's mind functions is a result of biology. This, again, is not biological determinism. One may be very intelligent and hold horribly bad ideas (and thus take horribly bad actions), or one may be less intelligent and hold very good ideas (and thus take very positive actions). A person's behaviour is a result of choice.

A common reference point for believers in direct relationships between race and character is Dr. J. Philippe Rushton who focused on genetic similarity theory, suggesting that individuals tend to be more altruistic to those who are genetically more similar, as well as numerous other hypotheses which relate to race including its relationship to intelligence. Even from an objective, scientific, and non-political perspective of Rushton's works, many reputable scientists have found numerous flaws in Rushton's theory of race. Outside of his close circle of racist comrades, he has been consistently rejected by scientists, educators, and the general public. Rushton soon became unwelcome in the scientific community and so his career spiralled downhill in the early 1990s. The so called science that racists refer to is often a product of other racists, leaving their findings wholly questionable. For example, Gorey & Cryns (1995) reassessed some of Rushton's work from 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1995 which he used to show the evolutionary/genetic deficits in “Negroids” with regards to intelligence, temperament, personality etc. and found that their own results contradicted the characterisations made by Rushton. They found that “the relationships are very close to zero and some are in the opposite direction than postulated by Rushton.

In summary, although Rushton's writings and public speeches instil the vision of Blacks as small-brained, oversexed criminals who multiply at a fast rate and are afflicted with mental disease, his views are neither based on a bona fide scientific review of literature nor on contemporary scientific methodology. Cernovsky (1995)

The author is an earnest believer in genetically determined race differences, and he vows to cling tenaciously to his world view unless his opponents can provide conclusive proof to the contrary. In my opinion, this is the kind of approach to be expected from religious zealots and politicians, not professional scientists. A rigorous evaluation of the evidence cited by Rushton reveals the methods in most studies were seriously flawed and render the data inconclusive. If the evidence is so poor, the proper action for a scientist is to suspend judgement. In reality, there is not one properly controlled study of brain size comparing representative samples of races in the entire world literature. Wahlsten (1995)

To place such importance on one's race as a determinant of one's identity is a confession that one does not understand where virtues come from, and that one is merely a sheep following a designated racial pathway to an unfulfilled, blameless and insignificant death. The belief in racial behaviour is an outright rejection of reason.

The collectivist underpinning of racism is its central flaw. In using statistical “evidence” for racial character differences, racism is wrongly subjugating the individual to the group. Averages and probabilities aren't applicable to facts about individuals. A person either IS or IS NOT a criminal and a person either WILL or WILL NOT commit a crime. A person either IS or IS NOT intelligent and no statistical trends, no matter how overwhelming, will change this. Even if all but one person of a particular “race” were known criminals; it would not make that one non-criminal of that race any more of a criminal - and it would be immoral to treat that person as such. A common racist retort is “exceptions do not disprove the rule” but that's exactly what they do, in fact they demonstrate that the wrong rule has been identified to begin with; as such a rule is necessarily incomplete, contradictory or non-specific.

Race and Culture

The above discusses racist ideas relating to individuals and the corollary of such ideas includes the assertion that race affects culture and society on a large scale. With this in mind, it is clear that racists really do not understand what culture is. Culture includes traditions, norms, habits, languages, skills and ways of life that are passed on through discourse, experience and learning rather than through blood. This means race is totally separate from culture in a biological sense. It means culture is totally separate from biology period. Culture is a result of interaction between individuals and groups of individuals which causes the passing on and evolution of ideas, beliefs and behaviours. Culture is entirely learned. Walter Williams (2003) noted “for the multiculturalist/diversity crowd, culture, ideas, customs, arts and skills are a matter of racial membership where one has no more control over his culture than his race.“ It appears that the same idea is held by those who advocate racial segregation - even though they are supposedly sternly opposed to multiculturalism.

There may be cultural components which, for example, have been predominantly practised by Europeans throughout history, but this does not mean these things are restricted to Europeans. Thomas Sowell's book Race and Culture (1994) thoroughly explores such cultural trends and relationships, certainly not attributing these trends to biological causes. Any person from anywhere in the world can learn any element of culture, from any part of the world or place in history, and embrace it as their own. Correlation does not equal causation. An English person can travel to the Far East and practise Buddhism. This doesn't make them some kind of “pretender”, it makes him or her a Buddhist, simple as that. Just as a French person can eat Sushi on a regular basis - and that becomes a part of their own way of life. Culture is open to anybody. Sports, film, literature, music, clothing, art, religion, cuisine, architecture, dance, political ideologies - all of these things are based on ideas which can be freely learned.

Things become problematic when one tries to quantify and label cultural components using terminology such as “White culture” or even “English culture” or “Chinese culture”. This is because one might think that these elements of culture are practised by all members of the above groupings - when it is usually not the case. Tea drinking originated in China so it may be regarded as Chinese culture, but it may also be regarded as English culture. This doesn't mean it is restricted to either of these groups, nor does it mean all Chinese people or all English people drink tea. It is a generalised category not a clearly marked one. Race based ideas about culture tend to ignore the fact that these are generalisations and should be treated as such, which when taken into account invalidates the idea that that cultural elements are static or “owned”. Cultural generalisations such as these should also have some logical consistency and chain of dependency to ensure that culture is grouped according to ideological compatibility / similarity (since the fundamental nature of culture is that it is composed of ideas). Since countries have particular political structures and prevalent ideologies, derivative elements of culture from that country/nation can be ascertained: When speaking about populational/national groupings of culture, the population or nation in question is limited in either time or space, so that all the cultural components are, at the very least, specifiable. Because racial groups extend practically anywhere at any time it makes the terms “White culture” or “Black culture” almost useless.

All culture was and is built by individuals and their interaction with each other. Culture has no racial boundaries - though statistically certain cultural patterns are related to certain ethnicities or nationalities (just as certain cultural patterns are related to age groups, genders, regions or religions). Still, a person with Chinese biological parents born and raised in England is generally English by culture, English by nationality and only “Chinese” by biology. He/she may also be taught to speak Chinese and be taught some Chinese traditions, but he/she will still be predominantly English by culture. Racist standards may dictate that he/she still doesn't “belong” -- but the only criteria left are skin colour / appearance or some kind of “divine right” notion, neither of which are valid criteria for necessitating social or conceptual division.

One need not be a westerner to hold Western values. A person can be Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, African or Arab and hold Western values. It's no accident that western values of reason and individual rights have produced unprecedented health, life expectancy, wealth and comfort for the ordinary person. There's an indisputable positive relationship between liberty and standards of living. Williams (2003)

To take a specific example, a racist argument may claim the “incompatibility” of “non-White cultures” with “White culture”. This implies that White culture is a fixed and easily identifiable entity, or that the White race is united by culture; that there is a specific identity of White people. This just isn't true. European culture differs from American culture, English culture differs from Bulgarian or Greek culture, 20th French culture differs from 12th Century French culture, and so on and so forth. Not only do nations differ, but economic “classes”, age groups, genders, religions and professions all will differ in various ways, in most cases even more so than “racial cultures” differ. White people are not a unified entity, just as Black or Asian people are not. Huge cultural disparities can easily be found within these groups. Furthermore, the elements which might be labelled “White culture” by racists are often mutually exclusive. For example, capitalism and socialism, which could both be tagged as “White” creations, are mutually exclusive. The same could be said of the philosophical ideas of Aristotle versus those of Plato versus those of Kant.

With all the above in mind, generalisations that are so often seen as “evidence” that a certain race has a set culture which goes alongside it are irrefutably invalidated. For instance, comparing race to race doesn't show that “Whites like to invade countries and steal their wealth” or “Blacks are evil or criminal or violent or stupid” as racists often seem to suggest. Indeed, a greater proportion of men commit murder when compared to women, but that doesn't mean all men should be treated as murderers because murderers are a tiny minority even in the group in which they are proportionately more common: Murder isn't somehow “male culture”. Whilst statistical correlations exist, they simply do not offer enough information on individual circumstances. Human relationships and behavioural patterns are far too complex to be explained adequately through positivist/statistical type sampling methods which almost totally blank-out all traces of context.

Crucially, statistics show what is happening; but not why. Blacks in America do commit proportionately more crime and have a lower average IQ when compared to other racial groups, yes; just as Asians on average commit less crime; but statistics do not show why this is true. Correlation does not equal cause - otherwise it could be suggested that eating ice cream causes people to drown - as these two things are positively correlated, not because they are related, but because they are both affected by a separate variable - that being time of year (people eat more ice cream in summer, and also more people go swimming so more people drown). Similarly, the suggestion that biological race is a direct determinant of cultural patterns is poor logic and crude. It blanks out societal structure, political structure, economic structure, economic circumstances, familial structure, individual experience, discrimination, inequality of justice, education standards, ideology and (most importantly of all) reason - the fact that ideas are not in-born but learned, and that actions are chosen.

Race and Intelligence

Perhaps one of the most controversial parts of racist ideology is that which deals with a supposed “IQ gap” between racial groups. A number of studies have been carried out which showed a difference in average IQ between the major racial groupings, finding Asians to have the highest average IQ, Blacks to have the lowest, and Whites to fall somewhere in between. However, a very strong argument can be put forward to suggest that the results which show racial IQ differences are due to social conditions and not because of genetic defect, since IQ tests attempt to measure “present intelligence” rather than potential or innate intelligence. Thomas Sowell also noted that IQ disparities were not uncommon between non-racial groupings around the world:

As it turned out, the research showed that the average IQ difference between black and white Americans -- 15 points -- was nothing unusual. Similar IQ differences could be found between various culturally isolated white communities and the general society, both in the United States and in Britain. Among various groups in India, mental test differences were slightly greater than those between blacks and whites in the United States.

Since the black-white difference in IQ is 15 points, this means that an even larger IQ difference has existed between different generations of the same race, making it no longer necessary to attribute IQ differences of this magnitude to genetics. In the half century between 1945 and 1995, black Americans' raw test scores rose by the equivalent of 16 IQ points. Sowell (2002)

There are many other factors which affect the outcome of IQ tests including everything from culture, education, and socioeconomic status to how a person is feeling on the day of the test. All over the world it can be seen that certain groups (in many cases discriminated minorities) have significantly lower average IQ results than the dominant group for example in Japan regarding the Burakumin, the Maoris in New Zealand or the Catholics in Northern Ireland. “Where IQ tests have been given, the children of these caste-like minorities score about 10-15 points lower than dominant group children.“ (Block, 1996). Thomas Sowell, in his book “Race and Culture” (1994) also pointed out differences between groups of European descent in the United States around the time of the First World War. Testing at the time showed that whilst English and Germans tended to equal or exceed the national average IQ of 100, Americans of Italian, Slovak, Greek, Portuguese, Polish, Croatian, Spanish and Lithuanian ancestry all averaged in the 80s. He also pointed out that the Black-White IQ difference in the U.S. is matched by the IQ difference between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews in Israel, as well as by non-ethnic group IQ differences such as the lower IQs of those in canal boat communities in Britain, or the higher IQs shown by first-born children. Alongside IQ differences are disparities in performance in education between boys and girls in the UK, where there has been a steadily increasing gender gap (of around 10% at the time of writing) since the transition from O-levels to GCSE examinations (BBC News, 2002).

The existence of so much IQ variation (or variation in other intelligence related measures) between non-racial groups casts significant doubt over the idea that the differences in IQ between racial groups are in fact a result of “racial genes”, or at least shows that a non-genetic explanation is equally valid. Though this does not mean the differences aren't there, it suggests that the differences likely have a signficant cultural and/or environmental component. Adding to this doubt is the fact that the IQ gap between Blacks and Whites in the United States is in fact narrowing, as well as the fact that overall average IQ has increased substantially over the course of the 20th century and will likely continue to increase. Studies have shown the average IQ in Britain has risen 27 points between 1942 and 2000 (The Observer, 2001). This puts the average IQ in Britain in 1942 roughly equal to a suggested IQ average in Africa in 2000 (70-75). “The gain in IQ scores averages about 3 points per decade. And the increases are beyond debate.“ (Greve, 2006). Evolution simply doesn't happen this fast; this is known as the Flynn effect. This suggests that the “potential intelligence” has always been far higher than the actual intelligence of most people. The studies which directly link race to IQ are flawed in both the way race is measured, and in the fact that available measures of intelligence itself have low validity (Cooper 2005). Time and again they also make the fallacy of confusing correlation with causation (for example, the suggestion that because Black people have a lower average IQ, it must be because they are Black, as opposed to an intermediate or third factor).

An example of research into the relationship between race and intelligence is the book The Bell Curve, which claimed that, during high school senior years, Whites tend to outscore Blacks on IQ tests by as many as 15 IQ points. The Bell Curve tends to be referenced a lot by those with racist views, though it was not the books intention. There have been many thorough rebuttals of the study since it was published, casting doubt on the validity of its findings which dealt with race and intelligence.

Perhaps the most intellectually troubling aspect of The Bell Curve is the authors' uncritical approach to statistical correlations. One of the first things taught in introductory statistics is that correlation is not causation. Sowell (1995)

The Bell Curve's air of strict scientism doesn't preclude the use of lightly sourced or unsourced assertions, such as the statement that the median IQ of all black Africans is 75. Lemann (1997)

Herrnstein and Murray invoke the authority of genetics to argue that “it is beyond significant technical dispute that cognitive ability is substantially heritable.” Research in this field is still evolving, studies cited by Herrnstein and Murray face significant methodological difficulties, and the validity of results quoted are disputed. Many geneticists have pointed out the enormous scientific and methodological problems in attempting to separate genetic components from environmental contributors, particularly given the intricate interplay between genes and the environment that may affect such a complex human trait as intelligence. Allen et al. (1996)

Race is a social construction, not a biological construct, and studies currently indicating alleged genetic bases of racial differences in intelligence fail to make their point even for these socially defined groups. Sternberg et al. (2005, p.57)

Many who cling to racist ideology use the supposed IQ gap to justify a desire for racial segregation yet fail to explain the logic behind this; it being another act of anti-individualism. If, as they suggest, IQ disparities is reason enough for some kind of social reorganisation, then by what leap of logic does this mean that racial groups should be separated rather than the IQ groupings themselves? Furthermore, who decides what such groupings should be? Should we group people with above 100 IQ apart from those with under 100 IQ? Should the divisions come at 80, 100 and 120? IQ, as with every other way that supporters of racism try to cut up the human species into racial groups, does not have objective dividing lines. In this case the characteristic being measured is highly subjective as well.

Averages such as those discussed above become irrelevant when you accept that people are individuals and you cannot take averages of an individual. The whole issue of IQ and race becomes meaningless because it becomes inapplicable on an individual basis and is far too generalised to be of use in any practical situation (e.g. employment; one would not hire someone on the basis of the average IQ of their “race”, they would do so on the basis of their individual merit and ability). As Rand (1964, p.148) says “a genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race - and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.”

Race and Politics / Economics

This section will examine the supposed links between race and societal structure - politics and economics. The same argument can be used here as was used against the package-dealing of race and culture earlier: Ideas are learned and may be learned by anyone of any race. Political and economic systems are built solely upon ideas, so the notion that particular systems of government are “natural” to certain racial groups can be dismissed straight away.

To take one (perhaps the most common) example, White racists may refer to Africa as “evidence” that Blacks are inferior and cannot create stable societies. However, race is irrelevant here. It's no coincidence either though: The climate and population dispersion is much less ideal, it has been conquered and colonised and war has been fought amongst the various factions within Africa time and time again. With all it's natural handicaps however, Africa once was able to feed itself, and even exported agricultural produce to Europe. In some of the more geographically favourable parts of Africa, Iron was smelted thousands of years ago (Sowell, 2005), so what has caused the onset of such terrible poverty? White racists might argue that it is the genetic endowments of the indigenous population, but this view is easily discarded when we look at the facts.

First of all, if “Black America” was divided into a separate country, it would rank 16th in Gross Domestic Product; ahead of Australia, Thailand, Argentina, the Netherlands, Taiwan and South Africa (Elder, 2004). It doesn't matter how intelligent or able a population is if they cannot use it; North Korea being obvious and contemporary proof of this. Richer countries established an institutional structure to become rich -- an institutional structure that not only encouraged productivity and attracted investment, but attracted talented, hard-working immigrants as well. Contrast that to today's poor countries, whose policies and institutional structure do just the opposite -- discourage productivity, repel investment and cause their most talented people to leave. No nation “started out” rich, every nation had to become rich. Free nations became rich. Non-free nations looted until they destroyed the source of wealth, then became poor and will remain that way until they become free. Africa has been subjected to authoritarianism, totalitarianism, socialism and interventionism since the beginning. Freedom - capitalism and liberty - would allow Africa to fix itself.

What Africa needs, foreign aid cannot deliver, and that's elimination of dictators and socialist regimes, establishment of political and economic freedom, rule of law and respect for individual rights. Until that happens, despite billions of dollars of foreign aid, Africa will remain a basket case. Williams (2005)

Many racists actually overlook the fact that pre-industrial Europe faced many of the problems of contemporary Africa and had a much lower life expectancy. Even France, which was relatively rich, is said to have suffered no fewer than 47 famines from the 15th to 18th centuries. Disease was also rampant killing tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands at a time. Europe in the Dark Ages was actually vastly poorer than contemporary Africa. A dramatic change occurred throughout Europe which ended these times of stagnation and decay.

What did that early period lack that the later period had? Capitalism. What does Africa lack that the West has? Capitalism. It is capitalism that enabled the West to rise to great prosperity. The lack of capitalism is responsible for Africa's crushing poverty. Bernstein (2003)

After gaining freedom from their European colonial masters in the 1950s and 1960s, most African nations adopted socialist-style governments that, with few exceptions, remain in place today. Even after their role model for socialism, the Soviet Union, tanked in 1991, they continued following the failed policies that helped cripple the former superpower. If you rank countries along a continuum according to whether they are closer to being free-market economies or whether they're closer to socialist or planned economies, then rank those countries by per-capita income; we will find a noticeable if not perfect correlation whereby those countries having a larger free-market sector produce a higher standard of living for their citizens than socialist economies. The authoritarianism that now dominates most of Africa destroys any chance of the continent becoming economically stable and successful. Since Africa is dominated by coercive governments, a culture has of violence evolved. Strong tendencies towards tribalism (which racism is a type of) pits rival gangs against each other with no care to resolve differences through anything other than violence, and this further exacerbates the developmental stagnation which Africa faces.

In conclusion, political and economic systems fail or succeed in proportion to how far they defend individual rights and freedoms. No racial group is “politically superior” - proven by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia, Communist North Korea and the Socialist and dictatorial regimes in Africa.

Race and Conflict

Racist beliefs may include the idea that race is the most, or one of the most salient dividing lines amongst humans, and that race is a primary cause of conflict; more prominent than religion, gender, age, nationality, local ethnicity, political agenda, irrationality, blind hate, economic class, intelligence, and so on. This is wrong. Wars fought between races are relatively non-existent when compared to the hundreds and hundreds of wars that have occurred throughout history, mainly between nations (and certainly amongst races, not between them); for example, the Sino-Japanese war, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War, the Russo-Japanese war and the Anglo-French wars. There have been countless civil wars amongst members of the same country - such as the American civil war, the Russian civil war, the Spanish civil war and the Chinese civil war. World War II was declared mainly in retaliation to Nazi aggression. World War I was caused by numerous disputes; none of which relate to race. Aside from wars, racists suggest race is a natural dividing line and cause of conflict in all other areas of life: At school, in neighbourhoods, at work and so on. They suggest races are too biologically or culturally dissimilar to get along. Well, the millions of examples where they do get along invalidate this argument. It is evident that at school divisions appear between interest groups (stereotypically - geeks, preps, jocks etc.) rather than between races (although in some cases racial segregation does happen). Neighbourhoods are just as likely to be divided by economic class or age as by race.

A corollary of this “racial difference causes conflict” idea is that racial homogeneity reduces conflict and creates more stable societies - and this isn't the case. Russia is largely homogeneous and “White” - yet it has both one of the highest homicide and highest suicide rates in the world. The country is also economically in ruins. North Korea is homogeneous and Asian - yet it too is crumbling. Economic success does not correlate with race or racial hegemony - it correlates with freedom. Economic catastrophe does not correlate with race or racial diversity - it correlates with socialism and authoritarianism. The whole issue of conflict has nothing to do with race. People don't argue simply because they look different. Conflict arises from conflict of ideas and of interests between individuals. Ideas and knowledge - the basis of conflict - are learned and learnable by anyone of any race. Racial conflict will only arise when two groups feel irrational collective identity and responsibility to their race, a racist idea - this is explained later.

The kind of idealized unity projected by political leaders and intellectuals has seldom existed among any racial or ethnic minority anywhere. Nor has the economic progress or racial or ethnic groups been much correlated with their closeness to, or remoteness from, such unity. The very attempt to enforce unity behind any particular political agenda can itself generate greater internal strife than would exist otherwise. Sowell (1994)

The idea that races “can't get along” is a far-fetched one. For example, in Britain 10% of Asian women opt for a White partner and 20% of Asian men opt for a White partner. Similar percentages can be seen when you look at other “racial parings”, and so-called “interracial” couples are becoming more and more common. One's partner is a choice. If races can't get a long with each other then why are so many people choosing partners from races other than their own?

If the main reason for racial separation is that conflict is caused by non-hegemony, then race is demonstrably not the foremost cause of conflict and a whole range of other factors would take priority. Groups such as followers of religions, followers of political ideologies, ethnicities and economic classes should also be separated by this premise. Hell, men and women are often remarkably different and disputes often arise between them so they should be separated too! Age groups are also vastly different. People born 50 years ago will have hugely different experiences and attitudes compared to today's youth.

Separation of conflicting groups often makes problems worse; for example many religious groups are separated, such as the Jews and Muslims in the Middle-East, however this simply reinforces the sense of “us vs them” which perpetuates escalating conflict between these groups. Separation will not stop conflict, only evaluation and/or increased understanding of ideas or cultures will do this. Multiculturalism will also likely make matters worse, as it ascribes equal validity to conflicting systems of ideas or cultures; whereas in reality some cultures (or at least components of culture) are superior to others. However since, as discussed previously, race and culture are separate considerations, race is not part of the equation here. Culture is the primary issue; ideas are the primary issue. Mutually exclusive ideas are the whole basis of all conflict. Racism, as an idea, is included within this and is itself a major cause of the conflict which racists often claim to be trying to eliminate.

The Causes of Racism

Tribalism and Collectivism

Racist ideas rarely originate from a purely neutral standpoint or rational deliberation, but they are usually a result of pure emotionalism. For example, they can be the result of a yearning for a tribal acceptance. As Rand (1964, p.149) puts it; they “seek the illusion of ‘tribal self-esteem’ by alleging the inferiority of some other tribe.” Though racist ideas do not require the designation of inferiority to some “other group”, it is often implied. Rather than a yearning for acceptance it could be a yearning for authority or validation. Racist ideas may arise from fear, from paranoia or from hatred. Racism barely ever stems from rational thought and facts. Many racists are those who have earned no sense of personal-identity or accomplishment: Those who have no concept of individual achievement. They seek a group to call their own, but one they need not work hard to find or bond with, one that is just there.

When people believe that the highest morality is held by the group, outside of which a person has no significance, then they will inevitably join one group or another; in self-defence, or due to paranoia, terror or conformity. The simplest group to identify with, especially to those of low-intelligence - the least demanding form of “belonging” and “togetherness” - is race. Rand (1964, p.151)

Many racists often attribute achievements of individuals to their race: They take great thinkers and innovators that “belong” to their own race and use them as proof for their racial superiority or greatness. They see groups as groups and nothing else, rather than as collections of individuals, and in this case, fail to understand the true nature of the characteristics which unite that group. Being innovative or virtuous are not amongst these characteristics. Another common fallacy of racism is the idea of collective responsibility, in this case to one's race. It is the belief that somehow one has a “duty” to protect their “race” and/or that races are collectively responsible for past actions or present trends of that particular race. Why would one choose to defend such a massive group which demonstrably has practically nothing in common? Why would one choose to defend a group which contains murderers, rapists, paedophiles, thieves, liars, masochists and brutes; as well as all the positive individuals. Theirs is a crude and irrational form of collectivism; a claim to the unearned, and a duty to the un-deserving. Racism refuses to acknowledge the individual as the basic unit that makes up society: It is a form of collectivism.

There also exists an idea of “racial identity”, as if individuals need some kind of group to belong to in order to have any identity. If your identity is based on your “race” then you don't really have an identity at all. What you have instead is the mindset of an intellectually depleted collectivist. A person's identity should never be limited to such narrow minded possibilities. Racists often rant about how multiculturalism is turning the population into a homogeneous mass by melting many distinct cultures into one, while at the same time advocating “Whites should (or do) act White” or “Blacks should (or do) act Black”. Contradictions such as this are all too common in most racist arguments.

Racist ideas include the desire for racial preservation. I am “White”, so do I think the “White race” should be preserved? Frankly, I don't care. I think all rational people and ideas should be “preserved”; not as a group, but as individuals. I don't owe the “White race” anything (as a whole). Should I be proud of my race? Why? I had nothing to do with it! Much of the accomplishments made by the “White race” were made before I was even born! I have often seen arguments where racists argue with each other, attributing inventions or great intellectual achievements to “their own race” even though it was a handful of individuals who brought about these things. I wouldn't care if most inventions were invented by “White” people (a proposition which is debatable); it still does not negate the fact that an individual's merit cannot be subjugated to their race. There are no racial achievements or racial failures, only individual achievements and individual failures. One cannot inherit moral worth or moral vice. “Self-esteem through others” is a contradiction.

It's high time Americans shed their false “pride” in their ethnicity, and pursue universal values beneficial to all individuals, no matter their race. Identifying primarily with your physical genetics, and the eventual varied divisions, wars and mass killings this tribalism ultimately generates, is nothing to be proud of. Kellard (2004)

Irrational hatred is a consequence of racism not a natural cause of it. Racism causes distrust, dislike, even hatred of people “of another kind.” Racists suggest that just because some members of another race do not “fit in” (whether intentionally or not) to Western society for whatever reason; all of them must be escaped from. Such ideas are illogical and downright stupid.

The Consequences of Racism


The misconceptions of race have become damagingly influential. You ability to get a loan, the quality of your education, job opportunities, whether or not you're likely to be followed in a department store or pulled over by police; these are all influenced by race because of social preconceptions. The factors that lead to different outcomes between these social races lie not in any “racial” genes but in our social institutions and practices. It's easy, but very ignorant to mix up the two as they are very different. Socially, “race” is clear; judged primarily on skin colour and appearance. Biologically and culturally, race is much, much more complicated and gradual.

Preconceptions are based on what people are taught or what they experience. The fact that Black people are known to commit far more crime in the United States will affect people's reactions to Black people in general. This is understandable; but it is merely a preconception nonetheless, the same as associating scruffy looking people with low income, associating Chinese people with martial arts, or associating French people with being arrogant. This is simply how the mind works. However it is not these groups which are the specific cause, but the individuals who belong to those groups who create the synonymy through their actions. Black criminals are to blame; not “Blacks” as a group; just as the “Germans” as a group weren't responsible for the two World Wars; but rather the individuals who contributed to their initiation (primarily those who contributed directly, Hitler being the most obvious example).

It is the tribal mentality derived from racism which causes conflict and alienation. The more the concept of clearly defined races is pushed, the more people will be concerned with race; and the more of a problem it will become. Racism sees distinct groups; for example, Whites, Blacks and Asians, when they do not biologically exist as such. It is not that simple. Skin colour and physical characteristics are markers of ancestry which have a relationship with particular populations which correlate with particular genetic trends. Knowledge of these trends and how to determine ancestry through DNA can be very helpful to give clues for medical research; and can be useful in anthropological study; but it is not a justification of categorising people into “races” as a basis for any kind of social stratification or social policy.

During the course of the 20th Century (predominantly in the United States), Black people were subject to disgusting amounts of violent racism from Whites (particularly in the south). Previous times saw the slave trade and subsequent racial division and hatred. Thankfully, slavery was abolished. As time went on, Blacks pushed for equal rights as a group which they had not been previously granted. At some point along the way however, government intervention shifted focus, not towards individual rights, but to forced egalitarianism. The government put regulations in place which were supposed to stop racial discrimination. In essence, they replaced racism with more racism. Quotas were put on businesses to hire a proportional number of racial minorities. It became a social taboo to question such regulations. Instead of helping to move the country towards greater individual rights and less discrimination, it stopped and looked towards forcing people to adhere to quotas and collectivist mentalities once again. The economist Thomas Sowell identified Affirmative Action as being counter-productive and harmful to those it was intended to help.

This institutional racism is re-solidifying the notion that race is of great importance, and the individual is subordinate to the group once again. This is contributing to a cycle which keeps racist mentalities going strong. The Black poverty rate was cut in half previous to the introduction affirmative action and has barely changed since then.

Another issue which has arisen due to this group mentality is the idea of reparations. Black people can demand reparations for the past transgressions of White folk as if the White race is an interconnected entity, both geographically, and chronologically. Whites now are held responsible for the actions of their ancestors. This is no less evil than the rabid generalisations made by many White racists about Blacks being violent or stupid. If you take the idea far enough, all Whites are responsible for Hitler's extermination of the Jews, and all Blacks are responsible for the actions of Mugabe's dictatorship government. It means that a White doctor and a White drunkard are both equals because they share a tiny amount of (inconsequential) DNA that a given Black person might not. It means that a Black scientist and a Black thief are both equal because of the same thing. This is obviously wrong.

Racists are invariably opposed to government legislation surrounding race, the policies which promote racial egalitarianism. This is understandable as the government is simply replacing racism with more racism which is wrong. However, racists tend to see the existence of these other groups as the problem, rather than the government's actions, and this is incorrect. This contempt for the government's actions in America (such as Affirmative Action), being perhaps the only element of racism that is right, is usually held for the wrong reasons.

Racial Nationalism

Examples of Racial Nationalism

Around the world there are various groups whose objective is to create racially homogeneous nation-states. The most prominent form of racial nationalism is arguably White Nationalism which has been gaining support gradually over the past decade or so. Whilst other forms of racial nationalism exist, such as Black Nationalism and Hispanic Nationalism, White Nationalism is probably the most noticeable, and therefore I will concentrate on it rather than other similar movements. It is also the only one which is really “reactionary” because migration patterns today are almost entirely composed of people from non-Western nations moving to Western nations such as the United States and Western Europe. Because of the race based ideology that White Nationalists adhere to, their arguments are full of the same holes that all the racist ideas are that have been discussed above.

The White Nationalist movement which is mostly based in the United States is arguably a re-packaged, re-labelled and polished up version of the old White Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Their new image seeks to reach a much wider audience and this makes them potentially very dangerous, as one can easily fall into the trap of believing their articulate manner and seemingly well researched viewpoints. They claim to be separatists rather than supremacists whose goal is an “all-White living space”. However, the reasoning often remains the same; they believe the Black and Brown people of the world are either inferior or a “threat” to “White culture” or genetic purity. “These individuals are more intelligent, more sophisticated and potentially more dangerous than most Americans realise” (Swain, 2002). White Nationalists believe “Whites” have a common identity and common interests, a belief which I have already shown to be invalid.

The Impracticality of Racial Nationalism

One important point about White Nationalism is that it is nowhere near practical implementation. An all White-state would be nearly impossible to achieve without a huge amount of action and solidarity against the vast sea of opposition that it would stir up. Since most White Nationalists seem to just spend all their time on forums it doesn't look very hopeful. It would not be right for them to simply remove non-Whites from their homes - so the only way for it to work would be to buy their land from them, or find land which is not already inhabited by non-Whites. Even if a White Nation is created it will no doubt receive hostile attention from the international community simply for being racist. This could result in trade embargoes, economic sanctions, boycotts, protests / riots, critical media campaigns and even violence and war. In the world today, there simply is no way that a White nation could be established without force and violence. Even if they managed to take over part of the United States for example, they would be rather like an Amish community. Being a separate state would mean they would have to be self sufficient - they wouldn't just be able to stroll back into the US to get jobs or buy food and supplies. It would be like a community of exiles. They probably realise this, which is why they have never attempted to actually turn their words into actions as of yet.


One of the great concerns of White Nationalism is the constant flow of foreign immigrants that flow into the country in which they live. In some respects, they are perfectly right in being angry at the state of the immigration system, whether it be in the United States, or in European countries such as the UK or France. All these countries have poor systems of immigration which allow many people to immigrate and then not actually contribute to the economy of the country they move into, but rather leech off it. This is not a racial issue it is a political one. Countries such as the United Kingdom where there is a large public sector funded by taxation are vulnerable to large-scale immigration. Immigrants who do not work, or who commit crime simply soak up the taxpayer's money thereby weakening the economy. Unlimited immigration in mixed-economies is likely detrimental to such economies, and this is one reason why reactionary movements such as White Nationalism have been gaining support. This isn't to say that immigration is always harmful, on the contrary. The type of politico-economic system in place will determine what kinds of effects immigration has, and free-market type economies such as the United States are the economies which will gain the most from immigration.

White Nationalists are often very angered by the “harm” caused by non-White immigration. However, “Silicon Valley's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs”, published by the Public Policy Institute of California (Saxenian, 1999) states that Chinese and Indian engineers run one-quarter of the region's high-tech firms, accounting for nearly $17 billion in sales and more than 58,000 new jobs. The Indians and Chinese powering its economy are overwhelmingly foreign born. Some 71% of Chinese and 87% of Indians working in its high-tech sector in 1990 arrived in the United States after 1970, she notes. This shows that an influx of talented and intelligent people is good for the economy regardless of their race.

A common charge against immigrants, for example, is that they take jobs from native-born workers. But there is no fixed number of jobs, from which those going to immigrants can be subtracted. More producers coming into an economy mean more output and more demand, which in turn creates more jobs. Sowell (1994)

White Nationalists might go so far as to say “they are stealing *their* jobs” as if they have some kind of innate “right” to jobs and positions of wealth even though they are most likely less qualified. Over forty percent of Princeton's graduate students are international - and almost one-quarter of the 1700 graduate students come from Asia and largest number is from China (235). Having this vast potential influx of skilled people can only be good for the economy. In Britain, ethnic minorities contribute more than £32 billion to the economy (Hewitt, 2003). So economically, immigration is more often than not a positive thing; it doesn't matter what “race” they belong to; only whether they can contribute positively to the economy rather than leech off it.

Aside from the economy, they believe “White culture” is at risk by letting non-Whites immigrate into “traditionally White” countries. What they mean by this is rather vague. Since “White culture” can't be accurately specified, it is not possible to specify what elements of it are under threat by other cultures - nor can it be shown that an influx of foreign cultures is the cause of “White culture” marginalisation. For their argument to be valid; it has to be demonstrated that their culture is being forcibly changed; not by government legislation, but simply by other cultures existing alongside “White culture”. This cannot be demonstrated or seen to be the case. Cultures naturally evolve, disappear and merge over time - this is not evidence of cultural annihilation through coercion; it is the natural result of cultural evolution and the interaction between individuals. The arrival of foreign cultures could even be seen as a benefit as it expands peoples experience of the world and makes life just a little bit more interesting. Culture is not a person-independent entity that can be destroyed or attacked without any kind of idea change within people's minds. For culture to be “destroyed” (that is, changed) people's ideas must change. Despite the potential benefits, when two cultures collide which conflict on their fundamental values, problems will occur. Western culture and values, including individual rights and respect for liberty, are put at risk by letting conflicting cultures exist within society. For example, certain Islamic ideas, such as the idea that it is right to punish or even murder non-believers (not that this is a universal Islamic belief) is a direct threat to Western society which cannot be condoned.


What It Boils Down To

So, racial categories are merely vague observational groupings or broad, fuzzy generalisations. The races, genetically speaking, blend into one another and it is impossible to draw clear boundaries between them which hold rational significance. It's easy enough to estimate a person's race based on what they look like, but their aesthetic characteristics most likely do not coincide with any more “important” characteristics such as their behaviour, intelligence, aggressiveness, likes and dislikes.

Racism is a form of tribalism which gives an easy way of identifying with others, based primarily on aesthetic similarities, as well as historical or statistical similarities. It is a sweeping generalisation of extremely diverse groups and a mockery of the human faculty of reason and self-sovereignty.

Even if races were in fact biologically distinct sub-groupings of humanity (which they are not), there is still no argument for contempt or malice for other races. There would still be no reason why races cannot coexist and live in harmony. Ideologies and false notions (racism itself) are what cause racial conflict, and it is these which must be changed if race problems are to be resolved.

I will end with a quote from Ayn Rand's writings on racism:

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage — the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. Rand (1964, p.147)


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