Racism: A Study Guide

Kirby Urner
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I’m an ethnic Quaker, pale skinned (“white”), who spent many formative years outside the United States and its territories. My choosing to concentrate in philosophy added more mental distance between my headspace and that of those around me. I’m beyond mere middle aged at this point; I’m in my sixties.

Where I come down in the humanities is with H.G. Wells in three writings, with C.P. Snow and his “chasm”, and with R. Buckminster Fuller and his plan to bridge said chasm.

In the humanities, we study Social Darwinism as a consequence of both Darwinism and industrialism. Social Darwinism takes us onward to Eugenics, as popularized in the United States and its territories, and onward to the Third Reich and its Made in America Hollerith machines.

The first of the H.G. Wells writings is The Time Machine, perhaps his most famous work of science fiction. Like Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Abbott’s Flatland, this classic comes with social commentary, which in turn tends to become tinged with satire where imaginative fantasy is concerned.

One of the definitions I learned, of racism, I forget where, maybe Princeton, was: the dogma that humans divide into specific subgroups known as ‘pure races’ which form a primary ‘basis’ for anyone ‘mixed’.

The model makes sense by analogy, as we often abbreviate “race” with the word “color” (with “people of color” versus “white” a first sort) and in color theory, three or four colors are considered primary, while the others are considered additive mixtures. RGB and CYMK are both examples of a “color space” coordinate system.

another color generating apparatus
color ball surface

In Genesis, the descendants of Noah define the pure races, whereas their dispersion and re-mixing was fomented by the Tower of Babel episode, followed by (after Genesis) the integrating effects of global transportation circuits.

Chinese would help build the railroads, which would in turn carry populations out west. The Harvey Girls helped get the “fast food franchise” idea off to a running start. The dispersed populations were starting to find each other again, through networks and TV towers.

In The Time Machine, the STEM programmers and PATH literati diverge, with the former, the Morlocks, becoming subterranean and predatory, and the latter becoming rather innocent and vulnerable.

Were Eloi the “mindless consumers” of the not so distant future? “Don’t fix anything, just throw it away and buy a new one.”

According to this phantasmic account, humans indeed fork into separate species, creating a genetic distance well beyond mere “breed”. This would be the C.P. Snow chasm, fully satirized. “We are devo” echoes the lament of a later day, if you’re prepared for pop music allusions.

H.G. Wells also served as a reporter for a series of columns, submitted from a major peace convention held in New York City, between the two World Wars.

Remembering how much the Germans were denigrated by the Anglos, and the Russians, for their heritage, takes us back to more Eurocentric forms of racism, what we might call “white against white”. Racism against Asians was still being fine tuned. We didn’t yet have an Asian band calling themselves The Slants, at first illegally, but their right was won.

Identifying less with humans as a species, and more with a fanciful notion of a subspecies (a nexus of physical, and probably ethnic, traits) means identifying with a sub-type of human, some supposedly “pure” specimen of a “primary color” within some theory.

Shall we define racism as identification with a subset of humanity then? So are racists identified with sub-to-humans? Does “sub-to-human” equate to “subhuman” (less than human)? That would sound too insulting I’m afraid. I doubt “identifying with subhumans” would gain much traction among racists, even as a shorthand characterization.

Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak is a deep dive into Eugenics, as funded and practiced by stateside think tanks. Social Darwinism has bequeathed us two warring factions, the working and owning classes. Ideological divides such as socialism versus capitalism tend to trace themselves back to this front line.

My curriculum offers a certain “design science revolution” as a way out of Ghetto Planet, meaning we hope to continue terraforming the planet in such a way as to make our shared Global University less of a decadent mess. We see the curriculum itself, what we use to auto-program ourselves, as where we likely have the most leverage. If we don’t want to keep up with the overhead of tracking “races”, we’ll need to tackle that at the level of the database.

War of the Worlds is my third H.G. Wells reading, another prescient work of fiction. The design science revolution comes with its own indigenous approach to spatial geometry, having been so equipped by Synergetics (not to be confused with either Cybernetics or Dianetics). The alien qualities of this Transcendentalist metaphysics have earned it the moniker “Martian Math”. The clash of worlds ends in positive synergy and collaboration. We’d like a happy ending if that’s OK.

The blog link I’m here ending on will take you way from the print of Medium and into the world of Youtubes.

That’s where I’ve archived quite a few dharma talks. I bring in Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, in part for its aphoristic Love’s Body style.

Compression islands of prose leave it to a comprehending mind to connect the dots, making a tensegrity.

I start at the Bellingham Civil Rights Museum, and talk you forward, tour guide fashion, outlining my thesis that we in the humanities, will be flooding into STEM, but without surrendering our values and ethics, developed on the PATH side in our training (STEM and PATH are prominent themes in some of my other Medium stories).

The “design science revolution” means “engineering with a conscience” with “free and open source” in the vanguard.

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