It’s terrible outre to go around insisting that there is any basis to the idea of races within the human population. Various insistences blend into each other to make it most unfashionable to even think that race might exist as a useful concept. Except, of course, when complaining about who is being oppressed.
One is that variation within the so called races is larger than that between the differentiated populations so it’s not all that useful a concept. Which is true, even if not all that useful – female variation in height is larger than the average difference between male and female height yet we can still meaningfully refer to average differences in male and female height.
Another is rather more true and useful. Leave the religion part out of this but we’re all God’s little creatures and so are entirely equal in moral value and so should be treated the same. Indeed we are and should.
The sciencey bit tries to tell us that as we’re all the same species there just isn’t this thing called race. There’s not even any specific dividing line we can refer to, any differences are a smear across whatever line anyone tries to draw. Again, true, even if not entirely useful – we can still make a stab at determining ancestral background through blood types and varied other genetic accomplishments. Sickle cell anaemia really is linked, very strongly, to West African ancestry for example. So much so that it can be used in the US as evidence of how much mixing there was between the populations despite whatever colour bar there had been historically.
Now along comes science to show us that this concept of race does in fact have some meaning in human populations:
“In the west Africans we looked at, all have ancestry from this unknown archaic population,” said Sriram Sankararaman, a computational biologist who led the research at the University of California in Los Angeles.
Unlike today, the world was once home to many related species or subspecies of human. And when they stumbled upon one another, mating was not out of the question. As a result, modern Europeans carry a smattering of Neanderthal genes, while indigenous Australians, Polynesians and Melanesians carry genes from Denisovans, another group of archaic humans.
These archaic populations. They’re not different species, the proof is in the very claim of interbreeding. They’re not simply clan or tribe, the differences being claimed are larger than that. Sure, it’s polite to say subspecies these days but race is only another word for that.
None of which makes any difference to that truth of equal moral value and the right to equal treatment. But it is fun to see how often science does come up and bop fashionable social nostrums on the nose, isn’t it?