All Mixed Up

Skin color is a hot topic right now. The police shooting(s) of unarmed black men is the main impetus and raises some interesting questions about the future of race relations in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. I happen to live in a place where many couples are "mixed" which means that our children have skin colors ranging from very dark to very light. You'd be hard pressed to tell what ethnic background some of these kids have by looking at them. You'd also guess wrongly about what many of their parents look like.

This is, I hope, a peek into the near term future of humanity. Genetic research has shown the falsity of the concept of "race" based distinctions as they are usually defined: by skin color, language, or region. The texture of our hair and the shape of our eyes has no bearing on any other aspect of our bodies. So why are we still obsessed over cultural or "racial" purity? Why do people assume that children must look like their parents? What will happen when we can engineer ourselves, or our children, to a particular appearance?

The typical dystopian vision of humanity is that everyone would cleave to the Northern European ideal, but I think we need to give people more credit. We'll always have rebels who want to violate norms and rock the boat. We'll have the arbitrariness of human chemistry and parents who want their children to resemble themselves. This means that we'll always have people who look different from each other, which begs the question, what will we do with these differences once they are consciously chosen?

Here's a possible scenario: a group of police officers of varied appearance encounters an unarmed, male youth. Today, they'd make assumptions about him based on his appearance versus their own. In the future, they won't be able to do that. A dark skinned youth could have light skinned parents, or dark skinned parents, or something in between. The police officers would have to stop, think, and assess their danger level based on other factors.  The most salient will likely be economic class and the appearance of the neighborhood to which the police are called.

In our long history, in plenty of societies where everyone basically looked the same, the people with power still found ways to abuse those without. That aspect of our nature, I suspect, will not go away even in our post-human, post-racial future. The sad truth of today is that many poor neighborhoods in the U.S.A. are populated by people with dark skin. It's going to be interesting to witness a future when that's no longer the case.