It was hypothesized that Blacks and whites (and Latinos and Asians) constituted distinct "races", sub-species of humanity, and further hypothesized that there were any number of intellectual, cultural and biological differences founded in "racial" differences. At one time, we even believed that Blacks' and whites' blood shouldn't be mixed at blood banks.
At some point in the propaganda cycle, many people forgot that "races" were merely a hypothesis, a theory, and never a statement of proven fact. Scientists lacked the understanding of DNA (which was only discovered in the 1950's or so) and lacked knowledge of the human genome to conclusively prove or disprove the theory of "race", but most of the world's institutions were built upon the hypothesis that "race" functioned just as it was hypothesized.
Black college professors were hired to teach their students about "critical race theory" and many may never made it clear to their students that the existence of "race" as a biological matter was a hypothesis, not a self-evident, universal truth. Instead "race" theorists took it as a fundamental and even religious precept that the existence of different skin colors and facial morphology and hair type "proved" "races" existed.
That's fine. They were wrong. It turns out, based on DNA studies and the results of the Human Genome Project, mapping the entire human genome, there isn't any fundamental biological "racial" difference between people that can be perceived on the basis of superficial characteristics.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program,
"DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other." U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome ProgramMoreover, there are no "alleles" that can be universally found in one skin color group and never found in another. So one of the fundamental parts of what we need to accept about having brown skin is that our brown skin does not make us fundamentally different biologically from whites. Culture (in the sense of "that which is created by man") and our political and economic group differences make us different from whites - not biology.
This is where I think the most educated Blacks (including the President) show a tremendous blind spot. So wedded are many Black people to the 'word and hypothesis of "race", that they refuse to stop using the word or to make even minimal attempts to disambiguate theories of sociological "race" (sociology being inherently fluid) from biological "race." These educated and educating Blacks are wedded to the word "race" and don't believe that the term "skin color group," which exists, is ever a sufficient alternative for the word race. In their minds, "race" is the only acceptable term for both biological "race" and sociological "race." It is analogous to "hamburger" being the only acceptable word for both "hamburger" and "hot dog."
One would hope that the most-educated people in American society would teach the less educated, but the opposite seems seem to be occurring. Even as the young realize that "racial differences" is useless and destructive terminology, the educated speak as if they were ignorant of the fact. The less-educated often say that "we're all human", without needing scientific proof of the fact. In turns out that the simpler answer is also the scientifically correct one. "We're all alike" biologically, except for minute differences that explain our skin color, facial and hair characteristics, and even those are not reliably distinct.
In spite of all of the recent DNA and human genome evidence that "race" doesn't exist, the most educated Blacks insist on continuing to use the word "race" as if science and the advance of human knowledge didn't exist.
I think this shows that if intelligence is the ability to integrate and synthesize new information as it becomes available, then we would have to conclude that the the USA is one of the stupidest nations in the history of humanity, Blacks and whites alike. We have more information about human genetics than any previous generation did, and yet we still insist that the world is flat and ridicule or abandon those who disagree with us.
When the nightly news says that cigarettes cause cancer, we're able to assimilate that information, eventually ban cigarettes in public places, and try to stop smoking, as the President says he has, for the good of our health.
Compare that to "race". In 2002, seven years ago, the Human Genome Project announced that "race" doesn't exist, because there is no allele in all whites that can't be found among Blacks, and there is similarly no allele among Blacks that cannot be found among some whites.
"Ethnicity" as a biological matter is likewise a not a matter of science, but rather a sociological observation. There is no genetic matter that can be found among all Puerto Ricans that can't also be found among some whites, and vice versa.
Now, I admit that DNA is a relatively new science and many of us don't understand it very well. Many of us know as much about DNA as we know about ice on the moon. Because of its political dimensions, when we discuss "race" we discuss our opinions much more than we discuss or are interested in learning about and discussing scientific facts.
This is analogous to the condition of the women's rights movement in the 1960's. There was little knowledge of what women could do, since women had been carefully excluded from and/or marginalized in virtually every profession except motherhood and homemaking. We treated women as a sub-species of humanity with vastly distinct differences and disabilities that supposedly made women incapable of accomplishing what men could do. Even if they weren't incapable, it still made us inherently uncomfortable to imagine women engaging in these activities.
Women have made tremendous strides and Blacks have often wondered why white women seemed to outpace Blacks in the civil rights department. Part of the reason may be that white women have been accepted as members of the same human species as white men due to the women's rights movement, but Blacks, carrying the cross of "race," have never become generally accepted, even among the most educated Black and white Americans, as members of the same species as white men. Many of us still believe we are a sub-species.
Black studies departments opened on campuses across America to study "critical race theory", instead of "critical color-arousal discrimination theory." The result is that Black students, who are now professionals in every field of endeavor, remain convinced that biological "race" exists and are unwilling to consider the possibility that it doesn't, much less challenge whites who say that "race" exists. And so we have become our own overseers on the plantation of "race", internalizing the oppressors' scarlet letter "R", as if it were branded with a hot iron on our foreheads.
It's a commonly understood precept that if you want people to do something willingly, you have to make it easy for them. Teaching that "race" exists sociologically but not biologically does not make it easier for Americans to stop arguing about "race". The term "race" is inherently controversial because its history is rooted in an anachronistic and scientifically disproved hypothesis that whites and Blacks are fundamentally different biologically, and that therefore it makes sense to search for the "angry gene" and the "stupid gene" and the "poverty gene" among people of different skin colors. It's laughable, really.
Even when the life-preserver of the human genome evidence is thrown by white people to save us from our hypothetical inferiority, the most educated Blacks prefer to drown with the chains of "race" around their necks instead of renewing their minds with the life-preserver of proof that race never existed in the first place.
If a white person says on television, "Race doesn't exist," Blacks will fall upon that person like football team on someone with the ball in his hands. It's naive to say that race doesn't exist, Black intellectuals insist. These Black intellectuals really don't care whether they are arguing in favor of biological or sociological race and they make little or no effort to disambiguate. Therefore, the masses can hardly be blamed if they continue to believe in the newly disproved hypothesis of biological race.
Blacks did not begin to receive even marginally equal treatment from whites until we demanded it. Likewise, whites are not going to acknowledge that Blacks are not fundamentally biologically different until Blacks demand it. And most of us aren't ready to demand it. We're wedded to "race" the way battered spouses are metaphorically wedded to their batterers. We know intellectually that the beatings will never stop, and yet something in our self-image and our sense of efficacy, our enabling and codependency, simply won't let us let go.
God help us! Until we acknowledge that biological "race" does not exist, and determine that no ambiguity will be permitted on this point, we will continue to start the rhetorical and socio-political sprint with whites ten yards ahead of us.