It is my belief that understanding should precede judgment. With this in mind, let’s attempt to reconstruct the history of race and expand understanding that we might better judge what ought to be done.
Part One: Race, As Understood by Most Ancient People
In many ancient texts you will find references to “races of men.” Ancient Persians under Darius the Great (and probably other Persian kings as well), paraded “various races of men” through their cities in vast military parades as a proof of power. Hannibal Barca gained renown partly because he “held together mercenaries of many races.” Likewise, Julius Caesar in his “Commentaries on the Gallic Wars” often mentions Gallic, Celtic and Germanic races. In the Old Testament of the Bible, we are warned against “mixing iron and clay” with regard to believers contaminating themselves with the blood of Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites and dozens of other minor races. In both the Confucius canon and Han Fei-tzu, two of the most influential bodies of work in Chinese political history, we find reference to barbaric and civilized races, with the latter being infinitely preferable. Similar ideas appear in Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Korean, Japanese and Mongol texts.
With a few exceptions, when the ancients speak of races they are not referencing the stuff people in the 21st century think of. Rather than skin color or DNA, almost all of the ancient writers’ “races” are better understood as cultural spheres like the modern Sinosphere, the Anglosphere or the Arabic Linguistic Sphere. In the cases of ancient writers from smaller, weaker civilizations – the ancient Israelites for example – “races” are often mere kinship groups.
“Superior” and “inferior” races of men mentioned in these ancient texts were thus not decided by skin color or facial features but rather by membership in “superior” or “inferior” cultural/linguistic/religious groups. Barbarians thus could and frequently did “change races” by abandoning their old ways and embracing a Roman/Chinese/Persian lifestyle. As such, when Julius Caesar made reference to the Gallic races it was similar in content and intention to a modern Spaniard referencing French speakers or describing a person as coming from the Middle East. It is for this reason that nobody batted an eye when the Mongol Khans married women from China, Persia, Poland and Korea. It is because of the ancient notions of race as cultural rather than biological that group conflict so often ended in massacres followed by quick assimilation. The massacres served to break up the offending culture and the assimilation served to include people who’d been cleansed of the offending customs, religions and languages. Permanent outsider groups were, generally speaking, unnecessary.
There are, however, three important exceptions that presaged the future of race: the Buddhist/Hindu tradition, the Chinese after the An Lushan Rebellion and the pre-Macedonian Greeks.
Part Two: The Proto-Racists
Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism and in many cases shares with it the proto-racist idea that certain classes of people are inherently unclean regardless of cultural, linguistic or religious affiliation. This is most famously manifest in the Indian caste system but is also apparent in Bardo Thodol (the Tibetan Buddhist Book of the Dead). According to the logic of these systems, members of the lower classes are inherently bad because their births into the lower classes are karmic punishment for sinful past lives. As such, they are unclean from the moment they are born. This is distinct from the Roman or Confucian ideas of “races of men” in that the “inferior” people were inferior by birth and their actions could never remove the stain of inferiority regardless of what they did. This is proto-racist rather than fully racist because the “inferior” people were members of the same ethnic groups as the “superior” people.
Next, the Chinese invented important parts of modern racism in the aftermath of the An Lushan Rebellion. Western readers generally know little about the Asian, African and Amerindian cultures they so deeply respect, so it is necessary to dive into a short history lesson at this point. At the height of the Tang Dynasty, near the end of Emperor Xuanzong’s reign (712-756 A.D.), a probably senile Turkic-Chinese general called An Lushan was forced to rebel. He decided to go all in and declared himself emperor of China. In the eight following years, around 30 million people – 60 percent of the registered Chinese population – died.
In the midst of this unimaginable horror, the traumatized Chinese invented the idea that people from outside ethnic groups were irredeemably bad and inferior. Tibetans (who had almost nothing to do with the rebellion), Turks and northern barbarians were from this point on considered a pollution to China regardless of their behavior, beliefs or cultural assimilation. The ethnic naughty list later expanded to include almost all non-Han Chinese. This was a major turning point from earlier dynasties, and even the earlier Tang, which would almost always pursue a policy of assimilation with regard to barbarians and outsiders. Taizhong of Tang (626-649), for example, ran his empire as a virtual foreign religion sampler buffet. Such things became unimaginable after the An Lushan Rebellion.
Chinese proto-racism is distinguished from modern racism in that the Chinese made only one distinction, superior Han Chinese and inferior literally-everyone-else, and in the fact that they based their ideas on cultural and philosophical principles rather than scientific inquiry.
Finally, the pre-Macedonian Greeks were pioneers of modern biology and, like pretty much all biologists pre-1945, advocates of scientific racial hierarchies. Aristotle was the most famous of these Greek proto-racists, but he was far from alone. The Greeks, as the first quasi modern scientists in the West, developed a wide array of biological theories tied to latitude and psychology. In particular, they espoused an idea that peoples north of Greece possessed passion but no rationality, while the peoples south of Greece possessed rationality but no passion. The superiority of the Greeks therefore lies in their biological unification of reason and passion. This is separated from modern racism in that Greek proto-racists would not consider a blonde Scythian any less or more inferior than an Ethiopian or Persian. Proto-scientific, proto-racism prospered in Greece from the 6th to 4th century B.C. and was not overcome until Alexander the Great – much more politician than scientist – overthrew the biologists and declared that any valiant man, whether from India or Egypt or Athens, was a Greek in his eyes.
Part Three: How “Bad Slaves” Necessitated the Invention of Modern Race
Slavery, in almost all ancient societies, was usually the consequence of losing a war or being the descendant of someone who lost a war. Less common but still typical was the practice of selling oneself or one’s family members into slavery in order to alleviate poverty. In the context of ancient Egypt, the Maya or a Maori tribe, this posed no trouble at all. You go to war, you kill a bunch of people and you take the survivors as slaves. Failing that, you find a neighbor who is struggling and you offer to buy his son to work in your mines or you buy his daughter as a concubine. Either way was perfectly satisfactory and you had very little reason to prefer one nation’s slaves to any other nation’s slaves. Scythian, Syrian, Jewish, Ethiopian, it didn’t matter. A slave was judged by his physical prowess, her skills, or his attractiveness rather than by origin.
The discovery of the New World changed this. The European explorers found that Amerindians were the first people in recorded history who made bad slaves. Every time they conquered a tribe, half of them would drop dead from plagues. Put them to work anyway and the fatality rates were so high as to make slavery completely uneconomical. This was, of course, due to the fact that Amerindians had no immunity to the diseases Africans, Europeans and Asians had been sharing for the last 10,000 years, but the settlers had no way of knowing this.
The next most convenient sources of slave labor was impoverished Europeans and, in the colder parts of North and South America, indentured servants were wildly popular. However, impoverished Europeans had a bad habit of dying in vast plagues whenever you set them to work in the tropics. This was, of course, due to the fact that Europeans had no immunity to tropical diseases like malaria, but the slave owners had no way of knowing this either.
The third most convenient source of slaves was to tap into the ancient and thriving West African slave trade. The West African kingdoms of the Slave Coast – modern Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and parts of Nigeria – had been running unique, slave-hunting economies since at least the 13th century in order to service both booming domestic slave systems and the Arab slave trade. There is even some evidence that kingdoms in these areas had been capturing and exporting slaves into North Africa and the Mediterranean as far back as the Roman Empire.
With slave hunting civilizations already present, a well-organized African infrastructure and enthusiastic trade partners in Ashante and Dahomey, the European conquerors of the new world had ample opportunity to experiment with African slaves. They soon discovered that West African victims made far better slaves than either Amerindians or Europeans. We now know that this is because West Africans share Eurasian diseases with Asians and Europeans but also share tropical diseases with tropical Amerindians. Of course the slave owners couldn’t have known that.
In the scramble to explain the vastly higher survival of West African slaves compared to Amerindians or Europeans, a quasi-modern idea of race developed. Since the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe were dominated by attempts to reconcile religion and classical philosophy along with a renewed interest in science, it is not surprising that reformed religion and renewed science formed the basis for explaining the world’s first sets of good and bad slaves.
From the standpoint of reformed religion, many Europeans proposed the idea that black people and perhaps Africans in general were the Biblical descendants of Ham and thus sentenced by God to servitude. This idea was confounded by the conspicuously grand and ancient cultural achievements of Egypt, Ethiopia and Tunisia and thus the boundaries of the “race” of Ham contracted ever more tightly around the people of Subsaharan West Africa.
From the standpoint of scientific revival, racial thinkers like Arthur de Gabineau proposed theories of heredity. These initially sought to explain why aristocrats had the right to dominate commoners – they had direct descent from an ancient master race (and Odin!) in de Gabineau’s analysis – but this soon grew into elaborate racial hierarchies. Central to all the ideas was the concept, still present in modern biology and psychology, that intelligence was mostly inherited from one’s ancestors. Distinct from modern biology and psychology, however, was the idea that civilization became powerful in 18th century Europe but not in 18th century Congo because of inborn intellectual differences on the level of large, “racial” populations.
In summary, the need to explain why Africans made better slaves than Amerindians or Europeans created the first recognizably modern system of racism. That is, whether through the scientific mythology of master races or the “sons of Ham,” it was for the first time common to divide slave and master, high and low, based entirely on the color of one’s skin and the features of one’s face. As a consequence of this, the phenomenon of good and bad slaves created the world’s first durable racial categories, the first systems to combine Greek scientific proto-racism, Hindu-Buddhist born inferiority ideas and Chinese master races into one coherent system.
Part Four: Scientific Racism – Darwin and the Romantics
The discovery of evolution by Charles Darwin and the rise of romanticism during the 19th century turbocharged the progress of scientific racism and made the grand racial conflicts of the second World War more or less inevitable. This happened through two basic channels: a) Darwinism and social Darwinism in particular made scientific racism almost universal for educated people and b) romanticism made “surrender” to the scientifically prescribed and inevitable course of history seem both morally good and artistically pleasing.
Let’s start with Darwinism. Darwin’s discovery of evolution discredited the older, religious opponents to pre-evolution racists like Arthur de Gabineau. When de Gabineau proposed a master race, he had no hard theoretical footing to stand upon and thus groups like the Jesuits were able to refute him by pointing at the New Testament and its numerous references to equality before God.
However, with the discovery of the principle of descent with modification, racism gained an entirely new scientific foundation from which to combat non-scientific ideas like equality, human rights, democracy and Greco-Roman notions of freedom. A modern reader can find ample evidence of this “battle against superstition” in P. Charles’ Michel’s “A Biological View of English Foreign Policy,” A. Carthill’s “Lost Dominion,” Adolf Hitler’s “The Nazi Primer,” the Khmer Rouge’s “Revolutionary Flag Magazine” or “Vicious Spies and Killers Under the Mask of Academic Physicians” by Stalin’s pet journalists at “Pravda.”
As a consequence of this biological work and a mistaken sense that science and ethics mix, it was difficult to find an educated person who was not racist, whether white, East Asian or Indian, between about 1880 and 1940. Reading contemporary articles and books gives the very strong sense that a person in 1930 who did not at least engage with the idea of scientific racism was very much like a flat earther today – weird, eccentric, a science denier. In particular, IQ tests and phrenology were used to make scientific racism respectable and almost irresistible.
This scientific racism only began to teeter because the scientific racism of the Nazis, Soviets and Japanese imperialists in WW2 had so graphically illustrated the need to maintain non-scientific superstitions like human rights, Christian equality and Greco-Roman notions of freedom. The subjugation of scientists under politicians and ethicists after WW2, just like Alexander’s rejection of Greek proto-science 2300 years earlier, made our cosmopolitan egalitarianism possible.
Also instrumental in making race cancerous in the 19th and 20th centuries were the romantics. Represented by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Martin Heidegger and Napoleon Bonaparte, romantic thinking sought to downplay rationality and embrace one’s “true self.” This dovetailed with scientific racism in that it took the dry, biological “type” and imbued it with sacred meaning, calling on members of races to embody their true blood essences. Romanticism was important in the aesthetic justification of racial dictatorships and war glorification, promising the frustrated and suffering people of Europe in general and Germany in particular a chance to exude a glorious and unchangeable racial superiority. Romanticism, in other words, offered to make each individual racist a Hindu Brahman – a person who is inherently and automatically superior to anyone born in a lower caste/race – but on a global scale. Such offers were popular.
Part Five: How the History of Race Built Up to The Civil Rights Movement and the Floyd Protests
Race got nastier with each step in its progression. The ancient “races of men” were relatively innocent and even the proto-racism was flimsy enough to be tossed aside without any necessary tumult. It was only in the new world with its “bad slaves” and scientific progress that we got to the truly toxic racial discussions plaguing us now.
I need to emphasize, however, that it was “bad slaves” and biologists much more than normal slavery that caused this shift. Regular slavery, contrary to prevailing narratives, is not the reason race relations in the United States and South America are almost unfixable. Korea, for example, had slaves from at least the Gojoseon period (approximately 2,000 years ago) until 1930. Two millennia of bondage ended and the social consequences were almost nothing. Slaves simply became impractical, industrialization became inevitable and the system went away. Similar instances of nearly-no-consequence slavery happened in China, in the Roman Empire, in North Africa, in Turkey and all across the Mongol Empire. Slavery can, and usually does, just sort of go away when people find a more profitable alternative.
However, this was not the case in the Americas. In the Americas, there have been no smooth transitions out of slavery because of an incredibly viscous cycle described by Alexis DeTocqueville in his “Democracy in America.” Basically, the descendants of the slaves are screwed everywhere from Brazil to Haiti to Georgia because of the invention of race, the invention of equality and the invention of capitalism. Let me explain.
Before the invention of modern race by the confused New World slave holders in the 16th and 17th centuries, there had never been a group of people who made dependably “better slaves” than any other. As such, there was no reason for “sons of Ham” or durable racial categories like in de Gabineau. The invention of durable categories meant that African slaves had very little opportunity to join mainstream society.
Next, the popularization of modern equality ideas in the 18th century fell heavily on the enslaved people. Before the invention of equality, slave manumission was very common and the masters of such slaves could and did expect thanks for releasing said slaves. Since the slave did not expect equality or human rights, he or she would almost always simply be thankful for manumission and move on with life, something DeTocqueville describes from his experiences in France. After the invention of equality, this system broke down. Now that all men were held to be equal, the masters became fearful. They became fearful because if all men were equal, that meant that slavery was against nature/law/etc. If it was against nature/law/etc, then the slaves were justified in taking revenge. If the slaves were justified in taking revenge, then you ended up with situations like the Haitian Revolution, where freed slaves killed all the whites. (Lest you think this ended in equality or liberation, it’s important to remember that post-revolution Haitians quickly created their own racial hierarchy with “mulatrists” on top and former slaves on bottom.)
In order to protect themselves from the threat of equality, the slave masters worked to destroy and undermine the cultural fabric of their slaves as much as possible. In contrast with the 18th century, American slaves in the 19th century were almost universally prevented from reading, forming families, conducting business, adjudicating their own crimes or in any other respect acting in recognizably human ways. Slavery became much harsher. Manumission was legally restricted or abolished, laws were passed to prevent slaves learning to read, write or master crafts and the intentional destruction of slave families through slave sales or slave trades greatly intensified. Doing so eliminated the threatened equality and revenge. After all, a person who cannot even participate in a family has little claim to equality with his or her master. This made slavery much more degrading than it had been before the invention of equality, but the destruction of slave culture did result in a temporary stability.
Then capitalism introduced a great deal of instability into the harsh but stable slave systems of the early 19th century. Since capitalism is both vastly more efficient than slave economies and requires the free flow of labor, the slave owners faced a dilemma. They couldn’t free their slaves because of the looming threats of equality and revenge, but they also couldn’t keep their slaves because capitalism was making their traditional way of life economically impractical.
This culminated in the US Civil War and a series of messy emancipations across South America. In most cases, the freed slaves faced a similar disaster. They could not function independently because the former masters, fearing equality and revenge, had removed from their slaves almost anything that could pass as cultural tradition. They also could not integrate into mainstream society. At first integration was impossible because they were “sons of Ham” or later, and to a much more toxic degree, because they were subject to the theories of the scientists. Finally, because they had very limited traditions practically no independent social structure, their communities were plagued by crime, unemployment and broken families.
With that in place, DeTocqueville’s cycle became manifest:
1. Members of the dominant ethnic groups – whites in the US, whites, mestizos and certain immigrant groups in Latin America – excluded freed slaves and the descendants of freed slaves from their communities.
2. Cut off from mainstream society and stripped of their own cultural tool kits, the freed slaves and the descendants of freed slaves suffered with high crime rates, unemployment and broken families.
3. Fearful of the high crime rates, unemployment and broken families, members of the dominant ethnic groups retreated farther from the descendants of the freed slaves.
4. Further cut off from mainstream society, the descendants of freed slaves fell further into high crime rates, unemployment and broken families.
5. Rinse, wash, repeat.
And almost nothing about that has changed in the 190 years since DeTocqueville made his predictions. Redlining, Jim Crow and white flight are merely different names for step one. African American crime rates and rates of crime victimization are much higher than the population at large, unemployment is consistently higher and the number of broken African American families dwarfs the population at large – which is just step two set on repeat. White families responded to this by fighting anti-segregation busing policies, supporting the “tough on crime” school to prison pipeline and educational gerrymandering, which is exactly what DeTocqueville described in step three. African American communities made practically no relative gains in relative crime rates, unemployment or family stability, which is step four.
There is little reason to believe the George Floyd protests are going to change this. This is for the simple reason that they are a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, for all its symbolic power and cultural impact, did very little to improve the more concrete problems of money, power and status for African Americans. The relative wages of African Americans and everyone else are almost exactly the same as they were in the 1950’s. The relative crime rates have hardly budged and the problems with family stability have gotten worse. As the wildly talented author Paul Beatty writes in his disappointing fourth novel, “is it my fault that the only tangible benefit to come out of the civil rights movement is that black people aren’t as afraid of dogs as they used to be? No, it isn’t.”
The effort to defund the police/de-militarize the police, which I thought had potential, probably isn’t doing anything to break the cycle either. Indeed, the major effect of the anti-police protests, as of 2021, is a massive increase in violent crime. There was a chance to reform police departments so that they were less likely to “farm” the poor – something I’ve experienced first hand and keep finding in the reports of police violence – but that ship has sailed and, even if the opportunity hadn’t been wasted, police reform is probably irrelevant to the race question. The police badly need reform, but they are not the reason DeTocqueville’s wheel continues to turn. (The courts and prisons are another story.)
“Woke” white liberals aren’t much reason for hope either. They tend to have benefited from white flight and there’s not much reason to think they want to change it. (If you look at a map of the United States, it’s uncanny how often white people in very white states have liberal racial views while white people in diverse states have more conservative views.) Data shows that they are highly supportive of the symbolic, Civil Rights Movement type stuff but don’t have as much appetite for reparations, busing students from good neighborhoods into bad neighborhoods and they generally live in very segregated areas. (To be fair to woke white people, African Americans also prefer segregated residences.) The desired outcome for the advocates of racial justice – woke or African American – seems eerily similar to the stated goals of “separate but equal” in Plessy vs Furgeson.
This is all rational and defensible, unfortunately. Reparations require individual people innocent of practicing slavery and implementing Jim Crow to pay money to individual people who were not enslaved and mostly were not victimized by Jim Crow. Busing and school integration will expose the children of those woke white liberals to radically more dangerous and lower achieving schools in struggling neighborhoods. Residential integration risks “diluting” African American communities; in Perry Bacon Jr and Meridith Conroy’s words, “Black Democrats living in heavily Black areas may want some of the positive attributes of heavily white neighborhoods (like grocery stores and other amenities) but may not necessarily want to move to whiter neighborhoods themselves — or have more white people move to their neighborhoods and change the character of the area.” Breaking DeTocqueville’s cycle is incredibly difficult and, it seems, surprisingly few people want to break it.
As for the protesters themselves, they had a chance to crush the police unions and instigate reforms, however, they focused on abstract notions of “justice,” grew increasingly criminal and comprehensively failed to create a coherent program. Regardless, even if the protesters had been intelligent rather than passionate, their goals really had nothing to do with the cycle. Arguing with Donald Trump about statues, for example, is about the most symbolically potent, practically meaningless manifestation possible of the Civil Rights Movement’s failure to address root causes of racism and racial identity in the New World.
Part Six: Two Things We Know Work
Since we can’t depend on justice-focused things like the Civil Rights Movement or the Floyd protests to go beyond rich symbolism and intangible rights, we can’t depend on “woke” white people to sacrifice the safety of their families, we can’t count on anyone to tolerate integration and we can’t depend on police reform to break the DeTocqueville cycle, things seem hopeless. If we primarily value justice/freedom/moral stuff over the practical work of adjusting incentive structures, it probably is hopeless.
Luckily, there are two approaches, based on foundations much sturdier and much less dangerous than justice/freedom/moral stuff, that have been shown to work in terms of increasing the money, power and status of people who would otherwise be the victims of “systemic racism.” The first way to break the cycle is immigration/emigration and the second is the formation of interracial families.
Starting with immigrants, we need to understand the power of physically moving your stuff. According to behaviorist research, patterns of behavior are deeply tied to the physical environment. A smoker, for example, almost always smokes in one or two particular physical contexts. The creation of a new context makes the modification of behavior much easier and for this reason rearranging your furniture is an effective step if you wish to quit smoking. Analogous situations arise with immigrants and emigrants “rearranging” their lives to fit into new countries.
As an immigrant myself, and in my interviews with fellow immigrants from Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Ghana and the United States, the context of a new country makes the modification of behavior and thought patterns almost unavoidable. Subjectively, this tends to feel like a fresh beginning or an invitation to reinvent oneself. In the context of racial bias, there are racist people everywhere and I’ve never met any person who wasn’t “biased,” but in a new country, or sometimes even in a new state, the biases will be different, they will not be tied to familiar patterns of experience and they will, as a result, tend to roll off the back much more easily than even subtle bias in a home culture. This is part of the reason why, in the US, immigrants from Africa are able to avoid the DeTocqueville cycle while African Americans struggle to do so. It’s probably why the emigrants I’ve interviewed in Korea feel so much happier and so much more free to pursue their own goals.
Another reason immigration is so positive is that it removes the person from a passive, disempowered “hoping for justice” approach to an active, “I chose to be here and I am responsible for my fate” approach. Feeling responsible for one’s own fate, feeling power over one’s own life and over the lives of others, is incredibly healthy for a person’s psychological well-being and social status while feeling that you are a victim of injustice is dangerous, unhealthy and counterproductive.
Finally, immigrants are better than natives at a lot of important things. Compared to natives of similar economic class, immigrants in pretty much all countries are less criminal, have much better social mobility and their families do better in school. This is because, by definition, an immigrant has the courage, adaptability and intelligence to make a new life in an alien society. Such people, competing against the natives, who just happen to be wherever they were born and haven’t proven anything, tend to win meritocracy contests. They also, in the context of America, almost always “become white.” It’s hard to find statistics on emigrants out of the US and even harder to find information about African Americans who emigrate, but there are certainly a lot of positive anecdotes.
The second thing shown to break the cycle is the formation of interracial families. American people in interracial marriages are, compared with same race minority couples, richer and their kids are advantaged. Like immigrants, people in interracial marriages are, almost by definition, capable of breaking the racial expectations and roles set up by the biologists, the racial-justice theorists and the DeTocqueville cycle. They have better feelings towards people unlike themselves. They are, almost always, capable of navigating diverse cultural contexts and learn to communicate within at least two sub cultural languages. They also, almost by definition, have access to two cultural tool kits whenever there is a problem. Practices not common in black neighborhoods in Alabama might appear in the suburbs of Vermont, for example. Even more fundamentally, they make racism inconvenient. It is very inconvenient to hate black people, or even to fear black people, when your sister in law is black. Literally screwing the differences away is without doubt one of the most promising paths toward annihilating race.
Part Seven: Conclusion
The progression of race has been almost entirely for the worse. The “races of men” in ancient sources like Julius Caesar and Han Fe-tzu are relatively innocent. The proto-racists, for all their faults, were still flimsy enough to be cast aside without too much trauma. However, the “bad slaves” racial systems and the scientific racism that followed are some of the most toxic and dangerous things human beings have ever created.
In the New World, the two best methods for undermining and eliminating racial categories are immigration/emigration and interracial marriages. The greatest legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, from this point of view, was probably Loving vs Virginia, a 1967 Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in all states. The greatest weapon against racial identity in the future is probably a robust system of visas, tearing down the border wall and expanded exchange student programs.
In countries lucky enough to avoid durable racial groups – South Korea for example – it’s important to learn from the mistakes racial thinkers and scientific racists made in the New World. Some on the left, in the name of multiculturalism, and some on the right, in the name of heritage preservation, are working hard to segregate immigrant and mixed children into racial categories in Korea. However, they have generally failed to implement their schemes and a system that emphasizes self-definition and acculturation has, with widespread success, helped most of these children fit into the Korean mainstream. While overt racism is more common here than I remember it being in the US, the lack of scientific racism in the past and the missing history of durable racial categories means it’s nowhere near as toxic. Children almost always have the option to abandon inconvenient heritage and join the mainstream. The progress integrating school kids I’ve seen in Korea is heartening to say the least. I hope they continue.
In all countries, I hope we learn from the disastrous romantic philosophies and remind our citizens that what you are on the inside, what you feel is your essence, does not matter. The only thing anyone can ever judge you on is what you do. This concept, this superiority of action over essence, is the single strongest bulwark we possess against the race concept.
 I have a feeling almost no one really knows what “systemic racism” is supposed to mean. The formal definitions and explanations I’ve found have been very abstract, very vague or both. For the purposes of this article, I’m interpreting it as “the DeTocqueville cycle as seen through the lens of moral panic and the COVID19 plague in 2020.”