On the Origins of Racial Inequality

By BEN ROLNIK and  MICAH ZEHNDER

I

 

“O fury to gain distinction, of what are you not capable?”

 

Rousseau

            There is a community of homosapiens that has developed, like much of the flora/fauna of Madagascar, in utter isolation from the rest of humanity. Their race is unknown to us, and ours unknown to them—yet they have a rich heritage. Their language is complex, capable of expressing even the most poetic and scientific of ideas; in essence their language and cognitive capacities have evolved precisely in tandem with our own. They lack no culture, and they know themselves. We can consider them like the early humans who migrated across the Bering Straight from Siberia to Alaska into the New World during the Pleistocene. Thus, they would become anomalous nomads.

             To say they know themselves is simply to say this, that they have an understanding of species. They developed the same category, human, in which we too placed ourselves. What is a human being? “I am, of course” is their response. 

            But, you see, their understanding of the human is nothing like ours—and by ours I mean specifically those who may consider themselves to have an expert (as opposed to a folk—in Jacksonian terms) understanding of human. That is, for us human defines a metaclass that includes a diverse plethora of racial and ethnic classes. For our anomalous nomads, the human defines only one class: themselves.

            We should make a note sooner as opposed to later about what we mean by human. For by human our anomalous nomads mean purple-skinned featherless biped. As we shall see, the importance of this distinction arises only in respect to certain crises we will soon explore. We should not expect such distinctions to even be intelligible beforehand. Since I have assumed that we have an expert understanding of the human, that our way of understanding human at present is mostly influenced by a global trend towards a conceptualization in terms of an isomorphic metaclass encompassing all known, and potential distinctive classes of humans, we have removed the prefixing qualities, and posit that human is only featherless biped. This is of exceptional importance, for our anomalous nomads are in the position of brute nature, wherein they have conflated a single class, for the metaclass; this is to say that the anomalous nomads have defined purple-skinnedness as an essential property of humans; this conflation of a particular class with a metaclass, is due to Hume’s age-old problem of induction: all humans observed have possessed the property of purple-skinnedness. However, the anomalous nomads have yet to encounter a white crow, so naturally, the statement “all humans are purple” is true to them, and they have no reason to believe it false, as there is no evidence to the contrary.

            Now, what happens if their world should intercept ours? Over time, surely they may assimilate (or something like that)—but we mean what would happen instantly. If we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, we should consider them humans. Though they look distinct from any other group of humans that we have heretofore discovered/known, we should nonetheless recognize them fairly quickly as an “us”, for our metaclass, by which we define human, has but to go through a simple process of existentially quantifying the class of purple-skinned featherless bipeds, and the procedure is done with, we impute the property of human to these new creatures.

            From the perspective of the anomalous nomads things happen much differently. Their immature (folk) understanding of human would preclude them from recognizing us as human. No paucity of stories from the early days of colonialism could confirm this. Of course, in this respect, we know that for them this misidentification (from our point of view) could go two ways. One way is that they identify us with some higher, spiritual class—as was the case with certain Cargo Cults. Another way is that they identify us with some lower, demonic class—as was the case with certain Aborigine (Amazonian) tribes. This last point is not important for us now, for we are concerned with the underlying cognitive processes generally involved in getting to those end results, the particularities of which we will not deal with specifically here.

            The important thing to notice from this intuition pump is how we have each identified the Other differently. To each group, the Other is an anomalous instance—a black spawn, if you will. The question then becomes: what sense do we make of these anomalous instances, or black spawns.

            For us, they are particularity of human. This represents our expert or mature understanding. For them, we are not human because we are not a particularity (instance) of the class that functions to define human for them. Because we lack purple-skinnedness the anomalous nomads cannot consider us human. But why is this? Is the error not apparent, so that they immediately recognize that they must shift their definitional locus to a metaclass of human, which incorporates a great many potential classes of humans, many of which are now existentially quantified? Obviously it is not. There are several possible courses of (cognitive) action, which may be taken, and the natural tendency in humans, and indeed it may be so with all living organisms, is to operate via a principle of exclusion, and to deny that the anomaly (us) is human; the nomads will simply deny us human status, whether they treat us as gods or dogs is another matter, but clearly this is the natural method. This then explains all racism, classism (in the most technical sense), and ingroup/outgroup dynamics throughout all of Earth’s short history.

 

II

 

Identification

 

           Philosophers have spoken extensively on the subjects of Identity and Personal Identity. We do not think they have gone far enough. Thus, we are not interested in the subject of Identity. We are interested in the process of Identification.

           Since the process of Identification, which has heretofore only been explored superficially, can quickly become lost in a confusion of terminology (one need only read Heideggar’s discourse on Being/Dasein to see what we mean), before we begin our discussion we would like quickly to present a brief outline of Identification.

            First. By Identification we mean the process by which we ascribe something (singular and plural) a nominal meaning. This of course is vague because we see Identification not as a thing but as a process—which is, of course, not a radical claim.

            Second. The process of Identification must be understood in respect to a typology of Identification. In other words, to identify is to ascribe a nominal meaning—however, what is to be offered is a typology of Identifications: ways of assigning something a nominal meaning. That is, to identify is to identify in terms of. It is that in terms of that we wish to understand first and foremost.

            Third. This understanding of the typology of Identifications we believe to be of instrumental significance. Our entire theory cannot be understood without it. Therefore, before we proceed, let us present the outline of our proposed typology of Identifications. Keep in mind that for now this is just meant to be a preliminary understanding. Since we will be developing this typology further throughout our paper—do not be surprised if it seems strange at first. We present it now in full so that it may be easily referred to later.

            Class: Defines groups of particularities within a category (or metaclass).

            Particular: A particular is an instance of a class. This also may be referred to as: particulate(s), particularity, particularities, and particulation (identifying such-and-such as a particular)

           

            We also posit that there are two principles of identification: Inclusion (Humean/Inductive) and Exclusion (Deductive/Analytic).

            Identification by Principle of Inclusion: All X’s are Y

            Identification by Principle of Exclusion: If Y, then X

            A mature understanding of Identity operates fundamentally upon the principle of inclusion, whereas an immature understanding of Identity operates upon the principle of exclusion. Let us explain.

            Hume famously reported on the problem of induction. This however is in service of a greater point: the problem with universal quantifiers. Hume said that All crows are black does not suffice—for it is not certain that we may encounter a white crow. Therefore, the principle of inclusion is always in danger of becoming falsified by a single anomaly—namely a non-black crow. Black spawns therefore are falsifications of any Identification by principle of inclusion. It is necessary to note here that this is obviously self-destrucive as a process. To shift the locus of Identification to a metaclass means fundamentally remapping the concept of self, for now one is a self in relation to others who are the same, essentially, but not nominally. So the fundamental concept of self that the nomads possess must fracture, and be reconstructed in a different relation. We can imagine that this process is rather traumatic, and hence, the human tendency to not choose this path, but always to operate by a principle of exclusion.

            The principle of exclusion is immune to the Humean objections. This is because the identification is not made in virtue of induction—but in virtue of analyticity. This will become more in a moment.

            The question then is: how do we respond to black spawns—or anomalous instances of an identification.

            For Hume, we must define our identification – shift our locus of identification. That is because, we no longer can identify a crow as black—since our principle of identification is inclusive—that is, it must account for all crows, and blackness must be dropped as an essential (definitional) property of crows. If just one crow is not black, then our identification must be redefined.

            In this respect, to deal with this problem of the black spawn there are two recourses. 1. We create a metaclass “crow” in order to deal with our particularities of black crow and white crow respectively, as well as any other potential class of crows of any other hue. As such, we find a way to include the anomaly in our definition, as it is necessarily part of this metaclass, and our locus of identification is shifted to this metaclass. This is what we may refer to as a mature identification 2. We simply exclude non-black crows from the class of “crow.” The anomaly is not an instance of the class crow which currently is equivalent to “black crow” hence consider blackness an essential quality of crows, so, by definition, any non-black crow, by exclusionary principle, which is the natural principle of response, is simply a non-crow. This is what we may refer to as an immature identification—and is the folk/natural tendency of all human group (perhaps of all groups of living organisms).

            If we did not identify crow by the principle of inclusion to begin with—but rather by the principle of exclusion, you see, this problem of the anomaly does not arise. A crow is then defined by black – blackness being essential to being a crow. As such, a non-black crow is not a crow—it is not an anomalous instance of the class that necessitates a redefinition of the class, it is rather simply an object.

            In other words, Hume finds similarity, all crows are black (principle of inclusion), and transforms it into difference, not all crows are black. That is, he anticipates the anomaly that undermines any identification by a principle of inclusion. The problem, of course, with Hume’s criticism of the principle of inclusion is that it does not apply to the principle of exclusion. This is important because our natural tendency is to exclude the anomaly as opposed to including, hence there being no non-black crows without some other catalyst enabling the trauma of the definition (the shift of the locus of identification to a metaclass. Similarly, if we accept Hume’s criticism of the principle of inclusion and decide anyway to exclude the anomaly—then this no longer seems like an immature understanding precisely because we cognitively recognize the inevitability of operating under the principle of exclusion to avoid the threat of the trauma which working by inclusion presents.

            For example, our anomalous nomads identify us in regard to the principle of exclusion: they do not recognize us as human, for we lack the essential property of purple-skinnedness, and for precisely this reason we are only objects to them, we are categorically excluded from the class of human to avoid the trauma of shifting their locus of identification, and destroying their self. We define them in regard to the principle of inclusion: we recognize them as humans and persons. However, suppose that we decided, for whatever reason, to exclude them from the metaclass of human because of their anomalous race, suppose we simply decided that purple-skinnedness is impossible for some genetic reason, then we have good reason to simply exclude them from the metaclass, for their property does not enable them to existentially quantify any potential class of human within the metaclass. It seems then that our identification is not mature like it is for the anomalous nomads identification of us: for we know that we may either include them or exclude them—whereas they are only cognizant of difference, not similarity. The point is that it is not necessary that we do include them. That is, it is not necessary that we choose to identify them by the principle of inclusion. We could just as justifiably identify them by principle of exclusion—in which case similarity has been rejected for difference.

            In this respect, it seems strange that we ever redefine our identifications based on the inclusion of anomalies. From one perspective, it is literally self-destructive. For example, if the Self is a particularity of Being—we must include undifferentiated Being in the class of the Self. Existentialism is a philosophical program aimed directly at raising Being to the metaclass. The trouble with this is obviously that if the Self is only a particularity of Being, then—as Sartre would conclude—it is not essential. While one may take this view (for we think that it is reasonable), we would like also to say that it rests upon including the anomaly of (undifferentiated) Being into the class of the Self. But, as we have seen, one can do just as well to exclude it.

            What then is the catalyst? Perhaps we must give credit to philosophy for precisely this task, for it is philosophy, which gives us an overall view of the world, a cognitive bird’s-eye view of our world systems. The philosophical enterprise then is the catalyst for ever shifting our locus of identification in the presence of anomaly; except that Nietzsche stood upon the precipice of nihilism and proclaimed that to operate by inclusion was madness, and that we ought to maintain our nature, and to operate by principles of exclusion. This is precisely why Nietzsche is properly termed an anti-philosopher. Indeed, we take Nietzsche’s program and expand it to explain the utility of classism in the sense we have been discussing.

III

 

Dichotomy

 

           We understand dichotomy is an either/or distinction. In terms of Identification, it is essential to understand dichotomy because of how similarity and difference may be reached in virtue of inclusion versus exclusion.

            In similarity, difference is eliminated. In difference, similarity is suspended to a metaclass or eliminated. This leads to what may be referred to as compatabilism: maintaining dichotomies by eliminating Identifications.

            Before we jump ahead of ourselves we must posit a new entity. If the anomaly creates difference out of similarity, then the antinomaly creates similarity out of difference. If Hume can illustrate the former, Dawkins may illustrate the latter.

            Take for example Dawkins’ reduction of altruism into narcissism. Dawkins takes the antinomaly of the selfish-gene as eliminating the dichotomy between altruism and narcissism. This is the very opposite of the Humean criticism of Identification. Hume critiques the principle of inclusion by saying that anomalies create difference out of similarity. As such, we must posit a metaclass to distinguish between the initial class and the anomalous class. Dawkins proposes that antinomalies eliminate difference into similarity. As such, we must eliminate a metaclass so that we do not make the mistake of positing a false dichotomy.

            Hume’s approach is to distinguish the Other from the Same. Dawkin’s approach is to reduce the Other into the Same.

            However, just like excluding the anomaly resolves Hume’s critique—we may similarly exclude the antinomaly to resolve Dawkin’s critique. This is exactly what compatabilism aims to do. For example—if we assume that the selfish-gene is an antinomaly that may reduce altruism into selfishness—we can exclude this antinomaly by identifying altruism and selfishness by the principle of exclusion.

            The problem becomes this. If we have the mature understanding of Identification we risk eliminating the dichotomy (reducing the different into the same). On the other hand—immature understanding may preserve the dichotomy and thus the difference. The trouble is that we cannot escape similarity or difference.

IV

 

Closure

 

           So far we have spoken of Identification only in the abstract: in terms of the typology of Identification. For example, we have heretofore only analyzed Identification, the point is to change it. Now we must conclude by taking another angle: discussing personal Identification. That is, how one actually identifies the self and others.

            Tajfel, social scientist attributed to the discovery of minimal groups, has been especially influential in respect to our understanding of in-group and out-group bias. Based on our discussion so far, it should be obvious that in-group and out-group bias is wholly contingent upon Identification in respect to a nominal entity (class, metaclass, etc.) in relation to the locus of identification.

            If we extend Tajfel’s work, we can raise an even greater idea. Consider Hobbsbawm’s conception of Nationalism. We may understand Hobbsbawm’s conception of Nationalism in respect to the current analysis in the following way. Nationalism is a fundamentally exclusive identification. This is because it is explicitly constructed. In other words, Nationalism is an example of carving difference (which is identification by the principle of exclusion) out of what would otherwise be similarity. Of course, this is in opposition to both Hume and Dawkins who are dealing primarily with the principle of inclusion—which respects anomalies and antinomalies.

            The problem of racism, we should say now, is the problem of Identification. Thus, racism, more formally, should be considered classism—for it is a matter of identifying oneself in terms of difference to the Other. Let me reiterate: classism (racism) consists solely in one’s Locus of Identifications (regarding the Self and Other).

            For example, if I identify first and foremost with the metaclass (as I would in a mature understanding of similarity) then we should expect that I should be far more tolerant than otherwise – this follows from the simple fact that the distance between self and other is severely reduced to something nominal. This is fairly close to the liberal program that such movements as Civil Rights and Feminism have aimed at: to raise people’s locus of identification from the particulate to the metaclass.

            But now we may recognize certain problems. For starters: when the Other defines us by virtue of exclusion—they thus push their difference up against any definitions of similarity we may propose. This creates tension and, ultimately, conflict.

            There are 2 movements then we should recognize as emanating from Identifications by the principles of Inclusion and Exclusion respectively:

            Globalization. This may be represented as the process of eliminating difference by virtue of similarity – a move towards homogeneity. It is fundamentally a movement of inclusion—assimilating the Other (the anomalous) into a metaclass.

            Terrorism. This may be represented by the process of eliminating similarity by virtue of difference – a move towards heterogeneity. It is fundamentally a movement of exclusion—distinguishing an Other.

V

 

Predictions

 

            Based on what we have said so far, we predict that terrorism will rise in response to globalization. This is not to imply that only religious groups will be rising to terrorist activities (as we see with radical Islam) but that secular groups will be doing the same as well (a la Nechaev, the Bolsheviks, etc.).

            Thus, we think that there is no end to classism, for there is immature classism, which is the result of classes not identifying themselves as belonging to a metaclass. This leads to tensions of difference. And there is mature classism: classes that identify with a metaclass seek to distinguish themselves from it. This leads to tensions of similarity.

            There is no end to classism because there will always be either tensions of similarity or tensions of difference. What we mean here is something very basic. On the one hand we can suppose that some class may well wish to become equivalent with, be subsumed under a metaclass, as when black Americans fought to be brought under the metaclass of Americans. This move falls under globalization in our broad sense, and is a move toward homogeneity of the populace, and it appeared as desirable, for it furthered equality, and our sense of justice. However, when this occurs, black people are made into white people (why it is not white people who are made into black people is an arbitrary distinction) by the very nature of what has occurred. This is dangerous, for classes, though they do not wish to be oppressed, and hence seek equality (inclusion in a metaclass), also desperately want to maintain their difference less they lose their Self (we might also say, their culture). In truth, no class ever wishes to follow the globalization pattern, for that is a trauma, a self-destructive program; what then makes such a traumatic move desirable can only be extenuating circumstances. There are two types of circumstances under which a class will choose the trauma of inclusion: a) the class’s existence is threatened by some other class, and their only recourse is to be subsumed under the metaclass; that is, the only warfare that the class can engage in is political warfare, and not physical warfare; b) the class uses a pseudo-globalizational move to gain power within a certain established political structure; this is particularly effective when a class is small, or represented primarily by a small collection of individuals, and the claim that it is just that this special class be included is spurious, for the special interests of the group benefit by a global perception that this special interest class is subsumed in the metaclass, while the special interest class carves itself out as different, that is, the particulates of the special interest class do not really consider themselves part of the metaclass, even when those in the metaclass proper do consider them so. These are the methods of political warfare, class warfare, that are engaged in, and constitute the only reasons for a class to ever wish to make a move towards globalization.

            Instead, Nietzsche’s program correctly diagnoses that classes inherently wish to move via exclusionary principles, and to eliminate other classes, or at least to distinguish themselves as sharply as possible from them. It is natural to avoid this trauma, which only brings more misery into the world, what is good is honest warfare, and to be the very best, to craft one’s self, which is precisely what a mature understanding of an exclusionary principle is, to literally be the creator of one’s self (as a class), while moving towards inclusion is to be defined in terms of others, this is the move of weakness, and is unnatural, so globalization as a program must utilize the media as a catalyst for feeding propaganda against those classes unwilling to submit to inclusion; meanwhile, the disingenuous special interest classes engage in subversive political warfare against the metaclass, and this is what creates the chaos of our world.

            In the end, we must ask ourselves which program we wish to follow as individuals. Shall we subscribe to a program in which we are included, and hence defined by others, and all equal? Or is it more natural to wish to be the best, to distinguish one’s self, to create one’s self? It is only through the modern Huxleyian program that the global metaclass is able to restrain the natural impulses of exclusion, and hence we see no paucity of trauma in the individual selves, evidenced by the massive distribution of anti-depression medications in the Western world. The warriors are silenced, and virtue is dead…the anti-philosophy of Nietzsche has now become philosophy, for the philosophical tradition has been twisted into the propagandist program of globalization; thus the only way to reclaim honesty, authenticity of being, is to be a part of chaos, of exclusion, this explains all violent movements from Islamo-fascist terrorist acts, to the copious amount of gang members spattered throughout the Western world engaging in random violent acts. These are the underlying cognitive moves made by gang members or Islamic terrorists, to define themselves by the exclusionary act, to be against, to be honest, to be violent, for political warfare is unnatural, and distasteful to the righteous, virtuous soul.