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?