1998: Randy L. Day - The Mismeasure of Man: Reflections on the Biology of Race

Watch Online Watch streaming video

1998: Randy L. Day - The Mismeasure of Man: Reflections on the Biology of Race

R Day

Randy Day was born near Flagstaff, Arizona in 1950. After spending several years in Southern Colorado, the family moved to Lakeside, Arizona where he graduated from Blue Ridge High School. Following graduation he went to Arizona Western College to play baseball, his childhood passion. In 1969 Day was called to serve a mission in France and Belgium. Following his mission, he returned to BYU Provo where he met his wife, Cecilia. They were married in 1972. They left BYU in 1974 to attend graduate school in California. He received an MS degree in Marine Science from the University of the Pacific. His first two children, Courtney and Cecily, were born in Santa Rosa, California. Randy and Cecilia moved to Florida where he entered a Ph.D program in comparative physiology at the University of South Florida. While in Florida he taught at St. Leo College. In 1980 the family moved to Laie, Hawaii and he began teaching at BYU-Hawaii. His last two children, Lauren and Darren, were born in Kahuku.

At BYU-Hawaii Day has served on the Promotion Review Committee, the University Accreditation Self Study Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee and the Academic Planning Council.

Professionally, Day is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, Hawaii Academy of Science, and the American Society of Zoology. Randy has served as a Bishop of the BYU-Hawaii 4th Ward and as a counselor in the Stake Presidency of the BYU-Hawaii 1st Stake. His interests include in order of importance, his wife, his four children, BYU-Hawaii athletics, art history, and insuring that proper decorum is maintained at all BYU-Hawaii basketball games.

IT IS A PRIVILEGE for me to speak on this occasion in which we honor President David O. Mckay. For those of my generation, President Mckay represents the highest ideal of Christlike devotion.

"A few years ago while driving from New York to teach at Williams College I was stopped on fake charges of trafficking cocaine. When I told the police officer I was a professor of religion he replied, "yea, and I'm the flying nun, let's go nigger. I was stopped three times in my first ten days in Princeton for driving too slowly on a residential street with a speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour. These memories cut like a merciless knife at my soul."1

These words of Dr. Cornel West a professor of religion at Princeton University remind us that race is potentially the most explosive issue in American life today. American society is preoccupied with race politically and socially. Race divides us as a people and yet we are all united in the belief that it matters. Classification of humans with the intent of separating them into groups shapes our views of ourselves as well as other people.2 These classification schemes are invoked to justify political and socioeconomic discrimination.

Paul Spickard reminds us that race is a fundamental organizing principle of human affairs.3 We all assume to know what race is, we are convinced that it has something to do with geographical origins, inheritance of blood, and most importantly skin color. Race conceptually requires no thought, because it is so apparent. We process information about the environment visually therefore the color of a person's skin is often what we first notice when we encounter other people. It is this awareness of skin color that shapes our views of others and affects our perception of ourselves. We assume that racial differentiation has always existed as a historical and biological fact. 3 However, prior to the Spanish expulsion the Jews and the Moors from Spain in the 1490's and the landing of the first African slaves in North America a few decades later skin color was of little significance.

Where did the standard racial divisions come from? Loring Brace believes that it occurred during the age of exploration. He suggests that the standard races that we recognize today, first represented people at the end of the European trade routes. The concept of race did not take shape until Europeans took to the sea. Brace has suggested that to a person riding a horse across Europe the change in villagers was too subtle to inspire notions of race. But if an English sailor dropped anchor off Nigeria, people looked so different he felt compelled to create a scheme to explain the differences.4

John Foxe in the Book Of Martyrs in 1563 first used the term 'race' to describe a special order of kings and bishops.5 After 1600 a radical change in the meaning of race took place, changing the way humans saw themselves and others. The first scientific approach to race occurred in 1758 when Linnaeus declared four races. The division of the human family was based on geography. Linnaeus described four geographical subdivisions of humans: white Europeans, red Americans, yellow Asians, and black Africans.6 While Linnaeus did conclude that qualitative differences existed between races he did not suggest that one race was better than another.

A transformation from Linnaeus's geographical model of race to the conventional racial hierarchy of implied worth was first proposed by Johann Blumenbach in 1795.7 The pseudoscientific racist views of Blumenbach arranged the peoples of the world hierarchically with Caucasians, a term that he coined, at the top, Asians next then Native Americans and Africans at the bottom. This hierarchy was based on proposed differences in both physical abilities and moral qualities. He suggested that Caucasians were created in god's image and all other races were the results of degeneration.

Blumenbach's bias is clear when one reads his emotional description of the Caucasian race.

"I have taken the name from Mount Caucasus because it produces the most beautiful race of men. I have not observed a single ugly face in that country in either sex. Nature has lavished upon the women beauties which are not seen elsewhere. I consider it impossible to look at them without loving them."7

Notice that the discriminating characteristic of race in Blumenbach's mind was beauty. Such a subjective quality is truly in the eye of the beholder.

In 1855, the first volume of an Essay On The Inequality Of The Human Races was published by a French nobleman, Count Arthur de Gobineau.8 Gobineau suggested that the rise and fall of civilizations was in direct proportion to the purity of 'Caucasian blood' they contained. Gobineau was certainly not the first to propose that different groups of people have different inborn abilities, but his notion that differences in the inborn abilities led to the rise and fall of civilization and his suggestion that civilization decline with biological mixing of races, was original. Most pernicious however was his isolation of the single group responsible for all civilization.9

With the development of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in the 1850's a shift in racial thinking took place. Before Darwin it was suggested that non Caucasian races were the result of degeneration, after Darwin it became fashionable to conclude that races were the product of evolution. Since there were no white apes, it was reasoned that the dark skin races must be more primitive and closer to the non human ancestor while the white races of Western Europe represented the highest form of evolutionary progress."10 This seemingly plausible description of human races became almost unquestioned in scientific circles and in the popular mind. It gave scientific justification to the doctrine of racial inequality because it demonstrated the superiority of Caucasians. T.H. Huxley wrote in 1865 "no rational man, cognizant of the facts believes that the average negro is equal to the average white."11 The error of course is in assuming that evolution is progressive.

Creating negative pseudoscientific myths about the biological origins and moral qualities of exploited groups of people made it easier for the rich and politically powerful to justify the mistreatment of their victims.3 Putting racial labels on people and ignoring individual humanity permeated the slave trade. Calling blacks evil and sub-human made it easier for slave owners to rationalize holding their fellow humans in bondage. Holding and selling humans as property, separating families, and working men and women to death is the legacy of slavery.

These notions of superiority led Thomas Malthus, the founding father of scientific racism, to conclude "it is imperative that the bloodlines of the wealthy and powerful be maintained."12 The purpose of scientific racism was to prove that the plight of the poor was the result of the hereditary endowments in the blood. Scientific racism stands as a powerful example of the destructive nature of misapplied science. Scientific racists promoted a pseudoscientific position that everything about a person's life, from his socioeconomic status and educational achievement to his life span and the quality of his health are determined by the blood inherited from his parents at the moment of his conception.13 These notions resulted in shameful treatment of minority groups and the poor. One result of these ideas can be observed in the writings of Johann Fichte a student of Kant. He argued that science determined that Germany's advantages in geography, climate and biology showed that the German race had been naturally elected by God to greatness. Ficthe concluded that the greatness of the German people was due to biological imperatives realized and passed through blood." The notion that blood is responsible for hereditary relationships remains a popular concept even today.

Probably the most disgusting episode in the history of human biology was the eugenics movement. The eugenics movement originated in 19th-century England, became popular in America between 1910 and 1930, and eventually died out with the revelations of World War II atrocities. The science of human genetics evolved out of the eugenic movement. Francis Galton who coined the term "eugenics" established as a major goal of biology the improvement of the human species through reproductive selection.9 These biological goals captured the public interest as a result of the rediscovery and renewed interest in Mendel's laws of inheritance. With the recognition that inherited traits were passed on in discrete units, the eugenics movement became particularly interested in developing policies which increased the inheritance of traits considered socially desirable or, conversely, with the elimination of undesirable traits.9 The leading American exponent of eugenics was Charles Davenport. Davenport's work is very instructive as a clear demonstration of the ways in which scientific ideas can be manipulated to lend credence to a set of social values.9 The general program of Davenport was to improve the race through mate selection controlled by government regulation if necessary. The tragic error of Davenport was the promotion of the notion that the government should be involved in social engineering. It is interesting to note that he could not convince his own daughter to marry within her race.

Eugenic scholarship influenced legislation and social practice in America in four major ways: 1. The establishment of laws preventing interracial marriage. These laws were termed miscegenation laws, 2. The use of IQ tests as the scientific verification of the mental inferiority of Jews, Italians, and Blacks, 3. Forced sterilization of individuals deemed undesirable and, 4. Denial of educational equality to blacks and other minorities.13

Miscegenation laws were passed to prevent interracial marriage. To enforce these laws it became necessary to define racial categories, mostly between "Black" and "White" but also between whites and Asians. Generally speaking, a black was defined as someone with a single black great grandparent, however in some states a black was defined as someone with an African great, great grandparent. It has been pointed out that a person with 15 white ancestors in four generations and a single black ancestor was considered black in the eyes of the law.3 This was known as the one drop rule. In practice, anyone with any known African ancestry was considered African American and not allowed to marry a white. Prohibition of interracial marriage protected white dominance. These laws were not, unique to the United States. They were most egregious in Nazi Germany. For example to ensure the racial purity of the reich, German couples were required to submit a photograph with an application for marriage. Individuals without Aryan features were not allowed to marry. Unmarried Aryan women were considered racially valuable and were persuaded to have children out of wedlock to satisfy the country's need for children who looked appropriately German. 200,000 Polish children who looked German were removed from their families and taken to Germany, there the young women were impregnated to increase the Aryan population.15

The one drop rule led to some ridiculous outcomes. For example, Paul Spickard relates the following story of a family from Dulac, Louisiana. Max Stanton, a professor on this campus, tells of meeting three brothers who were Houma Indians with a French last name. All three brothers had the same father and mother. All received their racial designations by medical officials at their birth. The oldest brother, born before 1950, was classified as black because the state did not recognize the Houma. The second brother, born after 1950, was assigned to the American Indian race and the third brother, born in a New Orleans hospital, was classified as white due to the family's French last name.3 As this example clearly demonstrates, race designation is indeed arbitrary.

Eugenicists were convinced that the intelligence of the human species was decreasing because the people of the lower classes who were presumed to have lower IQ`s, were outbreeding their upper class neighbors. The detection of significant differences in performance on IQ tests among racial groups fueled the fire. The most famous of these IQ tests was the Yerkes test given to army recruits during World War I. Blacks and immigrants scored lower than resident whites.16 Here are sample questions from the test:

  1. The Brooklyn Nationals are called the:
    a. Giants b. Orioles c. Superbas d. Indians.
  2. Becky Sharp appears in:
    a. Vanity Fair b. Romola c. The Christmas Carol d. Henry IV.
  3. The Pierce Arrow car is made in:
    a. Buffalo b. Detroit c. Toledo d. Flint.

As you read the questions remember this test was given to recent im-migrants many of whom did not speak English. Low scores were attributed to stupidity. Intelligence tests have changed and become more sophisticated since the early days of testing immigrants, and the assumptions that go into the application and interpretation of the test have changed as well. However, one mistaken assumption continues to appear in all of these IQ tests. There is an inference of unchanging ability based upon an observation of performance. The key here is that IQ tests measure cognitive performance, a single event determined by many factors including the social environment, but often researchers are trying to infer ability, or what a person is capable of, given an optimal environmental. Unfortunately, unless we actually optimize the environment, we have no real way of inferring ability from a measure of performance.9 The other problem with IQ testing is one of reification.17 This is the tendency to convert concepts into entities. We assume that intelligence, which is complex and multifaceted, can be measured as a single quantity. How does this play out in reality? Much has been made of the observation that groups of blacks and whites score differently on many IQ tests. This observation is meaningless without information about how blacks and whites would perform on IQ tests if they had identical social histories. It is hard to imagine such circumstances, especially in societies where race is of such immense social importance. Richard Lewontin reported a handful of observations. They are very revealing. In 1974 Tizard studied English orphanage children of white, black, and mixed parentage. These children were admitted into residential nurseries before they were a year old. Each child was given a nonverbal intelligence test at an early age, but only after residing in the orphanages for at least six months. There were indeed consistent differences in IQ performance, differences in favor of blacks.18 A second example is provided by the children of American soldiers of occupation who were left behind to be raised by their German mothers when their fathers returned home. When tested in the German schools, the children of black fathers did slightly better than the children of white fathers.19 These studies, and two that show no correlation between the IQs of black children and the probable amount of their white ancestry, provide all the evidence we have about IQ performance when environments are standardized with respect to racial ancestry. They all point to the same conclusion: there are no biological differences between blacks and whites in whatever it is that is measured by IQ tests under standardized conditions.20

Henry Goddard suggested in 1912 that there was a relationship between crime, vice, and so called feeble-mindedness.21 He concluded that if one could wipe out the feeble minded the problem of vice and crime would be solved, all one had to do was screen the people who were a burden on society and prevent any more people so afflicted from entering society. Additionally, Goddard noted that defective peoples were not scattered across the globe at random. Feebleminded peoples seemed to be most prevalent among non-Caucasian races. Goddard came to this conclusion by testing immigrants at Ellis Island. He would ask immigrants coming off the boats to reproduce a figure on a piece of paper shown to them a few minutes before. Those who failed to draw well or uttered less than 60 English words in three minutes were judged to be mentally defective.10 Remember these were non English speaking immigrants. It was Madison Grant, in his book The Passing of the Great Race, who assembled the full-blown eugenics platform, incorporating the racism of Gobineau and Goddard with the breeding program of Davenport.22 Grant proposed the elimination of those who were weak or unfit. Grant suggested that crime and disease could be curtailed through sterilization.

"This is a practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem, and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types."22

These ideas led to a mass sterilization program to protect America from undesirables. Over 200,000 Americans were sterilized without their consent. In 1927 justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the sterilization law in Buck vs. Bell. In his majority opinion he wrote three generations of imbeciles are enough," thus allowing the state to sterilize Cary Buck.23 These laws were in force until 1974 when a federal judge ruled forced sterilization unlawful. Interestingly other countries also instituted sterilization as a means to protect their hereditary purity. Many of these programs have remained in place, for example, since 1950 over 2,800 Canadian women and girls deemed retarded were sterilized in Alberta, a province of Canada.24 Recent reports have accused Sweden of unlawful forced sterilizations in the past two decades.25 Under Japan's eugenics protection law, more than 844,000 males and females were sterilized between 1948 and 1992.26 Those sterilized included the handicapped and those with Hansen's disease. An example is Hasuji Hirasawa, who was given an ultimatum on his wedding day 50 years ago, be sterilized or the wedding would be stopped. Today he is childless and his disease is in total remission. The human toll of these types of decisions is clearly articulated by Stephan Gould,

"One might say that such personal disappointment ranks as nothing compared with millions dead in wars to support the designs of madmen or the conceits of rulers. But can one measure the pain of a single dream unfulfilled, the hope of a defenseless person snatched by public power in the name of an ideology advanced to purify a race?"17

The depravation of educational opportunities to blacks and other groups as a result of the eugenics movement is a national scandal. In large part it led to the civil rights movement of the 1960's. To understand how such a discriminatory practice could happen in this country all one needs to do is listen to the words of the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, "as a race blacks are altogether inferior to whites and are not their intellectual or social equal.27

Jonathan Marks has pointed out that it is difficult to evaluate the eugenics movement because it is such an "extreme embarrassment to American biological science there has been a strong tendency to ignore it, or deny it."9 Eugenics was a mainstream movement in the American and British scientific communities, virtually all members of the genetics community were in favor of eugenics through the mid-1920s. Marks suggests that in analyzing the eugenics movement it would be a mistake to blame it solely on the Nazis. Certainly eugenics validated Nazism, as it validated other forms of racism and intolerance but the Nazis merely implemented those ideas, they didn't dream them up.9 One of the earliest notable biologists to fall away from eugenics was Columbia's Thomas Hunt Morgan. Morgan began to express his fundamental doubts publicly in a 1924 paper. The article does not appear to have had much of an impact upon the biology community, or the public at large. The eugenics movement did not begin to wane until the 1930's. By this time, however, Congress had already passed legislation to restrict immigration of genetically undesirable races into the United States through the Johnson Act. One of the horrible consequences of the Johnson Act was barring the immigration of Jews into America trapping many of them in Nazi occupied Europe resulting in their deaths in the extermination camps.9

The words of the proponents of eugenics at time of the first world war have a sobering effect when one reflects upon the final solution of the Jewish problem in Germany during the second world war. As a biological solution to social problems, eugenics was looking for answers in the wrong places. It is now apparent that social problems are caused by social circumstances not by genetics. That the eugenics movement died out in America with the onset of the great depression is probably no coincidence, for, as formerly wealthy and powerful people joined the ranks of the impoverished and needy, it was no longer possible to blame their poverty on heredity. It is often hard to tell good science from bad science in any way but retrospectively. But since science, in the context of our cultural values, lends validity to ideas, scientists are ultimately responsible for the ideas they promote.9

Marks informs us that "if biologists did in fact see the abuse to which genetic knowledge was being put, but refused to criticize it out of self-interest, they paid dearly for it. As historians of genetics have noted, the eugenics movement ultimately cast human genetics in such a disreputable light that its legitimate development was retarded for decades."9

In the shadow of the Nazi extermination camps world leaders met to consider what policies should be considered to prevent, once and for all, the excesses of race theory. In 1951 the UNESCO report stated that national, cultural, religious, geographical, and linguistic groups had been falsely termed races and it would be better to drop the term. While generally approved by the scientific community there were objections. 28 A small but vocal community of scientists continued to argue that each face had evolved independently and had separate biological histories.

The biological landscape changed dramatically in 1953. Two biologists, Watson and Crick, wrote a three-page article for the journal Nature. The article described the structure of DNA, the hereditary material, and gave a possible explanation of its function. 29 Thought to be inconsequential at the time, the paper revolutionized biology and forever altered the scientific view of race.

What is so important about DNA? To understand the answer to that question one needs to know what it does and how it works. DNA is a long molecule which contains codes that direct cells on how to make proteins. These codes make up units called genes. The 100,000 proteins coded for by genes are responsible for all the individual characteristics that make us human. Many characteristics are apparent, such as skin color, eye color or shape of the ear, but most are not, for example the digestive proteins that are breaking down our breakfast are also coded for by genes.

What can we conclude about race from an analysis of genes by molecular biologists? Most of these scientists now reject the concept of race as a valid way to group human beings. Contrary to widespread public opinion researchers no longer believe races are distinct biological categories created by differences in inherited genes. Genes vary but not in ways that correspond to the popular notion of black, white, yellow, red or brown races. The common view of race goes as follows: Since it's easy to distinguish almost any native European from any native Sub-Saharan African we recognize Europeans and Africans as distinct races which we name for their skin color, whites and blacks respectively. What could be more objective? As it turns out this seemingly unassailable reasoning is quite arbitrary. We could make an equally reasonable and arbitrary race division by the presence or absence of any other genetic characteristic, suppose we based race on the expression of the sickle cell gene that confers resistance to malaria. By this reckoning we would place Greeks, Yemenites, New Guineans, Thais and Dinkas from Africa in one race, Norwegians and several other African groups in another.30 Or, we could base race on the expression of a gene for say tongue curling. If so there would be two races, tongue curlers and a minority race of non-tongue curlers. While this seems trivial it has as much a basis in biology as defining race on any other genetic trait such as skin color.

What about the substance responsible for skin color? Melanin, the pigment that darkens skin is an interesting compound. Christopher Wills writes that because its "effects are so visible in our skin its expression has led to a skewed view of human differences and it has been made to bear an utterly undeserved burden of sociological and political significance."31

Molecular biologists have discovered that regardless of our skin color, each of us has enough pigment producing melanocytes to make us each very black.31 In those of us with white skin an enzyme inhibitor regulates a single enzyme from functioning at full capacity. This down regulation of the enzyme prevents the formation of melanin. So, it turns out that what separates blacks and whites is not different numbers of clearly black and white genes but rather tiny differences in the way a very few genes are regulated.

As the result of modern molecular biological techniques we now know that almost 75% of human genes are identical, with no variation either within or between populations. That is, for 75% of the known human genetic endowment, all humans are identical irrespective of their geographical origin. For the other 25% of human genes the genetic differences between what we call races is so small that it is inconsequential.20 For example on average there's 0.2% difference in genes between two randomly chosen people on earth. Of this 0.2%, 85% of the difference is found within local groups such as neighbors, 9% is found between linguistic groups, French and Italians for example, and 6% between what we call races - and remember that's 6% of 0.2% or .012% difference.20 Yes, the genetic difference between races is that small.

In 1972 Richard Lewontin laid out the genetic case against race. Analyzing 17 genetic markers in 168 populations he found more genetic difference within each group than between groups. In other words, if you picked any two blacks off a street in America and analyzed their genes you would find that they are genetically more different from each other than either are from any white person picked randomly.32

As a result of the human genome project, biologist Luca Cavalli-Sforza who chairs the committee that directs the biodiversity project, suggests that the more we learn about humankind's genetic differences the more we see that they have nothing to do with what we call race.33

It may well be argued that despite the clarity of the Watson-Crick nonracial description of the biological composition of the human organism, the tendency to see the world in racial terms is, however, expanding rather than contracting.

I have often heard it argued that race must have a biological underpinning otherwise how can blacks have higher rates of hypertension? The answer is because a social construct such as race can have biological effects. Hypertension among African Americans is roughly twice as common as among white Americans. A number of social factors including discrimination and stress can elevate blood pressure and lead to vascular changes that can cause hypertension. Social factors can lead to biological responses. Further evidence that hypertension has more to do with society than with biology is the fact that black Africans have among the lowest rates of hypertension in the world.34

It is currently fashionable to blame genes for all sorts of perceived abilities or shortcomings. For example Sports Illustrated recently had a cover story which shouted loudly that genes were responsible for racial differences in sports performance.35 The article however, had little to do with genetics and much to do with national social condition.

While, most scientists now consider race not to have a biological basis, a dwindling few scholars still cling to notions of gene based racial superiority. Professor Philippe Rushton published a 1990 article presenting data from a national study to support his theory that blacks have smaller brains and therefore lower IQs than whites.36 This is really a 19th century notion as can be seen from an illustration by Nott and Gliddon.37

Nott and Gliddon

The jaw of the Chimpanzee has been enlarged and the Black jaw extended, to suggest that blacks are inferior to apes.17 It should also be noted that studies also demonstrate that females have smaller heads than males. If we are to follow the logic of Rushton then one would propose that females are less intelligent than males. A conclusion proven patently false in my family.

Juan Williams cites an incident to show how pervasive race stereotyping is. In 1992 Frederick Goodwin, then director of the alcohol, drug abuse and mental health administration, drew an analogy between the behavior of male monkeys in the wild and violent young men in inner city neighborhoods. It was clear that he was talking about black males.38

"if you look at male monkeys in the wild roughly one half survive to adulthood, the other half die by violence. That is the natural way and these same hyperagressive males that kill each other are also hypersexual."39

This type of rhetoric comes much too close to the long standing racist suggestions that blacks are genetic degenerates, to be treated as animals. The fact of the matter is that studies have shown that black middle-class kids were less likely to abuse drugs, be involved in violent behavior and were more socially responsible than their white middle class counterparts.38

In their controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein assert that African-Americans inherit lower intelligence than people of Asian or European descent. The Bell Curve claims that intelligence is largely inherited, and that racial differences on IQ tests may be at least partly explained by genetics.40 Joseph Graves, an evolutionary geneticist at Arizona State University, has demonstrated that the bell curve is in fact pseudoscience which fails to support its claims with supportable data and fails to control for poverty and inequities in education. He suggests that this is an example of a resurgence in scientific racism.41

In spite of the recent attempts to resurrect the concept of race in the intellectual community, most biologists believe race to be a social construct, not a biological category. Consider the offspring of a union between one person from Central Africa and one from Western Europe. What is the race of the children? The children participate equally in the ancestry of both parents, and yet, the children will almost invariably identify themselves, and be classified, as black. This traditionally has been the result of rejection by the socio-economically dominant white community.42

One might conclude that since race is cultural not biological it does not matter. In fact it matters a great deal. People wage war and commit genocide because of race. Race matters as a social concept.43 For example, affirmative action is currently a burning social issue in America. James King suggests that, "what constitutes a race and how one recognizes a racial difference is culturally determined. Whether two individuals regard themselves as the same or different races depends not on the degree of similarity of their genetic material but on whether history, tradition and personal experience have brought them to regard themselves as belonging to the same group or to different groups."10

But if race is a nebulous concept, racism remains a concrete reality. The sorting of people into races has generally been done by powerful groups for the purposes of maintaining and extending their power. Culture plays the major role in determining how human beings judge and react to one another. It is culture, not genotype, that leads one population to attempt to kill off another that it considers racially different.3

The resolution of the problem of racism is not to deny group differences, nor to deny the human urge to associate with like-minded people, but to ensure that the diverse groups of people in society are given equal access to resources and opportunities. In other words, we need to assure that individuals are judged as individuals, and not as group members.

Cornell West reminds us that in order to establish a new framework we need to begin with a frank acknowledgement of the basic humanness of each of us.1 If we could envision a society in which people were judged on the basis of their own accomplishments, rather than on the group to which they are assigned or with which they identify, such a society could maintain group differences, and yet not be racist.9

In the words of Martin Luther King:

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."44

That is presumably the kind of society we strive for in the cosmopolitan, industrialized 21st century, and yet I have little confidence that government policy as important as it is can change the hearts of people. I believe that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. In John chapter 13 verse 34 we read:

"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

We have not been immune from the taint of racism in the church. President David O. Mckay reminds us,

"Of what value are the lofty principles of Christianity if they are not introduced into our daily lives? What good does it do to preach universal brotherhood and then step from the pulpit to the street and rail against and denounce any who should be included in this brotherhood? Race, color, creed-all contribute to the difficulty of making practical the universal charity taught by Christ and which pseudo-Christians profess to believe; but such profession without the practice only emphasizes the hypocrisy lurking in the heart of the pretender."45

The Lord instructs in the parable of the good Samaritan that bigotry and class distinction should be rooted out of the gospel.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was and when he saw him he had compassion on him. And went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Then said Jesus to his disciples, go and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:33-34,37)

A prophet of the Lord has stood on this campus and prophesied that from this institution would go individuals who would establish peace internationally.46 But peace will not happen until we overcome racism. We are instruments in the hands of the Lord to bring about the fulfillment of President Mckay's prophecy, but for that to happen we must have a change of heart. Let us be about the task. Let us be about the task.


I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the kind assistance of Juliet Go, Gary Frederick, Preston Larson, Jeff Burroughs, Carl Yamagata, Lawrence Lau and BYU-Hawaii Academic Support. *The title of my lecture borrows from the title of an award winning book, The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephan Jay Gould.

Randy L. Day
Box 1967 BYU-Hawai'i
Laie, HI 96762


1Cornell West, Race Matters (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).

2Ellis Cose, Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race Obsessed World (New York: Harper Collins, 1997).

3Paul Spickard, "The Illogic of American Racial Categories," in Maria Root, Racially Mixed People in America (Newbury Park, Calif: Sage, 1992).

4Loring Brace, "On the Race Concept," Current Anthropology (1964), 313-320.

5John Foxe, Acts and Monuments of Matters Most Special and Memorable Happening in the Church with an Universal History of the Same (London: John Day, 1563).

6Carolus Linnaeus, Systemna Naturae (Stockholm: Laurentii Salvii, 1758).

7Johann Blumenbach, "On the Natural Variety of Mankind," in Thomas Bendyshe ed., The Anthropological Treatises of Johann Blumenbach (London: Longman, Green [1795] 1865).

8Arthur de Gobineau, The Inequality ofHuman Races, translated by Oscar Levy. (London: Heinemann [18541 1915).

9Jonathan Marks, Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1995).

10James C. King, The Biology of Race, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 198 1).

11T H. Huxley, On the Methods and Results of Ethnology (London: Proceedings of the Royal Institution IV, 1865).

12Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principles of Populations, as it Affects the Future Improvements of Society (London: 1798).

13Allan Chase, The Legacy of Malthus (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1980).

14Ivan Hannaford, "The Idiocy of Race," WQ (Spring 1994) 8-35.

15M. Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 199 1).

16R. M. Yerkes, "Psychological Examining in the United States Army," Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 15 (1921) 890pp.

17Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: WW Norton and Company, 1981).

18Barbara Tizard, "IQ and Race," Nature 247 (1974) 316.

19M. W Feldman and Richard Lewontin, "The Heritability Hangup," Science (1975) 190:1163-1168.

20Richard Lewontin, Human Diversity (New York: Scientific American Books, 1982).

21Henry Goddard, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of FeebleMindedness (New York: Macmillan, 1912).

22Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (New York: Arno, 1970; orig. 1918).

23Oliver Wendell Holmes, Buck vs Bell (U. S. Supreme Court Majority Opinion, 1927).

24Associated Press, "700 File Suits Over Forced Sterilization," Arizona Republic, Dec. 26, 1996.

25Associated Press, "Sweden Investigating Sterilization Program," Arizona Republic, Sept. 5, 1997.

26Associated Press, "Japan Won't Apologize For Sterilization," Arizona Republic, Sept. 18, 1997.

27Lewis Gould, The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (Lawrence Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1991).

28Ivan Hannaford, Race: the History of an Idea in the West (Washington D.C.: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996).

29James Watson and Francis Crick, "Genetic Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid," Nature 171 (1953), 964-967.

30Jared Diamond, "Race Without Color," Discover 15 (1994),82-92.

31Christopher Wills, "The Skin We're In," Discover 15 (1994),76-81.

32Richard Lewontin, "The Apportionment of Human Diversity," in M.K. Hecht and W S. Steere eds., Evolutionary Biology vol. 6 (New York: Plenum, 1972).

33Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Menozzi, The History and Geography of Human Genes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

34P. D. Curtin, "The Slavery Hypothesis for Hypertension Among African Americans: the Historical Evidence," Am J Public Health 82 (1992), 161-166.

35S. L. Price, "Is it in the Genes?" Sports Illustrated 87 (December 1997), 52-55.

36J. P Rushton, "Race, Brain Size and Intelligence," Personality and Individual Differences 11 (1990) 785-794.

37J. C. Nott and G. R. Gliddon, Types of Mankind (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grarnbo and Co., 1854).

38Frederick Goodwin, "Race and Violence," A speech delivered at the Mental Health Advisory Council Meeting in Washington D.C. 1992.

39Juan Williams, "Violence, Genes, and Prejudice", Discover 15 (1994), 92-102.

40Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: Free Press, 1994).

41Kim Strosnider, "A New Reply to 'The Bell Curve'," The Chronicle of Higher Education 44 (1997), A12.

42Steve Jones, In the Blood (London: Harper Collins, 1996).

43Paul R. Spickard and W. Jeffrey Burroughs, "We Are a People: Ethnicity, Multiethnicity, and Narrative," from We Are a People: Narrative and Multiplicity in the Construction of Ethnic Identity (Philadelphia: Temple UP, forthcoming).

44Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have A Dream," A speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.

45David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals. (Salt Lake City, UT. An Improvement Era Publication, 1953).

46David O. Mckay, "The Ground Breaking Address," A speech delivered at the ground breaking of The Church College of Hawaii on February 12, 1955.