I recently had to fill out some medical paperwork for a new doctor’s visit. They asked for the standard information; name, address, name in case of emergency. I filled out the form as I always do; then I stopped at a block that caught my attention, race. I have always been sensitive to this topic that separates humans by their background and even culture. The interesting phenomenon is that from a scientific standpoint, the multiple race question makes as much sense as the world is flat question.
100% Identical, or close enough
The science does not lie. Every human being on the planet is over 99% genetically identical to any other human being. The human genome project, that began in 1990 and was designed to map the 3.2 billion base pairs of the human genome, was a success and the work was completed years ago. The results are very complicated and immersed in biological jargon, but the takeaway for this psychologist is very simple: we are all, virtually the same. When you make a 99% on a test, what do you tell your friends and yourself that you made? Exactly. Since we are all the same genetically, then where, and more importantly why, does race enter into the equation.
I wrote about the Power of Belonging on 3.25.18. I reviewed why people have an emotional need to bond together that spawns from a deep evolutionary need for survival. Perhaps when people look the same, which does happen through genetic mutation and adaptation to certain environments, this facilitates that feeling of belonging to a certain group. I fully understand why individuals would do that, and I even understand why individuals would shun others from outside the group in order to better their own chances of survival. However, the Earth is no longer flat, people. The times have changed now. We need to change with those times.
The Earth is Round
Years ago, I trained Special Operators from Cameroon. This was a French only class so I bonded quite a bit with the guys and sometimes we discussed topics that were not relevant to what I was teaching at the time. I remember one of the more senior members asking me about the science behind why the world was round, and not flat. At this moment, I realized that not everyone has the same education and that we need to be more aware of this as we try and push agendas or make assumptions. Race is a world is round topic; however, not everyone understands the Human Genome and its enormous implications about how we are all virtually genetically identical.
Challenging our Thoughts
The answer to the race question on the doctor’s form; human. From genetic and anthropological evidence, around 60,000 years ago, modern humans (a couple of thousand or so) left Eastern Africa and traveled into the Middle East, and spread all over the world fairly quickly. That means that even though we don’t all look alike (because of genetic mutations taking place over thousands of years and individuals “settling down” into one geographic area), everyone on the planet is related to the initial several thousand humans that migrated North out of Africa. The world is no longer flat; we need to drop the race thing and unify under one race, the only race that has existed tens of thousands of years. From a psychological point of view, this would solve many issues that we have in the world. Remember, we are all 99% (or more) genetically related.
Try and see people this week through the lens of the human genome. Do you treat your close friends and family different than total strangers? How do you feel about your enemies now that you can see scientific evidence that you are related genetically to them? These are tough questions that may remain unanswered, or they are questions that may lead to a better tomorrow. For now, remember to try and understand others and look at the differently this week; furthermore, realize that somewhere down the ancestral line we are all related.
“Lean into it!”
Dr. Ed Naggiar