In response to Cabanela on 6/6, racism is not in our DNA.

Racism by definition is a social system that privileges one defined group or “race” over another. This means, first, we have to define a group socially, and then design a social system that privileges and advantages one over another. All of this is social.

Our societies can just as easily set up a system that treats groups equally rather than hierarchically. In fact, we did so for most of human history. Egalitarianism was the dominant social system for over 100,000 years.

So, why are we racist today? Because we have created social systems that teach us bias, privilege, oppression and preference for socially defined groups. Racism justifies social inequalities. It is not inevitable, biological or universal. Race is not a biological concept. There is no meaningful biological distinction between “races.”

Race is a social construct used to divide and justify unequal treatment. It may be more meaningful to ask if resistance to oppression and unequal treatment is built into our DNA. Racism is only a few hundred years old, but resistance to inequality has always existed. In fact, humans have always resisted unequal treatment; we have revolted against tyranny, and acted honorably when it was forbidden. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we asked questions to justify resistance rather than complicity?

Charlotte A. Kunkel, Rochester