Monday, 30 November 2009

Department of Energy Says Black Race Doesn't Exist

First posted at Pam's House Blend and front-paged by Pam.

Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 22:47:33 PM EST

(Of course many of us realize race is a social construct meant to both identify and denote who has control, power and access. What looks clear on paper is increasingly impossible with the blending of America. How should we discuss "race" when it comes to politics, power and, say, the census? - promoted by Pam Spaulding)

Race is a disproved hypothesis

The US Department of Energy Human Genome Project says that the Black race doesn't exist. It also says that the white race doesn't exist and that there in no basis in the human genome for the belief that race ever existed. This is going to be a huge political debate as the 2010 Census approaches, and Republicans are already targeting Obama about it.

I think this is important, so I've made a widget that directs readers toward this new Human Genome Project discovery that, as a matter of biology, there is no evidence for the existence of "race" and considerable evidence that "race" is arbitrary and misleading.

I've made a widget for bloggers that leads people to this DOE page because I think the announcement that biological "race" doesn't exist is at least as newsworthy as an announcement that there are two moons circling around the Earth. You only have to Google the words "race" and "moon" to see that the word "race" is about ten times more important politically, culturally and socially to Americans than "moon," judged by the relative frequency with which we use the word "race" in our print media.

Whether biological "race" exists or not is no mere semantic question, according to the journal "Nature Genetics." Nature Genetics states in the article entitled "Race and the Human Genome,"

With very rare exceptions, all of us in the US are immigrants. We bring with us a subset of genes from our homelands, and for many Americans, often first-generation but more commonly second-generation, the plural noun 'homelands' is appropriate. From this perspective, the most immediately obvious characteristic of 'race' is that describing most of us as Caucasian, Asian or African is far too simple. Despite attempts by the US Census Bureau to expand its definitions, the term 'race' does not describe most of us with the subtlety and complexity required to capture and appreciate our genetic diversity. Unfortunately, this oversimplification has had many tragic effects. Therefore, we need to start with the science . . .

If a person with one Black parent is able to "pass for white", does that mean they aren't susceptible to sickle cell anemia? The "one drop rule" would say that they definitely are just as susceptible as everyone in the "black race", but science is progressing beyond the cultural notions of Americans that are vestiges from American apartheid.

We simply cannot just guess anymore about science based on our biased culture; we are now able and compelled to discover and know based upon empirical science.

francislholland :: Department of Energy Says Black Race Doesn't Exist
Race is a disproved hypothesis

I'm asking bloggers to adopt the widget above, if only because:

1). The 2010 US Census is coming up and there will be debates about "racial" census categories, particularly since this is the first US census since the existence of biological "race" was definitively disproved;

2). The use of terms like "bi-racial" may well be attacked now that genetic science can demonstrate that most people have genetic heritage from various geographic regions across the face of the earth;

3). Based on the new genomic evidence, the US Supreme Court could accept a case requesting a restraining order against Census categories, arguing that there is no "rational basis" for dividing Americans into arbitrary "races" that have no basis in science and the Court could order the Government to use the term "skin color" instead. And so the "racial categories" certainly couldn't withstand the "strict scrutiny" analysis that is required in cases involving the division of Americans based on "race".

4). Although many Black people would prefer to ignore the evidence that biological "race" doesn't exist, the journal Nature Genetics has recently stated that the acknowledgement of that our biology is far more complicated than "white vs. Black" is essential to medical care for individuals based on their individual biology rather than based on lumping people into enormous and arbitrary color groups that ignore their individual patients. In an article entitled "Race and the Human Genome,"

With very rare exceptions, all of us in the US are immigrants. We bring with us a subset of genes from our homelands, and for many Americans, often first-generation but more commonly second-generation, the plural noun 'homelands' is appropriate. From this perspective, the most immediately obvious characteristic of 'race' is that describing most of us as Caucasian, Asian or African is far too simple. Despite attempts by the US Census Bureau to expand its definitions, the term 'race' does not describe most of us with the subtlety and complexity required to capture and appreciate our genetic diversity. Unfortunately, this oversimplification has had many tragic effects. Therefore, we need to start with the science . . .
Even if you find the proposition that "race" doesn't exist troubling, I urge bloggers to adopt the button leading to the Human Genome Project page. It's essential to our health and the advance of medical science. It is likewise essential to becoming adults whose concepts of culture are based on science rather than having concepts of science that are tortuously twisted to fit anachronistic vestiges of color-aroused culture.
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I'm glad we're having this conversation.
It will take some careful explaining to get people to understand that race in the genetic sense and color aren't synonymous. However, this doesn't prevent people from deliberately grouping themselves together or being seen by others as a group based on color, facial features etc., because there is indeed often a correlation between those things and culture/ethnicity.

Lurleen on Twitter

[ Reply ]
Oh, and...
I have longed for the day when Americans stop seeing the world and the disease of racism as a black-white thing. It is understandable due the nation's history, but it ignores the changing makeup up the citizenry of the country and serves no constructive purpose except to constantly open old wounds. If this story about race and genetics gets some legs, maybe we can finally break free of this stale old now-false dichotomy and enter a new era as a nation.

Ok, now how do we get regular people to listen? Now that's the hard part...

Lurleen on Twitter

[ Parent | Reply ]
Progress will come only at the expense of the word "race".
Progress in this area is going to come at a cost that many Black sociologists, politicians and activists are going find to be a high cost.

Because the word "race" has been used to mean biological race for four hundred years in the United States, we will discover that it is absolutely impossible to use the word "race" for "sociological race" and have people understand which "race" we're talking about. These words "race" and "race" are just to similar (same spelling, same pronunciation, virtually the same subject matter) and so we are going to find that it is absolutely impossible to disambiguate "race" from "race" in a way that the most dense Americans can understand. And the most dense Americans are the ones who MOST need to understand this clearly and as soon as possible.

We have to make it easier for people. We ought never use the word "race" without putting it in the context of "the age-old but recently disproved and discarded hypothesis of biological race". That tells people the scientific truth about biological race, as per the US Department of Energy's Human Genome Project.

When we're not talking about biological race, what we are really talking about is "skin color groups". Voting patterns show that Blacks, for example, are a very politically, socially and culturally cohesive skin color group in many respects, if judged e.g. by the rate at which Blacks voted for Obama over Clinton and then Obama over McCain. This is so even though there is great diversity of skin color within the Black skin color group.

(It would make no sense to write Black with a lower case "b", because that would denotatively mean that everyone who is called "black" actually and literally has skin that is as black as a cast iron frying pan.

Since that's not what we mean, and even a child can see that it's not true, and because we are referring to a politically, culturally and historically cohesive group, (if only to the extent that state and federal laws once put us categorically and decisively into one marginalized group), we can no sooner write "Black" with a lower case "b" than we can write "Jewish" with a lower case "j". "Black" is a sociological ethnicity and ethnicities are spelled with initial capital letters.

But, also note that the Human Genome Project concluded that there is no biological basis for the belief in biological ethnicities.

"There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other."

Unless we simply ignore science as a society and as a culture, in favor of four hundred year-old folk tales, then genomic science, as it becomes popularized, is going to rock our sociological, cultural, political and linguistic worlds!

We Blacks certainly are not monolithic (our skin color group includes people with polar opposite opinions regarding homosexuality and gay rights), but polls show that our ideas about skin color and about color-aroused injustice in America are consistently different from the beliefs of those whose skin is "whiter." And so we Blacks/browns and beiges vote for the Democratic presidential candidate over 90% of the time while whites vote for Democratic presidential candidates less than 50% of the time.

This is all just to say that skin color groups, particularly the "Black/brown/beige" skin color group, is bound together by historical facts and experience as well as by current challenges associated with our skin color and our efforts to achieve in spite of the reaction of others to our skin color.

Here's the enormous challenge: This sociological phenomenon can no longer be called "race" because MOST PEOPLE will always associate "race" with biological race, and they will never know which kind of race we're referring to. So, when we make an argument that sociological skin color groups exist, but because we call this "race," the people who are not aware of the Human Genome Project's findings and who haven't taken Sociology 101 are going to think that we are referring to and endorsing biological race whenever we use the word "race", regardless of what we mean by it.

Here's a crude analogy: Some rappers insist that there is a distinct difference between what they mean when they say "you bitch" and what they mean when they say "my bitch". Of course those who have read the Urban Dictionary (1% of America?) will have less problem understanding that there is a difference, but even those who know that the word can be used in many different ways will have difficulty distinguishing which way the word is being used on any given occasion. And the word is inherently offensive regardless of which meaning the speaker is intending to communicate.

ANY use of the word "bitch" for any reason gives cover to those who are using the word in a pejorative way. They take advantage of the ambiguity to insist that they were not intending to insult anyone when they used the word.

So, what about white supremacists? When they use the word "race", are they referring to biological race or sociological race? In fact, for so long and Black and liberals use the word "race" for any reason, white supremacists can also continue to use the word as an assertion that there are white and black subspecies within the human species. We will find it impossible to compel white supremacists (some of whom are in the US Congress) to stop using "race" biologically unless we deny them the cover they receive when we use "race" sociologically, leaving the waters hopelessly muddied and perfect for alligators looking for a meal.

We simply need to begin to refer to "sociological, cultural and political skin color groups", and then we need to get beyond generalizations and specify when these groups' color predicts their beliefs.

For example, discussions of skin color divide whites from Blacks much of the time. Black majorities look at it generally in one way and white majorities in another. But Blacks also diverge dramatically amongst ourselves about certain issues. There are Blacks who are fervently anti-gay (with others pro-gay) just as there are whites who are fervently anti-gay (and others pro-gray). We need to get beyond stereotypes and talk about what empirically exists in the natural and cultural worlds.

For example, if you assume that everyone who is in the Black color group has the same experience, you might ask various Black people whose skin ranges from vanilla colored to almost jet black about their experiences with color-aroused antagonism. They're all Black right, so how and why should there be any difference between the experience of someone with vanilla-colored skin and someone whose skin is jet black?

You simply cannot do a valid poll of the prevalence of color-aroused antagonism unless you start by acknowledging that people with different "Black" skin colors will probably experience differing rates of color-aroused antagonism toward them. This is just one example where assuming that "all Blacks are the same" leads to bad, distorted and sometimes meaningless science, where a more nuanced and less stereotypical approach would lead to more meaningful research results.

As I said, making this paradigm shift is going to come at the expense of those who like to use the word race to mean biology (it doesn't) as well as those who want to use "race" sociologically (because it's hopelessly ambiguous what we are referring to when we say race).

Trying to teach people that there are two meanings of the word "race" and you have to look closely at the speaker's eyebrows to determine which one he is talking about is a challenge that isn't worth taking on. We need new terminology that is not susceptible to being confused with a disproved, demeaning and anachronistic biological hypothesis (race).

As hard as it will be for us to change our linguistic habits, we simply can no longer use the word "hamburger" to mean both "hamburger" and "hot dog" and expect people to know unambiguously what we are talking about.

Regardless of what we mean by the word, as soon as people hear the word "race", they know an scorching argument is about to start. How could it not be so, when the word has consigned the Black 13% of America to a separate and unequal subspecies, and has consigned the Latino 15% of America to another separate and unequal subspecies? The word "race", because of its history in America, is hopelessly toxic and radioactive. We need to talk about what we can see: skin color, groups of people with the same skin colors sitting at separate tables, and the fact that there is only ONE US Senator from the Black/brown/beige (BBB?) skin color group in the US Senate.

People will know what we mean when we say "historically marginalized skin color group". There is no inherent necessity for the word "race". But the word "race", like crack cocaine, is a habit that is very hard to leave behind once our linguistic world and our sense of who we are has become bound up with this anachronistic word.

Just as we gave up the term "negroes", we are capable of giving up the word "race." Take heart! Only good things can come from clearly distinguishing legitimate sociological theories from disproved, insulting and demeaning biological hypotheses. It all starts with abandoning the hopelessly ambiguous, insulting, controversial and divisive word, "race".

[ Parent | Reply ]
I don't thik color would be the factor in order to have a peace and order community..we should all unite.

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They're going to be counting by religion, too.
Even if race doesn't count as an identifiable subspecies within the human species, it certainly counts as an identity, and there is value in collecting census data because of that.

Religion isn't even remotely biological, but it is a useful thing to collect data on for a variety of reasons. For a lot of other reasons, it is immaterial.

We need to get to a place where asking about race is about as meaningful as asking about hair color (or at least, natural hair color) but we certainly aren't there yet.

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We could ask people what skin color/ethnic group they belong to.
Although I worked on the 2000 Census, I can't pretend to have worked out how the census should deal with this.

However, instead of "race", the Census could ask about "skin color group". I think there would be less contention among Blacks if Blacks could check off that they are part of the Black/brown/beige/vanilla skin color group.

It's obvious that if they are beige they are what once was called "bi-racial" or "multi-racial". The fact is, though, that most people don't even know how many nationality and color groups they have in their genes. So, they have a sociological identity, and that's the question the census should try to get at. E.G.:

Please check your skin color/ethnic identity group below:

Whitish, but not Latino. (people know if they identify as "white"

Whitish and Latino

Black/brown/coffee/beige/vanilla, but not Latino/Hispanic. (Only people who are from what once was called the "black race" are going to choose this alternative, and yet the alternative includes and implies that various colors are present within the "Black" sociological group. This resolves the problem of those who want to state that they are bi-racial, which science has rendered biologically meaningless. And people who believe they are bi-racial would probably discover through DNA testing that they have poly-chromatic and poly-ethnic heritage. DNA has taken the guess-work out of this.)

Black/brown/coffee/beige/vanilla, AND Latino/Hispanic.


We can get the same and better information without reference to "race" and while instead referring to "skin color group" and "ethnic identity group".

[ Parent | Reply ]
In population biology,
we think of species are a loosely defined group of various populations (in humans, we call this groups "races"). Sometimes populations vary greatly depending on geographical distance and overlap between them and the amount of time that has passed since populations became distinct. Sometimes this separation leads to speciation (the creation of new species) but most often it leads to minor differences that often manifest through morphology and behavior. The key to the difference between speciation and minor differentiation is the ability for individuals to procreate. If they are not able to procreate, they are considered separate species by scientists. If they are able to produce healthy offspring that are also able to reproduce with each other, they are considered to be the same species, regardless of superficial differences. Sometimes non-scientists interpret differences between "races" (ie. populations) as proof that we are different and maybe different enough to be considered different species. But this interpretation is wildly off base. Yes, there are geographical differences between populations of people and a lot of these differences are morphological in nature. But we are clearly able to reproduce with each other and produce viable offspring. And now that the geographical separation between human populations has been broken down through globalization, the differences between populations are blurring and disappearing slowly. We are essentially one giant population instead of several giant populations (separated by huge oceans) because the mixing between populations is global in nature. Any changes that were brought on by years and years of separation are being muddled. This is why we can no longer think of humans are distinct populations (races) -- because we no longer are distinct and never will be again (a huge assertion, but most likely true). Therefore, the ways in which we differentiate humans will no longer be valid, race included. (I really hope my scientific explanation helps.)

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I kind of like some of your explanation, for the most part, I think.
Kian217, you said,

"we think of species are a loosely defined group of various populations (in humans, we call this groups "races")."

The key to what you said is that if people can procreate and have babies successfully, then they are from the same species. If they were from distinct "races", then they wouldn't be able to procreate across these "races" and all of our body parts would not be interchangeable across lines of origin and skin color.

While I understand that "race" could have been used to mean "region of origin", as you stated above, most of us don't even know what our DNA would say about our region(s) of origin. But our DNA does make it clear that everyone's original region of origin was Africa, where the human species was born. That's why we're so similar, regardless of what parts of the earth our ancestors passed through on the way to Ellis Island.

I frankly don't think that "race" has ever really been used in the United States to mean "region of origin." What it really has meant is "skin color, facial morphology and hair type."

How can a doctor look at a coffee-colored person and mark their "race" based on what he sees, if "race" means country of ancestors' origin? The only way he can do that is based on the apartheid era "one drop rule", which held that one drop of African blood meant that you were to be considered "Negro," regardless of where your non-African ancestors had come from.

Unfortunately, doctors are still doing the same thing now, even while genetic science and DNA testing are disproving what doctors are writing on their intake forms in the "race" box.

I've heard that Jewish women are more susceptible to a certain kind of breast cancer. If the daughter of a Jewish woman and a Black American also more susceptible? Will we ever know the answer to this question if doctors just put "Black" in the "race" box and call it a day? Like you said, people's ancestry is becoming increasingly varied and whatever simplistic categories we developed in the past are scientifically meaningless today.

Genetic science is infinitely complex, and five "race" boxes just don't mean anything scientifically, or even in terms of place of ancestors' geographic origin.
Distinguishing people based on where their ancestors migrated to after they left Africa is like giving people nationalities based on what airports they've flown through on the way to Topeka.

(I'm not making fun of you, but only of the now-disproved term "race", that we used to use before the Human Genome Project informed us that it had no scientific validity.)

So, I take what you said above to be an explanation of why, although we useD the word "race" in the past, separate "races" never really existed among the human species.

I like to ask this question: If you needed a blood transfusion would you prefer to get the blood from someone with your same blood type or from someone with your same skin color. If you say blood type, great! If you say skin color, you'd be better off not asking where the blood came from and letting the doctors and nurses intervene to keep your color-aroused ideation from killing you in the emergency room.

Another question: Would you prefer an organ transplant from someone with the same blood type or someone with the same skin color. (I haven't researched this, but I feel confident that rejection of organs is decreased when the blood type matches, while skin color-associated rejection of organs is not a problem at all.)

Here's the hardest question: If you needed a skin graft, would you choose a graft from someone with the same skin color or someone with the same blood type. Hard decision, isn't it!? I don't know what doctors would say, but I would imagine that a graft from someone with a different blood type would immediately be rejected by the body and be much worse than no graft at all. If I get burned and need a skin transplant please don't spend six minutes or six weeks looking for someone whose skin is precisely the same color as my own. Give me the skin that my body won't reject and I'll find a way to live with the color of it, whatever it is.

One quibble: We think of species as a loosely defined group of various populations (in humans, we [USED] to call these groups "races", but now the Human Genome Project has informed us that there is no scientific basis for calling these groups "races", since there are no alleles that can be found in one group that can't be found in another.

I think referring to the "geographical places" that people's ancestors are from is more scientific than "races". It turns out that when you study people's actual DNA, you find that people are not reliably or substantially or fundamentally distinct based on where their ancestors came from, or based on their skin color.

For hundreds of years, we thought that "race" could tell us something scientifically meaningful, but now we've discovered that we're all from the same species and their are no "races" among humanity. There's just region of origin.

It's interesting that the only species that science divided into "races" is humans, while other animals were divided into subspecies by totally different criteria. I think that's because they had a political agenda.

[ Parent | Reply ]
Whats the Department of Engergy got to do with any of those questions???
I mean, it's the Department of Energy. How does things like race, genetics or the census come in to play at the DoE? I would even understand if they were in charge of Doe's, the deers, the female deers in some way... I know the govement is screwy but this just doesnt make sense to me.

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You ask a good question....
... and as near as I can tell, it was simply a matter of the Department of Energy grabbing the pie before any other agency got it.

The DOE has an interest in genomics as it relates to biofuels and cleaning up pollution. But the policy legislation it cites as authority for its involvement in the Human Genome Project seems to have to do with protecting genes from radiation.

Help send Pam on a cruise!
Nominate her as your favorite progressive blogger.

[ Parent | Reply ]
I think the Human Genome Project was under the auspices of the Department of Energy
Others might research this and answer your question more knowledgeably but, as far as I can surmise, the Department of Energy funded and oversaw at least some of the human genomic studies. (Other studies have been done by private corporations, I think, and I don't know how much federal funding they got, if any.)

The DOE has a lot of different interests and responsibilities within the federal government, with a wide scope of operations, funding and supervision for scientific projects.

Lynn Miller's answer here is informative also.

In spite of the political implications of their work, I think they have just focused on the science. But they knew Black people would be up in arms to be de-raced, so the DOE page linked to states the painstaking (?), ostensibly serious efforts that the DOE made to meet with Black leaders and scientists and explain the findings. It seems like they didn't want the Human Genome Project to end up in the middle of a firestorm over what "race" means in America.

Meanwhile, no politicians have found it to their advantage to highlight these findings, and even President Obama still uses the word "race" in a way that is ambiguous. Is he referring to biological race or sociological race? Does he know the difference and, if so, why isn't he more specific?

I guess the "race doesn't exist" angle was not going to be the most successful way to start a presidential campaign. Even Black social scientists and university professors would have misunderstood him and laughed at him in the belief that he was asserting that skin color doesn't exist and that skin color-aroused politics, culture and even housing patterns didn't exists.

Because the word "race" means different things to different people - biological and sociological - when you say that "race" doesn't exist you can anger everybody, white, Black and other simultaneously.

One Black blogger told me to forget this obsession with the fact that there is no scientific basis for believing in biological race. And he told me that I should NEVER send him another e-mail about the subject.

HELLO!!!!!!!!!! 2010 CENSUS!!!!!! Those who don't want to discuss this have about two months more before it's going to be in America's face, because the US Constitution requires that the Census occur. (I'm pretty sure I saw it in the US Constitution or an Amendment thereto.)

[ Parent | Reply ]
I find it a little too convenient when White race is slipping from Majority, that NOW race doesn't exist
This does play to what many of my generation hoped for, that race doesn't seperate us, not that races don't exist, that they don't define anyone's potential.
The line from Black and White comes to mind:

"I'm not gonna spend my life being a color"

What have you done today, to make ya feel PROUD?

~Heather Small

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the timing
has everything to do the with availability of the scientific methods at a reasonable cost. i wouldn't read anything nefarious into it.

Lurleen on Twitter

[ Parent | Reply ]
Good point petey!! You got it in ONE.

It's the Hammer of JUSTICE,
It's the Bell of FREEDOM,
It's the Song about LOVE between,
my Brothers and my Sisters
...All over this Land.

[ Parent | Reply ]
Color continues to exist.
First of all, this information isn't new. The Human Genome Project apparently came to this conclusion around 2002 - 2004, and then spoke to professionals like yourself who would wonder what the political agenda was behind announcing this information.

And so, effectively they never did announce this information to the public. They just met with some Black professionals and assured them that the DOE's purpose was not to start a color-war over this.

I agree and disagree with the assertion that "I'm not going to spend my life being a color." Each one of us is born with a skin color and it doesn't change much after we are one to three years old. We will spend our entire lives having the skin color that we have when we are three years old, unless we try to annihilate our DNA-based color somehow, or we get a tan.

I agree with the sentiment that I'm not going to spend my life being defined (and having my prospects and opportunities and identity) defined exclusively by the color of my skin.

I will always have the brown skin color I have now, but I wouldn't want anyone to assume that they know the essence of my personhood just by looking at my skin color.

Ironically, the Salt and Pepa rap duo hyped the idea of color-blindness. They sang, "Free your mind and the rest will follow. Be color-blind! Don't be so shallow!

I don't think it's "shallow" to perceive others' skin color (and my own) any more than it's shallow to perceive the colors of the leaves in Autumn. Color blindness is a medical anomaly that is no gift to those who suffer from it.

The problem lies in people's ideation, emotion and behavior that are aroused by the perception of our own skin color and the skin colors of others. Who ever said that just because you perceive someone's skin color, you have to jump into the learned ideation, on that basis alone, that they are lazy or hard-working, just on the basis of perceiving their skin color and having stereotypical ideation in response to that perception. The problem is not the perception but the stereotypical ideation.

Would anyone really want to be literally colorblind and miss the turning of the leaves, the color of the ocean, the color of tropical fish when you go diving. I'll pass on that color-blind stuff. I don't see it as advantageous interpersonally or in terms of appreciating nature.

[ Parent | Reply ]
The concept of homo sapiens having different "races" is bogus. We are all one race. We have many different characteristics that we inherit from our ancestors that group us into different groups. Most of us are multi group humans with ancestors from all over the globe. Remember, we all came from a common small group of people in East Central Africa. We aren't related like dogs and cats are to each other but like Irish Wolfhounds, Afghans and Basenjis are related to each other.

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Why do we say "species" about other animals and "race" about humans.
You're right. We're all originally from Africa and that's why we are all 99.9% or more biologically alike. And if there is 0.01 percent of difference, it's superficial.

Even if you entertain the idea of "race" as geographical origin, you still have to set an arbitrary time of "origin" to conclude that anybody came from anywhere but Africa.

I find it scientifically suspect that we can have a scientific discussion about every other species on the planet without using the word 'race,' but when we start talking about humans we somehow discover that there is no OTHER word we can use in place of "race".

As a matter of science, we are the human species, right? Well, if the word "species" is good enough for every other species in the animal kingdom, why do we suddenly have to drag in "race" to talk about humans?

It's pretty obvious to me that (aside from the etymology of the word race), the word "race" gained currency for political reasons, not scientific ones.

I don't think there is anything that is scientifically meaningful that we can say about the human species that requires us to use the word "race".

Sociological race? = "Skin color group" or "national ancestral origin," or "social ethnicity". "Race" is superfluous and, if only because of the ambiguity between sociological and biological "race", the word is inherently contentious, controversial, demeaning and marginalizing.

Some people like to say "my race", but what they really mean is "my skin color group heritage", or if they DO mean biological race, then they don't know about the Human Genome Project's findings - that race doesn't exist.

That's going to be a real challenge for people who are used to believing that they are bound together by race, but they are really bound together by relatively recent ancestral geographic origin; sociopolitical and economic position; skin color; language (sometimes).

At some point, as we become adults, and start writing biology papers for our academic courses, we stop calling it our "wee-wee" and begin to say "penis", even if it is uncomfortable at first. In other words, we grow up linguistically. We even learn new terms, like "PSA test," as science advances and more scientific knowledge is available to us than ever before. New concepts inevitably requires new language, and that's what's happening as we realize that biological race doesn't exist today and it never existed yesterday. It was never more than a hypothesis with grand political implications.

[ Parent | Reply ]
Black White Race doesn't exist
It Doesn't! Never did. As an artist I can definitib=vely assert that BNlack is a non color msignifying the absence of color and white when used in the c omtext of loight is an almaghamtion of all existing color e.g. a rainbow. The Colors are merely compo0nent of the spectrum.

As an individuial with a Master's Degree in Conflict Resolution:

Black and White as "Race" is a human construct that was intendd to justify social stratification, institutional racism, structural violence and overall inequality.

It only takes an education to know this fact people.

[ Reply ]
best nutshell so far!
Black and White as "Race" is a human construct that was intendd to justify social stratification, institutional racism, structural violence and overall inequality.

Lurleen on Twitter

[ Parent | Reply ]
Not new information
On a genomic level race can NOT be determined. That in and of itself makes us all one race.


For the finicky trolls yes there are genetic anomalies that are more highly concentrated in some geographic regions. But those same anomalies are not unique to those inhabitants of other regions.

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To answer Pam's question
How should we discuss "race" when it comes to politics, power and, say, the census?

Wouldn't it be interesting to replace the race and religion boxes on the census with a "dominant cultural affiliation" box? I bet a lot of people wouldn't select an answer even remotely color- or morphology-related.

Lurleen on Twitter

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It is interesting
that at the same time scientists are showing race isn't real, they are becoming amazingly able to identify an individual's regional origins through their genome. There was a show (on PBS? - can't remember) that was doing genetic analysis of various people, and one African American guy was shaken up because, although his family had always maintained they were heavily Choctaw, it turned out he has many ancestors from Ireland, and no Choctaw at all.

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It's pretty funny, really.
The more people get DNA tested for their origins, the more our present culture is going to evolve into something far more accepting of variety.

There was a guy from England, a scientist named Watson, who said Africans were inherently inferior. It turns out he's of African ancestry. It's good that his own "inherent inferiority" didn't prevent him from discovering his own inherent inferiority!

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two check boxes on forms.....privlidged and NOT privlidged

What have you done today, to make ya feel PROUD?

~Heather Small

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so many kinds of privilege,
so few boxes to check...

Lurleen on Twitter

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more boxes

not privliged
sort of privliged
a smidge priviliged
posing as privliged
really privliged
privliged on steroids

What have you done today, to make ya feel PROUD?

~Heather Small

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yes there ar races.
Yes there are human races, 6.6 billion of them. Save for identical twins triplets etcetra, no two humans are the same.
But what people think of as races are totally human made. by the races that poeple accept I would be 98.4375% white and 1.5625% so called Native American. when in actually I am 100% homo sapiens.

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We could group folks by the SPF number they need

What have you done today, to make ya feel PROUD?

~Heather Small

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You addressed it on the top
But it's worth repeating. Cause we are heavily trained in our society to assume that if something isn't scientific and is instead cultural that that somehow means it isn't real.

So, yes, race is mostly a quaint fiction biologically speaking, especially in America. Even the mitochondrial haplogroups are only matrilineal and there's no good separation points and that will only get blurrier as the human populations approach panmictic.

But race in America is deadly real in a cultural sense. There is a distinct way one is treated in America when they are raised "black", when they are perceived as "black", and when they adopt cultural signifiers of "black culture". These factors directly affect a host a myriad of societal interactions and thus presents very real impacts to the day-to-day life of everyone.

Of course, being a social construct, this means race is even more fluid and arbitrary than we would expect and the aforementioned panmictic qualities of the melting pot means that there will be more and more people on perceptional borderlands or who were raised one way and are perceived another.

The slow decay of racism will also affect this. We saw it in the cultural races of Italian-American, Irish-American, and German-American. All three of these less than 100 years ago had very strong racially separated cultures than perceived whiteness. However, as acceptance grew, they started being shoehorned more with "white" and the strong divisions in the culture began to dissipate. This is especially true with German-Americans who no longer carry any unique cultural signifiers from perceived white.

But yeah, it's "real". It's just not biologically based. Like democracy, a system of courts, or marriage.

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I think most people don't know that biological race is a fantasy
I agree with you that color-aroused antagonism visited upon Blacks by individuals, institutions and the Government remains perhaps THE most serious problem for most Black people in the United States. Many problems like joblessness rates doubling among Black teenagers are caused by color-aroused antagonism and discrimination.

Studies show that a Black man with a college degree has a harder time finding a job than a white man with a criminal history.

Skin color exists, skin color groups exist, and inter-color-group antagonisms exist and have historically been the single greatest problem of the United States. (It's the only one that led to a civil war.)

And yet, I submit to you that you are far more powerful when you express this without using the word race. Here's one reason: White supremacists use the word "race" to mean biological race, as does the New York Times and the Washington Post. Since there's a 400-year history of using the word that way, we will not be able to change what people hear when they hear the word "race". What they hear is "different subspecies" and mostly that's what they mean when they use the word.

Everytime you use the word race sociologically, you give cover to the white supremacist who are using the word biologically. It will take a lot of relearning and effort on our part, but it is impossible to disambiguate the word "race" from the word "race". It's like using the word hamburger to mean both hamburger and hot dog. That would cause a lot of confusion at the company picnic, wouldn't it?

There are other ways to say skin color group that mean the same thing as that other word, but without 400 years of biological junk science garbage attached.

It's essential that we talk about the history, persecution and current status of Blacks in America. But we can do that without ever using the word race, racism, racist and racial. Instead we can use skin color group; color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior; color-aroused institutionalized discrimination and persecution; and color-aroused antagonist.

Every time we call someone a "racist" we are simultaneously telling others that that person discriminates against people who are not from his species. When we concede that we are not from the same species as the color-aroused antagonist, we simultaneously justify the color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior of the color-aroused antagonist. 'He doesn't like us because we are from a different subspecies and humans instinctively distrust people from other subspecies.' Even a past-president of the American Psychiatric Association explained away color-aroused antagonism in this way. (The citations are at the American Journal of Color Arousal.)

You can see where this is going. When you insist that "race" is the center of our problems, you simultaneously concede that you are from a different race than the people who are persecuting you. And they are saying in the white supremacist websites that the reason they are persecuting you is that you are from a different "race" than they. So, every time you use the word "race," you buttress the world view of those who hate you the most.

If we want to be accorded the status of full-fledged humans, we have to stop enabling whites by using the word 'race'. That word denotatively consigns us to a separate subspecies and robs us of our full humanity. The sociological meaning of the term is only 50 years old, while the physiological meaning is over 400 years old. These two meanings simply cannot be disambiguated while we continue to use the same word, with the same spelling, and the same pronunciation, and related subject matter, to mean two entirely different things.

I know that we are joined in the fight against individual and institutional color-aroused discrimination, persecution and marginalization. We are sick and tired of being subject to others' color-aroused ideation, emotion and antagonistic behavior. But we can fight this fight better WITHOUT the word "race" than with it.

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On Race and Gender
Here's an example : the Story of Sandra Laing

* Born in Apartheid South Africa of White Parents.
* Was designated white at birth, but was reclassified as "coloured" just after being expelled from her all white elementary school

Which led to some interesting legal problems...

* "...If Sandra remains 'Coloured' does it mean she will have to be registered as a servant in order to live with us?" [Mr. Laing] added. "Or must she move away into a location? Will we be breaking the law if we take Sandra into a tearoom or a cinema, or take her on a train journey with us? And who would Sandra be allowed to marry?"

The Racial Classification Board had to resort to some real Junk Science when trying to coerce reality into fitting a socially constructed model:

These tests included measurements of the nose, nostrils, and cheekbones, and an expert analysis of hair texture. The latter often included the 'pencil test.' It was thought that a white person's hair is not so curly to hold a pencil, whereas a coloured person's hair could. There were gradations of skin color to be measured in various places of the body including the fingernails and the eyelids; earlobes were squeezed to determine their degree of softness. (It was thought that Black person's earlobes were softer than others.) Individuals challenging their racial classification before the board would also be asked what they had for breakfast (it was thought only blacks would eat mealie or cornmeal porridge), how they slept on a bed, and what sport they enjoyed (blacks were thought to favor soccer while coloured favored rugby).

Of course such a ridiculous, not to say inhuman, situation could never happen again. Or could it? How about these tests, described in Brain, Child :
The tests--many still used today--strike Burke as Orwellian. In one, a child being tested is asked to draw the figure of a person. Girls who draw boys first, predominately, or in positions of power and strength, are suspect, as are boys who draw princesses or mommies. The Barlow Gender-Specific Motor Behavior test examines such things as how far from the back of a chair a seated child's buttocks are--farther is "masculine," closer is "feminine." All the precision of science was applied in developing these tests to measure such things as the angle between the wrist and the hand, how often a child touched his or her hands together in front of his or her body, and how far the hips swayed as the child walked across the room. Especially damning for boys was a lack of hand-eye coordination.

As for the legal situation:

"Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Texas, is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Texas, and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male."
One of the things that caused the collapse of the miscegenation laws was the absurdity caused by states having different definitions of "race". In one state, someone 1/64 African-American would be white, and forbidden to marry a black. In another, they'd be black, and forbidden to marry a white. All because of "natural law" or "God's law" that would cause society to collapse if it were broken.

From a Humboldt University study:
* Between the years of 1950 and 1966 there were 267,541 individuals who could not be adequately categorized by the apartheid system of racial categorization.
* Estimates for Transgender persons in US
o 97,142 - 301,140 persons.
* Estimates of those with intersex condition
o 150,570 - 200,760 persons

There is no situation so complex it can't get even worse

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Zoe,B right?
Wonderful examples that show the absurdity of "resort[ing] to some real Junk Science when trying to coerce reality into fitting a socially constructed model:"

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"The more things change the more they stay the same"
Seriously, how does this change anything? Science has made a number of declarative statements before. Remember when there was no scientific response for the ability of bumble bees to fly; or no scientific evidence for why chicken soup is good for a cold. Genetically, any people group that interacts with any other people group over a few centuries losses genetic distinction between each other. But what we are talking about here is scientific categories in comparison to social ones: Like trying to compare apples to onions.

Even if it is so true that the birthers get so happy you can't hit them in the ass with a red apple, it simply doesn't change what has happened in our past and what is happening in our society today. What this is not is a get out of jail free card for a society that still hasn't learned to deal with or reconcile, the racial issues that seem to still plague us in so many ways including the current gay apartheid and bigotry that seems to be fueled by the same witless justifications so often applied to the races in the past.

Always thinking about it...

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I thnk this does potentially change some things.
We've been discriminated against for centuries, but it wasn't because of our "race"; it was aroused by the perpetrators perception of our SKIN COLOR.

I am an avid reader of online newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. I find that in one article about President Obama, they might use some variation of the words "race", "racial", "racist" and "racism" eight or nine times. If Bill Clinton was wrong to try to color-arouse the South Carolina electorate against President Obama, then aren't the Washington Post and New York Times wrong much more often when the use the word "race" and clearly are referring to biological race?

A newspaper is supposed to report the news, and the news is that the Federal Government says that there is no basis for the categorizations that the NYT and WaPost are using dozens or hundreds of times a day.

I submit to you that the ubiquitous use of the word "race" in our national conversation is for the purpose of, and has the effect of, stigmatizing Blacks as being part of a subspecies of humanity rather than simply human.

We all decry the fact that discussions of "race" always lead to rancor, but how could that NOT be the case, when the premise of the discussion is that your skin color makes you fundamentally biologically different (and naturally inferior), even though science has found that this is a false and baseless hypothesis, not a publishable reality or truth.

The word "race" is used multiple or even dozens of times in any article where a Black person runs for office. It's one thing to mention that the candidate's skin is brown or that his color group identification is "Black". It's quite a different thing to assert relentlessly that he is from a different subspecies than the majority of voters.

How will we ever get rid of color-aroused antagonism when our newspapers tell us daily that we are from distinct subspecies. That, in itself, is an act of color-aroused antagonism and propaganda.

Just as life changed for Blacks when white children stopped calling old Black men "boy", life will change for Blacks once again when we are linguistically admitted into the same species as our white brothers and sisters.

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