Dolezal’s Delusion, Americans’ Delusion

The Rachel Dolezal case is interesting for reasons other than for why most of the media is in obsessive mode. It seems that she likely has many personal issues. Going by some of the reporting, here entire family may have issues. But that wouldn’t make the story interesting or worth all the attention it is getting.

Some people would label her delusional, or worse. If she is delusional, it is merely an expression of our delusional society. Or rather such personal delusions take the form of the delusions of the society in which they take place.

Race is a social construct. There is no other example that demonstrates this so clearly. It’s not that she is lying, since race itself is a fiction. How does one lie about a fiction?

Five to ten percent of American blacks have more European genetics than African genetics. Another 5.5% of American blacks have no detectable African genetics. Also, consider that there are more white Americans than black Americans with recent African ancestry (i.e., genetics that came from within the past 6 generations, well within the historical period of modern slavery).

Most of these people have no idea about their genetics. Their social identity or labeling by others as either ‘black’ or ‘white’ has nothing to do with genetics. It’s not necessarily even cultural, as there is no single ‘black’ culture or ‘white’ culture. It’s a racial order, pure and simple.

The delusion of Rachel Dolezal is simply that, like most Americans, she has mistaken a fiction for reality. Does it matter that her interpretation of that fiction is different from the interpretation of others? It’s about as meaningful as so many theological debates.

Now, if we want to talk about the real world results and legacies of oppression, that is more than a worthy topic. In that light, we can discuss how racial categories have been used to enforce a racial order based on racial prejudices and privileges. Along with this, we should discuss why people racially passing have always been deemed as such a threat to our society, deemed as such often by people on both sides of the racial divide.

Here are some of my previous posts about this type of thing (particularly check out the first two):

Racial Perceptions and Genetic Admixtures

The Racial Line and Racial Identity

Race Realism, Social Constructs, and Genetics

Racial Reality Tunnel

Also, check out this good piece from the New York Times:

Rachel Dolezal’s Unintended Gift to America
by Allyson Hobbs, The New York Times

But Ms. Dolezal’s view of herself — however confused, or incongruent with society’s — reveals an essential truth about race: It is a fiction, a social construct based in culture and not biology. It must be “made” from what people believe and do. Race is performative. It is the memories that bind us, the stories passed down to us, the experiences that we share, the social forces that surround us. Identities are never entirely our own, but does that mean that we should lose all control in determining who we are?

In the early 19th century, Thomas Jefferson relied on elaborate mathematical equations to determine when a “mulatto” legally became a white person. Charles W. Chesnutt, a racially ambiguous writer, asked “What Is a White Man?” in an 1889 essay and poked fun at the laws that allowed a person to change his or her racial designation by walking across a state line. How was it possible, Chesnutt wondered, that the same person could be classified as black in North Carolina but white in South Carolina? Even W. E. B. Du Bois had trouble formulating a theoretically accurate account of racial identity, so he put it simply: A black man is “a person who must ride ‘Jim Crow’ in Georgia.” But his statement still leaves us with a puzzle: What would a black man be without Jim Crow to define him?

We know that race is not based on skin color, or blood, or any other factor inhering in biology. The ability of some light-skinned African-Americans to “pass” as white makes plain the unreliability of skin color in determining race. [. . . ]

The historical evidence is overwhelming, then, that the color line has always been far more porous and fragile than one might assume. In some places, it was so brittle that it could buckle and break. [ . . . ]

There is no essentialized, fixed, “true identity” waiting just below the surface. Identities are contingent, elusive and, as the cultural theorist Stuart Hall argued, “always in process.”

The racial conditions of our time — increasing numbers of interracial marriages and mixed-race children — allowed Ms. Dolezal to move across boundaries in ways that would have been far more socially unacceptable in the past.

While we cannot know how Rachel Dolezal understood her place in the world, neither her choice nor the unsavory entanglements it has wrought are unique.

As we contemplate the morality of her choice, however, we might do well to reflect on how such individual choices might relate to the larger collective goals of social justice. One can only imagine the impact they would have if a significant number of white Americans chose to identify themselves as kindred of Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Freddie Gray, Kayla Moore, Oscar Grant, Shelly Frey and Michael Brown.

Or, at the very least, perhaps we can use Ms. Dolezal’s story, puzzling as it is, as an opportunity to have a candid, lively, long-delayed, public conversation about the knotty meanings of race and racial identity, and how it has confounded our nation’s best aspirations. Perhaps we may yet move beyond the imprisoning boxes we have made.


White Violence, White Data

Here is my response to those who like to argue that blacks commit a higher percentage of violent crime. Such data simply shows the how many blacks were convicted, and not the actual racial rates of criminal activity. Besides, we know many other things as well.

We know that blacks are disproportionately targeted and profiled, stopped and frisked by the police. We know that blacks are more likely to be arrested more often and convicted more harshly than whites for the exact same crimes. We know blacks are more likely to be charged, convicted, and incarcerated for gun-related crimes and drug-related crimes, despite the fact that whites are more likely to carry illegal guns, to carry illegal drugs, and to use illegal drugs. We know that, when convicted, blacks are sent to prison for longer sentences, even for the exact same crimes. We know this was even institutionalized with drug laws which made the sentencing longer for drugs commonly used by blacks than drugs commonly used by whites.

The police focus most of their time in poor minority communities. It is unsurprising that they find more poor minority criminals. We tend to find what we look for. The data makes it obvious that many whites disproportionately get away with crimes because the police are mostly concentrated in the poor minority communities. A white person can shoplift and walk out of a store at the same time as a black person, and yet the black person will more likely get stopped when the alarm goes off. Whites have the privilege to more often get away with crimes.

Whites commit most of the white collar crimes. These crimes cost untold millions of dollars of damage every year.  They destroy lives and sometimes entire communities when untold numbers of people lose their life savings. Yet these crimes are the least likely to go to court or to lead to conviction and incarceration.

Whites also have a long history of mass violence that dwarfs all the individual violence of blacks combined. Most large-scale wars, wars of aggression, and world wars are started by majority white countries with white-dominated governments. The largest genocides were committed by whites. Most school shooters and serial killers are whites. Most of these acts of violence by whites rarely lead to trial, much less conviction, for the simple reason that much of this is state-sanctioned violence. The government doesn’t even keep good data about police corruption and police brutality. When police kill innocent people who were a threat to no one, typically the officer gets paid leave. Even when whites commit war crimes, there are rarely any consequences, except in the most extreme cases such as the Nazis. As long as they were on the winning side, they get accolades, parades, and medals.

Nonetheless, even ignoring the racial prejudice, in terms of raw numbers most homicides and other violent crimes are committed by white Americans. So, numerically speaking, an American is on average far more likely to be harmed by a white than by a black. This is even more true for anyone living in a white majority community for most crime against whites is committed by whites, and most communities in this country are white majority. Of course, most whites live in white majority communities. This is the very reason most crime in this country, violent and otherwise, is committed by whites. If racial prejudice in policing and the courts were ever to end, if we were to ever know the real number of white crime, it would be even higher still.

Racists have no response to all of this overwhelming proof of widespread racism. There can be no response to such political evil except to either demand justice or remain in silent shame.

* * * *

This has been on my mind for a long time. I want to write a detailed post about this one day. The data used by racists (or racialists or race realists or whatever, same difference) is frustrating because it isn’t honest data being used to make an honest argument.

There is one telling detail that I decided to leave out of the above summary.

White Southerners show the strongest support, of any demographic, for illegal wars of aggression and illegal torture. White Southerners, especially in the poor rural South, are among the most violent and crime-ridden in the country. They also are the most supportive of state violence used in policing, in the War on Drugs, and through mass incarceration. Whites in general and white Southerners in particular are strongly supportive of the harsh racial prejudice used against minorities by police and the courts. Most of the police, judges, and jurors convicting minorities harshly are white.

None of this gets included in rates of violence. Support of state violence is considered normal and acceptable, at least by whites who are disproportionately less likely to be the victims of it. When the victimizers keep the data, it is unsurprising what kind of official data is kept and shown to the public. And it is unsurprising what gets ignored and whitewashed. Most of the data is kept by whites for the purposes of a white majority society.

We need to be more careful and more honest about what data we use and for what purpose we use it. Data never speaks for itself. Instead, data speaks for those who control how the data is gathered, measured, and used. We need to keep that in mind, if we care about morality and justice, if we hope to ever create a free and fair society.

Black Majority in America

I have a question that I hope someone can answer. It is about the issue of a black majority.

For much of its history, South Carolina was majority black going back to the colonial era (see “Black Majority” by Peter Wood). So, when did South Carolina stop being a black majority state? What was the exact year or decade?

That is my basic question. I had some other related thoughts.

Frederick Douglass predicted the Deep South would have eventually become black majority. This failed to happen because of all the mass migrations of Europeans during the mid and late 1800s and into the early 1900s.

Now, the black population is growing again. It is possible that some state might become a black majority in the coming generations, depending on demographic patterns. Then again, there might be another mass migration from Europe to re-establish the white majority stronghold.

Hispanics are also growing faster as a population than are blacks. Many Hispanics are increasingly choosing to identify as white. They will probably go the way of other ethnic Americans and assimilate into American whiteness.

What will that mean for the black population? Will blacks still remain the official minority scapegoat for the nation? Why don’t blacks do what the Mormons did and start their own separate society?

If all the blacks moved to a single state, they would then have a majority and they could gain political control and self-governance. As a symbolic act, they could regain the majority they once held in South Carolina, but this time it would be different. It would be an interesting experiment.

The Unbearable Shame of Being Black

It is impossible for anyone other than poor minorities to know what it is like to live in poor minority neighborhoods. Those who understand this more than anyone else are poor black males, the ultimate scapegoat of American society.

Every fear and hatred is projected onto the black male. That is a burden nearly impossible to bear, without being broken by it. To have an entire society despise you, to have every police officer profile and target you, to have everyone expect the worst from you even when still just a child, that can lead to a despair and hopelessness that is unimaginable by most Americans. More importantly, it leads to shame, a sense of inferiority and failure.

The whole world is against the black male. Even their own communities turn against them. They are pariahs, just for being born poor black males.

* * * *

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Kindle Locations 3311-3391:

For Americans who are not caught up in this system of control, it can be difficult to imagine what life would be like if discrimination against you were perfectly legal— if you were not allowed to participate in the political system and if you were not even eligible for food stamps or welfare and could be denied housing assistance . Yet as bad as these forms of discrimination are, many ex-offenders will tell you that the formal mechanisms of exclusion are not the worst of it. The shame and stigma that follows you for the rest of your life— that is the worst. It is not just the job denial but the look that flashes across the face of a potential employer when he notices that “the box” has been checked— the way he suddenly refuses to look you in the eye. It is not merely the denial of the housing application but the shame of being a grown man who has to beg his grandmother for a place to sleep at night. It is not simply the denial of the right to vote but the shame one feels when a co-worker innocently asks, “Who you gonna vote for on Tuesday?”

One need not be formally convicted in a court of law to be subject to this shame and stigma. As long as you “look like” or “seem like” a criminal, you are treated with the same suspicion and contempt, not just by police, security guards, or hall monitors at your school, but also by the woman who crosses the street to avoid you and by the store employees who follow you through the aisles, eager to catch you in the act of being the “criminalblackman”— the archetypal figure who justifies the New Jim Crow. 64

Practically from cradle to grave, black males in urban ghettos are treated like current or future criminals. One may learn to cope with the stigma of criminality, but like the stigma of race, the prison label is not something that a black man in the ghetto can ever fully escape. For those newly released from prison, the pain is particularly acute. As Dorsey Nunn , an ex-offender and cofounder of All of Us or None, once put it, “The biggest hurdle you gotta get over when you walk out those prison gates is shame— that shame , that stigma, that label, that thing you wear around your neck saying ‘I’m a criminal.’ It’s like a yoke around your neck, and it’ll drag you down, even kill you if you let it.” Many ex-offenders experience an existential angst associated with their permanent social exclusion. Henry, a young African American convicted of a felony , explains, “[ It’s like] you broke the law, you bad. You broke the law, bang— you’re not part of us anymore .” 65 That sentiment is shared by a woman, currently incarcerated, who described the experience this way:

When I leave here it will be very difficult for me in the sense that I’m a felon. That I will always be a felon . . . for me to leave here, it will affect my job, it will affect my education . . . custody [of my children], it can affect child support, it can affect everywhere— family, friends, housing…. People that are convicted of drug crimes can’t even get housing anymore. . . . Yes, I did my prison time. How long are you going to punish me as a result of it? And not only on paper, I’m only on paper for ten months when I leave here, that’s all the parole I have. But, that parole isn’t going to be anything. It’s the housing, it’s the credit reestablishing . . . . I mean even to go into the school, to work with my child’s class— and I’m not a sex offender— but all I need is one parent who says, “Isn’t she a felon? I don’t want her with my child.” 66

The permanence of one’s social exile is often the hardest to swallow. For many it seems inconceivable that, for a minor offense, you can be subjected to discrimination, scorn, and exclusion for the rest of your life. Human Rights Watch, in its report documenting the experiences of America’s undercaste , tells the story of a fifty-seven-year-old African American woman, denied rental housing by a federally funded landlord due to a minor conviction she did not even know was on her record. After being refused reconsideration, she asked her caseworker in pained exasperation , “Am I going to be a criminal for the rest of my life?” 67

When someone is convicted of a crime today, their “debt to society” is never paid. The “cruel hand” that Frederick Douglass spoke of more than 150 years ago has appeared once again. In this new system of control, like the last, many black men “hold up [their] heads, if at all, against the withering influence of a nation’s scorn and contempt.” Willie Johnson, a forty -three-year-old African American man recently released from prison in Ohio, explained it this way:

My felony conviction has been like a mental punishment, because of all the obstacles. . . . Every time I go to put in a [job] application— I have had three companies hire me and tell me to come to work the next day. But then the day before they will call and tell me don’t come in— because you have a felony. And that is what is devastating because you think you are about to go to work and they call you and say because of your felony we can’t hire [you]. I have run into this at least a dozen times. Two times I got very depressed and sad because I couldn’t take care of myself as a man . It was like I wanted to give up —because in society nobody wants to give us a helping hand . Right now I am considered homeless. I have never been homeless until I left the penitentiary , and now I know what it feels to be homeless. If it was not for my family I would be in the streets sleeping in the cold. . . . We [black men] have three strikes against us: 1) because we are black, and 2) because we are a black male, and the final strike is a felony. These are the greatest three strikes that a black man has against him in this country. I have friends who don’t have a felony— and have a hard time getting a job. But if a black man can’t find a job to take care of himself— he is ashamed that he can’t take care of his children. 68

Not surprisingly, for many black men, the hurt and depression gives way to anger. A black minister in Waterloo, Mississippi, explained his outrage at the fate that has befallen African Americans in the post— civil rights era. “It’s a hustle,” he said angrily. “‘ Felony’ is the new N-word. They don’t have to call you a nigger anymore. They just say you’re a felon. In every ghetto you see alarming numbers of young men with felony convictions. Once you have that felony stamp, your hope for employment, for any kind of integration into society, it begins to fade out. Today’s lynching is a felony charge. Today’s lynching is incarceration. Today’s lynch mobs are professionals. They have a badge; they have a law degree . A felony is a modern way of saying, ‘I’m going to hang you up and burn you.’ Once you get that F, you’re on fire.” 69

Remarkably, it is not uncommon today to hear media pundits, politicians , social critics, and celebrities— most notably Bill Cosby— complain that the biggest problem black men have today is that they “have no shame.” Many worry that prison time has become a badge of honor in some communities—“ a rite of passage” is the term most often used in the press. Others claim that inner-city residents no longer share the same value system as mainstream society, and therefore are not stigmatized by criminality. Yet as Donald Braman, author of Doing Time on the Outside, states, “One can only assume that most participants in these discussions have had little direct contact with the families and communities they are discussing.” 70

Over a four-year period, Braman conducted a major ethnographic study of families affected by mass incarceration in Washington, D.C., a city where three out of every four young black men can expect to spend some time behind bars. 71 He found that, contrary to popular belief, the young men labeled criminals and their families are profoundly hurt and stigmatized by their status: “They are not shameless; they feel the stigma that accompanies not only incarceration but all the other stereotypes that accompany it—fatherlessness, poverty , and often, despite every intent to make it otherwise, diminished love.” The results of Braman’s study have been largely corroborated by similar studies elsewhere in the United States. 72

These studies indicate that the biggest problem the black community may face today is not “shamelessness” but rather the severe isolation, distrust , and alienation created by mass incarceration. During Jim Crow, blacks were severely stigmatized and segregated on the basis of race, but in their own communities they could find support, solidarity, acceptance— love. Today, when those labeled criminals return to their communities, they are often met with scorn and contempt, not just by employers, welfare workers, and housing officials, but also by their own neighbors, teachers , and even members of their own families. This is so, even when they have been imprisoned for minor offenses, such as possession and sale of a small amount of drugs. Young black males in their teens are often told “you’ll amount to nothing ” or “you’ll find yourself back in jail, just like your father ”— a not-so-subtle suggestion that a shameful defect lies deep within them, an inherited trait perhaps— part of their genetic makeup. “You are a criminal, nothing but a criminal. You are a no good criminal.” 73

The anger and frustration directed at young black men returning home from prison is understandable, given that they are returning to communities that are hurt by joblessness and crime. These communities desperately need their young men to be holding down jobs and supporting their families, rather than wasting away in prison cells. While there is widespread recognition that the War on Drugs is racist and that politicians have refused to invest in jobs or schools in their communities, parents of offenders and ex-offenders still feel intense shame— shame that their children have turned to crime despite the lack of obvious alternatives. One mother of an incarcerated teen, Constance, described her angst this way : “Regardless of what you feel like you’ve done for your kid, it still comes back on you, and you feel like, ‘Well, maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I messed up. You know, maybe if I had a did it this way , then it wouldn’t a happened that way.’” After her son’s arrest, she could not bring herself to tell friends and relatives and kept the family’s suffering private. Constance is not alone.

What Africans Brought to America

African in American Ironwork
by Rashid Booker
from Noir Tickets

“African men with iron making skills were brought to the Chesapeake region of Maryland and Virginia to work as blacksmiths on plantations and in the developing iron industry of 18th century Colonial America.

“By 1775, the colonies were the world’s third largest producer of iron, a dominance built largely on slave labor. Those in the Chesapeake were the most privileged of African and African American workers. The most skilled worked independently in positions of authority, even paid for work done on their own time.”

Most people think of slaves as mere cheap labor. But the reality is that enslaved Africans included people who were in many cases highly trained and educated. 

They brought their knowledge, skills, and culture to colonial America and it became part of colonial society. The slaveholders had the military and political power to enslave others, but they lacked many practical abilities. These slaveholders were reliant on enslaved Africans in more ways than just manual labor. 

Like ironwork, rice cultivation was developed independently in West Africa. This rice cultivation, unknown to Europeans, involved a particular set of skills and knowledge embedded in a particular cultural social order. Slaveholders incorporated this, among many other things, into the plantation system.

Few Americans today realize how influential slaves were. Colonial America wasn’t just an English society, but a hybrid society.

Equal Opportunity Oppression in America

I was listening to the audio version of The Mis-Education of the Negro by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. The narrator isn’t the best, but the book is worthwhile. It is an older book, having been published in 1933, which is part of what makes it interesting. I came across a passage that showed its age (p. 73):

Again, one observes in some of these catalogues numerous courses in art but no well defined course in Negro or African art which early influenced that of the Greeks. Thinkers are now saying that the early culture of the Mediterranean was chiefly African. Most of these colleges do not even direct special attention to Negro music in which the Negro has made his outstanding contribution in America. The unreasonable attitude is that because the whites do not have these things in their schools the Negroes must not have them in theirs. The Catholics and Jews, therefore, are wrong in establishing special schools to teach their principles of religion, and the Germans in America are unwise in having their children taught their mother tongue.

The author is discussing “Negro colleges”. At that time, apparently many of them were managed and operated by whites. Some of these whites were consdescendingly paternalistic and some were indifferent to the the plight of the students in their schools. For many of them, working at a Negro college was probably the last place they hoped their career would bring them. They didn’t want to be there and they certainly didn’t want to help African-Americans to better themselves, much less strive for equality.

That isn’t, however, what dates this passage. Dr. Woodson argues that African-Americans should have the right to teach about their own culture and accomplishments. As a comparison and contrast, he references as one example German-Americans who in many cases still used German in their German-American majority schools, including public schools in German-American majority cities.

Sadly, that world was quickly changing. What the author didn’t realize was that the following decades would become the most culturally oppressive era in all of American history. German culture wouldn’t continue to be celebrated. The German voice in America would be nearly silenced and teaching in German would be outlawed. Nearly all references to the German language and culture would be obliterated, from street names being changed to newspapers being closed down.

The oppression in America has never just been about African-Americans. But back in 1933 maybe that was harder to discern from the perspective of an African-American.

Racial Perceptions and Genetic Admixtures

As to who is a Negro in the United States, I have come to the
conclusion after long and careful thought that to be an expert on
that subject the first qualification is to be crazy. Only those who
are able to throw all logic, all reasoning to the winds, can ever
hope to be authorities on that matter.
~ J. A. Rogers. The World’s Greatest Men of Color.

I came across further data on genetic admixtures in the American population. I’ve discussed some of this before, but a summary of the key data seemed in order.

First, there is more diversity among Africans than there are between all other geographic populations in the world. As stated by Rotimi (in Genetic ancestry tracing and the African identity: a double-edged sword?), “that African populations have more genetic variation between them (estimates are as high as 95%) than when Africans are compared to other peoples who migrated out of Africa thousands of years ago (estimates are as low as 3%)” It would make more sense to combine all non-Africans as a single race than to combine Africans as a single race.

Besides, all diversity in all populations exists in a continuum and phenotype features exist on a gradient (e.g., lighter to darker skin), the reason being that various genetic clusters exist across geographic populations. This is why Southern Europeans have more genetic diversity in a way that is more similar to Africans than to Northern Europeans. After all, Southern Europeans have shared more genetic history and proximity with Africans and other Mediterranean populations.

Which genetic cluster one focuses on will determine how one sees various populations as similar or dissimilar. The greatest diversity of such clusters, though, will be found among Africans rather than between Africans and non-Africans. Appearances such as skin color are genetically deceiving. Or to put it scientifically: There are many genotypes that can contribute to the same or similar phenotypes.

Second,  African-Americans have on average 20-25% European genetics (although some studies show it as low as 18% and some as high as 30%). This makes sense since, as Henry Louis Gates Jr explains, “As we have shown in the “African American Lives” series on PBS, […] between 30 and 35 percent of all African American males can trace their paternal lineage (their y-DNA) to a white man who impregnated a black female most probably during slavery.”

More interesting, at least 5% of African-Americans have more than 50% European genetics and a recent study (Shriver) puts that at about 10% of African-Americans. Some African-Americans are almost entirely European, except for a tiny percentage of African genetics. “People who identify as African-American may be as little as 1 percent West African or as much as 99 percent”, according to Genetic study clarifies African and African-American ancestry ( Some studies have even found that 5.5% of so-called African-Americans had no detectable African genetics.

Taken together, this means that at least in some ways African-Americans are even more genetically diverse than the African populations that are part of their ancestry. African-Americans include the ancestors of the original slaves from West Africa and other slaves from the non-Anglo-American colonies with various other admixtures, Jamaicans in particular being highly diverse. Also included are the newer immigrants who have no enslaved ancestors and who come from every region of Africa, thus bringing with them that immense genetic diversity.

A not insignificant point is that a large number of African-Americans should be more accurately designated as European-Americans. Just think about this. Whenever you pass a group of ‘black’ people, the probability is that at least one of them is actually mostly European and may have very little or no African genetics. Indeed, if you suspend the typical American racial biases, you’ll notice most ‘black’ Americans do have lighter skin than the average African, often as light skinned as other non-African people including many Southern Europeans.

A person can have mostly European genetics and still have darker skin and wavy hair that they inherited from African ancestry even without any slave ancestors (after all, skin and hair genetics are only a small percentage of inherited genetics). Why aren’t dark-skinned, dark-wavy-haired Europeans  such as Italians more accurately called African-Europeans? Why aren’t dark-skinned, dark-wavy-haired Italian-Americans more accurately called African-European-Americans?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a person can have ‘white’ features while having a ‘black’ great grandparent or several ‘black’ great great grandparents. Even a single ‘black’ grandparent wouldn’t necessarily lead to a person being noticeably non-‘white’, depending on the genetics inherited. A genetic analysis of James D. Watson’s DNA, following some racist remarks he made about Africans, claimed to have shown he had 16% African genetics (and 9% Asian genetics for a total of 25% non-European genetics). Another self-identified white researcher, Mark D. Shriver, found he had 20% African genetics. Watson and Shriver look as white as can be and neither of their families have any stories about black ancestry. Around a third (30%) of white Americans has the equivalent of three African ancestors in recent centuries (2.3% African genetics).

Here is an interesting way to think about it (Stephan Palmié, Genomics, Divination, “Racecraft”):

“As Stuckert (1976) has pointed out in an ingenuous statistical extrapolation from historical records, by the time of the 1970 U.S. census, some 24% of all persons listed as “white” might reasonably have been presumed to have had African ancestors, while more than 80% of all “blacks” would have had non-African ancestors. Transformed into numerical values, this means nothing less than that the overwhelming majority of all Americans of African ancestry – i.e. about 42 millions at the time – had not been counted into the black population (which then stood at 22 millions), but classified as white. Put differently, there were (and surely still are) almost double the number of “white”Americans of African descent as “black” ones (cf. Palmié 2002).”

This is far from commonsense, according to our standard assumptions. ‘White’ Americans with African genetics are a smaller percentage of the total ‘white’ American population as compared to the percentage found in ‘black’ Americans. However, since the white population is larger, the raw number of ‘white’ Americans with African genetics is larger than the raw number of ‘black’ Americans with African genetics.

The US population is genetically mixed to a greater extent than most people would have predicted and more than the racial realists/purists would have preferred. Since the miscegenation laws ended, this mixing has been increasing generation after generation. All the above numbers would be even higher for the younger generations. As far as that goes, these kinds of admixtures are already higher in most countries around the world. To speak of ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ as general categories for all countries, the US is highly unusual in having relatively low rates of admixture. It isn’t just unusual, but maybe a bit unnatural.

In conclusion, ultimately race is an arbitrary social construct. Yes, it is real to the extent that, like any social construct, it can be enforced onto a population. But no, it isn’t inherent to genetics as an a priori reality. Plus, even with centuries of enforced genetic segregation, much of racial identity requires subjective perception and still perception often fails to tell us much about the actual genetics of individuals.

You have to be looking for the social construct of race in order to find it, both in appearances or in genetics. There are millions of distinctions between humans and hypothetically any or all of these could be called races. The point is that the folk taxonomy of races doesn’t fit the data, although one can cherrypick data to fit whatever theory one wishes to prove by way of circular reasoning. In the end, though, it just doesn’t add up to a plausible scientific theory. The relationship between genotype and phenotype is too complex and nuanced for centuries old non-scientific racist categories.

See below for more info:

Our Hidden African Ancestry
by ScottH

Researchers at 23andMe looked at the genetic ancestry of about 78,000 customers likely to consider themselves as entirely of European ancestry and found that somewhere between 3 percent and 4 percent of those people have “hidden” African ancestry.

The percent of African ancestry is relatively low with the majority of individuals having just 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent — which suggests that those people have an African ancestor who lived about six generations, or about 200 years, ago.

This is by no means meant to represent the percent of African ancestry among those who identify themselves as being of European descent across America. It is simply a snapshot of those in our database at this time. Our researchers have also excluded those with more than 5 percent African ancestry with the assumption that it’s more likely that their ancestry is known. That doesn’t mean it is known, just as it doesn’t mean that those of European descent with 5 percent or less African ancestry are unaware of it. In addition, our database includes customers who are actually European so the actual percentage of Americans of European descent in our database who have African ancestry may be higher.

But we believe this is the first detailed look of the African ancestry among those who consider themselves white. It begs many questions for possible future study. For instance, looking at the generational distribution implied by the percentages it appears most of the mixing occurred 200 years ago or more. Was intermixing between black and white more acceptable during that time in American history? Or was the relative isolation of people then such that the societal taboos against such mixing were more lax?

At the very least these findings suggest a more nuanced picture of race relations at that time.

Afro-European Genetic Admixture in the United States
Essays on the Color Line and the One-Drop Rule
by Frank W Sweet

With this added information, three aspects of the scatter diagram suddenly jump out at you. First, there is significant overlap between White and Black Americans regarding Afro-European genetic admixture. Some so-called “Black” Americans have less DNA admixture of African ancestral origin than do some so-called “White” Americans. Second, the admixture range of Black Americans spans the entire chart. While most of the subjects who self-identify as Black (marked as circles) have strong African admixture (are found towards the right), some have little or no African admixture (are found at the left edge). Finally, although the range of genetic admixture in those who self-identify as “White” is narrower than the admixture range of Blacks, it is still significant. Many so-called “White” Americans have as much as 20 percent or more of African genetic admixture.

[ . . . ] Three points of interest present themselves upon your examining this graph. First, as in the prior chart, there is genetic admixture overlap between Americans of the Black and White endogamous groups within the range of from zero to thirty percent African genetic admixture. As in the Shriver study of skin tone, some so-called “White” Americans have over twenty percent African genetic admixture and some so-called “Black” Americans have little or none. Indeed, other studies have found that approximately 5.5 percent of members of the U.S. Black community have no detectable African genetic admixture.15

Second, the Black and White groups are not symmetrical. The mean African admixture among White Americans is low—roughly 0.7 percent African and 99.3 percent European admixture.16 To put this in perspective, this would have been the result if every member of the U.S. White endogamous group alive today had a single ancestor of one hundred percent African genetic admixture seven generations ago (around the year 1850). Of course, African alleles are not distributed evenly. Seventy percent of White Americans (like 5.5 percent of Blacks) have no detectable African genetic admixture at all. Among the thirty percent of Whites with African genetic admixture, the admixture ratio averages to about 2.3 percent, the equivalent of having a single ancestor of one hundred percent African genetic admixture from around the year 1880.17 Black Americans, on the other hand, have significant European admixture (averaging about 75 percent African and 25 percent European).

Third, the wide admixture spread of the two groups of New-World inhabitants contrasts with the narrow range of admixtures among Old-World inhabitants. A wide spread of genetic admixtures is characteristic of the Western Hemisphere. As evident in the chart, on the one hand, the U.S. White population spans a range of 15-20 percent and the U.S. Black population covers a 30-40-percent range. On the other hand, the Nigerian population covers only a 10-precent spread and the Congolese population spans only a 5-percent range.

[ . . . ] About one-third of White Americans are of between two and twenty percent recent African genetic admixture, as measured by the ancestry-informative markers in their DNA.19 This comes to about 74 million Americans. And yet, day-to-day experience teaches that virtually all White Americans look, well, White. Some may look more Mediterranean and others may look more Nordic, but very few White Americans have a distinctively African appearance.

[ . . . ] And so, why do few if any White Americans display a strongly African appearance (have a high melanin index) despite having detectable African admixture? Because those Americans who “look Black” are assigned involuntarily to the Black endogamous group, whatever their genetic admixture. The scatter diagrams of the two endogamous U.S. groups are not symmetrical because the selection process acts only upon the White group. As revealed in court records, discussed elsewhere, a person of mixed ancestry who “looks European” (like Dr. Shriver or his maternal grandfather) in practice has the option of either adopting a White self-identity, thus joining the White endogamous group or a Black self-identity, thus joining the other group. But a person of mixed ancestry who “looks African” lacks such a choice. U.S. society assigns such a person to membership in the Black endogamous group, like it or not.25

In conclusion, U.S. society has unwittingly applied selection pressure to the color line. The only American families accepted into the White endogamous group have been those whose African admixture just happened not to include the half-dozen alleles for dark skin (or the other physical traits associated with “race”). Since those particular alleles were sifted out of the portion of the White population that originated in biracial families, the relative percentage of the remaining, invisible, African alleles in this population cannot affect skin color. That skin-color does not vary with African genetic admixture among American Whites, despite their measureably recent African admixture, demonstrates and confirms that physical appearance has been an important endogamous group membership criterion throughout U.S. history. It has resulted in genetic selection of the White U.S. population for a European “racial” appearance, regardless of their underlying continent-of-ancestry admixture ratio.

Backfire Effect, Oppressed Minority, & Political Divide

Here are just a few thoughts, but I won’t offer any complex analysis. This is just some info I’ve come across recently: (1) the backfire effect demographics, (2) the most oppressed minority, and (3) the main US political divide.

(1) The backfire effect is very interesting. It’s the cognitive behavior of someone’s beliefs becoming stronger when confronted with facts that contradict those beliefs. When dealing with such a person, rational discussion is impossible.

Anyone can be prone to the backfire effect at times, but only certain groups are consistently prone to it.

Unsurprisingly, research shows that conservatives are most prone. Liberals, on the other hand, may or may not change their beliefs when confronted with new info. However, most liberals tend to not becoming stronger in their beliefs in reaction to facts that counter their beliefs.

Looking at the research, there was only one other demographic I noticed that was also prone. This other group are those who are highly educated, specifically experts. For different reasons than conservatives, an expert believes he already knows more than others, at least when it comes to certain subjects. The expert is probably often right, but this often being right can lead the expert to not as seriously consider new info.

(2) The most oppressed minority isn’t what most people would guess. Researchers have asked Americans who they’d vote for as president. A majority would be willing to vote for a Mormon, for a woman, for a racial minority, and even for a homosexual.

Who wouldn’t most Americans vote for? Atheists. There has never been an openly atheist president and openly atheist politicians are rare.

I was listening to a radio show where a novel was being discussed. The novel apparently involved an atheist character. This led to several atheists to call in to express the prejudice they’ve experienced from Christians, especially in rural areas. The prejudice included ostracization and hate mail.

Atheists, and the non-religious in general, is a growing demographic. But Christian institutions continue to wield immense power in the US. Too often religious freedom simply means the freedom to be religious but not the freedom to be treated fairly as an atheist or non-believer.

(3) The strongest divide in US politics may not be what is portrayed in the MSM. The most loyal base of the Democratic party isn’t the progressive/liberal movement. In fact, it’s social conservatives who are minorities.

These Democratic party minorities are traditional conservatives, not right-wing conservatives as seen in the Republican party. These minorities are social conservatives who largely are evangelical protestants. As traditional conservatives, they believe in social solutions to social problems and they support social institutions to maintain social order. Traditional conservatives, unlike right-wingers, aren’t against government.

The major divide isn’t between liberals and conservatives. Rather, it’s between minority evangelical protestants and white evangelical protestants. The former is a growing demographic and the latter is a shrinking demographic, and at the moment they are at a balance point that hasn’t yet fully shifted. Most interestingly, the Democratic minorities are more socially conservative than the Republican whites, but the Democratic minorities are socially conservative in a traditionally conservative way. The Democratic party, oddly, has become the defender of traditional conservtism.

So, the actual political divide right now is between traditional conservatives and radical right-wingers. Liberals have for various reasons chosen to side with the traditional conservatives.