How Do You React to Racial Differences?
RACIAL differences—how they have plagued mankind! But think for a moment: Is the real problem racial differences? Or is it the way men react to the differences?
Some have used this reaction as a hurtful political tool. For example, Adolf Hitler once remarked to former German politician Hermann Rauschning:
“I know perfectly well . . . that in the scientific sense there is no such thing as race. . . . I as a politician need a conception which enables the [existing] order . . . to be abolished . . . With the conception of race National Socialism [Nazism] will carry its revolution abroad and recast the world.”
In other words, Hitler knew that he had only to channel men’s racial reactions to gain his political ends.
SOME SEARCHING QUESTIONS
How about you? Does prejudicial talk about racial differences sweep you along as it did those people? Could it cause you to stop judging individuals on their own merits? Do you view the high crime rate and the filth in many “ghetto” areas as evidences of racial inferiority?
Or does prejudice take a more subtle form? Might you outwardly appear to have no racial bias, yet inwardly feel yourself indulgent for having been kind to a person of another race? When you hear a report of wrongdoing, do you immediately identify the wrongdoer by his race?
On the other hand, if you believe you are a victim of prejudice, do you retaliate by developing prejudice of your own? Do you believe that the only reason for your oppression is racial? Are there no bad personal habits you may have that could be improved to gain more respect from others?
HOW HUMAN VARIETY CAME TO BE
It is apparent that a better understanding of racial differences is needed to help us to temper our reactions. An examination of how these differences originated will help us to react in a realistic and moral way, rather than to be swayed by extremists.
You might reasonably ask at this point, ‘Where did the races with their clearly defined characteristics, so different from one another, come from? How do you explain the tall Scandinavians with their fair skin and blond hair, or the stocky Eskimo with their thick black hair, flattened noses and slanted eyes, or the black-skinned Negroes with their short, curly hair and full lips?’
In answer, scientific studies have shown that differences among living things are, basically, a matter of genetics (genes are minute particles that determine heredity). The potential for variety is inherent in all living things, including man. Says Zoologist Ernst Mayr: “To speak of ‘pure’ races is sheer nonsense. Variability is inherent in any natural population.”
Now to help understand how the races developed from this variability, let us illustrate: Did you know that horticulturists (plant scientists) have been able to isolate certain variations in plants, such as exceptional size? They can then develop strains of those plants that all have that same feature.
To apply this illustration to man, suppose a group of people were isolated geographically from the rest of the human family, just as the horticulturist isolates a strain of plants with which he is working. Certain characteristics among those people would become stronger, or “dominant,” throughout the group’s descendants. Eventually a new “race” would develop, yet it would remain human.
That this is exactly what happened is documented scientifically and historically. Professor S. A. Barnett, zoologist at the Australian National University, defines race as “a group which shares in common a certain set of genes, and which became distinct from other groups as a result of geographical isolation.”
Scientists can only guess how this “geographical isolation” came about. But there is one historical source that fits all the facts available.
Let us focus our attention back on the time when there were not, as yet, any races. According to the historical report, it could be said of mankind that “they are all a single people with a single language!” (Genesis 11:6 in The Jerusalem Bible) In agreement with this, Professor of Zoology L. C. Dunn says that there “may have been a time when the human race was actually one marriage community, because even today all races have many of their genes in common, as though they had all obtained them from a common source.”
However, an attempt was made to keep mankind in one location for religiopolitical purposes. (See Genesis 11:1-9.) It failed. Had this attempt been successful, men would not have spread rapidly over the earth. But the Creator’s purpose for mankind differed. He expressed it not long before: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.”—Gen. 9:1; see also 1:28.
Was this purpose to be realized? Yes, very effectively. The Creator suddenly caused men to speak different languages so they could not understand one another. What better way to make them separate?
Picture what must have taken place: Unable to communicate as one people, little groups, now isolated by the barrier of language, moved off on their own. As they spread farther afield, distance added another barrier to communication. The record of these events says that “Jehovah scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.” (Gen. 11:8) Isolated by location and by language, the descendants of each group multiplied and developed the distinct features of their “race.”
A question that may come up here is: “Have the races become so different from one another that each one is another ‘species’?” Zoologist Mayr makes this comment in answer:
“All the different kinds of living man on the face of the earth belong to a single species. . . . As a matter of fact, the various races of man are less different from each other than are the subspecies of many . . . animals. Yet a few misguided individuals have . . . divided him into five or six separate species by using such artificial criteria as white, yellow, red, or black skin color. Such a division . . . is completely contrary to the biological species concept.” (Italics ours)
Thus we can see how very accurately the Bible record parallels the known facts. As the apostle Paul plainly stated to the men of Athens in the first century of our Common Era, God “made out of one man every nation of men.” Or, as The New English Bible puts it: “He created every race of men of one stock, to inhabit the whole earth’s surface.”—Acts 17:22-26.
DO PHYSICAL APPEARANCE AND MENTALITY GO TOGETHER?
Some persons argue that there is a direct relation between appearance and mental qualities. Therefore, they say, those that have an appearance that goes with “inferior” mentality should be separated from others. They presume that this will avoid genetic weakening of the “superior” race.
However, Professor Mayr calls it a “fallacy” to claim “an association between a particular color of the eyes or the hair and certain traits of the mind or the character. All available evidence negates the existence of such [correspondence].”
What does the evidence really show as to racial variety? Is any race “superior” to another? Theodosius Dobzhansky of Rockefeller University in New York says:
“The striking fact—which not even the racists can conceal—is that the race differences in the averages are much smaller than the variations within any race. In other words, large brains and high I.Q.’s of persons of every race are much larger and higher than the averages for their own or any other race.”
What can we conclude from the foregoing? This: If some persons argue for the segregation of people because of claimed “inferior” mentality or culture, would it not be far more consistent to segregate all people, regardless of race, who fall below set “standards,” rather than to separate them by their color? Thus they would be compelled to segregate many of their own race, and for exactly the same reasons that they wish to segregate others! Is that really what they want?
The issue that we must all face is whether we are willing to conform to God’s viewpoint on this matter. It is nicely stated by the apostle Peter: “‘The truth I have now come to realise,’ he said, ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’” (Acts 10:34, 35, Jerusalem Bible) Will you accept ‘anybody of any nationality, or race, who does what is right’? That is the real point at issue, is it not?
APPRECIATING RACIAL VARIETY
Everything around us bespeaks abundant variety. What if this were not the case? Would you like to eat the same food every day? What if there were just one kind of animal, or bird, or tree in the forest? Suppose all flowers were the same color. Would you like that kind of world?
We do not live in such a world because our Creator lovingly gave living things the potential for variety. This variety provides never-ending stimulation to delight our senses. It brings fullness to life. Should it be different when it comes to variety among men? Can you imagine how offensive a lack of appreciation for variety is to the One who created it?
As Professor Dobzhansky points out: “Genetic diversity is a blessing, not a curse. Any society . . . has a multitude of diverse vocations and callings to be filled.”
Interestingly, there is a society of people who really appreciate the variety among men. They are known as Jehovah’s witnesses. They find it stimulating and beneficial. Within this society, all persons, without regard for their race, find fulfillment and opportunity to use their abilities to the full. They rejoice in the magnificent variety of personalities, culture, language, clothing, homes and food among people of all races.
When they travel abroad to attend international assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses, they know they will be fully accepted by their Christian brothers in any land. They will be on an equal footing of mutual love and respect. Religious writer G. Norman Eddy noted this about the Witnesses:
“I am struck with their genuine high regard for the people of all races. Unlike some who pay lip service to the doctrine of racial brotherhood, the Witnesses welcome all to their society—even to places of outstanding leadership—without reference to color or feature.”
Jehovah’s witnesses realize that improvements need to be made in one’s life, no matter what one’s race is. So they work on improvements individually, on the basis of Christian principles. If a person is sloppy or uses bad language, if he has little respect for others or the law, if he drinks heavily or does not take care of his family responsibilities, he must make the necessary changes to conform to Christian standards. He ‘puts on a new personality,’ which anyone of any race can master if he wants to.—Col. 3:9, 10; Rom. 13:1; 2 Thess. 3:10.
The world that Adolf Hitler planned to “recast” with his “conception of race” would have been sterile and bleak governed by the whims of only his one “master race.” In contrast, God in his wisdom uses all of mankind’s qualities to make a balanced, loving and useful organization. Why not share the pleasure of reacting with appreciation to racial variety?
[Picture on page 517]
‘All humans descended from Adam and Eve,’ says the Bible. “All the people of the earth are a single family and have a common origin,” scientists acknowledge