January 15, 2007

from the protein wisdom archives:  “There’s no such thing as race (and it’s a good thing, too)” (UPDATED)

I like to trot out this old essay for MLK day, because it affords me the opportunity to take the race / “diversity” industry—whatever its intentions, be they altruistic or self-serving—to task for its insistence on using King’s legacy as an occasion to promote its logically incoherent (though subjectively and arrogantly pragmatic) prescription for a society “properly” socially engineered by way of color distribution, a faux-scientific policy push I’ve described elsewhere as (in the strictest sense) anti-American, given its structural imperative to privilege group identity over individual autonomy.

Or something like that.  Could be I just enjoy calling my educated betters “anti-American.” Because of my well-documented reactionary tendencies.  And paste.

****

In many different contexts, people have continued to identify the Other by reference to phenotypical features (especially skin colour) which therefore serve as indicative of a significant difference.  Moreover, they have continued to use the idea of “race” to label that difference.  As a result, certain sorts of social relations are defined as “race relations,” as social relations between people of different “races.” Indeed, states legislate to regulate “race relations,” with the result that the reality of race� is apparently legitimated in law (Guillaumin 1980).  Thus the idea of “race” has continued to be used in common-sense discourse to identify the Other in many societies, but largely without the sanction of science (R. Miles, Racism, 1989, 1995).

In a widely noticed racial identity case in Louisiana, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, remarking that “the very concept of racial classification of individuals is scientifically unsupportable,” ruled that Mrs. Susie Phipps, “who had always thought she was white, had lived as white, and had twice married as white,” was not in fact white because her parents, who had provided the racial information on her birth certificate, had classified her as “colored.” “Individual racial designations are purely social and cultural perceptions,” the court said; the relevant question, then, was not whether those “subjective perceptions” correctly registered some biological fact about Phipps but whether they had been “correctly recorded” at the time the birth certificate was issued.  Since in the court’s judgment they had been, Susie Phipps and her fellow appellants remained “colored” (W. Benn Michaels, Our America:  Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism, 1995).

IN THE WAKE of the 9/11 terror attacks, many Americans felt, some of them for the very first time, a strange and welcomed emotion—a fillip of unabashed patriotic zeal.  And, seizing upon this feeling, they chose (however temporary the change, but given the extraordinary nature of the circumstances), to privilege their common national identity over the more fashionable multiculturalist mandate that it’s somehow wiser to “celebrate our differences”– a weak, bumper-sticker formulation of a much stronger ideological position (that of radical egalitarianism) that for years now has been insinuating itself into education and public policy. 

BUT IN A recent spate of news and commentary—be it pundits questioning the ethics of “racial” profiling, or the fallout over the racial makeup of a commemorative statue, or Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz’s announcement that he was taking down a portrait of George Washington (“an old white man,” as Markowitz put it) that hangs in his office to replace it with a portrait of color—we’ve been reminded yet again that we as a country are not nearly through grappling with racial issues.  And today, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our minds can’t help but (re)turn to ideas of race relations, if only to gauge how far we’ve come in the thirty-four years since Dr. King’s assasination.  As one university newspaper columnist put it, on King’s birthday, we should be doing nothing if not striving to “learn the culture behind the color.”

AND THERE’S REALLY nothing surprising in this challenge; after all, “learning the culture behind the color” merely echoes (however simplistically) the widespread challenge of many contemporary race theorists who would prefer us to think of “race” as “culture”—as a phenomenon born out of a variety of complex social convergences—and not as a product of any essential* (biological) difference.* That is, contemporary racial theory remains committed to the idea of racial identity, even as it strives to proceed without the appeal to biology that once gave racial identity its primary force. 

SO, WHAT DOES it mean to redescribe “race” as “culture”? The force behind this transition from race as something essential into race as something socially constructed is our skepticism over racial difference being somehow biologically determinable. That is, once science (in the mid-1930s) gave up the idea that black blood, say, differs from white blood, it was forced to give up the idea of essentialism that traditional racialists relied upon to separate the races (those familiar with American history are here reminded of the “one drop rule,” a legal statute committed to the idea that black blood made a difference to the intrinsic identity of the person who “carried” that blood in his/her veins).

TODAY, HOWEVER, we recognize that there is no such thing as “black blood” or “white blood,” and so in order to account for our perceivable differences—in order, that is, to continue the project of racial identification—race theorists have sought to turn the essentialist project of racial identification into the anti-essentialist project of racial construction. In short, the “racial” has become the “cultural,” and the “cultural” has become the supposedly anti-essentialist foundation for group identity.

THE QUESTION, then, is this: if “race” is now “culture,” and “culture” is an anti-essentialistic social construct, how can we account for our “differences”?  Clearly, pigmentation is not full proof; after all, many of those who think of themselves as black don’t “look black,” just as many of those who think of themselves as white may not “look white” (historically, this failure of perception to secure racial identity manifests itself in this country in the 19th and early-20th-century phenomenon of “passing”).  Which would suggest that the answer, if it is the aim to continue the project of racial identity, must rest elsewhere—with the constructionist’s notion of culture. 

BUT IF CULTURE IS DEFINED as the set of beliefs and practices adopted or performed by a specific group of people, then the idea of using “culture” as a means of determining race is equally problematic. Under such conditions, all that is required to adopt a particular racial identity is to believe in the things that “they” believe in, to practice the things that “they” practice. Which means that once we stop believing those beliefs or practicing those practices, we’ve ceased to belong to that culture, ceased to belong to that race.

BUT SURELY shedding your racial identity can’t be as simple as removing a hat—which means that something else must underlie claims for racial identity, something other than either the essentialist’s appeal to biology or the anti-essentialist’s appeal to practices and beliefs. This “something else” or “something other,” the argument goes, is “heritage”—defined as a cultural tradition or body of knowledge handed down from prior generations.

AS WITH “culture,” however, staking racial identity claims on heritage proves just as delicate and dubious a maneuver. Because a cultural tradition or body of knowledge can be handed down, presumably, to anybody (through education, for instance), then the real claim offered here is that the particular heritage in question must already somehow belong to the person who receives it if indeed it is to count, in a meaningful way, as her/his heritage. Which is only to say that in order to know which heritage is yours, you must first know who you are.

BUT WHAT IS IT that allows you to know who you are, and so to decide which history—which heritage—is yours? If, for instance, you are a black child adopted into a white family, what is it that makes you “black”? If the answer is heritage, then your identity presumably depends upon which heritage your adopted parents choose to teach you, or which you choose, ultimately, to teach yourself. But how does your learning your black heritage (assuming this is what you choose to do) count as your having learned your “true” heritage? That is, what is it that makes a particular heritage yours to learn to begin with?

ONE ANSWER commonly offered by race and identity theorists is the idea of group “memory”—the charge being that to “remember” a particular past, rather than simply to learn about a particular past, is what makes that past your past. But how do you go about “remembering” something you’ve never actually experienced?  That is, how do your “memories” of a non-experienced past come to count as memories at all?  And more importantly, what is it that differentiates your “memories” of a particular past from someone else’s “knowledge” of a particular past?  Can a young Jewish boy really “remember” the Holocaust any better than a ninety-year old German woman who worked around the camps?  Can a young black girl really “remember” slavery?  (Do modern-day Texans really “remember” the Alamo?) Or is what’s happening here simply a matter of your remembering having learned a pre-chosen history in order to claim it as your own?

THE POINT of all this being that to think of race as somehow socially constructed is to think of race, ultimately, as something essentially essential. Because what makes your memories yours, what makes your heritage yours, and what makes your culture yours is your insistence, ultimately, that it is yours by right, yours by birth, yours by essence. And so race, as it turns out, is either an essence or an illusion. Those who believe race to be an essence (say, the KKK, who base their ideas on bad science) have no need for a project of qualifying race as a social construct; and those who believe race to be non-essential have no grounds, theoretically, for promoting racial identity other than that same bad science (which, it turns out, underlies the constructivist argument), or else their social concern that we somehow need to continue the project of racial identity, for whatever the political reasons.

AND PERHAPS they are right. But maybe it’s time to seize on the lessons learned in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks; that is, maybe it’s time we put aside our differences in order to construct a singular American identity. After all, we are each individuals, which is what makes us, ultimately, a nation.

*written in commemoration of MLK Day and posted January 2002

****

update:  A few commenters have questioned the notion that there is no scientific evidence for “race,” noting that allele distribution, etc., supplies the data for a scientific exploration of racial categorization, and rehabilitates “race” from the perspective of the hard sciences. 

But there is a problem with such assertions, which tend to redefine race for the express purpose of saving it as a category.  In this way, they are no different than the social constructionists I discuss in the essay proper, who likewise try to empty race of its signification in order to bend it to their will.

What follows is my response to Steve Sailer, whom I debated on this very question several years back:

****

A few days back, I engaged in an extended set of debates with several interested parties on the idea of race—the back and forth of which prompted Steve Sailer, founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute, to pass along the link to his speech, delivered in abridged form at the Reagan Library on July 17, 2002. 

The occasion and purpose of Mr. Sailer’s speech I’ll let him describe:

For the last two summers, University of California’s Ward Connerly, leader of the successful 1996 Proposition 209 campaign outlawing racial preferences in California and the 2004 Racial Privacy Initiative, has hosted a small but wide-ranging conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. This year, he asked Boston U. anthropologist Peter Wood, author of the upcoming book Diversity: A Biography of a Concept, and I to debate the fundamental question of whether race is a biologically meaningful concept. This provided me with a wonderful opportunity to outline my approach at adequate length before a distinguished audience.

Sailer’s idea involves redefining the term “race” in order to account for the actual DNA-level differences population geneticists use to distinguish between hereditary groups.  Sailer defines race this way:  “A racial group is an extended family that is inbred to some degree.”

In this regard, Sailer’s idea of racial categorization is similar in theory to Dr. Neil Risch’s “crude” (as Sailer characterizes it) top-down continental-scale taxonomy – the difference being that Mr. Sailer’s approach relies on a “bottom-up” model, which he describes this way:  “the bottom-up approach simply eliminates any compulsion to draw arbitrary lines regarding whether a difference is big enough to be racial. With enough inbreeding, hereditary differences will emerge that will first be recognizable to the geneticist, then to the physical anthropologist, and finally to the average person.”

Below is my response to Mr. Sailer, which I sent him via email:

Steve--

Thanks for providing the link to your presentation, ‘It’s All Relative: Putting Race in its Proper Perspective,’ in the comments section of my weblog.

A few notes in response to your piece, if I may.

First, you write:

My definition of race offers that kind of conceptual power that allows us to [think through ways to resolve conflict] for a host of other [racial] issues.

What practical steps are implied by this family-based definition of race?

First, if race is a natural, omnipresent potential fault line in human affairs, that suggests to me that we Americans should be extremely wary of using the vast power of the government to exacerbate the natural divisiveness of race by officially classifying people by race.

I agree with this, and I’ve said as much in my comments, which is precisely why I take the position that “race” (as we conceive of it in the U.S.) is problematic, and that government-sponsored social programs that rely on faulty ideas of “race” are divisive and counterproductive; whereas forging a national identity (which is “real” in the sense that citizenship is a legal category—not so slippery as “race") is a more socially beneficial identity goal—provided we continue as a society to find workable ways to account for the most unfortunate of our citizens.

Where I think we disagree is on the need to save the term “race” itself.  You define race this way: “A racial group is an extended family that is inbred to some degree.”

Later on you write:

Various euphemisms have been tried without much success. For example, the geneticists, such as the distinguished Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford, who study what the normal person would call ‘race,’ don’t call themselves ‘racial geneticists.’ Instead, they blandly label themselves ‘population geneticists.’

That allows them at least sometimes to sneak their research projects by under the radar of the politically correct. But it’s important to realize that they are not using ‘population’ in the non-racial sense of phrases like ‘California’s population’ or ‘UCLA’s student population,’ but in the specific sense of ‘hereditary populations’ such as the Japanese or the Icelanders or the Navajo.

Among all the different kinds of ‘populations,’ the only ones population geneticists study are the ones whose members tend to share genes because they tend to share genealogies.

That’s what I’d call a ‘racial group.’ But, if you don’t like the word ‘race,’ well, maybe we should just hire one of those firms that invent snazzy new names like ‘Exxon’ for unfashionable old corporations like Standard Oil, and then hire an ad agency to publicize this new name for ‘race.’

This last is (I think) an unfortunatly glib dismissal of the crux of the argument being made by many of us who take the “no such thing as race” track.  That is, if most of us in the US use “race” to mean something other (and opposed) to the definition of race you are offering (you note:  “The way most Americans currently think about race tends to fall in between rigor and absurdity. The consensus American view is full of contradictions, obsolete ideas, and fantasies"), then what purpose does it serve to maintain the category “race” to begin with?—as opposed to, say, “hereditary genetics”?  Not as catchy as Exxon, perhaps—but also thankfully emptied of the kind of baggage “race” carries with it.  PoMo theorists have done much of the work by emptying the concept of “race” (as it’s been used legally in the history of US jurisprudence) of its (mostly faulty or overbroad) essentialist freight.  Why reivigorate it by applying new signification ("an extended family that is inbred to some degree") to the signifier?

The reason I argue (academically) that race doesn’t exist is because “race” as you use the term—distinguishable by genetic patterns evident among members of extended, inbred families—is not a description available to most people who are seeking to lay claim to a particular “racial” identity.  And that is because most people, obviously, aren’t privy to the significance of the mapping in their genetic makeup.  Instead, they rely on a kind of hodgepodge of signifiers—from geographical heritage (my Dad is Irish), to verbal history (my great great great Grandmother on my Mother’s side was Native American—at least, that’s how the story goes), to visible iconic signifiers (nappy hair, eyelid fat, skin color). 

And so the question becomes this:  if “race” is not what we think it is, why should something we don’t think race to be come to count as “race” at all?  As I mentioned in my several posts, I’m not denying genetic patterns or similarities uncovered by population geneticists—just as I wouldn’t think to deny obvious, Richard Pryor-esque signs pointing to a tenuous type of suggested kinship.  But why must we use an outmoded and overdetermined signifier such as “race” when “hereditary genetics” or “extended-bred family” would do just fine, and is a more precise description of what the science itself is purporting to study?  Your answer seems to be that it would take time and an especially gifted and motivated PR firm to cause such terms to catch on, whereas “race” is conveniently available, having been stripped of it’s most disagreeable connotations.

My point is, that to rid ourselves of the social artifice we’ve built around our long-running misunderstanding of the term race, we’re best off ridding ourselves of the term itself (as a scientific category)—particularly because there’s no essential connection between the term “race” and the idea of “hereditary population genetics.” Ridding ourselves of the old category doesn’t somehow make actual genetic histories disappear; what it does do, though, is diminishes the power of the social/governmental “race” industry so active—and so often divisive, to my way of thinking—in our country.

Best,

Jeff G.

****

update:  my reply to Jill at Feministe can be found here.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 4:26pm
83 comments | Trackback

Comments (83)

  1. Glad you’re back, Jeff.

  2. REMEMBER THE MAINE!!!!

    You are right about the exhortaions to “remember”… what is being “remembered” is dependent on who is asking the hearer to remember. When I am told to “remember Vietnam” I think of quite different things than what, say, Senator Kennedy wants me to think about.

    But I am still a big fan of “never to forgive, never to forget” in response to the Holocuast.

  3. Welcome back, Jeff.

    In the whole the personal is the political realm, the social construct of “race” and “identity” are dragged—not to understand them as mere social constructs that need to be transcended, but as authenticating talismans. We just witnessed this with the Boxer/Rice tangle and all manner of “hang ‘em” reactions to the Duke rape-hoax debacle.

  4. If my kids “remember” Hiroshima (their grandparents were there), do they get money?  Maybe scholarships?  A hat?  It’s seared in their memories, I’m sure. 

    I’m not in favor of victimhood, but this is a household with two working adults, so we don’t need any student aid.  Or so the schools say.

    Sorry kids, I guess not.  There goes your inheritance. 

    We’ll settle for being Americans.

  5. Yeah. I was just IMing with Gerard VanderLeun and it occurred to me, suddenly, that portions of this essay (which were originally published in the University newspaper) are nearly a decade old and—quite sadly—still hold up.

  6. It’s good to have you back, Jeff!

    I’m going to use this argument during my orals. I can’t wait to see the looks they make.

  7. MarkD

    I hear you. I come from a slave legacy, but the victo-crats aren’t exactly lining up to hand “free” money to my daughters of pallor.

    (I had cross-posted that entry here as a guest blogger, but the archives aren’t showing up past last december)

  8. Or is what’s happening here simply a matter of your remembering having learned a pre-chosen history in order to claim it as your own?

    Or, even worse, learning false history, taking that on as your own, and resulting in black rage.

  9. I made a MLK day faux pas; I posted today about how horrible (black) politics are in Detroit. But, you know, the truth shall set you free.

  10. Goldstein:

    I’m dark with nappy hair.  I am black.  Other people see me as black.  Your essay only applies to the very small percentage of people who are ethnically black but light skinned.  Nice use of capital letters, though.

  11. I am sick and tired of the “things are just as bad as they used to be” commentary from various sources concerning racial issues in this country.

    We HAVE come a long way. 60 years ago blacks were being lynched in the south. If this happened today, I can’t even begin to imagine the backlash that would result. This is not to say “it’s all better now” by any means, but I think it’s ridiculous to state that we haven’t made some serious progress in this department.

    I can’t remember which book I read this in, but there was a book about America written by an Indian immigrant a few years ago and he wrote about racism in the US. One particular point he made was that the thing that seemed to differentiate the US from other countries was not that we had slavery issues to deal with -every country has had them, or in the case of some countries, still have them- and we not only fought a war over this issue, but the US is not afraid to expose these shortcomings, warts and all, in front of every TV camera and newspaper available. We have nothing to hide, thus we reap enormous amounts of criticism. However, because we expose these issues to the light, we have a better chance of correcting the problems.

    Racism is no doubt still a major problem affecting the US. But we now have black people scolding the younger black generations for blaming “the man” instead of getting a damn job and not having eight kids with four different mothers. Indeed, some even make the argument that in the efforts to level the playing field, it got tipped too far in the wrong direction.

    I think we have made tremendous progress in regards to where we were 60 years ago. The fundamental problems remain, but there has been more positive change than most people want to admit. 60 years ago there wasn’t an Oprah or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

    That and pie.

  12. “But we now have black people scolding the younger black generations for blaming “the man” instead of getting a damn job and not having eight kids with four different mothers.”

    And the real reason for publishing this essay on MLK day comes thorugh.  Nice website you have, I think you’re missing the KKK links on the sidebar.

  13. Black,

    Does Bill Cosby not speak for you?

  14. And the real reason for publishing this essay on MLK day comes thorugh.  Nice website you have, I think you’re missing the KKK links on the sidebar.

    Several things, Black.

    First off, you are asserting that my reason for publishing this essay on MLK Day comes as the result of a comment made by someone other than me after the fact—in this case, nearly a decade after the fact.

    Second, the fact that you have nappy hair and dark skin makes you Black.  Unless you happen to be Arabic.  Or Israeli.  Or Art Garfunkle after a week in the Bahamas.

    Third, that my essay only applies to a very small percentage is precisely the point, because it is that small percentage who would need be jettisoned under your definition of racial determination.

    Go on, tell them they aren’t Black because they don’t look like you.

    Or better, explain to them how they are just as black as you believe yourself to be.  Why is that?  Because they feel black?  Because they’ve been taught that they are black? 

    Read the blurb about Susie Phipps again.  Then get back to me.

    Or don’t. Calling someone a racist and relying on the moral authority of your skin color is so much easier than thinking.  Unfortunately for you, I’m not easily shamed.

  15. OOOHHH, a decade after the fact.

    I QUESTION THE TIMING!!!

  16. Here’s why race=culture is important.  Rowan Atkinson, discussing a proposed UK law against criticising religions, said

    To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom.

    The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.

    A law which attempts to say you can criticise and ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed.

    I bring this into the mix because religion is part of culture.  It’s the ‘software’, rather than the ‘hardware’.  And with people calling Bill Clinton ‘the first black president’, and insisting that Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice (or even Bill Cosby) aren’t ‘really black’, it seems that ‘blackness’ is indeed being defined not as hardware, but as software.

    The folks like Cosby seem to be trying to debug that software, but the mutation of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ in the hands of post-modern leftists has come to this:

    No culture is better than any other culture, and there are no objective standards for good or evil, except for Western Civilization, which, having been created by Dead White Guys, is by definition evil.  Attacking a(ny other) culture is racist, and people who diverge from the culture to which they are assigned are race traitors, no better than White Guys.

    Therefore, the defenders of Western Civilization, or any portion thereof, are racists.

    Now, to me, assigning people to a particular culture based on what they look like sounds awfully racist.  But I’m a White Heterosexual Anglophone Male (WHAM), and therefore a racist myself; my opinion is irrelevant.

  17. Black, you should read some Bill Whittle and then think.

    I, for one, believe you can do it, even with nappy hair. What say you? And what do you say about a 70% out of wedlock black birth rate? Is that unmentionable? Whitey’s fault? A failing? The elephant in the living room? Virtual reality? The logical result of victim politics run amok? What is it?

    tw: bad71

    Yeah, I know.

  18. Wake me up before you go-go!

  19. I am 6’5” and I have big feet and big hands.  My hair has some body to it and, when highlighted, looks pretty damn good, IIDSSM.

    I am sick and tired of people pointing at me saying things like “Dayumm!!! That dude must get all the hot ass!!!” or “Dude, that is my shit!!  That shit is tight!!” or “Look at the size of his hands!  His johnson must be freakishly enormous, but in a good way!”

    TALK TO ME!!  I’M A PERSON TOO!!

  20. Sorry,

    thought this was the “multicultural singles looking for like-minded connections” blog. 

    You may delete.

  21. Bill Cosby is an entertainer.  Does Brad Pitt apeak for you?

    Jeff, this essay puts the burden on black people to forgo the identity that white people have placed on them for four hundred years.  You first.

    Are you really saying that there is no difference between a tan guy with a Jew-fro and Wesley Snipes?  There are differences that are evident, and ased on these differences, the two are treated differently.

  22. Pablo, there are problems within the black community.  But, can we get one day, on MLK day, where we’re not all accused of being fatherless crack heads.  Just one day out of 365 where we can celebrate an American hero.  On President’s day, do we have to talk about Jefferson’s salve ownership, or the fact that Washington had pockmarks on his face?

  23. Race is a set of cultural practices that supervenes on phenotype (as a matter of contingent fact).  It appears, phenomenologically, to be essentialist (because of the depth of culture), but it isn’t.

  24. Black,

    So when Bill Cosby says it, it’s an entertainer- we can ignore the message. What about other conservative black people?

    How about Raynard Jackson-

    In the Black community there is always talk about how White people have mis educated us in order to keep us in mental slavery. But at what point do we take responsibility for ourselves?

    Nationwide, only 68% of all students graduate from high school (this does not include those who earn a GED). Among White students, the rate is 75% and around 50% for Black, Latino, and Native Americans. The rates are even lower when you isolate males from these three groups – the rates are 48%, 47%, and 43% respectively.

    Why are these numbers so low? Bush’s No Child

    Left Behind law is not the problem. Money is not the problem, and it’s definitely not racism. The problem in the U.S. is “us.”

    http://www.blackconservative.net/TakingCareofOurselvesRJackson.html

    What about Ward Connerly? Sean Turner?

    I could go on, since you aren’t aware of these voices.

    And when Brad Pitt is talking about how to score insanely hot chicks, then I will listen.

  25. But I’m a White Heterosexual Anglophone Male (WHAM), and therefore a racist myself; my opinion is irrelevant.

    Might I suggest that your opinion isn’t irrelevant because it’s racist; it’s irrelevant because it’s poorly thought.

  26. Is it written somewhere that all blacks are not fatherless crack-heads?  Cuz, I’m gonna need some proof, yo.

  27. Jews can’t hit a curveball, BTW.

  28. Come to think of it, during my whole career, I don’t think I ever sacked a Jew.

  29. Jeff:

    Actually, there is such a thing as Black blood and White blood. There are also Yellow blood, Red blood, Khoi blood, and Negrito blood. (Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a color to assign to khoi or Negritos, because I ran out of colors that apply. Maybe someone else can come up with a catchy color combo to describe them, like Mustard and Ink.) DNA doesn’t lie, and anybody who thinks the physical differences between races don’t exist is either blind, mentally retarded, or brainwashed. Allele frequency distribution is a genetic reality.

    The different races are the product of environmental adaption and good old fashioned fucking. Anyone who thinks people were created by cultures instead of the other way around is a hopeless moron.

    The notion that different races in America have different cultures is absurd. Hell, the notion that anyone holds homogeneous beliefs and cultural traits based on race is absurd. Just ask Michael Jackson or Eminem. Ward Churchill thinks he’s an Indian brave, instead of the brave sucker he obviously is.

    The American fixation on Black and White is self destructve and aimed at procuring special advantages for Blacks. White guilt is the result of a racist propaganda pogrom against Whitey.

    There are more so called “Hispanics/Latinos/Chicanos” in America than there are Blacks. Sure, “Hispanics” (the Spanish word for Spanish,) aren’t a separate race, but identity politics don’t follow logic. Women are considered oppressed minorities despite the fact that theyr’e clearly an oppressive majority.

    There are more Yellow people globally than any other people. Why aren’t they afforded their due on the altar of political correctness?

    Your article is great, but races exist whether you acknowledge them or not.

  30. Skin color means nothing!  Why just in the last few months or years me and Ange adopted and little black baby and a chinese toddler who was born with his HEART ON THE OUTSIDE!

  31. But, can we get one day, on MLK day, where we’re not all accused of being fatherless crack heads.  Just one day out of 365 where we can celebrate an American hero.  On President’s day, do we have to talk about Jefferson’s salve ownership, or the fact that Washington had pockmarks on his face?

    ***

    “Presidents Day” is the vehicle by which we now avoid talking about Washington or Lincoln.  Jefferson was not part of the original holiday (and, afaik, didn’t need any salve).  Meanwhile, schools named for Washington and Jefferson are being renamed. And kids spend Columbus Day learning about what a genocidal imperialist he was.

    You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history. —Morgan Freeman, another effing entertainer.

  32. “Black”:

    You aren’t Black, and you aren’t capable of contributing a worthwhile comment. You’re a fraud and a buffoon.

    FUCK OFF.

  33. But, can we get one day, on MLK day, where we’re not all accused of being fatherless crack heads.

    Who said you were a fatherless crackhead? Juan Williams isn’t a fatherless crackhead. MLK was not a fatherless crackhead. And for the record, fatherlessness isn’t something one chooses, it is thrust upon you.

    Being black doesn’t mean MLK is yours any more than being whitish makes George Washington mine, much to my dismay.

    Did you notice what MLK actually said?

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    He wasn’t looking for Negro Pride Day. His thinking was much deeper than that, and yet also just skin deep, as in: it doesn’t matter what color your skin is. You completely miss what ought to be the point of the exercise we call MLK day.

  34. (and, afaik, didn’t need any salve)

    Looks like someone hasn’t read The Jefferson I Know by Dr. Howard Kenny Stickfurther.  Chapter 5, Sores and Lesions goes into great detail on Jeffersons vast collection of salves and unguances.  A great read and fine gift for any history buff FTM.

  35. Jeff B.

    DNA doesn’t lie, and anybody who thinks the physical differences between races

    FULLSTOP. No one, no one here is saying that DNA or physical differences do not exist.

    But what has melanin level got a THING to do with talent, cognitive abilities or moral character?

    When someone says “Well, you know about those Blacks, they are [fill in positive or negative trait of choice]” they are engaging classic RACISM which is a social construct that assigns individual characteristics to whole groups based on a physical appearance.

    The difference between the “White” race (which now supposedly includes Spainards, Italians and other Mediterranean peoples who were rejected as inferior races only a little over 100 years ago) and the “Black” race is of no more importance than the differences between the Murphy family—kinky red-haired, blue eyed, freckled, tend to near sightedness and high blood pressure—and the Liberati family—straight black hair, olive skin, brown eyed, tend to short stature.

    Once one gets past that, what you have is family histories and traditions in the macro… AKA CULTURE.

    “Race” is a myth. What “race” is Tiger Woods? What “race” will his child be?

  36. Still Darleen,

    If Larry Bird was white, he would’ve been just another ball player.

  37. Jeff B. —

    You write:

    Actually, there is such a thing as Black blood and White blood. There are also Yellow blood, Red blood, Khoi blood, and Negrito blood. (Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a color to assign to khoi or Negritos, because I ran out of colors that apply. Maybe someone else can come up with a catchy color combo to describe them, like Mustard and Ink.) DNA doesn’t lie, and anybody who thinks the physical differences between races don’t exist is either blind, mentally retarded, or brainwashed. Allele frequency distribution is a genetic reality.

    If you follow back through some of the links you’ll find I had the discussion on allele distribution (or something similar) with Steve Sailer (and others), when I debated him on this topic.

    It’s fairly involved, but I think it addresses some of the points you raise.

    Black —

    I’m suggesting that the best way to proceed as a culture is to finally trivialize the importance of “race” by noting its logical incoherence when thought of as socially constructed, and its scientific shortcomings when considered merely by genetic information.  I don’t expect anyone to give up their identity, if it is indeed the identity marker they wish to latch onto. 

    But I also don’t like to see phantoms such as “race” driving public policy and causing riffs.  I’m working toward a method of argument that would have us fix problems, in my estimation, rather than continue to stoke grievances.

  38. JeffG

    Sailer defines race this way: “A racial group is an extended family that is inbred to some degree.”

    Whoa. I hadn’t read that before my familial comparison example above.

  39. When I get a chance I might append Jeff B’s comment and my earlier exchange with Sailer in an update so that people have the full idea of what is being discussed here.

    I’m amused at the trolls who’ve casually suggested that the post is somehow racist.  They don’t realize just how far they go in making my case for me—albeit in a way they are evidently too dull to fathom.

  40. Are you really saying that there is no difference between a tan guy with a Jew-fro and Wesley Snipes?  There are differences that are evident, and {b}ased on these differences, the two are treated differently.

    I think that what Black is saying is that if society perceives you as black, you will be treated one way (as a black), whereas if you are perceived as not black you will not be treated that way.

    IOW, race is a construct that is imposed upon you by others, not something essential or constructed in your own mind.

    That’s a perfectly good observation from empiricism. However, the universities are crammed full of people who have turned the issue of race into 29 flavors of crap, and that’s what Jeff is responding to. Not the fact that people treat you differently based on how they perceive you.

  41. since ace’s is unupdated, I’ll give you some grief, Jeff.

    “Race as a social construct” is postmodernist bunk, through and through.  Either pomo is crap or it’s not, and the “social construct” paradigm is part and parcel of the pomo experiment.

    Race does exist, and there are specifically attibutable traits that correspond to general genetic phenotypes.  All “races” have attributes that can be, again, generally attributable to the “race,” insofar as the base phenotype shows a preference for those attributes.  Now, one can always find , say, an east Asiian who is built like the monster dude from Bloodsport, and you can find any number of Africans who have little kinsthetic sense (i.e. poor athletes) but the clustering of mental and physical prowess (and the converse) should be no more shocking than the prevalence of red hair among the Irish.  Does that mean every mic has a carrot top?  No.  Does that mean any redhead you’re likely to meet is an Irishman.  Controlling for other populations that share red hair, sure it does.

    So too with German penchant for orderly systems or the Jewish gift for language arts.  Doesn’t mean no other population exhibits those qualities, it simply means they are more prevalent in certain “races.”

    As for the non-sequitur that there are “mixed race” and unclassifiable individuals, the proper response is that to all non-sequiturs.  So what?  Tiger Woods’ proclivity for gold isn’t DEPENDENT on his “blackness” (or his “asianness&#8217wink, nor does any exhibition of prowess by any one person illustrate a specifically racially attributable trait.

    But when you have a large portion of of an industry or field of human endeavor dominated by a group of humans that share a common ancestry (even if many, many other ancestries are also represeted), it is the height of folly to fail to acknowledge reality.

    Shit, while you’re at it, you miht as well dress your boy in frilly dresses until he’s 8 and see if gender is just a “construct” too.

  42. I don’t buy the race is a construct bit, hobgoblin.  In fact, this post is intended to deconstruct that notion. My point is that for race theorists wishing to rehabilitate race as a taxonomy without appealing to the junk science of the past, they are ultimately relying, at base, on that same junk science.

    As for allele distributions and the like being used as “race,” please see here.  I’m going to post this in an update, but first I have to eat lunch and drain my ear.

  43. hobogoblin

    all notion of “race” in regards to science/genes/disease distribution should begin and end there.

    “Race” has nothing to do with a perchant for “orderly” systems, music composition, etc. Those are the result of culture. Culture is passed on via families/community/society as genes are, but it is coincidental not causal.

    Take any two groups (say of 20 each) of five year olds … one group steep in music, have them learn a musical instrument from day one, read music, work on composition…do that for ten solid years. The second group use the same focus but put it into a particular sport…say swimming. Hours and hours of practice, games, techniques, learning and celebrating the culture of the sport. Ten years for them also.

    You will find “clusters” in each group highly skilled in the targeted activity. Make these groups “families” and give the specific focus a few generations and suddenly you suddenly have “Jews with a talent to be great CPA’s” or “Asians with a talent to be great doctors”

    A ‘black’ man and a ‘white’ man have a lot more incommon than any man and any woman. Sex is a biological reality.

    So a boy raised as a girl is going to have problems* having nothing to do with color of eyes or skin or texture of hair. “Frilly” dresses mean “girl” in western culture. Wigs, eye makeup, jewelry and flowing gowns were “manly” in ancient Egypt.

    Recognizing familial heredity and its usefullness in science is one thing, use of “race” to categorize an increasingly mixed “race” population for political purposes is unseemly in the least.

  44. alppuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. deconstructing the deconstruction. (a bit too clever by far for a blog post)

    Clever, Goldstein.  Like all “you people” so often are.

    Enjoy your draining.

    But I still have to wonder at the header.  Re-reading the post, it seems like you’re denying the existence of race itself.  And while I read your earlier post you linked to about the idea of genetic race as inbred extended families (Kentucian is a race! ) I still have to say that the “there is no race” answer to the “race is culture” idea still seems inadequate.  In fact, the very existence of Thomas Sowell and Eminem is a refutationof the “race = culture” idea. 

    The reason I see this inadequacy is the same reason I can’t follow the pomos.  Denial of perceptible reality cannot a coherent theory make.  In other words, where the theory doesn’t correspond to observable reality, the theory must get jettisoned.

    Given the predominance of certain ethnic groups in certain fields of human life, it’s not possible to agree with “race is a myth” as a valid hypothesis.  Now, while the hoary notions of “blacks” as mindless drudges only fit for the fields were obviously based on racial slanders to maintain supremacy, that shouldn’t cloud the fact that at least in America, after centuries of unofficial eugenic programs on the African genetic code by slavemasters, blacks tend to be more physically adept in many contexts.  It’s a quality that is certainly transferrable to a mixed “race” child (and therefore encompassed in “humanity”) but a prevalence of any particular quality among a specific what-I’ll-call “tribe” (to avoid the use of the term under debate) is a part of the human condition.  We should at least recognize that stereotypes are efficient (useful in certain contexts) enough to exist over centuries.  Really, not many East Indian basketballers out there. 

    What am I missing?

  46. “Race” has nothing to do with a perchant for “orderly” systems, music composition, etc. Those are the result of culture.

    Darleen:

    I disagree.  While the singular of data isn’t anecdote, I have experienced far too many instances of people NOT raised in a particularly ethnicly-centered environment still doing very stereotypically ethnic things.

    Culture answers much, bot not all.  I believe strengths, proclivities, tendencies, aptitudes, call them what you will, are indeed present in genetic structures.  As some of those structures are shared along tribal or racial phenotypes, one sees a general aptitude in the population of the given phenotype. 

    THe difference in teh case of African-American athletics is the result of human interference, I believe, but the basic theory plays out very well in my persoanl real world observations of genetically homogenous population groups. 

    I’m fine that you think everything’s cultural.  I just think that you are wrong.  But just as intellectual aptitude is a genetic trait, I think many other aptitudes are as well, and the concentration of genetic profiles among ethnically inbred groups (i.e. a “race”) would by logic suggest a concentration of aptitudes in that race.

  47. What’s up Maybee?  How are all those tiny little Japanese people?

    ……..oops.

  48. I mean MayBee, of course.

  49. How are all those tiny little Japanese people?

    They have a racial proclivity for Kabuki theater, which I actually watched and liked so I think I may be gaining a little japanese race myself.

    They also gawk at me on the subway.

    This summer, an American (minority) friend asked me if I am beginning to learn how it feels to be a minority.

  50. I am denying the existence of “race” as it has been commonly understood—though I of course don’t deny the existence of hereditary differences between peoples separated over geographical space. Here’s the problem, though:  race is not blood-specific in the sense that we have traditionally broken it down (the blood of west african blacks can differ significantly from, say, Haitians—yet both are considered “Black” from a commonly used racial taxonomy), so as a way to categorize, it is practically useless scientifically, and it is incoherent when not tied to an essentialist project.

    Not only that, but the term itself is loaded with cultural freight.  So I think it a mistake to rehabilitate the term when more appropriate terms like “hereditary genetics” better describe the actual field of scientific inquiry (and eschew the easy conflations of traditional “racial” designations).

  51. Color, racism, and culture are all human constructs that were/are created by individuals, gangs, groups, tribes, clans, nations et al.,that seeks to define who we are in relation to who we “perceive” others to be.

    Unfortunately color definitions as defined by and through a european/white mindset and the resulting racism borne from a sense of cultural superiority within that mindset has led us to the marginalization of people and cultures of color.

    I won’t belabor why european/white racism exists.(See my blog for that) However as long as it does, Dr. King’s dream will never be realized. Because as long as institutional racism exists, the potential of the the rich and fragrant potpourri of the cultures that exist in her will never be fully appreciated or allowed to exist in true liberty or freedom.

  52. Lots of assertion with very little to back it up, Heru.

    Personally, I don’t accept your terms.  First off, I don’t believe color definitions are defined by and through a “european/white mindset”—though it is certainly true this was the case in the past.

    But now, such white, european mindsets as mine are seeking to re-define race.  Does that make me an inauthentic “white/european” thinker?  Am I a traitor to Enlightenment values?  Or is it rather more true that I serve as a reproach to your sweeping generalization. 

    I also don’t believe that institutional racism is pervasive; and so I’m hard-pressed to believe that “the rich and fragrant potpourri of the cultures…will never be fully appreciated or allowed to exist in true liberty or freedom” <i>as a result of any kind of institutionalized racism.

    Instead, I think it far more likely that the continued desire to assert pervasive institutionalized racism where none exists is what is causing the remaining racial tensions, at least here in this country.

    Are there pure bigots and racists?  Certainly.  But they are relegated to society’s fringe (unless they turn disguise their bigotry as “anti-Zionism,” in which case they are lauded).  So it follows, from my thesis, at least, that chief cause of racial strife in the US is our willingness to constantly foreground racial strife, and to blame that racial strife on institutionalized racism borne of european/white racism that is somehow systemically self-propagating.

  53. My sister and I, both third generation Americans, have an ongoing debate. We discuss what the correct answer is to the question, “What are you?”

    My sister feels the correct answer is Mexican, because we were born with a Spanish surname, our great grandparents were born in Mexico and because her skin tone is cinnamon brown.

    I feel the correct answer is American, because I was born in California, I speak English, and I think the best football team in the world is the Washington Redskins.

    My blood type O positive, not Mexican. My heritage is thoroughly and unabashedly American.

  54. That makes the point more concretely, Simple Voice:  you and your sister have differing ideas of your “heritage,” because heritage is fluid and, unless used to “prove” a pre-existing belief in personal ontology, is not at all empirical.

    Whereas being “American” is about citizenship, a legally established identifier with rules governing its usage.

  55. …led us to the marginalization of people and cultures of color.

    Because as long as institutional racism exists, the potential of the the rich and fragrant potpourri of the cultures that exist in her will never be fully appreciated or allowed to exist in true liberty or freedom.

    I see another different set of arguments against this transparently invalid thesis than our host does.

    American culture by and large is still a melting pot despite the increasing cultural isolation of certain ethnic groups, and the amount of mixing among those groups that do not choose isolation is increasing with the increasing interconnectedness of American society.

    One of the best points of American culture is that it does not seek to preserve itself in stasis.  It instead chooses to evolve by taking what works from other cultures, driven by immigrants to the country.  But that ability to adapt American culture comes with a price; in order to change American culture, you have to take the risk that you will instead be changed by it in turn.

    Those cultures that are marginalized in American life are those that have sought to preserve themselves independantly of American culture as a whole.  They have marginalized themselves because the cultural product they produce is maintained in stasis and thus cannot compete on an even level with that produced by the collective cultural effort that is American culture.

    As one can clearly see from the recent discussions on this blog on race, in progressive parlance asian immigrants to the US have gone from oppressed to oppressor.  Like several notable bloggers, I have an interest in particular geeky products of Asian culture.  I have seen the fanbase grow in number and in diversity as technological improvements make it more accessable to the American people.  I have seen comparable American products change and adapt to take advantage of the lessons learned from foreign competion.  And my interest in something that is culturally distinctly Japanese does not make me any less an American, either nationally or culturally, just as preferring baseball to kendo doesn’t make a Japanese national any less Japanese.

  56. Morgan Freeman can tell us we don’t do it right, but why doesn’t he want us to kiss his ass?  When we were criticizing, our opinion meant the world.  The comments about “black/white blood” remind me that the doc who organized blood types, thus made transfusion practicable, was an African American doctor.  Never thought of these issues as motivating him to get through that mathematical system.

  57. Jeff:

    The actual field of scientific inquiry that deals with race is called population genetics, and it’s fairly interesting.

    Race is the product of different isolated populations breeding, and physical adaptions to climates–usually hot ones or cold ones. Physical adaptions are passed down through generations.

    For instance, many different groups of people living in equatorial areas have similar adaptions to the hot climate. Blacks, Australian Aborigines and Melaneisians all have dark skin and curly to kinky hair. Many Melanesians are physically indistinguishable from African Blacks. (I read a story about a guy from Africa who jumped ship in the Solomon Islands and lived there for years. The authorities determined he was a foreigner by listening to him speak. He looked like a native solomon Islander, and the natives are not Negroes.) The dark skin and kinky hair helps to protect the body from extreme heat.

    Eskimos have developed shorter and thicker limbs than most other groups because that trait helps the body retain heat in cold climes. Lighter skin and hair helped Whites during the Ice Age to maximize the low levels of ultraviolet radiation and produce the vitamin E necessary for healthy skin.

    Human beings aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom subject to different physical adaptions among members of the same species. Grizzly bears are different from kodiak bears, asian lions are different from african lions, etc. Most of the finches on the Galapagos islands evolved from a common ancestor.

    Race is a reality, but genetic populations are not static. They change, and the quickest cause of change is the influx of new genes from different populations (races.) For example, my kids are half White and half ethnic Malay, so a great deal of change occurred in a single generation. (And yes, they are the best looking boys in the world. It’s one of the few things my wife and I can agree on.)

    I agree that racial classifications are usually used destructively, but that isn’t always the case. Law enforcement agencies need racial classifications to decribe suspects. Imagine if a criminal couldn’t be described by race. Race is usually a readily definable aspect of appearance. It’s much more efficient to use terms like White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic than it is to describe skin tone, eye shape, etc. America isn’t going to be able to ditch racial terms anytime soon.

    There are obvious and undeniable differences between races, but only leftists and other racists assume differences denote inferiority and superiority. That’s why leftists try to deny racial differences, and supremacists exaggerate them. Lefties don’t want any group (especially the much maligned White male,)to outperform other groups and supremacists point to performance as justification of their bigotry.

  58. Darlin’”

    What a load of bullshit. Plenty of people here are arguing that race doesn’t exist. You’re one of them, you clueless moron. You wrote:

    “FULLSTOP. No one, no one here is saying that DNA or physical differences do not exist.”

    You went on to write: 

    ‘“Race’ is a myth. What ‘race’ is Tiger Woods? What ‘race’ will his child be?”

    I know that leftists get confused easily, but not even Ketchup Kerry flip-flops as fast as you did. Most of the physical differences you mentioned are due to race. Racial differences are simply the product of different genetic populations. If you think racial differences don’t exist, you’re reality challenged. Good luck proving such a risible claim. Wishing something doesn’t make it so.

    Leave it to a leftist to spout crap about diversity and multiculturalism out one side of her mouth, while claiming race doesn’t exist out of the other.

    “Melanin doesn’t have a thing to do with talent, cognitive abilities or moral character.” No shit. Who made that claim? Nobody. As a leftist, you feel compelled to skip any logic and go straight to accusations of racism. It’s easier than honest debate, and you certainly don’t have any facts on your side. The accusation of racism is used to stifle debate, of course. A standard leftist tactic.

    Everybody has melanin in their skin. My wife has far darker skin than the average “African American.” Does that make her Black? Am I Black when I get a suntan? What if I listen to Rap?

    Talent and cognitive abilities are based on heredity, while moral character is based on heredity and upbringing. Race is a product of heredity and environment, so your argument is specious and ridiculous. Do you follow, or do I need to hit you over the head with a Chinaman? After all, Yellow people would be indistinguishable from Blacks, Reds, and Whites if your idiotic argument were valid.

    Who cares what race Tiger Woods’ kids are? Other than the race hustlers on the left, that is. Tiger Woods is racially mixed, but it’s telling that a retarded racist like you used him as an example of racial homogeneity. He Has been celebrated by the P.C. crowd because they think he’s Black, but he isn’t. He’s mainly Thai (an ethnic group,) and his father is racially mixed, like most American “Blacks.” (70%.) Halle Berry, Charles Rangel, Lenny Kravitz and Louis Fairykhan are all supposed to be Black, right? If race doesn’t exist, why do leftists love Tiger Woods so much? Because they’re golf fans? Not hardly.

    If twits like you don’t believe race exists, stop promoting racial preferences. It’s hypocritical, racist and just plain stupid.

  59. Stephen Colbert doesn’t see race. He looks at MLK, and it’s like looking in the mirror. I’m sure though, he would be able to spot racism, even though he can’t see race.

  60. Jeff B.

    Jus’ fo’ clarification, Darleen, from my experience reading her comments here and on her blog, bares little resemblence to your characterization. I’m guessing she is genuinely moved by our august host’s thesis.

    Re: the existence of “race”

    Jeff G, as I understand it, your thesis is that “race” has been historically (and erroneously) signified with the help of junk science, which makes it unwieldy when employed in the context of population genetics. Is that about right?

    I was reading a little collection of essays by Eco wherein he discusses the pursuit of the perfect language. It led me to wonder the following: If some new sign (population?) is used that results in what amounts to basically the same morphological categories, doesn’t that new sign adopt some of the baggage of “race” by osmosis as it were? Even physics professors unintentionally speak from within a Ptolemaic worldview when they speak of the sun “rising”. It seems that while paradigms shift, the new paradigm will often just appropriate the language of the old paradigm.

  61. JeffB

    Geez, that’s some radical new saltpeter in your margarita, dear.

    You perfectly illustrate the problem with this whole argument on “race”…. it’s a word so covered in layers of crusty, smelly goo even Mike Rowe would be loathe to clean it out.

    “Race” to racists has little to do with genetic population differences (melanin-levels, body type, etc) except as visual short-hand to identify the inferior species in need of enslavin’, oppressin’, savin’ and coddlin’.

    White man’s burden, donja know?

    “Race” in the racist vocabulary DOES indeed convey a set of either good or bad traits along with melanin-levels. And the racist is consumed in categorizing people according to how many “drops” of lesser races are required in an individual in order to assign him/her to that lesser “race” designation.

    It is in that sense I declare “race” a biological myth. We are not different “species” but merely macro-families.

    And macro-families who have been inter-breeding for a lot longer then previously believed.

    I’ve be annoyed with “racial” classifications for about as long as I can remember..and have always resisted whenever possible of checking any “race” box on any form. I’ve taught my own daughters the same resistence to mindless bureaucracy.

    I’ve been called many things…but leftist ain’t one of ‘em!

  62. Jeff B —

    You wrote:

    If you think racial differences don’t exist, you’re reality challenged. Good luck proving such a risible claim. Wishing something doesn’t make it so.

    It’s not that population genetics or hereditary genetics don’t exist; it’s that they are not the same as “racial” categories that we have come to understand, and so “race” is at best a shorthand (useful in law enforcement, etc) and at worst a loaded oversimplification.  I thought I covered this pretty well in the update, so I won’t rehash it here, other than to say you are now begging the question.  The problem is with calling population genetics “race.” It’s a semantic problem, but an important one.  I’m denying the existence of one by pointing out it is not the other.  You are countering that my denial is wrong because one is the other—though you concede that old categories are faulty.

    Malaclypse —

    You wrote:

    If some new sign (population?) is used that results in what amounts to basically the same morphological categories, doesn’t that new sign adopt some of the baggage of “race” by osmosis as it were? Even physics professors unintentionally speak from within a Ptolemaic worldview when they speak of the sun “rising”. It seems that while paradigms shift, the new paradigm will often just appropriate the language of the old paradigm.

    Yes, it certainly can. Unless we make a concerted effort to rid ourselves of that baggage by specifically deciding not to carry it.  That is, the change needs to be active rather than passive.

    And that is part of my argument.  As I wrote to Sailer:

    if most of us in the US use “race” to mean something other (and opposed) to the definition of race you are offering (you note:  “The way most Americans currently think about race tends to fall in between rigor and absurdity. The consensus American view is full of contradictions, obsolete ideas, and fantasies”), then what purpose does it serve to maintain the category “race” to begin with?—as opposed to, say, “hereditary genetics”?

    […]

    The reason I argue (academically) that race doesn’t exist is because “race” as you use the term—distinguishable by genetic patterns evident among members of extended, inbred families—is not a description available to most people who are seeking to lay claim to a particular “racial” identity.  And that is because most people, obviously, aren’t privy to the significance of the mapping in their genetic makeup.  Instead, they rely on a kind of hodgepodge of signifiers—from geographical heritage (my Dad is Irish), to verbal history (my great great great Grandmother on my Mother’s side was Native American—at least, that’s how the story goes), to visible iconic signifiers (nappy hair, eyelid fat, skin color).

    And so the question becomes this:  if “race” is not what we think it is, why should something we don’t think race to be come to count as “race” at all?  As I mentioned in my several posts, I’m not denying genetic patterns or similarities uncovered by population geneticists—just as I wouldn’t think to deny obvious, Richard Pryor-esque signs pointing to a tenuous type of suggested kinship.  But why must we use an outmoded and overdetermined signifier such as “race” when “hereditary genetics” or “extended-bred family” would do just fine, and is a more precise description of what the science itself is purporting to study?

    In short, you’re correct, osmosis probably would naturally occur to ease the transition of language in the paradigm shift.  But that doesn’t mean a concerted effort to expedite the shift and bracket out the vestigial baggage is not a worthy effort, or that it is in fact undoable.

    Hell, this discussion is part of that process of sowing the seeds for change.

    And, as with your example of the physics professors, they may still speak of the sun rising, but that is a simple descriptive metaphor to them.  That is, there is no danger that they’d sanctify the description as factual for purposes of public policy.

  63. …race theorists have sought to turn the essentialist project of racial identification into the anti-essentialist project of racial construction. In short, the “racial” has become the “cultural,” and the “cultural” has become the supposedly anti-essentialist foundation for group identity.

    Short answer: multiculturalism, again. There is as you note a difference between “race” and “culture;” race being the pigmentation of the skin, the shape of facial features and so forth, while culture is the sum of the lifestyle, history, and identity passed from generation to generation. The food cooked and eaten; the music; the clothing; the decor of the home, every facet of life is shaped by culture.

    The thing is, in the US, for everyone but immigrants and their children, “culture” is usually an artificial construct born of the 1960’s. Instead of doing what MLK advised and judging people by the content of their characters instead of the color of their skin, blacks in particular chose to define themselves 100% by the color of their skins. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, there was no Kwanzaa. Black girls weren’t called Shaquita or Tanika or any of those African-sounding names, they were called Sara and Patty; the same names white people named their kids. They largely dressed the same, listened to the same music, and ate the same things as the rest of the country. But as a reaction to a lot of legitimate grievances of the civil rights era, a large portion of the black community as an overreaction to the plight of their race, rejected American culture and falsely adopted African culture when they hadn’t been properly African for generations. Their race was African-American, but their culture was to that point American.

    Today, that goes for Hispanics, who are demanding and being encouraged to keep their own language at the expense of their future. The Spanish language is the new ghetto. Hispanic immigrants are being told to reject American culture the way blacks did, and it won’t work out any better for them. Matter of fact, Americans at large are being told that there is no American culture; we’re all white or black or Hispanic or Asian, and everyone except whites is increasingly expected to maintain the culture of their country of origin. Only whites have no right to a culture of their own. Rather, they’re supposed to make way to everyone else’s cultures.

    That’s what interests me. It seems unprecedented in history that a large group of people–in this case, blacks–would decide together to reject their current culture and adopt what amounts to a foreign one. Most black people in the USA today have never been to Africa. Neither have their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. The counter-culture and leftist culture of the 1960s is what led to what defines “black culture” today, and it hasn’t been good for them, in my opinion. “Black culture” today has nothing to do with their race and everything to do with the previous generations’ rejection of their country.

    The Black Panthers and their ilk have apparently had a greater impact on the course of African-American culture than Martin Luther King, Jr. did. Because blacks today, as a majority, define themselves as a minority separate from other Americans; a subculture, a different culture, other. They judge themselves by the color of their skin and make their own dictates on how black people should live, what they should believe, how they should speak, what music they should listen to, how they should vote. And if you don’t believe that, then you’re ignoring black people throwing Oreos at Michael Steele, cartoonists drawing racist cartoons about Condi Rice, black people calling Clarence Thomas an Uncle Tom. Black conservatives who reject the artificial construct of “blackness” forfeit their “blackness” and are regarded as traitors.

    That’s all part and parcel of multiculturalism, which takes Americans and teaches individuals to separate themselves from the rest of the country by race, religion, and gender. It divides, causes distrust, and destroys solidarity. It actually encourages those stereotypes. It’s the exact opposite of what Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted. It encourages groupthink and sorts everyone into demographics and grievance lobbies. But worse than that is what it’s done to the black community at large. Multiculturalism and identity politics are bad for the country, but the current concept of what “blackness” means is absolutely destroying the black community. The idea that education and success are a “white thing” is keeping black families in the inner cities poor and disfunctional more efficiently than Jim Crow laws did.

    The multicultural model is now working to do the same thing to Hispanics, teaching them to reject the language and customs of their new country in favor of the old…which will keep them permanently poor and marginalized, creating another grievance demographic for leftists to exploit. The great unspoken truth of “blackness” or “Hispanic-ness” and the multicultural experiment is that it’s nothing more than a means for white liberals and black grievance-mongers like Sharpton, Jackson, and Waters to keep their own power while doing nothing to improve the lot of the poor fools that support them.

  64. Late to the party, as usual.

    For the record, I’d listen to Bill Cosby because he holds an earned Doctorate in Education so maybe has some background knowledge that helps him hold an informed, dare I say, educated opinion.

    Brad spit just says other peoples words and makes funny faces.  When he wants to express opinions about acting I will listen to him most respectfully.

  65. “The American fixation on Black and White is self destructve [sic] and aimed at procuring special advantages for Blacks”.

    Really?  And all this time I thought it was aimed at procuring special advantages for whites.

    Oh, you don’t mean slavery, Jim Crow, segregation or disparate penalties for drug offenses—you mean Affirmative Action.

    Of course you do.  What could be more important?

  66. Are you really saying that there is no difference between a tan guy with a Jew-fro and Wesley Snipes?  There are differences that are evident, and ased on these differences, the two are treated differently.

    Posted by Black |

    Fact:  Melanin, (the chemical that gives our skin color), only comes in one color.  Brown.

    The only difference between a tan guy, Wesley Snipes, and my own pale skin is the amount (or concentration) of melanin in our respective skins.

    Fact:  We are all, effectively, the same color.  Just differing shades of brown.  Ranging from very dark to very pale.

    Fact:  Arguing race issues based solely on color is just foolish.

  67. Oops… Igot an error message on the first post, so I sent a second.  Sorry for the double.

  68. Of course, slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow no longer exist, and disparate penalties for drug offenses, well, I’m going to have to see some sort of study documenting that claim—and I mean a peer reviewed study that takes into account all factors (like gang involvement, proximity to school zones, ability to hire counsel, etc.).

    But hey, if governmentally-sanctioned racial discrimination was wrong in the past, we have to show just how wrong it was by continuing it in the present.  BECAUSE OF THE—er, who the hell knows.

  69. disparate penalties for drug offenses—

    Oh gawd…the crack v powder cocaine bit

    Since crack acts physiologically different in the brain than powder and given that it was at the urging of many of the “Black” communities that demanded that something be done about crack immediately, and that arguments on all the vagarities of the so-called War on Drugs date back long before crack; trying to tie it into something inarguably racist as Jim Crow Laws is like lumping in the telling of a dirty joke in mixed company with rape.

  70. Jeff,

    I believe that the point that John Burt was responding to was the aspect that somehow blacks are the genesis of America’s fixation on color and race.  As you state, many of the systems that were put in place for white advantage have been dissolved but to act as though those systems still don’t have impact to this day are naive at best.  Affirmative Action was nothing but a response to the layers of discrimination of the government and private citizens and while we can debate the necessity of it in today’s America, 30 years of Affirmative Action doesn’t really hold the same advantage to blacks and other minorities have when compared to hundreds of years of slavery, 50+ years of Jim Crow and other structural advantages for whites.  I will anticipate your “2 wrongs don’t make a right” argument and somewhat agree with you, but the notion that there is any similarity between the structural advantages for whites from the past and today in comparison to those for African Americans is delusional.

  71. But hey, if governmentally-sanctioned racial discrimination was wrong in the past, we have to show just how wrong it was by continuing it in the present.  BECAUSE OF THE—er, who the hell knows.

    As MLK explained…

    “Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up.”

  72. government-sponsored social programs that rely on faulty ideas of “race” are divisive and counterproductive

    Hear, hear!  I was just thinking the same thing about sundown towns, the Tuskegee Syphillis Experiment, and the FHA.

    Of course, slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow no longer exist…

    Yes, and since it’s been over three whole decades since these things were finally legally prohibited, we should expect colored folks to have all become totally equal to everyone else by now.  I mean, that is how long it should take for the effects of four-plus centuries of institutionalized dehumanization and marginalization to be reversed, right?

    You’re absolutely right about ‘race,’ Jeff.  It has no scientific (biological) basis.  And now that we understand just how damaging a construct it really was (to the whole nation, not just to ‘black’ folks), let’s all just try and pretend– cold turkey– that the construct and its deleterious effects are dead. That should solve all our problems.

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  76. Cleanup on aisle 5; spam all over the goddamned floor!

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  80. I absolutely agree, there is no such thing as race. And the corollary of that is that there is no such thing as the Jewish race.
    So what’s the point of Israel ?
    Haha. Gotcha.

  81. The point of Israel is that not everyone understands that there’s no such thing as race, and occasionally one of those types will try to exterminate what he believes is a “race” by setting up gas showers and ovens. In the aftermath, the world thought it was a good idea to give the remaining Jews a homeland.

    No “point” other than that. Just as there’s really no “point” to Britain.

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  83. Yes, and since it’s been over three whole decades since these things were finally legally prohibited, we should expect colored folks to have all become totally equal to everyone else by now. I mean, that is how long it should take for the effects of four-plus centuries of institutionalized dehumanization and marginalization to be reversed, right?

    You’re absolutely right about ‘race,’ Jeff. It has no scientific (biological) basis. And now that we understand just how damaging a construct it really was (to the whole nation, not just to ‘black’ folks), let’s all just try and pretend– cold turkey– that the construct and its deleterious effects are dead. That should solve all our problems.

    Oh, I see. It’s the “it can’t be fixed immediately, so why even bother beginning” line of sneering reasoning.

    Here we are, 10 years after I first posted this article hear and nearly 15 since I wrote it as an op-ed.

    Had we begun then doing what I’d advocated, it would now be over FOUR whole decades. Meaning, a decade longer than you deemed insufficient.

    Which way is progress on the issue? Mine or yours?

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