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Holger Schleip argues that the concept of racism needs to be redefined as one that is not inherently evil, but rather a form of groupism that is necessary for human survival and can be understood through comparison with other groupisms such as speciesism and familism.

This article is a translation. The original can be found here.

The following theses do not serve to cultivate any kind of hostility towards others, but rather to help reconsider outdated notions of hostility and enable conversations, especially between people who consider themselves anti-racists and those who rightly are referred to as racists.

  1. The term ‘racism’ is often used in a sense that considers racism inherently wrong or evil or both. Such a concept of racism is suitable for the societal exclusion of actual and supposed racists, but it prevents a serious intellectual engagement with the phenomena and the people who are regarded as racist.
  2. Therefore, I define racism without prejudice as the ‘-ism’ relating to race – as feeling, thinking, and acting in which race (or what is understood by it) plays a central or at least important role.
  3. ‘Races’ are (deliberately imprecise) defined as breeding communities (in modern terminology: gene pools) that lie in biological systematics between families that are mixed with (almost) every generation and species that are (almost) no longer mixable and are also visually distinguishable from one another.
  4. Many anti-racists generally reject the concept of ‘race’ (‘There are no races, only racism’ – Volker Sommer). Avoiding the concept of race, ‘racism’ can also be defined as a biological ‘groupism’ (Kurt Willrich) that relates to a breeding community that is smaller than our species Homo sapiens but larger and longer-lasting than human families.
  5. Racism can best be understood through comparisons with other ‘groupisms’ – ‘-isms’ according to which the treatment of an individual is not primarily based on his individual characteristics, but on his affiliation with this or that group, especially whether the individual is assigned to one’s own group or not.
  6. A ‘groupism’ comparable to racism is ‘speciesism’ (introduced by the animal rights activist Richard Ryder) – that feeling, thinking, and acting that places species membership at the centre. Key terms of speciesism are ‘human dignity’ and ‘human rights’, i.e. dignity and rights that we grant to all our fellow human beings, but withhold from all individuals belonging to other species: fattening pigs and laboratory rabbits have no human rights because they are not humans. Typical of our speciesism are also ideas of a special proximity to God for humans, as well as language rules to call praiseworthy behaviour ‘human’ and to call reprehensible actions ‘inhuman’, ‘animalistic’, ‘bestial’, etc. Speciesism means orienting oneself more towards species characteristics when dealing with individuals than towards individual characteristics: ‘Man is a spiritual being, animals are not’ – therefore, we must not kill humans in general, not even newborns or severely mentally disabled people, but we can kill mentally higher developed chimpanzees.
  7. Another groupism comparable to racism is the widespread feeling, thinking, and acting that puts family ties in the centre – the word ‘familism’ is appropriate for this. ‘Familial’ things include the reluctance of infants to interact with strangers, the expectation of sexual fidelity from a spouse, the demand of a new mother for ‘her own flesh and blood’, and inheritance rights. Even anti-racists, who vehemently reject racist ideas of ‘shared blood’ when it comes to immigration, have little objection to the dominance of the principle of descent in maternity clinics or a child’s claim to his or her ‘mandatory portion’ upon the death of the parents.
  8. Familism, racism, and speciesism are structurally analogous, even though they differ significantly in the degree of kinship – according to the individuals allocated to one’s own or other groups. The reluctance of an infant to interact with strangers (familism), the ‘foreigners out’ mentality of a heterosexual young man (racism) that is ignited by skin colour, and the ‘animals-are-not-humans’ stance of the human rights activist who eats schnitzel (speciesism) – all these are forms of an ancestry-oriented need for distance that can be legitimately called ‘xenophobia’ for short.
  9. ‘Love for thy neighbour instead of love for strangers’ can be sensible. Glossed-over images that children make of their parents, or parents of their children, or spouses of each other, can be advantageous not only for the respective family but also for the entire nation. Similarly, idealised images of one’s own people, race, or religious community can be useful for all humanity – at least if these idealised images serve the loving care of one’s own nest and not the invasion of foreign territories. So, ‘groupisms’ are not necessarily evil.
  10. From a Mosaic perspective, the people conceived as a community of descent are distinguished from all other peoples by divine election. Even if one does not accept the concept of race for the Jewish community, one must concede that the Mosaic idea of election is ‘typically racist’ in the sense that it corresponds exactly to the pattern of thought that anti-racists feel they must detest as racist. Therefore, consistent anti-racism leads straight to what is commonly called anti-Semitism. Understanding racism, on the other hand, protects against anti-Semitism.
  11. The structuring of life into unequal reproductive communities has great biological significance, as each reproductive community represents a possible response of life to changing life circumstances. If earthly life consisted of only one species, the extinction of that species would mean the end of life on earth. If a species consisted of only one race, the extinction of that race would mean the extinction of the entire species.
  12. The principle ‘diversity secures the future’ applies not only to forests and lakes but also to humanity: a humanity that sails towards the future with many different boats has a greater chance of survival than a humanity that boards a common boat (Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt). A homogenised humanity ‘puts all its eggs in one basket’, while a humanity divided into different races, peoples, religions, cultures, economic regions, etc. ‘has many irons in the fire’. Perhaps the idea of humans as a misstep in evolution is true, perhaps not. Perhaps the white race with its civilisation is a misstep, and perhaps the Australian Aborigines or African bushmen are most likely to survive the next millennium – if they are not absorbed by whites and blacks beforehand. No one can know this today.
  13. The two most pressing biological objectives are likely self-preservation and species preservation; the third priority is likely the pursuit of differentiation. Since diversity arises through differentiation, it is likely that our mechanisms for differentiation are not as deeply ingrained in us as, for example, hunger (which serves self-preservation) or sexuality (which serves species preservation), but rather somewhat deep – perhaps similar to jealousy, ambition, or possessiveness. This assumption explains the many failures of well-intentioned efforts to permanently eradicate xenophobia.
  14. Similar to affection and love, which often lead to a biologically sensible approach, fear and aversion often lead to biologically sensible distancing. If people are forced to live against their nature, this increases the risk of violence. This applies particularly to ‘repugnant’ xenophobia. If xenophobia cannot lead to the preservation or restoration of distance, then the danger of violent excesses, up to and including genocide, increases.
  15. Regardless of one’s stance on the concept of ‘race’, it can be observed worldwide that societies composed of multiple races according to the usual concept of race are characterised by greater social differences and more violent crime compared to ethnically homogeneous societies (nation-states). Apparently, the (already externally recognisable) lack of kinship hinders social balance and the renunciation of violence.
  16. For the assessment of human actions, it is important to consider how long the consequences of an action are likely to last and how long it takes to correct the damage done. Legal systems, such as those based on constitutional patriotism, can take years to develop; nations, such as those based on nationalism, take centuries; races, such as those based on racism, take tens of thousands of years. According to this approach, the duration of the damage caused by the abolition of a legal system could be measured in years, that of the abolition of peoples in centuries, and that of the abolition of races in tens of thousands of years.
  17. Racism contains different, and possibly even conflicting, elements, and it makes sense to conceptually divide it into (offensive) ‘exploitative racism’ and (defensive) ‘boundary-setting racism’. The former is geared towards exploiting other races. It was seen in its crudest form in the enslavement of people of other races and is now hidden and in a milder form in unjust trading relationships between ‘white’ industrialised countries and ‘coloured’ agricultural countries. The latter aims to create or maintain distance between races. Racism is seen in its most extreme form in murder and expulsion, and in a milder form in the undesirability of people of other races in one’s own country or even in one’s own family.
  18. The current immigration debate is not about racism, yes or no, but about boundary-setting racism versus exploitative racism: we can set boundaries and solve our self-made problems by adapting our economic and social system to an ageing and shrinking population. This would be a pioneering achievement that we are currently in the fortunate position of being able to accomplish for humanity. Or we can try to shift the costs of our birth strike and high life expectancy onto others through targeted immigration policy (poaching the elite performers of other peoples). However: if, as is already foreseeable and desirable for ecological reasons, the world’s population ages and shrinks in a few generations, then we will have the corresponding problem on a global level; that is, as the solution ‘sanitation of social systems through immigration’, humankind would then need immigration-willing extraterrestrials.
  19. In general, a division into delimited living communities enables humankind to seek and test solutions to future problems at an early stage. As long as different peoples take different paths, one people can learn from another. Globalisation reduces humankind’s capacity to learn.
  20. Every revolution represents a path that one cannot be certain where it leads beforehand. In a national revolution, a nation takes a new, unknown path, while in a world revolution, humanity as a whole does so. ‘One world’ replaces attempts by nations with attempts by humanity as a whole, and the danger of the failure of one nation is replaced by the danger of the failure of humanity.
  21. Racism can lead to bloody violence. Therefore, taboos on any form of racism (in the sense of the above definition) are as nonsensical as taboos on sexuality in response to sexual crimes, or taboos on any form of desire for possession in response to robbery and murder. It is more useful to consider desirable aspects of ethnic and racial differentiation, particularly in terms of creating boundaries. Setting boundaries can prevent conflicts (‘good fences make good neighbours’ – English proverb) and create a foundation for welfare states via nation-states. Above all, boundaries create and maintain diversity and thereby contribute to the future viability of humanity.
  22. Nobody can predict today the significance of the diversity of gene pools compared to other forms of differentiation. Perhaps cultural and civilisational differentiations are more important than genetic ones, but genetic differentiation apparently represents at least crystallisation points and probably also causes of cultural and civilisational differentiation. Weighty reasons suggest that the abolition of structured genetic differentiation (simply put: of races) diminishes the survivability of humanity, possibly significantly. Therefore, racially oriented differentiation is in the interest of the survival of humanity.

(From: Holger Schleip, M.D.: ‘22 Thesen zum Rassismus’, Mars Ultor 2006, Kassel: Ahnenrad der Moderne, 2005)

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Translated by Constantin von Hoffmeister

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