Consider two aspects of racism, biology and psychology. Biology first.
We humans, in taxonomy, are in the Eukaryota domain, Animalia kingdom, Chordata phylum, Mammilia class, Primate order, Hominidae family, Homo genus, and Sapiens species.
There are no subspecies of Homo sapiens. While it is true that both gene “expression” (genotype) and environment determine visible characteristics (phenotype), these variations are too superficial to warrant further taxonomic refinement. People are people. That’s it.
Human skin color depends on content of the dark brown pigment called melanin. Melanin has the special ability to block almost 100% of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, the main cause of skin cancers, including particularly dangerous melanomas. Humans who migrated north from Africa nearly two million years ago gradually lost melanin, becoming more fair-skinned. Reduced melanin allowed sunlight to produce more vitamin D in their skin. Today, since most people in northern latitudes wear clothes and get almost all their vitamin D from food or drink, their lighter skin gives them little advantage. As tradeoffs go, melanin’s UV protection in darker skin would seem more advantageous than the bonus of vitamin D production in lighter skin.
No “white” person is truly white; no “black” person is truly black. Human skin color ranges in shades of brown, from light beige to very dark brown. Thus, the expression “people of color” seems a contrived descriptor.
Now to psychology.
Humans, according to famous sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, are among the most social animals on Earth. The other contenders, says he, are ants, termites, and honeybees. We tend to gather with, and be more comfortable in, groups of people who look like us, think like us, are in the same economic class as us, etc. In other words, we are tribal, and that propensity probably goes back thousands of years to the time when groups were trying to survive not just among competing groups, but also with ferocious animals who viewed humans as tasty cuisine. Our history is of violent competition between tribes to occupy the best land, have access to the best food, spread the best religion, live under the best government, or simply determine who has the right to exist. The “winning” tribes have been those with the most adamant purpose, best organization, and superior weaponry.
Today, because of interdependency of economic systems across the globe, the conquering of one country by another is probably (hopefully) a thing of the past. Conflict between competing tribes will continue, but another world war is unlikely because it could easily result in extinction of the human species.
Racism, I’m sorry to say, is not going to quickly subside. That’s because skin color, and any other physical attribute for which one wants claim superiority, is a highly visible indicator of “not me”. One cannot immediately know another’s religion, politics, nationality, ethnicity, social status, or sexual orientation, but skin color is an obvious difference, if difference is what one seeks.
Racism is not a yes/no, either/or thing. We all may be a little racist, but loath to recognize or admit it. I confess I have thoughts at times that could be considered racist. Still, I try to remain vigilant, and push those thoughts away because I know they are irrational and unproductive.
In sum, if we are ever to achieve a true “United States”, much less a united world, racism must become a thing of the past.
Bob Moores retired from Black & Decker/DeWalt in 1999 after 36 years. He was the Director of Cordless Product Development at the time. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University