Thursday, July 9, 2015

Could We Find A Better Word?

I understand the word "race" as it is used in descriptions of humans, but it has become so loaded with connotations that it is virtually useless.

The way I think of various peoples with different physical and mental characteristics is similar to the way I think of various breeds of animals.  You can cross a wolf and a Yorkie -- assuming the wolf doesn't eat the Yorkie.  You'll get a dog of a sort.  A Workie?  A Yolf?  Yorf? There are Thoroughbred horses and Tennessee Walkers, Missouri Foxtrotters and Clydesdales.  They are all horses, and they are all the same species in that they produce fertile offspring, but no Clydedale or Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross is ever going to win the Kentucky Derby.  He'd come in second if he was the only horse in the race.

Hounds, particularly scent hounds, are not usually known for intelligence.  Beagles are usually fairly bright but stubborn.  Border Collies are intelligent and live to herd.  I've been around dogs all my life.  We had shepherds, some of extremely high intelligence, but the smartest dog I've ever known was a scent hound, a variety of the English Foxhound called "Julys".  He was a unique individual variation, but he was still a very good coyote hound.

Selective breeding by humans has created great variety and utility among domesticated animals.  My granddaughter has chickens that will lay green eggs and some that are "cherry eggers" and "Easter eggers".  It's pretty cool.

Humans themselves have not, as far as we know, had much in the way of intentional selective breeding, but different environmental pressures and geographical separation and isolation as well as an apparently inherent tribalism has led to noticeable variations within the human species.  To deny this is to deny evidence and common sense as well as science. 

There is nothing "wrong" with one variation compared to another.  I've come to be pretty comfortable with the variety to which I belong.  I get along with people like me pretty well -- for the most part, some members of my family notwithstanding. 

It doesn't make me racist to observe that Kenyans seem to do disproportionately well at distance running, or that a higher percentage of people with African ancestry of a different sort are exceptional sprinters.

Some of the differences we see in society are more environmental than genetic, there's no doubt.  I used to work for a company where we would get young people with newly minted MBAs.  Oddly their last names were often familiar.  A previous generation had founded a notable company or was prominent in some industry.  But one wonders, if that kind of thing went on for several generations, what the end result would be in terms of what might be called selective mating.

Using "breeds" to refer to human variations also has bad connotations.  Ethnicity is pretty good.  "Nations" probably worked well enough before we all melted together here in the States and to some extent in the Commonwealth countries.  "Tribe" seems to be gaining some popularity, but it hasn't really expanded its meaning sufficiently.  I personally like "clan", but it has the same problem as tribe.  Other possibilities might be culture or kind.

We need to be able to talk about differences reasonably and sensibly.  Working our way past the history associated with race might help us.  I don't know.
How about "brand"?


  1. Hi Mushroom, the 'science' of eugenics was pretty popular for a season until the Nazi's gave it a bad name. It was essentially a program designed to breed superior humans from desirable genes.

    It seems everything has become so politically loaded these days, from race to flags, from gender to, well I don't know - spaghetti ?

    I like the word 'Nation' because it historically referred to a people bound by a common geography, beliefs, language and culture. Of course the multiculturalist governing elite hate the idea of nation states, (they cause wars don't they?) If we can eliminate any sense of nationhood, then peace will break out the the brotherhood of man will triumph. let's see how that works out in Europe.

  2. True, people like abortionist saint Margaret Sanger thought limiting the reproduction of "inferior" races was a really good idea.

    Nation would be an excellent term to revive and reinvigorate.

    We have NASCAR Nation. They may take my redneck card for this confession, but, to me, automobile racing on a closed track is a noisier version of golf. If I'm that bored, I'll take a nap. Not knocking it, just don't get it.

    Still, I could see myself as a member of the Greater Appalachian Nation.

  3. I suppose even if we had a new word it wouldn't take long for the usual suspects to mess it up as bad as race.
    Ironically, the language police end up destroying it.