Re: Racism and ancient history

Dr. Doug (
15 Jan 1997 08:47:53 GMT

In <> writes:
[deleted for brevity]
>I agree although I would only call it "economics" in the broadest
>Rather, I would see it as a matter of status. It sends a message
about the
>individual, and his position in the group, to all the other members.
>Chinese culture extreme finger-nail length used to do it - in modern
terms if
>you had finger-nails that long you would have to be rich enough to
hire a
>key-board operator to get through you email thereby confirming your
>above all the poor peasants who have to do their own and therefore
>"afford" to have long nails in both senses of the word.
> However, it is more than strictly economics. It just happens that
in our
>society status is so closely bound up with wealth. In other groups
this is not
>necessarily the case. It could be religious devotion for example.
The key to
>it is the setting of boundaries - sorting out who belongs in each
sub-set and
>who can properly associate with whom.
> I feel I am about to be nailed by "Dr" Doug here for wandering too
far but,
>I really think that this topic is right between the disciplines of
>social and physical anthropology, and archaeology - my main interest
area in
>fact. I think that racism is based on a genetic need to group
ourselves and be
>hostile to those outside the group who we perceive as different. Now
that long
>term studies of Chimps are availabe we now know that they patrol group

>boundries, engage in "warfare" and in at least one documented case
wiped out
>the "tribe" next door entirely.
> Racism is the big issue for us because it is the most obvious
trigger but,
>it is not the only expression of this need to conform within the group
and be
>hostile to the "other". One of the few things that distinguishes us
from other
>animals is that we can abstract these feelings beyond the physical
>in terms of belief systems real or imagined - burn witches, hound
>shoot the ideological heritics because they are outsiders that
threaten us as a
>cohesive group. Which on the face of it sounds like a good fitness
>for the group in evolutionary terms.
> If we want to "fix" it we have first to realize its part of all of
us, to
>some degree, and perhaps concentrate on the things we have in common
as human
>beings. Maybe then we can see that the "triggers" that we
instinctively react
>to are not a threat in the actual real world. Maybe then "intelligence

>measurements" will be less important. (I wonder if anyone has done a
study on
>this that shows even one proponent of these theories was in the less
>group? Doubt it some how. Gee, you got me there "Dr" Doug).
> P.S please forgive typos/spelling errors. It's my keyboard operators
day off,
>and if you think this is bad I'm having a hell of a time trying to
pick my nose.
>G. B.

I don't mean to sound like an ogre, or a soc.history.moderated
moderator. This internet stuff is still new to me, and I'm still
learning "netiquette."

I would agree with you about the need to concentrate on the things we
have in common as human beings, if we're ever to overcome these harmful
divisions. However, nature provides us with plenty of examples of
groups not using violence against other groups, even competing groups.

No bonobo chimp has NEVER been known to kill another bonobo chimp.
They settle their differences usually with SEX. Even between competing
groups. Actually, when you examine them, they appear to be much more
similar to humans in many ways than regular chimps. Check out that
fascinating article in Scientific American, March 1995.

The BaMbuti people (pygmies) of the Ituri rainforest in Zaire are very
isolated gatherer/hunters, and according to Turnbull in "The Forest
People," never make war, even on other BaMbuti people competing with
each other for honey or hunting grounds. They just yell at each other
until one group has had enough noise. But afterward, these groups have
no problem interbreeding and interacting with each other.

Yes, it is not strictly economics, but I do believe that racism has an
economic foundation, an economic FUNCTION. Imagine if you will, a huge
reserve army of labor, a whole group of people who believe themselves
inferior, who will work for less wages, poorer working conditions, not
join unions or organize to fight back. What would the existence of
these needy people do to the wages and working conditions of all the
other wage-earners? Would this racist discrimination not serve to keep
everyone scared, insecure, knowing that if one did not toe the line, a
person from a disadvantaged minority is waiting in the wings, ready to
take that job for less money?

Which tiny minority of people would benefit from such a situation?

Dr. Doug