Q: The French government has recently decided on the removal of the word ‘race’ from all official documents. Removing the word in order to eradicate the evil, is this not, spot on, some magical thinking? Moreover, if there are no races, how can there be any racism? And in passing, how can there be any antiracism at all? Antiracism without race, well, this may be quite complicated!
A: Don’t’ you worry. If the French Republic indeed claims not to recognize any longer “the existence of any alleged race,” it nonetheless declares that it “condemns racism.” Indeed, what will be more difficult to justify is the indictment for “incitement to racial hatred”, that is to say, the incitement to hate something that does not exist in the first place. From now on it will also be more difficult to justify the defense of miscegenation, since from now on this notion will refer to a mixture of imaginary entities, or the promotion of “diversity”, having in mind that “we do not recognize any race diversity.” (François Hollande, March 12, 2012). Finally, given that people insist on seeing and recognizing the “races” around them, somebody will really need to convince them that they are victims of optical illusions. Good luck to all those wishing to take on this task!
This being said, you’re not wrong at all when you mention magical thinking, given that both the words and the things are becoming all mixed up. For that matter we might just as well talk about demonology insofar as its focus is to exorcise the “evil thoughts” by uttering ritual formulas and mantras. One must indeed be awed by the coincidence in the assertion of non-existence of races and the offensive of the gender ideology which also started out from the same premises. Thusly, race, just like sex, is only a “social construct” without any substantive reality. Hence the occurrence of the same and typically Orwellian strategy with its lexical substitutes: “people” instead of “race”, “gender” instead of “sex”, “parent” instead of “father” and “mother.” The underlying idea is that fighting racism implies the denial of the existence of races in a similar vein as fighting against sexism leads to the denial of the existence of sexes. Actually, one can attribute to men and women the same rights without requiring them to become androgynous. And that equality cannot be ascertained by the denial of diversity or by its reduction to sameness.
Q: And what do scientists have to say about this concept, which, to say the least, is controversial? Is there any unanimity on this subject?
A: The study of race has much evolved since the typological approach of the nineteenth century. In his book, published in 2008, L’humanité au pluriel, Bertrand Jordan emphasizes that DNA analyses can help us define ancestry groups (in- groups) within the human species and that “genetic differences between human groups exist,” and that they “are rooted in the long history of mankind.”
The reality is that ever since the first sequencing of the human genome (2001), the research keeps growing on genetic markers that identify group membership. Human diversity is not only individually based but also collective in nature. One must take into account that these genetic pools enable us the tracing of the phylogenetic tree of human populations. Obviously, this is not just a matter of skin color given that forensic science can just as well identify ethnicity by examining the skeleton or the DNA. As Nancy Huston and Michel Raymond wrote in Le Monde, on May 17, the argument that the human species has become diversified during the evolution of different populations, with each carrying distinct genetic markers, is a simple observation which implies no value judgment. Henceforth, some researchers prefer to retain the word ‘race’, while others prefer to dismiss it, which, in the last analysis, is of no big importance. The “debate about race” is more a subject of semantics than molecular biology or population genetics. In passing, you may note that in 2008, Barack Obama published a book sub-titled A Story of Race and Inheritance. Furthermore, ethnicity statistics are widely used in the United States.
Q: Which may help us understand why Barack Obama owes his elections to the “minorities” …
A: Let us not exaggerate. In the sixteen presidential elections that took place in the United States between 1952 and 2012, only one Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, received in 1964 a majority of White votes. As for Obama, he has seduced more Whites than many of his Democratic predecessors. Nine Democratic candidates, all of them Whites, had secured a lower percentage of votes among the White electorate than the one obtained by Obama in 2012. For instance, in 1980, Jimmy Carter received only 33% of the votes of the [White] electorate.
Q: You wrote two books condemning racism (Contra el racismo et Europe, tiers monde, même combat), can you summarize your thoughts on this topic?
A: Well, this is a huge topic! Le Dictionnaire historique et critique du racisme, which has just been published by the PUF under the direction of Pierre-André Taguieff, has almost 2000 pages. … To sum it up, it is essential to distinguish between the theories, on the one hand (whose study refers the history of ideas) and behavior (whose study is sociology) on the other. Racist theories are those that either postulate the inequality of races, or consider racial adherence as a key factor in the history of mankind, which implies the omnipotence of racial determinism. There aren’t many people today who subscribe to this kind of theory. As far as behaviors are concerned, “racism” is an attitude of distrust or irrational hostility, often instinctive and spontaneous toward those who belong (or are believed to belong) to another race. In order for this mistrust or hostility to occur, obviously, there is no need for people to subscribe to a theory. Among many others this is a form of “alterophobia” or “heterophobia,” that is to say an allergy to the Other-than-Ourselves.
I must add to this a third type of racism—the one that claims that differences are nonexistent, superficial, or with no importance. The Other is no longer stigmatized; instead, the Other is supposed to be non-existing and must ultimately be reduced to the Same. This brand of racism decorates itself often with the mask of “antiracism”. Being more perverse it is therefore also more dangerous.
Alain de Benoist (website) is a philosopher.