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Race vs Ethnic/Genetic

Sorry, folks, but "white" isn't a race. It's a (range of) skin color(s). The genetic groups usually classed as "white" are european and russian in origin, but people labelled "white" can actually have anything on the planet in their bloodline. "Black" also isn't a race. It's a (range of) skin color(s), because the genetic groups primarily contributing can be a hodge podge of african and middle eastern origins, but they can have ancestors from all over the world. The white "race" isn't. The black "race" isn't.

Ethnicity as I'm using it refers to ancestry and the genetic differences inherited therefrom, only one (a minor one) of which is skin color. Genetic groupings, if you will, and those are not the same as "race" as used today. This doesn't match the dictionary definition of ethnic, which includes the term race, btw. If someone has a better term, that doesn't try to draw arbitrary lines based on a single small set of genetic characteristics, I'd be glad to hear it. Using skin color to define "race" is like using hair color or height to define race. It renders the term "race" meaningless.

My ancestry (and ethnicity) isn't "white", it's various European tribes and migratory groups, plus whatever other groups crept in to the woodpile. Part of my family has been in the US since the 1700s, which means there may well be african and/or native american in the mix, given the migratory tendencies in this country. "White" only describes my arbitrary racial designation based on skin color (which is actually pasty pink).

Essentially, people try to use the term "race" to label the polyglot of genetic backgrounds that occur in the US, and try to force people into a stereotype due to their skin color. This is stupid. "Race" becomes a null term in a ethnically non-homogeneous population. The "white" and "black" races *aren't*. They're just rubbish bins in which to arbitrarily sort people.

Ethnicity is not learned and isn't the same as culture. Culture is an artifact of upbringing and the surrounding population, and the only thing that ties it to race or genetics is choice and/or stereotypes. By the strict dictionary definition, culture is only a *part* of ethnicity. Your genes, including the interesting little physiological factors engendered from various tribes at various locations, can't be "learned".

Maybe there are still a few ethnically (genetically) homogeneous populations, but they're rare and isolated.

"Race" used to describe a person's genetic background is virtually meaningless. A guy can be a nice chocolate brown in skin tone, and still have a major portion of his genetic background be english (anglo-saxon+), welsh (celtic+), and polish! Is he a member of some mythical black race? Uh, no. Labelling him racially "black" doesn't obviate the other genes, or the genetic strengths and weaknesses he gets from them. The only valid race to assign to him would be "mutt". Most second or greater generation Americans are mutts, including me.

If the concept of race proves out to be arbitrary and meaningless, due to thousands of years of tribal migrations and genetic mixing (especially recently in the US), what does it do to the concepts of racism? People who sort everyone into all or nothing racial labels like "white", "latino", "black" and "asian" are ignorant of history and genetics.

Now, comes the kicker: saying that persons of the "wrong" race (black, white, yellow) can't practice certain religions becomes a bit silly, doesn't it?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 16th, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC)

And to throw a little more into the pot, indigenous Australians also refer to themselves as black.
Jun. 16th, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm. That I hadn't known. Interesting.
Jun. 16th, 2005 08:13 pm (UTC)
Well written... variations have been written before by someone I know rather well *coughahem* *chuckle*, but racist st00p1ds will hear less of this than a brick wall would. The best thing about banging one's head against a brick wall is that it feels so good when you stop. :D

My position on the matter has at this point been distilled down to two sentences; which I will say as happily to the black guy in Times Square who is screaming "Jesus was black!" into a megaphone as I will to the white Nazitru asshat who cops an attitude at a moot:

"It's a suntan. Get over it."
Jun. 17th, 2005 12:15 am (UTC)
Actually "race" is a null term when it comes to determining which breed of homo sapien sapien you're referring to, as, biologically speaking, h.s.s. is the race. All the other subdivisions are just breed variations. It's like the difference between St. Bernards & Collies, only with less definition.
Jun. 17th, 2005 01:15 am (UTC)
The Aryans of the Indian subcontinent have a "black" skin tone. I'm sure that upsets a lot of people.

I also object to "Caucasian." While it's possible I might have some remote ancestor in the Caucasus mountains, the Finno-Ugaric language skew of some of my ancestors means that branch came from the Urals, which is an *entirely different* genetics, thank you.

It's all a bunch of bunk.
Jun. 17th, 2005 03:03 am (UTC)
Cultural Anthro 101 after the advent of genetics.

And if there is only a 3% difference in genes between chimps and humans, and race cannot be determined by mitochondrial DNA trace routes, it's silly.

There are people who smell right to me, taste right to me and whose musk is highly attractive to me. It may be they eat the same foods I do, it may be other things, but they are Magyar.

That isn't cultural, it isn't racial, it is isn't genetic. What it is is not a construct of my own mind, but what it is I don't know. "It smells right, tastes right, speaks right, it must be safe to breed with...." but why?

Jun. 17th, 2005 04:21 am (UTC)
It IS changing, but very slowly.
To me, the whole thing boils down to all of us being children of God (or gods, depending upon your spiritual or religious beliefs) and accepting that we are also all homo sapiens. From there, it is also important t me that others DO NOT lump me with ANY group. I am me, a unique person and my ideas don't fit into anyone's little cubby hole, or label.

I have found that I am happiest sharing sex with a man and with a man who smells and feels right and who seems to share sme basic ideological similarities. Both of my husbands have been of scandinavian ancestry, both Scandinavian and Irish and German to be exact. Why this is I do not know. I do know that a love of potatoes, steak and pizza is another thing both men and I have shared. Is it ethnic, genetic, or just chance? I don't know.

One of the surprises for me living in the deep south of Northern Florida was the number of interracial couples I have seen here, as well as the acceptance of them by others. There are still "racial tensions" occasionally in our schools here. Nevertheless, "black" and "white" couples are not particularly unusual in the high schools. The divisions seem to be more along IQ lines than racial, which surprised me given the history of the area regarding segregation.

Bottom line, as my ancient mama would say, is that if we look upon everyone as a friend and treat them as an equal, celebrating both our differences and similarities, then we are likely to bring out the best in everyone we meet. (paraphrased from her more colorful way of saying it using such terms as purple with pink polka dots.)

Jun. 17th, 2005 08:57 am (UTC)
You'll like these then...
Er, not.

Various job apps with questions about Ethnicity.

Anything from this sort

http://www.broxtowe.gov.uk/employment_application.pdf (section 7)

and this

http://www.stirling.gov.uk/internet_equal_opps_form.pdf (page 2)

to this

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?VIEW_PAGE=/recruitment/JobApplicationForm.jsp (section 12)

or like this


page 5 section A

Note, I picked Government job apps to show the variation in the use of the word "ethnic" and what constitutes an ethnic group. I'm not attacking you here, just saying that nobody seems to be happy with one set of criteria or how much of what qualifies you for a particular group.

Jun. 18th, 2005 12:52 am (UTC)
"Ethnicity" is of course the tentatively PC term for "a group you are proud to be associated with and that we don't condemn you as a bigot for that pride." Which in the US means pretty much Latino or some variant thereof--and judging by what Karen is saying, in the UK means English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish/West Indian. Different political hashes, different ingredients in the stew legitimate to wave in others' faces. Pretty much a uselessly political term.

Race is taboo in the US. And as anthro and social studies teachers are at pains to point out, pretty damned indistinguishable given our current state of knowledge of DNA. Worse, US history, in particular all the to-do over blackness, means the overwhelming interest is only in skin color. (Witness the asinine US usage of "complexion" as a euphemism for skin color and the desperate search for a politically acceptable term to mean "white"--Caucasian being the usual laughable one.) This is indeed an obsession. And it is indeed ridiculous, since skin color morphs in relatively few generations in response to sun exposure and can vary considerably between children in the same family.

However, there are still meaningful racial categories out there, and there are indeed real and interesting biochemical differences between people of one group and people of another. What used to be called negro (African black) is one, and the FDA just gave the go-ahead for a heart drug that works only on that group, and then there is sickle cell and the malaria immunity that goes along with that genetic variant. Indo-European is another, and lactose intolerance is one of many genetic markers for that that are very real; the fact the Aryans of India are darker than the Scandinavians is, of course, merely a marker of how long those two branches of the genetic family have been in different climate zones. (It's the Dravidians who are referred to in India as "black," being darker still--they have been there longer!) Semitic. And then it gets really interesting--how do the Basques fit in? How exactly are the various Indian groups related to each other and to what Asian groups? Where do the Australian aborigines fit in? (American anthropologists class them as black Caucasians--who exactly are their closest relatives? Do they in fact have any, or are they labeled Caucasian purely because of fortuitous similarities in facial structure?) The problem is, of course, these categories were used by the Nazis, so the entire approach by families is taboo nowadays. And the stuff that is still being published in Mankind Quarterly about how one race is superior to another is pure garbage. But the differences do exist, and likely have quite a lot to do with response to drug regimens, diet, and pollution. And from an archeological and historical POV, it would be lovely to know who's related to whom, and how, and when they diverged, on a large-group level. Where do the Finno-Ugric speakers fit in with the Indo-Europeans, and are there folks whose genetic grouping is different from their language grouping, indicating a switch in pre-history?

Sadly, politics precludes studying this stuff, or using "race" in that way. It's a loss to human knowledge, and may even be a drag on finding treatments for some disorders. But that's the way it is in a post-Nazi age, and in a place obsessed with color.

Jun. 18th, 2005 01:06 am (UTC)
Race, as used in the US, refers only to arbitrary designations of skin color! As such, it is a meaningless and loaded term. The use of the broad brush, single pigeon hole terms glosses over the genetic anomalies from various groups, and also denies that a peson can have the genetic factors from multiple genotypes.

It's a loss to human knowledge, and may even be a drag on finding treatments for some disorders.

True, and the lumpish labels make it even more difficult.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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