The ABC has recently been running a documentary series about the idea of race, reporting to us with undeniable genetic proof that which any third year sociology student can tell us without breaking a sweat: the notion of race is just a myth. One of the great myths of modernity no doubt, but a myth nonetheless. Now I haven't watched any of this series myself but having spent a fair amount of time over the years toying with various claims of biological determinsim I got to thinking.
My concern is basically this. The temptation with proving the falsity of such a claim as racial differentiation is to then say something like, "hence cultural clashes that are based on claims about race (such as aparthied) can be seen to be based on nothing that is real". But what if the notion of race was not the cause of these cultural clashes but was instead the effect. There are no doubt people out there who would claim that cultural clashes, be they physically violent or otherwise, occur. They would happen if the people involved were thinking about racial differentiation or not. And it may have been in an effort to explain these clashes that the notion of race was first concieved. Hence proving race to be a myth does little for advancing our position as long as we remain unable to get along peacefully.
Now it is obvious that without the necessary historical analysis I am clearly debating about chickens and eggs here. But to engage in some specualtion, suppose it were true that race was the effect and not the cause of cultural clashes. Perhaps we can find no biological determinants of cultural clashes at all. Now my questions here are, are there any cultural determinants that can be said to cause such clashes and if so what are they? Could we then go on to use our knowledge of such determinants to find solutions and/or preventions to our problems? Or in attempting to find such determinants are we in danger of creating another boogeyman-myth like race? Should we in fact just accept such clashes as inevitable?