The Absence of Race: In Science, In a River Bank 9,300 Years Ago, In a Political Cartoon This Week
In a prior post, a comment by Warrington Faust sent me to research Kennewick Man, the name given to a man who lived 9,300 years ago and whose remains, discovered in 1996 in the bank of a river, became the subject of a legal tug-of-war between archeologists and the Native American community of the state of Washington. One of the articles I found ended thusly.
The political battles over the Kennewick man were framed in a large part by people who want to know to what “race” he belongs. Yet, the evidence reflected in the Kennewick materials is further proof that race is not what we think it is. The Kennewick man, and most of the Paleo-Indian and archaic human skeletal materials that we’ve found to date are not “Indian,” nor are they “European.” They don’t fit into ANY category that we define as a “race.” Those terms are meaningless in prehistory as long ago as 9,000 years–and in fact, if you want to know the truth, there are NO clearcut scientific definitions of “race.”
Cliff Monteiro has objected to Jim Bush’s cartoon [scanned image courtesy WPRO] in the Providence Journal on the basis that Gordon Fox is “multicultural”; i.e., part African-American.
My reaction upon hearing this bit of information was, really? Who knew?
Let’s see, looking at him, he could be Italian. Or Spanish. Sure, you could see Portuguese. Or is he French? French French, though, not Canadian French – you can tell by his hair.
To this rather silly train of thought, the vast majority of us respond – who cares? We judge him solely on his political values, his conduct in office, how he has used his power.
It is those qualities, not any irrelevancy, which inspired this cartoon, a clever and revealing encapsulation of the top-heavy structure of Rhode Island’s government as well as of the history and character of two of its key players. Any hint of race or racism therein has been projected from the mind of the reader, not placed by the pen of the artist.