Until recently I assumed that “racism” simply meant a belief that there are innate and meaningful differences between races.

I thought that the common practice of using "racism" as a stand-in for hatred against other races, a discriminatory/segregationist political agenda, etc. was mainly a colloquial simplification meant to ease/influence public discourse. I was surprised to find that indeed, Wikipedia defines racism as primarily related to certain political stances (with the belief in innate differences between races and ethnicities only listed as common justification). Whether this was always the case or is just an example of a colloqualism becoming a norm, I cannot say.

Still, now I am left to wonder: How can one refer to the belief that there are innate and meaningful differences between races - independently of any political stance?

Examples of using such a word:

  • My recent studies indicate that racial provenance is a good predictor for performance on tasks A and B. I am convinced of the quality of my research but not apt or willing to make political recommendations based on it. I do not believe that races are equal in their capabilities, I am a proponent of “Y”. I am a “y”-ist.

  • I believe that my racial group is innately less capable than other races at C, but I do not think this is a compelling argument to deny us a fair chance at C. I do not believe that all races are equal, I believe in “Y”. I am a “y”-ist.

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    A similar question is here english.stackexchange.com/questions/115221/… - and another here english.stackexchange.com/questions/142750/… – chasly from UK Sep 4 '15 at 18:56
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    @chasly The magnetism movement failed to attract many followers. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 4 '15 at 19:00
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    It is often the case in English that certain words have both a political/emotional meaning and an apolitical/unemotional one. The language does not naturally develop separate terms for the two contexts, since any word is apt to gain associations as it's used. In the case of "racism" there have been so many attempts, over the centuries, to define a "scientific" (yet ultimately bogus) basis for racism that most of the possible terms have been sullied beyond reasonable repair. – Hot Licks Sep 4 '15 at 19:45
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    I can't see how judgements on variations in human ability which are based on a concept like "race" can be apolitical. If someone is claiming that one racial group is more capable than another in some way, they've made a huge political statement. – Margana Sep 4 '15 at 20:24
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    I haven't carefully picked apart all the threads in this complex weave. However, I have a term to propose to the OP: race awareness. – aparente001 Sep 6 '15 at 2:45

For Y and y, you may use the words racialism and racialist.

"Racialism" is an emphasis on race or racial considerations, as in determining policy or interpreting events. It is the belief that human species are naturally divided into distinct biological categories called "races."

In this Huffington Post article titled "Racism and Racialism Are Different", it is written that:

Racialism is rational, morally neutral, and inevitable in a society with our history of slavery, discrimination, and white-black social differences in so many areas.

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    The Huffington Post notwithstanding, dictionaries give "racism" as a synonym for "racialism." This is certainly the sole meaning for "racialism" from the 1920s to at least the 1940s, and even today writers (like Peter Schuck in THP) who wish to distinguish the two take pains to point out their special usage. In these instances, racialism is usually defined to encompass social, cultural, and economic factors associated with skin color. These are not the "innate" characteristics that the OP is concerned with. – deadrat Sep 5 '15 at 8:32
  • @deadrat - Historically, the view that race is a natural kind was associated to a belief in racial essences, a view K.A. Appiah calls racialism. It is the view that “we could divide human beings into a small number of groups, called ‘races’, in such a way that members of these groups shared certain fundamental, heritable, physical, moral, intellectual, and cultural characteristics with one another that they did not share with members of any other race.” Source: Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections by K. Anthony Appiah. – Graffito Sep 5 '15 at 22:46
  • Yes, I am aware of this. Historically, there was a view that human physiology was governed by four humors and that things burned because they contained a substance called phlogiston. What you reply if I asked you for a scientific term for the action of black bile in depression? Or for a thermodynamic term for the release of phlogiston during an exothermic process? – deadrat Sep 6 '15 at 0:26
  • @deadrat - I just proposed a word in the context of the question. My intention was not to provide a judgement of any kind on the subject. If had to do it, I would say that "racialism" is a pseudo-scientific theory used to justify racism. – Graffito Sep 6 '15 at 21:45

The proper way to refer to "the belief that there are innate and meaningful differences between races" is "abyssal ignorance." In particular, ignorance of the current state of our knowledge of human population genetics. "Race" is tricky to define, and if you use skin color, you end up with as large a genetic variation between races as within them. You'll have better luck defining race by ancestral geographical origin, but only for making valid statements about correlations within populations, not about individuals. And geographical origin isn't always a good fit for societal definition of race. Please forgive me for leaving to you the task of researching the term "human genetic diversity."

It was not always thus. The Ngram viewer will reveal that the terms "raciology" and "scientific racism" were in vogue in the 1920s, but events in Germany starting in 1933 put a dent in their popularity. Probably the high point of the scientific endorsement of racial principles came in 1962 with the publication of The Origin of Races by Carleton S Coon, a professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University and one-time President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. With the advent of the civil rights movement shortly thereafter in the US, the coupling of political views to the term "racism" became permanent.

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    I feel you are questioning the question instead of answering it. I am asking about a word, and you are presenting your political views and understanding of current research to the avail of discrediting the question. – TheChymera Sep 4 '15 at 19:51
  • Along these lines, I read some time back (probably in Scientific American) that the way that human fertility responds to vitamin D (and vitamin D's relationship to sunlight) means that skin color very rapidly adapts (within maybe 100-200 years) to changes in latitude and associated changes in sunlight. Skin color is one of the least "durable" of racial characteristics. – Hot Licks Sep 4 '15 at 19:51
  • I don't think anyone really disagrees that genetic differentiators exist, just that differentiators are by and large meaningless. – jxh Sep 4 '15 at 20:13
  • @TheChymera I do not share your view that the answer is a political one. I think both of the statements in your question would be seen as racist in the pejorative sense by large numbers of people. It would be instructive if you were to review the reaction to the work of the psychologist Hans Eysenk in the 1970s. This is a complex matter where the principle you are trying to establish cannot be divorced from politics and regarded as uniquely scientific. – WS2 Sep 4 '15 at 21:27
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    I concur with your opinion that the OP's search is likely futile. That no human subspecies exist may not be a reason for that, though. See, for example, Is Homo sapiens polytypic?. In that article's introduction, the point is made that while a majority of surveyed socio-cultural anthropologists agreed that humans are monotypic, a much larger percentage of biologists disagreed. In socio-political contexts, any term for the OP will be shot down. – JEL Sep 5 '15 at 4:00

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