I agree with all that you say and offer some added context. Euro-American academics like Michael Cole repeat the positivist paradigm of the Enlightenment. It is the absurd conceit that we can capture and control reality by inventing categories and labels and subsuming everything under them. The Kpelle people were thinking like pretty much all people not enthralled by the Enlightenment paradigm: making sense of things by their context and function, not by enforcing categorization.
It is that Enlightenment preoccupation with categorization that invented the fiction of race, though certainly bigotry caused by fear of difference long preceded it. And though Lewis Gordon is correct to emphasize antiblack racism, that Enlightenment obsession with categorization and relegation also categorized Irish, Italians, and Slavs as a different race, as non-whites.
Racism is a paradigm,and one manifestation of a human tendency to categorize people into superiors and inferiors. Basically, name a way humans can be differ and people will use it to put down others. All cultures do it, but the Euro-Americans are the worst offenders. There ARE other options, no matter one's shade of skin.