Playing The Cards You’re Dealt

Adam Rutherford, in How to Argue with a Racist (2020, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson), points out that there is more genetic variation between someone from a West African background, and someone with an East African background, than there is between either of them and a European. This is presumably because Europeans are an inbred mutant off-shoot of the main African gene-pool, although we do seem to be part Neanderthal. Both these facts would be fun to point out to a white supremacist!

Our parents’ whole genetic packs are shuffled together and re-dealt, with a few mutations thrown in, when we are conceived. This happens with every single conception on the planet. 

Genes arrange themselves in ways that build up a human being, a walking, talking automaton to do their bidding. Racial characteristics are just a few of the most superficial of a unique assemblage of genes. Race ought to be an inadequate category to define people by. Racial purity is a fantasy.

We can group people in many other ways than race. Everyone has multiple identities: age, gender, religion, job, education, birth-place, accent, sexual orientation, musical likes, football team, right or left handedness, eye-colour etc, etc. Correlations of these may have a bearing on why ethnic minorities show up so strongly in the disadvantaged groups[1].

From an ethno-racial perspective, white people still make up the majority of the population in Britain, far higher than any one ethnic minority group. they have had thousands of years to bed themselves into the most desirable social positions with the greatest advantages and social support. They can be expected, therefore, to be more evenly spread among advantaged and disadvantaged groups[2]

White people are closer to the statistical norm than they are a fortunate sub-group. But everyone experiences life primarily as a lonely individual trying to make connections, even the norms. Few will feel their complicated and troubled lives are privileged, or will thank you for the reminder. They want sympathy, fellow feeling,  not resentment.


[1] This interaction of different facets of our identities is what some bright spark has re-labelled Intersectionality, and has probably secured a professorship and a book-deal in the process. Good on them.

[2] White boys from poorer backgrounds are the least likely to succeed at school, I believe. 

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