Thursday, May 14, 2009

Out of Africa

Anthroplogists believe that modern man comes from Africa. “...Geneticists found that characteristic DNA sequences called markers on the Y (male) chromosome in a huge sample of men in Asia and Oceania could be traced to forefathers who lived in Africa in the past 35,000 to 89,000 years. Two other groups studying Y chromosome markers have come to a similar conclusion. Together with a variety of studies showing that mitochondrial DNA is of recent African origins, anthropologists now have two strong lines of evidence in favor of the 'Out of Africa' model, which says that the ancestors of living humans swept out of Africa in the past 200,000 years and replaced all indigenous people they encountered.”*

This means that either the government should start passing “racially” preferred handouts to everyone, or quit handing them out at all. It also means that the NAACP needs to widen it's recipient base. Finally, it means that affirmative action really is discrimination. But most people with any sort of common sense already knew that.

But outside of poking fun at governmental policies that allow for any particular group to get any specific favor based on the “color of their skin”, there is another and deeper meaning to being “African American”... the anthropological belief that we're all one race. “In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic 'racial' groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within 'racial' groups than between them. In neighboring populations there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic (physical) expressions. Throughout history whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species.”**

With all the religious, political, sexist, demographical, “racial”, cultural and economic diversity on this planet, realizing that we are, essentially, no different from one human to the next, we can de-value the constant bickering and warring over inconsequential stuff – like whether or not the color of someone's skin reflects who they are as a person, or whether or not it reflects how capable they are to perform a task. It should also be broadened to consider such things as whether or not acts of terrorism is performed against truly different persons (it is not), or instead just different ideologies (it is). Perhaps human identity is not the way to peace, but perhaps if we focused on our genetic similarities and less on our cultural differences, PERHAPS we could begin to value human life enough to pursue avenues of peace that typically and historically have not worked, because of a shift in fundamental beliefs about what it is to be a human.

"Photograph is courtesy of American Anthropological Association and Science Museum of Minnesota"



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