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Author Topic: What is "White?"
AchillesHeel
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I already feel that I may regret adding this to mole-hill of conroversy that Hatrack is experiencing at the moment, but I feel that this has been brushed but not investigated and I personnally feel curious about the definition of "white" or "caucasian." What physical characteristics and/or genetic backgrounds would qualify a person for a descriptor that is used so universally? I ask this because someone of Greek heritage and another of Irish certainly dont have much in common genetically or aesthetically, are they both "white?"
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Raymond Arnold
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The generally employed answer is that if you're ancestors spent a few thousand years in Europe, you're probably white. The actual answer is that race is made up construct so the question is mostly meaningless.
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Samprimary
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It's mostly characterized by lighter pigmentation. Even though it differs from culture to culture, the crude fast test for it is to look back at when categorization by western nations was lumped into 'caucasoid, mongoloid, negroid' — anything that was in 'caucasoid' back then is a near certain pick for what constitutes 'white.'
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scifibum
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Anything from this to this.
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Amanecer
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It seems like in America, with so many different heritages we just group things together based on easy to identify skin color. I know I've got Irish, French, Swiss, English, German, etc. all in my heritage, so that type of ethnic identification becomes harder to pinpoint.

But maybe I'm mistaken. I know there are people here from other countries. What is it like there? In France and England, do they still talk about "white" or do they normally refer to ethnicities like "French" and "English"?

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Epictetus
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Whiteness in America today seems like it has less to do with cultural heritage and more to do with how others perceive you (and how you perceive others). Scientifically, race is a social construct; however societal race is filled with assumptions or lack thereof about your class, family situation, criminal record, the neighborhood you live in, etc. More to the point, being white has a lot to do with the sort of privileges you enjoy in your society. This "white privilege" is difficult to see (if your white) but it does inform our worldviews and our upbringing.

In my class this summer we've discussed this quite a bit. Some great articles to read are "Engaging Whiteness: how racial power gets reified in education" by Kathy Hytten and John Warren and "Da State of Pidgin Address" by Lee A. Tonouchi. There's also a great resource in a book called "The Everyday Writing Center" called the whiteness inventory. It is a series of yes or no questions intended to help tutors in training take notice of what sort of things inform white privilege. I can find it if you would like.

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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
I ask this because someone of Greek heritage and another of Irish certainly dont have much in common genetically or aesthetically, are they both "white?"

I seem to recall that at one point in this country's history, neither of these groups was considered "white."

--j_k

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
... I ask this because someone of Greek heritage and another of Irish certainly dont have much in common genetically or aesthetically, are they both "white?"

The latter mind you is relative of course. I find that they both look the same [Wink]

One interesting note, if you go do genetic clustering, and choose to cluster into three or more groups, you can find that most in the Middle East (and even South Asia (as in India)) end up clustering together with white people.

The War of Terror is white-on-white action! [Wink]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rosenberg_1048people_993markers.jpg

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Bella Bee
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quote:
In France and England, do they still talk about "white" or do they normally refer to ethnicities like "French" and "English"?
Well, on forms in the UK, in the ethnicity section they often have 'White British' and 'White Other' options, among many others.

I don't fill in that bit of the form anyway, if I can help it, as I don't think it's anyone's business. You can look at me and decide what you think I am.

BNP (British National Party - the tiny little racist right-wing skinhead political party) members talk about 'English Ethnicity' and think that they're in some way superior. Thankfully, most people laugh and point at people who go on like that. It's almost impossible to know that all your ancestors are from the UK, or even Europe, considering the amount of immigration we've always had. There were African soldiers in England in Roman times.

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Flaming Toad on a Stick
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Depending on who I was with at the time, I've been classified as both white and "brown" (Though I have light tan skin.)
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Wingracer
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:
[QUOTE]
It's almost impossible to know that all your ancestors are from the UK, or even Europe, considering the amount of immigration we've always had. There were African soldiers in England in Roman times.

Probably Syrians, Arabs and every other neighboring peoples as well I imagine. The Romans were a mixed up lot.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:

It's almost impossible to know that all your ancestors are from the UK, or even Europe, considering the amount of immigration we've always had. There were African soldiers in England in Roman times.

It's a guaranteed certainty that not all of your ancestors are from England anyway- the question is as academic in Europe as it is in America. Are you of Anglo-Saxon derivation? Norman French? Gaelic? Gallic? Pre-Roman? It's a virtual certainty that there is not a living person in England with all of his ancestors, or even the larger part of his parentage comprised of pre-Roman islanders. We don't even know much about those people or the languages they spoke, or where many of them ultimately had come from- the island has been inhabited since before even the most recent glacial period.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by James Tiberius Kirk:
quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
I ask this because someone of Greek heritage and another of Irish certainly dont have much in common genetically or aesthetically, are they both "white?"

I seem to recall that at one point in this country's history, neither of these groups was considered "white."

--j_k

The idea that anything European is white is a recent phenomenon in American history. Historians that look at this type of stuff (strikes me more as sociology or anthro really, but we dabble) might quibble by a decade or two, but even as recently as the 60s and 70s, ethnic communities were far more defined by their cultural differences than their skin color. It's only the last generation or two, people born in the 60s or later who came of age in the 70s and 80s, who white-washed anyone from Europe into a single race and stopped looking at where they came from. I haven't read any studies/research that hazards a guess as to why this happened, but it would be an interesting research topic.
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Amberkitty
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Whiteness in America is more than a collection of racial or ethnic traits. It is also the schema for traits associated with high(er) socioeconomic status or those holding that status or mainstream culture.

I know black people who have been called white because they are college-educated. I've been called white because I don't hold traditional Chinese values. I know white people slinging slurs like white trash or cracker, the former removing association with the latter because they are lower class or have less education.

You can't talk about what is white in America without talking about the term's complete and complex meaning.

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Geraine
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A quote from a horrible (yet funny) movie comes to mind

"If you white, you Ben Affleck!" - Rolemodels

Most of my ancestors migrated here in the mid 1800's from Scotland. My wife is Albanian, and though she is white, she has what I would describe as olive skin. It is not brown at all, just....different.

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Black Fox
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White is simply the "modern" label for European in America. In Europe I rarely hear people use the term "white", but they tend to speak more of Europeans, specifically Western European, as a group. Even within that group I hear Germans often speak of the "lazy Southern Europeans" or things like " that is just how they do it in the south."

In Germany people tend to not see the British as really being European, and they don't see Russians as being Europeans ( go figure ).

The classification of people into groups is really pretty typical throughout history, what changes is what specific trait or quality puts you into a group. Due to the nature of slavery in American history there is an emphasis on skin tone, Europe has a focus on national origin, and Japan gets serious about what neighborhood you come from.

That and I laugh when people talk about Europeans as being "white" as I know many people in Germany and other "white" countries in Europe that tan extremely dark, but then I also know pasty people from Spain and Portugal. I tend to think of myself as pink, because if you put me next to white paint it is obvious we are of separate pigmentation.

American emphasis on skin color also comes from an anthropological concept known as hypodescent, which simply is the idea that if one of your ancestors is a specific race/ethnicity/descriptor then all descendants retain those characteristics. This came about due to the American legal system and is now firmly rooted into American culture. To the shock of many Americans hypodescent is not the norm for the world, interestingly in Latin America it is the exact opposite.

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malanthrop
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Being "white" is just being lighter than the person looking/judging you to be so. When my white freinds look at my wife and say, "damn, she's white"....they're being somewhat literal. I've heard black people use the same type of language for the opposite spectrum. Unfortunately, saying someone is white or black isn't just stating the obvious,ie that person is lighter or darker than you. Many people don't consider themselves white, red, brown or black... it sais more about the speaker than the individual. I hate to self identify and I'm only slightly mixed race. If I were half white and half black,...which would I embrace and which would I reject? Should you pick what society thinks you are at a glance? Which half of your family do you not identify with, or at least affirm on a job application that you don't.
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scholarette
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My brother in law is mixed and he identifies as black because he is treated that way. He doesn't view it as disavowing those family members that are white. In fact, based on his relationships with his family, if he is disavowing any side it is the black side. He has to face all the racism and negatives of being black and gets none of the white privileges so he feels like saying he is black is more fitting. Of course, to be fair, his black relatives do say he is not black and don't get how to relate to him at all. If you ever read stuff white people like, my brother in law is so the white guy they are profiling. Except for the dark skin.
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Herblay
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"White" has been subject to scientific classification for quite some time, as much as I hate to disagree with the majority. Even though the scientific community has refuted the old theories of human taxonomy that were prevalent around the turn of the last century (caucasoid, mongeloid), there are several fields that are actively involved in categorizing racial differentiation.

Craniofacial anthropometry is used in forensic anthropology to determine race and other characteristics, with a high degree of accurately, by taking a series of skull measurements. My father is an archaeologist working for the BLM, and he is regularly consulted to perform this type of profiling for law enforcement agencies.

Mitrochondrial DNA haplogroups can also be tested to determine origin and evolutionary development among people's matrilineal genetic heritage From what I understand, you can submit for a (relatively) inexpensive bloodtest and determine your genetic ancestry.

Why are so many people claiming that "color" is a product of the most recent few generations? Scientific texts from a hundred years ago were full of references. And then there was eugenics.

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Jhai
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To head off the whole "race is a social construct" vs. "race has scientific biological underpinnings" argument (although I'm impressed by the discussion here thus far, Hatrack - way to go!), I'd like to present this link. Basically, it points out that race, as socially constructed in the US is connected to race as it can be constructed biologically.

Summary Quote:
quote:
First, an important preliminary-- there are millions of places in the human genome where any two given people could possible differ, either by a single base change, the addition of an entire chunk of DNA, the inversion of a chunk of DNA, or whatever. Keep that in mind: millions and millions of places (for a database of many of the single base changes, see the HapMap). Now, the intuitive argument: after humans arose in Africa, they dispered themselves throughout the world. By both chance and in response to selection due to their new environments, populations in different parts of the world ended up with different frequencies of those millions of DNA variants. Simple enough. Now, below the fold, I will present the evidence that 1. the patterns of genetic variation form clusters on a world-wide scale, 2. genetic clusters coincide with what is commonly called "race", and 3. genetic variation between clusters is relevant phenotypically.

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Amberkitty
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
To head off the whole "race is a social construct" vs. "race has scientific biological underpinnings" argument (although I'm impressed by the discussion here thus far, Hatrack - way to go!), I'd like to present this link.

Thanks for the link. I'd just like to pull this quote:

quote:
I have enough faith in human intelligence to think that the first person who called race a societal construct did not mean that it had no biological component as well--note that the Wikipedia entry on adolesence refers to it as a "cultural and social phenomenon" but also "the transitional stage of human development in which a juvenile matures into an adult". People seem to somehow be able to keep the cultural and biological aspects of adolescence in their heads at the same time, as I imagine the first sociologists to study race were able to do (I may, of course, be wrong), yet somehow the fact that biological differences are interpreted through a cultural lens has somehow morphed into the idea that the biological differences don't exist to begin with (see, e.g. the ASA statement on race).
Whiteness is both a biological and social construct, but the term is very commonly used with its social definition.
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scholarette
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I think the current trend for geneticists is to say hereditary differences in populations instead of race. And instead of racial traits, they say phenotypic traits.
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Can5
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White is asking "what is white?".
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Epictetus
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For the record, whenever I've heard anthropologists say "race is a social construct" it's been in the context of discussing infinite variation. What I meant, and I think what others mean by race as a social construct is that there is no distinct separation, in genetics or phenotypes, between races. For that reason, concepts of black, white, hispanic, etc. are cultural classifications that don't reflect biology.

Edit: or basically what scholarette said...I need to read more carefully [Smile]

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Wingracer
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quote:
Originally posted by Epictetus:
What I meant, and I think what others mean by race as a social construct is that there is no distinct separation, in genetics or phenotypes, between races. For that reason, concepts of black, white, hispanic, etc. are cultural classifications that don't reflect biology.

Then why are there certain biological differences between races? There are health problems and conditions that are common to one race and rare in another. Certain obvious physical differences, etc.
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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by Epictetus:
For the record, whenever I've heard anthropologists say "race is a social construct" it's been in the context of discussing infinite variation. What I meant, and I think what others mean by race as a social construct is that there is no distinct separation, in genetics or phenotypes, between races. For that reason, concepts of black, white, hispanic, etc. are cultural classifications that don't reflect biology.

Edit: or basically what scholarette said...I need to read more carefully [Smile]

Yes, there are many distinct seperations, in both genetics and phenotypes. Both the nasal cavity and ocular cavity are distinctly different, from race to race. This is one of the first things that anthropologists learn in osteology. There are genetic diseases that only occur in certain races (sickle cell, Pompe's syndrome), and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups are distinct indicators.

We are all different, and we should celebrate those differences, but to deny that they exist is bad science.

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Black Fox
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To say we are all different is not nearly the same thing as saying "race" is somehow stamped into us. Physical difference does not equal race. If Race were somehow a biological thing, why do we not have races for other animals?

We do have sub-species, but even the definition of a sub-species is an odd one, normally they are sub-species if they have certain differences and can still have viable off-spring. Do not attempt and say that race is some sort of objective fact simply due to the fact that there are differences between people. In the end race still ends up being a subjective grouping with dubious value as a grouping tool.

That and even the idea of race is not universal, it was rather normal to consider different nations to be different races. The United States has continued to change and expand the "races" that exist.

Race is a rather loose term to say the least, and to have any fruitful discussion on the matter it should be vigorously defined.

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scholarette
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The problem is defining what is race. Our races are too fuzzy right now. For example, West Africa and East Africa seem to have different gene frequencies. Yet, for most people, those groups are just "black." This is why geneticists like to use common descent, shared heredity, whatever.
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Amberkitty
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Meeeeeh.

There is no genetic determination for race. Genetic differences within a racial group are larger than those among different racial groups. We have phenotypic and genotypic differences that reflect the history of the populations from which we came, but it is inaccurate to say all those differences are linked only to certain races or that they are applicable to members of a certain race reliably.

For example, sickle cell is not only found among black people. It's highly prevalent among black people, especially in Africa, because the heterozygous genotype is resistant against malaria, a prevalent disease in Africa. The correlation, however, is no indicator whether someone is black. Add evidence that sickle cell shows up in much lower rates among black populations in North America where malaria never has been endemic than among those in Africa where it is still widespread, and that sickle cell also shows up in high rates in Sicily among non-black populations, the argument that sickle cell is a racially linked disease falls apart.

Race, as a term, may have some meaning in reference to distinct human populations when there were much lower rates of genetic drift, but today with so much intermingling, biological racial lines are blurred and the classification, obsolete.

[ August 10, 2010, 12:03 PM: Message edited by: Amberkitty ]

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Black Fox:
... In the end race still ends up being a subjective grouping with dubious value as a grouping tool.

The value is definitely debatable, I agree. But I don't think race is all that subjective. Both Jhai and I have linked to papers (or their results) where non-biased clustering algorithms have been applied to genetic differences and found clusters that are well correlated with our general ideas of race.

Ex:
quote:
The basis for this assertion comes from a paper (open access) by a different set of researchers at Stanford, who assembled a group of Americans who identified themselves as either African-American, white, East Asian, or Hispanic. They followed a similar protocal as the studies in the first section-- they took DNA from all individuals, looked a hundreds of different DNA variants, and applied a clustering algorithm. They then looked to see if their clusters corresponded to self-reported group. And indeed, in 3631 out of 3636 cases (99.85%), the individuals were clustered by the algorithm into the "correct" racial group.

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Epictetus
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These papers sound interesting, and I agree it's still worthy of debate. What I think is interesting is what the conclusions mean for the way that race is perceived. My fear would be that if we suddenly say that the concept of race is scientifically supported, it gives another reason (however ill-conceived it is) to those who want to label others as "different".
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Rappin' Ronnie Reagan
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
Both the nasal cavity and ocular cavity are distinctly different, from race to race. This is one of the first things that anthropologists learn in osteology.

Different ancestries may be distinctly different in the examples presented in textbooks, but in practice, many times the difference isn't distinct. Take nasal opening width, for example. In textbooks, African ancestry is a wide opening, Asian is medium, and European is narrow, but in reality there aren't just three different distinct groups. There's a whole line of continuous variation from very narrow to very wide. Many skulls have traits that are associated with multiple ancestral groups. You have to go with the ancestry that the majority of traits are from. And the eye orbit isn't one of the best traits to use. Ancestry determination also isn't one of the first things osteology students learn. First they learn names and features of bones and how to determine left and right. Then they do stature. Then they do sex. And then they do ancestry, or they might do trauma and pathology first. My graduate forensic anthropology class probably got ancestry wrong more often than we got it right. It's not easy.

quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
There are genetic diseases that only occur in certain races (sickle cell, Pompe's syndrome)...

False, but Amberkitty already pointed this out.

If you look at physical variation in the world as a whole, there aren't distinct racial groups. There's a continuous line of variation, but we're human so we want to divide people up into distinct groups even if they don't quite fit. In my mind, ancestry is genetic and race is social, and specific racial categories often correspond to specific ancestral groups (in the U.S.), as Mucus and Jhai have pointed out.

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Black Fox
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The problem with a study of Americans is the question if social factors contributed to the those groupings. When you look at the social reality of America through most of its history "interracial" marriage was not common. This alone would lead to groupings along a society's idea of race.

That and if the American idea of race corresponded to the general regional origin of a person it would also lead to the same type of groupings.

Anyhow, what I am arguing for is not that there no biological differences between peoples of different "races" but that the American definition of race is one built on social mechanics. Subjective valuation can often create objective differences, for instance it is an objective fact that African-Americans are more likely to end up in jail or belong to a lower socio-economic group. You can even look at standardized tests and they can show an obvious gap along all socio-economic groups between African-Americans and "whites."

However, the fact that we differ genetically due to regional origin (regional origin also can be used to ascertain skin pigmentation and the average size of a head) does not objectively lead to race. Why call it race and not sub-species? It all ends up being subjective valuation to assist human beings in categorizing. Race is a subjective value in the same sense that something being a coffee table and not a dinner table is subjective.

It also does not help in the fact that a lot of biological terms are best suited to animals in the wild, ones that have been geographically separated. In the modern world this is just no longer happening with people as persons from all over the world are mingling genetically.

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Wingracer
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quote:
Originally posted by Black Fox:
Why call it race and not sub-species?

Yeah, just try calling ANY minority a sub-species and see what happens. [Big Grin]
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Epictetus:
... My fear would be that if we suddenly say that the concept of race is scientifically supported, it gives another reason (however ill-conceived it is) to those who want to label others as "different".

Well, they are different. The question is in which way are they different and whether that even matters depending on what subject we're examining it in relation to.

I get that it can be a concern, but I'm not particularly moved. There is a parallel debate in evolution as to whether we should call evolution a "fact" or a "theory" because there exist creationists that are eager to misinterpret what "theory" means.

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malanthrop
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quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
[QUOTE] We are all different, and we should celebrate those differences, but to deny that they exist is bad science.

Depends on the difference. Positive differences, you're free to speak. Some negative differences are ok and have had movies made after them....IE White Men Can't Jump. Great movie and I wasn't offended, despite having a 40 inch vertical leap at the time. A movie titled, Black Men Can't Swim probably wouldn't go over too well, despite the obvious racial "profile" in the pool learning how to swim in Navy Boot Camp. On the other hand, I spoke to a black Navy Seal today.
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Amberkitty
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Though racial categories may be constructed from phenotype, the definition of these categories themselves are mutable and therefore arbitrary.

quote:
The definition of race is not consistent across societies, as seen in the US and Brazilian examples, nor is it consistent within societies or over time. The difficulties linked to defining race in a precise and unchanging manner directly affect the validity and reliability of this concept. Given the lack of scientific support for the claim that the human species is subdivided into different lineages (races), it is neither possible nor desirable to establish a valid measurement of race in biological terms. At the same time, race is a very meaningful social category that can determine differential access to a broad range of societal resources. Measuring race is not simple or easy because the concepts of race, skin color, ethnicity, origin, ancestry, nationality, and identity overlap.

-- source


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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by malanthrop:
quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
[QUOTE] We are all different, and we should celebrate those differences, but to deny that they exist is bad science.

Depends on the difference. Positive differences, you're free to speak. Some negative differences are ok and have had movies made after them....IE White Men Can't Jump. Great movie and I wasn't offended, despite having a 40 inch vertical leap at the time. A movie titled, Black Men Can't Swim probably wouldn't go over too well, despite the obvious racial "profile" in the pool learning how to swim in Navy Boot Camp. On the other hand, I spoke to a black Navy Seal today.
Yes, but I recently saw a study that compared swimming ability versus race. Whites had the highest percentage of swimmers, followed by Latinos and Pacific Islanders, then Asians. Blacks had the smallest percentage of able swimmers. They did state, however, that the disparity seemed to correlate somewhat with income level. They surmised that it was income -- not race -- that determined the swimming ability.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
quote:
Originally posted by Black Fox:
... In the end race still ends up being a subjective grouping with dubious value as a grouping tool.

The value is definitely debatable, I agree. But I don't think race is all that subjective. Both Jhai and I have linked to papers (or their results) where non-biased clustering algorithms have been applied to genetic differences and found clusters that are well correlated with our general ideas of race.

Ex:
quote:
The basis for this assertion comes from a paper (open access) by a different set of researchers at Stanford, who assembled a group of Americans who identified themselves as either African-American, white, East Asian, or Hispanic. They followed a similar protocal as the studies in the first section-- they took DNA from all individuals, looked a hundreds of different DNA variants, and applied a clustering algorithm. They then looked to see if their clusters corresponded to self-reported group. And indeed, in 3631 out of 3636 cases (99.85%), the individuals were clustered by the algorithm into the "correct" racial group.

Re: the passage quoted above: I for one, and I think many here who caution against the overvaluation of race as a scientifically valid concept are addressing the notion that race can be defined by clustering the world's populations into discrete groups. It's of course possible to cluster sample groups in this way to show that there is a genetic link between self-conceptualized "race" and actual genes, but it would be impossible to actually group the entire world population into discretely meaningful racial categories. That is to say, you *can* cluster people into racial categories, but you can't make those categories meaningful. You *can* figure out that out of a group of 10 people, 3 are Chinese, 2 Black African, 3 white, 1 native American, etc. What that doesn't tell you is much at all about those ten people. You can group them according to phenotype, and then what do you do? The variation amongst individuals of each race are still equal for all practical purposes for those individuals. You can use race as a function in statistical projections: incidences of genetic diseases of various kinds, average heights, colors, other properties, but the groups you have created amongst your 10 individuals tell you very little about them. The point is not that "race" as phenotype does not exist, because that phenomenon is self-evident. However, "race" as a useful identifier for an individual is indeed subjective, and its value is indeed dubious.

You can take a social concept like self-identified racial background, and cluster it according to genetics and do so accurately so that they match up, but you're proving that apples are indeed red and that oranges are indeed orange. That there is a genetic basis for phenotype is not a mystery, and that phenotypical differences are generally recognizable is not a mystery. That any of that matters particularly much on an individual basis when not specifically addressing the very sociologically significant question: "what are you?" is I think where we need to be careful.

Re: race as subjective: It all depends on what you mean by "subjective." In the sense that I am lighter skinned than a black person, this is not a subjective question. I am lighter skinned than any black person who is not a genetic anomaly. But that, skin color, is one of a limited set of reference points upon which we define race. Consider a society that is colorblind, or is in fact simply blind. How would we categorize ourselves? I imagine scenarios in which categories or "races" of people might be defined by the sounds of their voices, by the size of their hands or textures of their skins. The size and shape of mouths, of eyes, the textures of hair might become unimportant to us, because these are not the apparent aspects of other people as we experience them. I could imagine that given say, 25,000 years for the human population to go on living in different areas, we might all develop into noticeably different versions of the same basic thing. Only now, hair on the knuckle of the hands means something about race, deepness of the voice is a racial characteristic, and so on. The items that vary the most among individuals, like the flexibility of fingers or the rate of nail growth, or the width of the space between fingers, or manner of speaking, rather than actual size of the vocal chords are "non-racial" characteristics, and so they are ignored. Search for what makes us recognizably different, and search for the genetic mechanisms that cause this, and you will find them. Search where variation is more common, and where you have trouble noticing differences because you are blind, for instance in the shape of the nose, or in the color of eyes or of hair, and you will not encounter differences that are meaningful to you.

So in the sense that you can define race as phenotype and then say it's a valid and provable system of categorization, whatever. Fine. What does that signify about an individual? Does the existence of a category, and your knowledge of that category assist you in understanding an individual? Can it harm your understanding? Can it lead you to false assumptions? To dangerous ones? We know these questions and we have seen the answers already, and they aren't pretty ones.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by malanthrop:
quote:
Originally posted by Herblay:
[QUOTE] We are all different, and we should celebrate those differences, but to deny that they exist is bad science.

Depends on the difference. Positive differences, you're free to speak. Some negative differences are ok and have had movies made after them....IE White Men Can't Jump. Great movie and I wasn't offended, despite having a 40 inch vertical leap at the time. A movie titled, Black Men Can't Swim probably wouldn't go over too well, despite the obvious racial "profile" in the pool learning how to swim in Navy Boot Camp. On the other hand, I spoke to a black Navy Seal today.
[Roll Eyes] I'm just sitting here wondering what your deal is. You're not offended. So why are you mentioning it? You take it for granted that a black person would be offended, and you act like you don't care, so why are you mentioning it? Are you just mentioning all these things to flout the fact that you don't buy "PC" even though you live it? Do you think you are the only person in society who notices that you have to be racially sensitive, and everybody else is just unaware that this exists? Or do you just like to scratch at the veneer of racist attitudes and blow off a little steam and vent a little bit of your envy by mentioning black people and swimming, without directly saying: "BLACK PEOPLE CAN'T SWIM LOLZ!" And then quickly cover it up by saying you met a black seal, and so really it's ok that you are saying this because "you get it," and also lend yourself the credibility you desperately crave by reminding us all that you are somehow involved with the military.

I notice your wife is now white, by the way. I remember when you needed her to be, what was it, Native American? Magically she wasn't white before.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
... It's of course possible to cluster sample groups in this way to show that there is a genetic link between self-conceptualized "race" and actual genes, but it would be impossible to actually group the entire world population into discretely meaningful racial categories.

I don't see why that would be relevant. Neither the two papers, nor the more general concept of race necessarily requires discrete racial categories. People can be mixed, either way.

quote:
That is to say, you *can* cluster people into racial categories, but you can't make those categories meaningful.
They have already. As the first paper points out, the "social" debate others are having is pretty irrelevant, these categories are already useful in science:

quote:
In general, representations of human genetic diversity are evaluated based on their ability to facilitate further research into such topics as human evolutionary history and the identification of medically important genotypes that vary in frequency across populations. Both clines and clusters are among the constructs that meet this standard of usefulness for example, clines of allele frequency variation have proven important for inference about the genetic history of Europe [15], and clusters have been shown to be valuable for avoidance of the false positive associations that result from population structure in genetic association studies [16]. The arguments about the existence or nonexistence of “biological races” in the absence of a specific context are largely orthogonal to the question of scientific utility, and they should not obscure the fact that, ultimately, the primary goals for studies of genetic variation in humans are to make inferences about human evolutionary history, human biology, and the genetic causes of disease.
quote:
You can group them according to phenotype, and then what do you do? The variation amongst individuals of each race are still equal for all practical purposes for those individuals.
For a lot of the rest, you mention phenotype a lot. But it should be pointed out that both papers use genetic sequencing, as in genotype, not phenotype. The exact purpose (and thus their phenotype) of these areas that they're sequencing is still an area of active research.

Also, these are unsupervised cluster algorithms, so they would be able to detect if variation on the micro-satellites really was equal for all individuals. One way that the authors appear to have verified this is by running repeatedly (367,220 times) with random seeds, to verify that the clusters they found really were most probable.

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AchillesHeel
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quote:
They surmised that it was income -- not race -- that determined the swimming ability.
That makes a certain amount of sense, if Micheal Phelps had to start working atleast twenty hours a week at sixteen to help out with bills and went to a school with no pool let alone a swim team, I doubt he would have ever reached olymipic standards.
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odouls268
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
The generally employed answer is that if you're ancestors spent a few thousand years in Europe, you're probably white. The actual answer is that race is made up construct so the question is mostly meaningless.

One of the best answers I've heard in a while.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Since the beginning, Brazil had a lot more racial integration while what became the U.S. was more segregated. Today, there's really no such thing as an african/black sub-culture in Brazil.

In general, in Brazil you're considered black if and only if you look black. It doesn't matter who your parents were (after all, most Brazilians have black ancestors somewhere in their family tree), or what culture you grew up in.

For example, Halle Barry, at least as she's looked since around 2000, would likely not be considered black in Brazil. Her facial features don't look African, and her skin tone isn't very dark.

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Lyrhawn
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I've always been interested in comparisons between Brazil and America when it comes to race issues. They had similar foundations as colonies from Europe, but the composition of the colonists was drastically different, and how they interacted with and intermarried with the locals and with slaves was vastly different as well. I think those differences make up a lot of the differences that exist today in how both countries view race in their respective societies. I'd love to read a good article that compares the two.
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Orincoro
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I would guess a fair amount of the difference had to do with religion. The British colonies were non-Catholic, and I suspect Catholic teachings, having come out of Rome in the early centuries AD, was especially tolerant of racial intermarriage, when compared to Anglican, Lutheran, or quaker beliefs and practices.

I'm not saying there's that much difference in regard to actual religious teachings, just that Catholic society had always been multi-racial and pluralist. The protestant sects developed in more mono-racial settings, and their adherents probably idealized a mono-racial society, which discouraged exogamy.

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Lyrhawn
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I've always thought more of it had to do with the composition of the colonists. Brazilian colonists tended to be single males, whereas American colonists tended to move in family units far more often. The result was that in America, there wasn't a lot of intermarriage. In Brazil, intermarriage with natives was necessary, so you got a huge number of interracial families very early in their development. That would force Brazilians to rethink race in a way that Americans have never had to, because the option is almost always open for us to choose between large numbers of our own "race" for marriage.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by odouls268:
quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
The generally employed answer is that if you're ancestors spent a few thousand years in Europe, you're probably white. The actual answer is that race is made up construct so the question is mostly meaningless.

One of the best answers I've heard in a while.
Ironically, I do not remember writing that. In fact, reading it without looking at the name, I assumed it was posted by Orincoro.
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mr_porteiro_head
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In the Brazilian version of Pocahontas, the Indian princess and the Portuguese prince fall in love. In the story, their child, a mix of both Indian and European, is the first Brazilian.
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Raymond Arnold
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This is a separate story that happens to share characteristics with Pocahontas, or this is a re-imagining of the Pocahontas story for Brazilians?
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