Louder than a Bomb

Quickly, quietly, steadily, and secretly, a small group of people worked on the top secret Manhattan Project in 1939. The immediate result of this research was the atomic bomb, but the technology developed made television, computers, and anything else with a microchip possible. Humans built and created all of this technology. It would be absolutely ludicrous to suggest that the atomic bomb or microchips did not change the world. Suggesting that either of these technologies do not affect modern people’s lives every single day because they are man-made creations would be asinine. Yet, this illogical step is often made in American today when it comes to race. Scientifically speaking, race simply does not exist. As researchers like Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., have shown that individual genetic variation occurs in humans there is little to no genetic variation between populations.1 In other words, there is a higher degree of genetic variation between individuals of the same race than there is between individuals of different races.The very idea of race itself is a social, not biological construction. It is man-made.

There is a moment in most college kids’ lives where they learn about social constructionism. Questioning reality, looking at ideas and structures and all of the things around you and realizing that they only exist to you in the way you understand them because people made them so is intoxicating. But, for the most part, people get over it. Yes, you only think of the chair you are sitting on as a chair because man-made language tells you that is what it is called. Yes, you only think you should sit on it because that is what you have been taught it is for. If you had come across it without ever knowing what it was you might think it is for hanging shirts out to dry. But, you call it a chair and you sit on it and the idea that you might not have is relatively unimportant to the fact that you do. This getting over it extends beyond the functions of chairs to more pernicious parts of society — yes, you might only love your parents because society tells you to but you do so why does it matter? Just because something turns out to be man-made does not mean it somehow doesn’t exist.

The one thing people cannot seem to get over this idea with though, is race. Race doesn’t exist! There is no biology behind it, therefore it isn’t real! The problem is, race does exist. People made it exist. Even if it doesn’t have biological importance race has gargantuan social, cultural, political, and economic importance. In fact, race touches every single aspect of our lives. Everyone has a race. And whatever your life currently entails, things would be different if you had a different one. Your status in society would be different, the way you talked and thought about race would be different. You would consider the government, your religion, the economy, your education, and your family differently because they would be different to you. Your perspective would change. Everything would change.

Race and racism are important to talk and think about for exactly that reason. People understand that if an atomic bomb exploded, the world would change. They are clear on the fact that just because no one likes post-atomic bomb politics doesn’t mean there will be no more bombs. People understand that even though a world with atomic bombs unfairly excludes countries without the bomb and gives rights and privileges to countries with it all of the countries who do have the bomb can’t just pretend they don’t. And people are all too aware that atomic bombs affect us even though they are man-made. But people don’t seem to be able to make the jump with racism. They don’t like it, so they want it gone. It’s not that simple. It will never be that simple. Above all, people understand that if we ignored atomic bombs completely in public policy, eventually more bombs would exist and explode. It would be terrible. What is harder to grasp is that if we ignore race and racism in society the same thing will happen. If we don’t work to stop ascribing status through race, to change our institutions that perpetuate racism, everything race touches will eventually explode. And when that explosion happens, it will be much louder than a bomb.