Sun | Sep 23, 2018

What race?

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM


The recent killing in Charleston, South Carolina, and the many other incidents of bigotry that have taken place over the last few months have highlighted that while human society has developed significantly, we have a very far way to go.

A critical element of society is identity. This, however, is a double-edged sword, since identity implies uniqueness and, therefore, exclusion. Group definitions have been the source of every war in the history of mankind. It continues to be the source of victimisation of the weak group by the stronger group.

The issue of race has been one that has made society difficult to coalesce. There is, however, no such thing as race. This is a simple statement but a deceptively complex issue.

The main view is that race is, in fact, a social construct and is not supported by science. This view argues that despite our environmental adaptations, human beings are all the same and our differences are only superficial.

Yet, even this has been challenged by some. Nicolas Wade is one such writer who, in his latest book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, challenges the scientific community and argues that race is actually biological and affects behaviour. According to Wade, black countries are poor because we are biologically predisposed to make decisions that will keep us as such.

There is, and has been, much emphasis placed on race in human history, and this will continue to be so until we are all grey.

For our region, the issue of race has been magnified over the past 400 years, and whether biological or not, being black has not been advantageous.

While in Jamaica we have largely moved past race to other forms for group definitions, the shadow of race remains. We see it affecting out black brothers in Haiti now and in the USA.

As we Jamaicans move towards the Emancipation and Independence commemoration periods, we should keep in mind the lessons of our forefathers that "out of many, we are one". And seek to become the purveyors of this message across the region, if not globally.