Sex Is Etched in Our DNA, But Race Is All in Our Heads

Jeff Jacoby, Townhall, March 21, 2016


American society is awash with race-based quotas, check-offs, preferences, and diversity policies. In countless settings–from college admissions to workplace hiring, from government contracts to legislative redistricting–opportunities and benefits are tied to racial percentages. {snip}


{snip} Today we know for a fact what scientists in the 1950s could only have surmised: Race is not biological. It is a social construct, not a genetic reality. The DNA of blacks cannot be distinguished from the DNA of Asians or the DNA of whites. Unlike our sex, which is stamped in our chromosomes, our racial and ethnic identities are purely subjective.


Of course human beings vary widely in their appearance. Populations from different parts of the world differ notably in their skin color, facial features, and hair texture. But those distinctions are superficial, not racial. They have no immutable significance. They contribute no more to “diversity” than right- and left-handedness do. To rely on such criteria when hiring employees or drawing electoral maps or assessing a corporate board is about as sensible as consulting a Magic 8 Ball.

Racial definitions change constantly. The US Census Bureau has regularly revised the categories it uses to measure race. In 1890, census enumerators divided Americans into eight racial groups: “White,” “Black,” “Mulatto,” “Quadroon,” “Octoroon,” “Chinese,” “Japanese,” and “Indian.” The most recent census, in 2010, generated data for 63 racial categories–“six single-race categories and 57 different combinations of two or more races,” as a government press release announced at the time. {snip}

With millions of Americans marrying across the color line and raising biracial or multiracial children, our ubiquitous affirmative-action check-offs and diversity quotas become more nonsensical–and unjust–by the day. The present fashion for treating “Hispanic” as a quasi-racial category exacerbates the problem. Hispanic identity is not a distinctive and heritable characteristic; it’s an ancestral affiliation that fades over time. That is why immigrants from Latin America commonly describe their identity with reference to their Hispanic origin, while a majority of their grandchildren call themselves simply . . . American.


In a nation that aspires to meritocracy, quotas of any kind are an embarrassment. Racial quotas should be unthinkable. Our DNA has always known that race is only a delusion. When will our law and public policy catch up?

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