Bill Nye, everyone’s favorite TV scientist, has recently taken to TikTok to give us bite-sized but extremely important lessons about the way the world works. In one, he demonstrated how useful face masks are for reducing the spread of germs.
And now, he’s debunking the idea of different biological races of humans using one simple device: a map. In a single TikTok video, Bill Nye explains why the idea that there are different “races” is bogus, essentially calling out racism for being based in absolutely nothing but hate.
In the video, Bill stands by a map that depicts all the continents of the Earth. The map shows how much UV light lands in each latitude, you know, because the Earth is round and the areas near the equator are closest to the sun.
He explains that as you move away from the equator, the UV light is less intense. Makes sense, right? Unless you’re a flat-earther, I guess, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.
Then, Bill switches to the same map, except this one depicts the the levels of UV light in one color, namely, skin tone. You can see immediately that the reason that people developed different skin tones is entirely based on where they lived and the amount of UV light they were getting.
“It turns out that everybody on Earth is descended from people that live here, in Africa,” he says, pointing to a spot in the middle of the continent. “And then as groups of us move around the world, the color of our skin had to change.”
He then explains why our skin color got lighter as we moved farther away from the equator. “Our skin is where we make vitamin D,” he says. “If you don’t get enough ultraviolet, you don’t get enough vitamin D.
“But if you get too much ultraviolet, then you break down your folates. You have to have it in perfect balance. And because the ultraviolet varies, the color of our skin varies.”
“And that’s it, everybody,” he continues. “That’s why we have different colored skin. But we’re all one species. But we’re not treating each other fairly. Not everybody’s getting an even shake. So it’s time to change things.”
Amen to that. Race is only real in the social sense. We have spent thousands of years marking differences between “races” and treating people differently as a result, but nothing about racism is actually rooted in biology.
Alan Goodman writes for Sapiens, “Race is a highly flexible way in which societies lump people into groups based on appearance that is assumed to be indicative of deeper biological or cultural connections.” Assumed to be, not actually are. Supposed “biological” differences in people of different races are actually due to a combination of geographical ancestry and “systemic differences in lived experience and institutional racism.”
Bill Nye’s video isn’t just about how everyone should be nice to each other. It’s about how “race” is a social construct rather than a biological reality, a system built and perpetuated for the benefit of some groups and to the severe detriment of others, for no reason other than the desire to climb over others and create a false sense of superiority.