The Races—What Is Their Origin?
ONE DAY a white schoolboy came home and said to his mother: “I have made a new friend at school. May I bring him home to play?”
“What color is he?” the mother inquired.
“I can’t remember. Tomorrow I’ll look and see.”
This true story illustrates that in a child’s mind there is only one race—the human race. Indeed, that is one dictionary definition of the word “race.” However, obviously the human race is divided into many groups. Hence, another dictionary definition for race is “any geographical, national, or tribal ethnic grouping.”
Tension between peoples of different races is an earth-wide problem. Even societies who pride themselves on having racial equality are not exempt. Consider, for example, the race riots in England during 1981. In just one of those riots 149 police and 58 civilians were injured. Also, 120 buildings were damaged and 47 stores looted.
In view of such happenings, is racial unity, as often exists among children, an impossibility? And, where did the races originate?
Evolutionary Thinking and Race
In 1859 evolutionist Charles Darwin had his book The Origin of Species published. In it he taught that there was a competition between the different varieties of living things and that the best fitted to live in a given environment would survive and perpetuate their kind. The less fit forms would die out. Thus developed the saying, “the survival of the fittest.” In 1871 Darwin wrote a book entitled “The Descent of Man” in which he taught that men and apes descended from one common origin.
These books had a harmful effect on race relations. As anthropologist Sheila Patterson explained: “The theory of evolution replaced previous rationalizations justifying the domination of the white races. Since the latter had survived and been more successful than the other races, they must be superior to them, not only in organization and efficiency, but in every other field, including the mental and moral.” This attitude made European nations in the 19th century more determined to expand their colonies. It also helped inspire Hitler in his plan to develop a “master race” and eradicate the Jews and others considered unfit to live.
It is noteworthy, however, that both Darwin and most modern scientists agree that mankind has one common origin. As the Encyclopedia Americana states: “Mankind is a single biological species.” Science writer Amram Scheinfeld recently wrote: “Science now corroborates what most great religions have long been preaching: Human beings of all races are . . . descended from the same first man.”
So although the Bible was not written by scientists, yet it was correct in stating that “God . . . made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.”—Acts 17:24, 26.
What Causes Variety in Races?
When the sperm cell from a man unites with the egg cell of a woman, a new human life is conceived even though the parents are of different races. Yet within that very small cell are thousands of genes, the transmitters of hereditary traits. These traits reflect characteristics seen in the parents or other ancestors.
The genetic makeup of the first man, Adam, was such that extensive variety could develop among his offspring—in such things as skin color, hair color and texture, body size and facial characteristics. This variety was increased by language and geographical differences.
Concerning geographical isolation the Encyclopedia Americana explains: “When lands inhabited by two or more populations are separated by seas, mountain ranges, deserts, or other obstacles to travel, the members of these populations are perforce confined to their respective territories. . . . races will be separated by gene frequency gaps corresponding to the geographical boundaries. . . . this condition is approached in Africa, where the Sahara Desert forms a boundary between the European (white) and the African (Negro) races. The Sahara is very sparsely inhabited and difficult for man to traverse; it constitutes an isolating agent of long standing.”
Thus genetics, language and geographical barriers help to explain why distinctive racial groups appear in all parts of the earth.
According to the Bible, all humans descend from Noah, through his three sons Shem, Japheth and Ham. Genesis chapter 10 lists 70 descendants of Noah saying: “From these the nations were spread about in the earth.” (Genesis 10:32) One of the many ways in which these nations have been classified is with reference to skin color. In the skin of all normal humans is a blackish brown pigment called melanin.
Noah and his three sons all had a measure of this dark pigment. From Shem came the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Jews and the Arabs who vary from fair to light-brown skin. The descendants of Japheth, who include the Indo-European races, vary from light skin to dark brown. As for Ham (meaning swarthy or sun-burnt), some, but not all, of his descendants had dark skin. The Egyptians, with light-brown skin, descended from Ham’s son Mizraim. Ham’s son Canaan, who was cursed by God because of bad conduct, was the forefather of the light-skinned Canaanites.
In agreement with this, Dr. Hughes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, said: “On every continent, and in every geographically defined race, there is a considerable range of variation in . . . skin pigmentation, . . . the Tamils of South India are considered by many anthropologists to be members of the Caucasoid [white Indo-European] major race, yet in skin pigmentation they are darker than many African Negroes.”
All of this shows how foolish it is to interpret God’s curse on Canaan as referring to a dark-skinned people. All divisions of mankind have a dark pigment in their skin, some to a lesser, others to a greater extent.
Are There Superior or Inferior Races?
Recently, in the U.S., a study was made involving black children adopted by 101 white families of above-average education. Psychology Today magazine reporting on this said that the black children, in I.Q. tests, “scored well above the national averages of both blacks and whites, especially if they were adopted early in life.”
Even so, by what standards is race superiority or inferiority to be measured? By the standards of Western civilization with its alarming increase of heart disease, cancer and other illnesses, with its shocking increase in sexual perversion and violence? Or by the standards of some of the so-called primitive tribes, like the Yamana, Chenchu or Congo pygmies? Consider how an expert, the late Professor Kern, described the typical member of these tribes:
“All his life he delights in the company of children, and he knows and loves even the smallest living creatures which inhabit his territory. . . . He is . . . tender and patient with invalids and old people . . . and he is contented with his life and work out of doors. . . . there is no civilisation in which existence is happier. Suicide is rarer here than anywhere else.”
In considering these few facts, we can appreciate the view of mankind’s Creator as to the different races. Under inspiration of God’s holy spirit the apostle Peter, himself a Jew, said: “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race he belongs to.”—Acts 10:34, Today’s English Version.
Have the churches of Christendom always treated “everyone on the same basis”? Consider how the Catholic and Lutheran Churches supported Hitler’s scheme to produce a “master race.” And for centuries the Catholic Church taught that Negroes were a cursed race. John F. Maxwell states in his book Slavery and the Catholic Church that this view “apparently survived until 1873 when Pope Pius IX attached an indulgence to a prayer for the ‘wretched Ethiopians in Central Africa that almighty God may at length remove the curse of Cham [Ham] from their hearts.’” (Italics ours) And even to this day some church organizations openly practice racial discrimination.
Regardless of how politicians and religionists view the matter, the Bible and science indicate that all races are equal and descend from a common source. Interestingly, The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1970, Vol. 2, page 149, refers to the “scientific concept of the equality of the races” and admits the “scientific validation” of humanity’s single origin.
The Solution to Racial Problems
Because of applying Bible principles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who include people of every race, are united in their worship. In addition to their regular weekly congregation meetings, they annually hold large conventions throughout the earth. Among these happy throngs, people of many races can be seen worshiping, eating and talking together. As Catholic writer William J. Whalen observed in the U.S. Catholic: “I believe that one of the most attractive characteristics of this cult has been its traditional policy of racial equality. Negroes who become Jehovah’s Witnesses know they will be welcomed as full human beings.”
However, although individuals have changed, mankind as a whole is suffering from increased racial violence and war. As to the solution, the director of the Institute of Race Relations in London, Phillip Mason, said the following: “The only secular hope for our future . . . lies in . . . a world government. . . . We ought to be looking forward to the day when national sovereignty will step by step be handed over to a world government.” This is exactly what Almighty God has purposed. However, the nations are too proud to ‘hand over’ sovereignty to God’s government, his heavenly kingdom. Instead, in the near future God’s kingdom will crush all human governments and bring harmony and peace to the earth to be enjoyed by the obedient ones of all races.—Daniel 2:44; Psalm 37:29.
[Chart/Picture on page 13]
The descendants of Noah’s sons all had a variety of skin color
HAM SHEM JAPHETH
Fair Canaanite to Negro Light Jew to White European
darker Arab to dark Indian
[Picture on page 14]
‘Whoever fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race he belongs to’
[Picture on page 15]
Catholic writer William Whalen said: ‘One of the most attractive characteristics of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been their traditional policy of racial equality’