How odd that two semites look similar, eh?

The Guardian has found itself in the interesting position of explaining why racism exists. The interesting part being that it’s not any of the usual explanations trotted out – capitalism, the patriarchy, even The Man – but one that isn’t often thought to be responsible, it’s about incest.

It’s all in this piece by Arwa Mahdari:

It has come to my attention, thanks to incessant, unsolicited comments from strangers, that I am dating my doppelganger. Almost every time I am out with my girlfriend, even if we are just at the supermarket, a random person asks if we are sisters. Sometimes they don’t take “no” for an answer and ask again, as though maybe we just forgot.

For the record, my girlfriend and I are not related. She is an Ashkenazi Jew from Boston; I am a Palestinian from Brixton. I am not sure if our relationship is kosher or halal, but it is 100% incest-free. I have to admit, though, that we do look vaguely alike. And the more strangers point it out, the more I am starting to get a complex. After all, nobody wants to date themselves.

Or do they? After looking into the matter, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of people do seem to want to date themselves. There are tons of studies that show we are attracted to people who look like us. Empirical evidence of lookalike love abounds, too. There is a Tumblr page called Boyfriend Twin, for example, that documents eerily identical male couples. I suggest you do not browse it at work, by the way. Some of the documentation is very thorough.

Someone might want to get a camera into that bedroom, a solution to the Middle East is at hand. It’s also not all that amazingly surprising that two semites look rather like each other.

But it is indeed this which explains why racism exists – racism being that dividing of people into the ingroup and the outgroup. We do indeed tend to be attracted to those who are of our own ingroup. That binding together over decades of hot sweaty sheets is rather what creates the very idea of clan, tribe and even race.

We’ve also good evidence that this extends into our own families. There are innumerable tales of siblings raised apart, not knowing of each others’ existence, who then experience strong sexual feelings upon finally meeting. We’ve also good evidence of the manner of control used to stop such inbreeding. Children raised together tend not to see those children as sexual objects. There’s something which says, some switch, “they’re my siblings, no sex,” the definition of sibling being someone you were raised with. Our evidence of this comes from the varied experiments in communal child raising on Israeli kibbutz’s (what the heck is the plural there?). Those children raised communally, together, don’t pair off with each other. While they will do the entirely normal amount of such pairing off with those they’re not directly raised together with. It’s not in fact the genes deciding this, it’s the being raised together.

Like does attract like, up to and including within the same set of family genes. The very fact that we’ve got this reaction which stops it at that very close familial level is the very proof we need that it is indeed there. And if like attracts like then we’ve really no need of any other explanation for that creation of in and outgroups which is racism, do we?

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Pat
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Pat

There is also the point that both races and cultures arise in communities isolated from other communities, and hence race is a marker for culture.
Of course with travel becoming both easier and cheaper communities are less and less isolated, so the value of this marker is breaking down, as is the distinction between the races.

Spike
Member

There are a lot of reasons why people embrace clannishness other than physical resemblance, and it may have to do with the tendency of a lot of wildlife to seek the safety of the herd. This has nothing to do with “racism” except that one of the tenets of most clans is to disparage outsiders.

As a clan pursues its orthodoxy, people outside it may start to disparage its members. Here too, there are many factors that are much larger than race.

Philip Scott Thomas
Member
Philip Scott Thomas

The plural is ‘kibbutzim’.

Rhoda Klapp
Member
Rhoda Klapp

Lesbian pairs often look alike. It’s more a form of narcissism than anything else. If I’m right the racism/incest point is without merit. And of course any of the modern free-roaming definitions of racism embrace pretty much everything and are beyond logical conclusions as to cause.

Quentin Vole
Member
Quentin Vole

Forty years ago, our local pub was run by a couple of ladies, one of whom dressed in a tweed trouser suit and smoked a pipe – no chance of mistaking them for sisters 🙂

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

There’s a theory I’ve heard, that it’s not what we look like but what we smell like. There’s little doubt people from different genetic groups have different smell one can detect, even on a concious level. My partner’s a radically different racial mix from any European & she’s a totally different natural odour to any N. European girl I’ve spent time with. In the primeval state humans would have spent all of their time with people smelled very much like them. A common tribal smell. Other people would smell different. One you’re safe with. One you’re not. And the olfactory… Read more »

Spike
Member

I have also heard the theory that “African-Americans smell funny.”

I agree with the underrated power of the brain’s olfactory lobe. The problem is that the smell of individuals varies, for artificial and natural reasons, much more over time than smell varies between individuals. Also, when human clans act adversarially, they do so before getting close enough to smell them.

It would take me several nights with a lady before coming to a conclusion on her “typical” smell, much less what group of people the smell reminds me of.

synp
Member
synp

Kibbutzim