Conservative Arguments Recycled and Repackaged

All the arguments typically made against blacks were once made against various non-WASP ethnic groups. Those other white Americans had (and, in some cases, still do have) high rates of social problems, violent crime, and addiction/alcoholism. They also were involved in some of the largest riots in U.S. history.

In the North, the KKK spent more time attacking ethnic immigrants than attacking blacks. Poor whites, including those coming from the South, were often viewed as worse than poor blacks. Part of the reason was all these new whites immigrating from elsewhere were competing with the jobs of whites already in the industrialized North.

One of the differences, though, is that most white ethnic immigrants were eventually forced to assimilate, often against their will. Take the destruction of German culture in this country that was almost entirely erased in the era of the two world wars, even though German descendants were (and still are) the majority of citizens. Blacks, on the other hand, were disallowed from assimilating, even when they wanted to, and forced into isolated ghettos with few opportunities of escape. Their successful communities were destroyed (e.g., Black Wall Street) and sundown towns forced them to flee into the inner cities, including during the New Deal when most Americans were looking toward a bright future.

Racists, racialists, and other defenders of the status quo claim that blacks brought it onto themselves. But how did blacks bring onto themselves a systemic and institutional racism that lasted for centuries through the New Deal Era with Jim Crow?

They have no answer for that. All they can do is evade the question and ignore the evidence.

Even if all they cared about is whites, why do they care so little about the mistreatment of white ethnic immigrants and poor rural Southerners who were at times treated with great oppression?

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America
By Khalil Gibran Muhammad
pp. 6-7

“One of the strongest claims this book makes is that statistical comparisons between the Foreign-born and the Negro were foundational to the emergence of distinctive modern discourses on race and crime. For all the ways in which poor Irish immigrants of the mid-nineteenth century were labeled members of the dangerous classes, criminalized by Anglo -Saxon police, and over-incarcerated in the nation’s failing prisons, Progressive era social scientists used statistics and sociology to create a pathway for their redemption and rehabilitation. 27 A generation before the Chicago School of Sociology systematically destroyed the immigrant house of pathology built by social Darwinists and eugenicists, Progressive era social scientists were innovating environmental theories of crime and delinquency while using crime statistics to demonstrate the assimilability of the Irish, the Italian, and the Jew by explicit contrast to the Negro. 28 White progressives often discounted crime statistics or disregarded them altogether in favor of humanizing European immigrants, as in much of Jane Addams’s writings. 29 In one of the first academic textbooks on crime, Charles R. Henderson, a pioneering University of Chicago social scientist, declared that “the evil [of immigrant crime] is not so great as statistics carelessly interpreted might prove.” He explained that age and sex ratios— too many young males— skewed the data. But where the “Negro factor” is concerned, Henderson continued, “racial inheritance, physical and mental inferiority , barbarian and slave ancestry and culture ,” were among the “most serious factors in crime statistics.””

Poor rural Southerners who remain unassimilated are to this day treated according to a different variety of near-racist prejudice by the ruling whites of the South, two groups with different ethnic histories that have been in conflict for centuries. The same classism and ethnocentrism that keeps poor whites down is what also keeps poor blacks down. It is all about the feared ‘Other’, whether blacks and Hispanics or Scots-Irish rednecks and white trash.

By the way, the same sundown towns that expelled and excluded blacks did the same for ethnic whites (as described by James W. Loewen). These are the most WASPish towns in America. They lack both racial and ethnic diversity. The different threads of prejudice are tightly woven together.

Also, if the critics are so against affirmative action for blacks, then why don’t they equally criticize the affirmative action that was used against blacks?

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America
By Ira Katznelson
from Preface

“From Robert Lieberman, we know how Social Security left out maids and farmworkers and how the landmark law of 1935 distinguished between social insurance for old age and more constricted , less centralized instruments of social assistance. From Jill Quadagno, we learn about the racial sources and implications of modern social policy. From Michael Brown, we discern the tight set of linkages that connected race and fiscal imperatives to the power of the southern wing of the Democratic Party when the modern American welfare state was shaped. From Suzanne Mettler, we are taught how even apparently universalistic public policies can divide categories of citizens from each other. From Neil Foley, we understand the impact of midcentury social policy on racial groups in the cotton culture South. From Lizabeth Cohen, we experience how, even in the North, the treatment of veterans after the Second World War was significantly differentiated by race. From Daniel Kryder, we comprehend the powerful impact race had on the nation during that global war. From Desmond King, we perceive the role that the federal government played from the 1910s to the early 1950s to secure racial segregation. From Nancy Weiss, we witness how torn black Americans were by the bounty and constraints the New Deal presented. And from William Julius Wilson, we grasp the economic, social, spatial, and political mechanisms that have divided black America between a growing but minority middle class and a far less fortunate and good deal more marginal African American majority.”

A similar point is made about sundown towns. The following explains why at least a certain segment of our society has a clear self-interest in remaining willfully ignorant of white affirmative action and sundown towns.

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
By James W. Loewen
pp. 373-374

“Republicans do especially well in sundown suburbs owing not only to their racial ideology, but also to their NIMBY principles and small-government philosophy.41 But these principles too have a racial tinge and tie in with the soclexia that results from living in sundown towns and suburbs. In Chain Reaction, their analysis of the GOP’s appeal to racism from 1964 to 1990, Thomas and Mary Edsall pointed to Republicans’ use of the stereotype that whites work and succeed, while blacks don’t work, hence don’t succeed. As former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman put it, Republicans win in the suburbs partly because they present positions on crime, education, and housing in such a way that a voter could “avoid admitting to himself that he was attracted by a racist appeal.”42

“Sundown suburbs are politically independent and usually quash efforts at metropolitan government. Their school systems are separate and usually oppose metro-wide desegregation. They resist mightily what they view as intrusions by people or governments from the larger metropolitan area or the state. In New Jersey, trying to comply with a New Jersey supreme court decision mandating equal educational opportunity, the legislature passed the Quality Education Act, and Governor Jim Florio proposed higher taxes on families earning more than $100,000 to pay for it. Suburbanites responded by voting out of office many of the politicians who supported the equalization bill, including Florio, whom they replaced with Republican Christine Todd Whitman.43

“The Edsalls point out that the principle of self-interest explains what otherwise might seem to be an ideological contradiction: sundown suburbanites usually try to minimize expenditures by the state and federal governments, but locally they favor “increased suburban and county expenditures, guaranteeing the highest possible return to themselves on their tax dollars.” The Edsalls cite Gwinnett County, Georgia, as an example. Gwinnett, east of Atlanta, is “one of the fastest growing suburban jurisdictions in the nation, heavily Republican (75.5% for Bush [senior]), affluent, and white (96.6%).” Its residents “have been willing to tax and spend on their own behalf as liberally as any Democrats.” Such within-county expenditures increase the inequality between white suburbs and interracial cities. They also do nothing to redress or pay for the ways that Gwinnett residents use and rely upon Atlanta and its public services.44

“Meanwhile, white suburbs favor “policies of fiscal conservatism at the federal level.” Interestingly, despite enjoying more than half a century of federal intervention on behalf of whites in suburbia—FHA and Veterans Administration (VA) loan guarantees, FHA and VA policies that shut out blacks, highway subsidies, and all the rest—residents feel they achieved home ownership in their all-white suburb entirely on their own. Since 1968, whenever African Americans have mobilized to try to get the federal government to act on their behalf, suburban Republicans have rejected the idea: “We’ve done so much for them already.” Many white suburbanites identified attempts of the federal government to be fair about housing, such as the 1968 housing act, with the Democratic Party, and considered them outrageous examples of “special interests” and “federal intervention in local affairs.”

“Today the most important national impact of sundown towns and suburbs is through their influence on the Republican Party. The Edsalls conclude, “The suburban vote is becoming the core of the Republican base.” Since elected officials from safe districts develop seniority, suburban Republicans dominate committees in the House of Representatives and in state legislatures when Republicans control those bodies. They also wield much power over their party in most states.45”

Racist Realist

I’m a racist realist. I accept the reality that some people are just racist.

I wish there was something we could do as a society to help them. But it apparently is just in their nature to hold a morally depraved worldview. They will likely always be racist.

The best we can do is separate them from the rest of society. We could either put them into some kind of ghetto housing or maybe deport them out of the country. Whatever we do, we should keep their genetics as far away as possible from mixing with the general population.

* * * *

The funny part is this is actually a serious argument. Many human biodiversity (HBD) proponents make this kind of argument, although stated differently and with other conclusions about remedies.  Actually, most HBDers often limit themselves just to theory and let the political implications speak for themselves. Other race realists will speak more blatantly.

HBDers, however, will go pretty far in the implications they point to. They often talk about clannish societies in terms of mating patterns, and they conjecture that the clannish cultures are largely a result of genetics. Xenophobia as racism is just one particular expression of clannishness.

So, from view of HBDers, racist realism is directly connected to race realism. They see both race and racism as natural facts and inevitable realities of human nature. Most race realists aren’t as sophisticated in their thinking as HBDers, but they share some basic elements.

* * * *

I do realize genetics influence our behavior, in complex interaction with other genetic and environment factors. But the simplistic view of genetics is not so convincing, where genes alone have an almost deterministic influence.

I take seriously genetic arguments and those who make them. I like to consider the unintended consequences, the inconvenient implications of the race realist worldview.

In this light, what if we take the HBD hypothesis seriously and treat it as a proven theory? If both race and racism are genetic, doesn’t that justify anti-racists seeking an anti-racist society to genetically isolate racists from the breeding pool?

Even HBDers admit that clannish societies tend to have lots of social problems, from violence to poverty. So, why would we want to allow the most clannish-acting citizens to freely mate and spread their genetics? Anyway, clannish people don’t like people outside their group and so doesn’t that justify us forcing them to only mate among themselves? Maybe we could pass laws that racists can only marry other racists.

This a straightforward application of human biodiversity theory to public policy. We could, through the knowledge that HBDers give us, permanently breed racism out of our society. We wouldn’t even have to make racism itself illegal for we could eliminate racism at its root by eliminating the genetic cause.

From an HBD perspective, why not?

The IQ Conundrum

Cato Unbound has a set of essays about the issue of general intelligence, its measurement, the Flynn Effect, and racial inequalities. I don’t have any commentary to add. I just wanted to post some quotes from two of the essays, both by Eric Turkheimer. I appreciate intelligent exchanges such as this, and I hope it raises the level of public debate.

Race and IQ
By Eric Turkheimer

“But the intuitive view turns out to be incoherent on more than superficial examination. A point of view that is sometimes called developmentalism points out that absolutely no aspect of biology or genetics comes into being automatically without rich interaction with the environment. Ducks raised in the complete absence of auditory input from other ducks don’t quack, and in general organisms raised in the absence of environmental inputs don’t do anything at all. So the difference between learning to play the oboe and learning to walk is not that the former requires environmental input while the other does not, being in principle innate. They both emerge from a complex interplay of genetics and environment, and thinking of walking as innate is a distraction from the real scientific question of how the extraordinarily complex process actually comes about. Once you start to think this way, it gets difficult to say that any difference between two organisms is innate. The contention about Africans and IQ has to be that their genetic makeup is such that they will be lower than other races in IQ not only in the current environment, but in all imaginable alternative environments, and how could we possibly know that? [ . . . ]

“If the question of African IQ is a matter of empirical science, exactly what piece of evidence are we waiting for? What would finally convince the racialists that they are wrong? Nothing, it seems to me, except the arrival of the day when the IQ gap disappears, and that is going to take a while. The history of Africans in the modern West is roughly as follows: Millennia of minding their own business in Africa, followed by 200 years of enslavement by a foreign civilization, followed by 100 years of Jim Crow oppression, followed by fifty years of very incomplete equality and freedom. And now the scientific establishment, apparently even the progressive scientific establishment, is impatient enough with Africans’ social development that it seems reasonable to ask whether the problem is in the descendants of our former slaves’ genes. If that isn’t offensive I don’t know what is.”

The Fundamental Intuition
By Eric Turkheimer

“So let’s return to Flynn. He thinks that g used to hold together, as long as our focus was on relations among tests at a single point of time, and has only come apart once he started to examine differential changes in the components of ability over time. But the coherence of g was an illusion, founded on the false intuition that positivity of relations among ability tests was sufficient evidence of unidimensionality, In fact, pace Gottfredson, it would be possible to define separate ability domains for abstract thinking and practical knowledge within a single time point, and these traits would then correspond closely to the courses of generational change that interest Flynn. Such traits would not be the correct way to divide up ability, any more than g is. They would be a plausible solution in a domain where a certain amount of indeterminacy is part of the scientific landscape, and they would be a convenient tool for studying the Flynn effect. In the same way, g is useful for many things, especially for broad-stroke prediction of outcomes like job performance. The trick is not to get hooked on any particular way of dividing up the pie, because it is a short step from there to trying to find the Greenwich Meridian at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

“Actually, psychologists don’t look for lines of longitude in the seabed; they look for mental factors in the brain and genome. Flynn’s over-commitment to the reality of g leads him to be distressingly cavalier about how human ability might be represented neurologically or genetically. “General intelligence or g,” he says, “has something to do with brain quality, and good genes have a lot to do with having an above average brain.” That sounds safe enough, but wait a minute: How do we know a quality brain or a good gene when we see one? And presumably not only general intelligence but abstract reasoning ability has something to do with the brain, the environmental Flynn effect notwithstanding. When we start looking for human intelligence in the brain and the genes, what exactly should we look for? General intelligence? Specific abilities? Morality? Which way do those lines really run again?

“There is nothing wrong with studying the neurology or genetics of differences in ability, but these investigations will proceed on their own neurological and genetic terms, and we should not look to them for biological vindication of the psychological expediencies that help us tame the nearly overwhelming complexity of human behavior. Literal-mindedness about the details of psychological statistics may seem harmless when the discussion is just about what goes with what and when, but history has shown us only too clearly what can happen when simplistic views of human ability make poorly informed contact with biology and genetics. I am by training a behavioral geneticist, and as such I am too well-acquainted with the ugly places oversimplified thinking about human ability and genetics can lead to let the phrase “good genes” pass without a shiver. It is best to be careful from the beginning.”

Paranoia of a Guilty Conscience

A big issue in the city I live in, Iowa City, is the racial disparity in arrests. This is a problem all across the country, but the data shows that this town has one of the highest disparities in the country. That contradicts the liberal self-image of this middle class white college town.

This relates to the majority white population here being freaked out about black people from Chicago. White people and wealthy people from Chicago, however, are perfectly fine. Just not those low class gangbangers and welfare queens.

When my parents moved back to town in 2008, there was an unusual spike in criminal activity or at least a spike in the media’s attention on criminal activity. I always wondered if there was any real change in crime, though. There was some youth gang activity, but it mostly seemed like high schoolers pretending to be in gangs.

The black issue became all the buzz, despite the fact that the spike of murders that year all came from middle class white people, including a banker and a mother who separately killed their families. Of course, no one fear-mongered about the dangers of middle class white people going berzerk. But some black youth shoplifting sure did get a lot of attention.

A recent article in the local alternative media (Study Shows IC Police Stop Minority Drivers At Disproportionate Rates) cleared up something I’ve been wondering about for some years now:

“However, despite the 2008-2009 uptick, data show violent crime has still trended downward over time, even in those so-called high-crime neighborhoods.”

Even as the media obsessed over violent crime incidents, the actual rate of violent crime was going down. This has been true nation-wide. Many people think violent crime is worse right now in the US, despite it being at the lowest point in my lifetime.

How can we have a rational public debate when the public’s view of reality is so distorted by media? This irritates and frustrates me.

I did find some data on crime rates in Iowa City (from usa.com). It even breaks it down, although not in as much detail as i’d prefer. It only includes data between 2005 and 2012 and so, unfortunately, the larger trends can’t be seen.

Within that limited timeframe, it shows Iowa City’s crime rates are about the same as for all of Iowa. And Iowa’s crime rates are generally low by national standards.

For example, Iowa City’s murder rate is extremely low for most years. But there was that temporary jump in the murder rate for 2008. The murder rate for that particular year stands out as the murder rate for years before and after it are so low, typically at zero for most years. Iowa, in general, has one of the lowest homicide rates and one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the entire country, and that should be put in the context that Iowa has a high gun ownership rate.

The only Iowa City crime rate that is above the national average is for rape. And that is probably because it is a college town. I would guess that all college towns with on average younger populations have higher than average rates of rape. Whereas towns with on average older populations probably have lower rates of rape. Young people tend to rape more than old people. Also, as other data shows (from insideprison.com), the high rate of rape in Iowa City is mostly rape by acquaintances that occur in residences/homes, not roving gangs of Chicago black thugs randomly defiling young white maidens.

The violent crime rates have been going down in this town, in this state, in this country, and across the world. We haven’t seen such low rates of violent crime since a half century ago when it dropped down from a high rate earlier in the 20th century. What is this obsession with imaginary violence? And why are real blacks getting blamed for it?

As the data shows, blacks are less likely to commit crimes such as using illegal drugs, carrying illegal drugs, and carrying illegal guns. Yet blacks are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, harshly judged, and imprisoned for these crimes. Most of the murders in this country aren’t committed by blacks. Besides, most of the murders by blacks are committed against blacks, just as most murders by whites are committed against whites. In a majority white place like Iowa City, why are people so worried about blacks who are a tiny percentage of the population?

It is hard to see how this can be explained by anything besides racism. In Racism: A Very Short Introduction (p. 11), Ali Rattansi puts it in the context of one particular piece of data:

“It is even more difficult to decide exactly how racism might be involved in, say, the fact that in the USA black men are 10 times more likely to go to prison than whites, and 1 in 20 over the age of 18 is in jail. Or, as revealed in an Amnesty International report of 2004, why black defendants convicted of killing whites have been sentenced to death 15 times more often than white defendants convicted of killing blacks. Also, blacks convicted of killing other blacks in the USA are only half as likely to suffer the death penalty as when they are convicted of killing whites. Is this racism at work? Where does this and similar instances fit into the American, and indeed general, narrative of racism?”

One should be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that American society puts a lesser value on the lives of blacks. I sometimes wonder if the real fear that many white Americans have is that the maltreatment and injustice committed against blacks might one day come home to roost, that blacks would do the same to whites if given the opportunity. Basically, it seems like the paranoia of a guilty conscience.

* * * *

6/22/14 – I came across something that fits this post perfectly.

It is a review of a book about racism and the media in Iowa City. That is awesome that someone went to the trouble to write a book about it. Now if only Iowa City residents would read it and learn something about the community they live in.

The book is A Transplanted Chicago: Race, Place, and the Press in Iowa City by Robert E. Gutsche, Jr. The review is How the Media Stokes Racism in Iowa City – and Everywhere by Eleanor J Bader (source: Truthout). Here is part of the review:

“His answer: Unabashed racism. In fact, Gutsche concludes that virtually every news item about the southeast conforms to stereotypes depicting African Americans as lazy, uneducated, dependent on government handouts and prone to criminal or immoral behavior. To make his case, he cites a newspaper article about the opening of a new shelter for homeless families. The story was illustrated by a photo of a black woman leaning against a window. The caption identified her as a Chicago native who had been living in the shelter with her five children for nearly a year. “Just that single sentence says it all,” Gutsche writes, “Poor blacks (especially mothers) continue to come to Iowa City with their children, (far too many for the woman to care for) and take advantage of the city’s good will and resources (by staying in the shelter for nearly a year) . . . The caption was wrong. The woman and her children had only been living in the city – and at the shelter – for a couple of months . . . What is interesting about this caption and photograph is how it matches with dominant discourse surrounding Iowa City’s southeast side and the migration of folks from Chicago to Iowa City.”

“Central to this discourse, of course, is the belief that low-income women, aka “welfare queens,” are taking advantage of government programs and feeding at the trough of public generosity. “Chicago has come to mean more than just another city,” Gutsche concludes. “It signals the ghetto, danger, blackness – and most directly, of not being from here.” That two-thirds of the low-income households registered with the Iowa City Housing Authority were elderly and disabled – not poor, black or from Chicago – went unacknowledged by reporters. Similarly, the drunken escapades of mostly white University of Iowa students have been depicted by reporters as essentially benign and developmentally appropriate. “Just as news coverage explained downtown violence as a natural college experience, news coverage normalized southeast side violence as being the effect of urban black culture,” Gutsche writes. “News stories indicated that drunken packs of college students were isolated to the downtown, whereas southeast side violence was described as infiltrating the city’s schools, social services and public safety.””

* * * *

6/23/14 – Another article compares the safety of states:

“By safety, we’re not referring exclusively to protection from violence and crime. The term encompasses various categories, among them workplace safety, natural disasters, home and community stability, traffic safety and, of course, financial security.”

Both Iowa and Illinois are in the top 10 safest states in the country. Illinois is even ranked at number 3 for the lowest number of assaults per capita. Many people think of Illinois in terms of the media image of Chicago. It turns out that overall Illinois is one of the safest states in the country, even with all those supposedly dangerous inner city blacks. Maybe it is because these are such safe places to live that any act of violence stands out.

 

Class and Race as Proxies

“Perhaps what binds them all together, though, is class. Rural or small town, urban or suburban, the extreme Right is populated by downwardly mobile, lower-middle-class white men. All of the men I interviewed—all—fitted this class profile. When I compared with other ethnographies and other surveys, they all had the same profile as well.

“In the United States, class is often a proxy for race. When politicians speak of the “urban poor,” we know it’s a code for black people. When they talk about “welfare queens,” we know the race of that woman driving the late-model Cadillac. In polite society, racism remains hidden behind a screen spelled CLASS.

“On the extreme Right, by contrast, race is a proxy for class. Among the white supremacists, when they speak of race consciousness, defending white people, protesting for equal rights for white people, they actually don’t mean all white people. They don’t mean Wall Street bankers and lawyers, though they are pretty much entirely white and male. They don’t mean white male doctors, or lawyers, or architects, or even engineers. They don’t mean the legions of young white hipster guys, or computer geeks flocking to the Silicon Valley, or the legions of white preppies in their boat shoes and seersucker jackets “interning” at white-shoe law firms in major cities. Not at all. They mean middle-and working-class white people. Race consciousness is actually class consciousness without actually having to “see” class. “Race blindness” leads working-class people to turn right; if they did see class, they’d turn left and make common cause with different races in the same economic class.”

America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy
by Michael Kimmel
from Salon
November 17, 2013

The Racial Line and Racial Identity

Beyond Biracial: When Blackness Is a Small, Nearly Invisible Fraction
by Jenée Desmond-Harris
from The Root

“Their racial mixture can feel too fragmented for old, no-longer-politically-correct terms like “mulatto” and even the irreverent hybrids like “blewish” and “blexican” that the “biracial boom” crowd created to rename themselves. Making things even more complicated for 2014’s cohort of people with just one black-identified grandparent is the dearth of cultural references providing a blueprint for how they might identify. As Ian Stewart, the 31-year-old son of a biracial father and white mother, puts it, “There’s a lot out there for the half-black, but a lot less out there for the quarter.”

[ . . . ]

“”What is different today than in, say, 1945 is the way in which we have a much more fluid understanding of race,” says Joseph. She’s referring to our ever loosening attachment to the strict red, yellow, brown, black and white racial categories conceived of by 18th-century German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, whose now debunked idea of natural divisions provided the basis for those who would push for biology-based racism.

[ . . . ]

“An extreme example of how muddy this can get: A self-confessed white supremacist attempting to launch an all-white community in North Dakota made headlines when it was revealed that he had 14 percent sub-Saharan African ancestry. (DNA tests can reveal the geographical origins of ancestors, a piece of information that is, contrary to popular belief, not the same as race.)

[ . . . ]

“When it comes to racial identity in America, “The mix itself is one piece, but the appearance thing has always been big,” says Miletsky. In fact, scientists say that people register race in about a tenth of a second, even before they discern gender.

How Many ‘White’ People Are Passing?
by Henry Louis Gates
from The Root

Here’s how Scott Hadly reported Kasia Bryc’s findings on the 23andme website on March 4, 2014: “Bryc found that about 4 percent of whites have at least 1 percent or more of African ancestry, known as “’hidden African ancestry.’”

“Although it is a relatively small percentage,” Hadly continues, “the percentage indicates that an individual with at least 1 percent African ancestry had an African ancestor within the last six generations, or in the last 200 years [meaning since the time of American slavery]. This data also suggests that individuals with mixed parentage at some point were absorbed into the white population,” which is a very polite way of saying that they “passed.”

[ . . . ]

How many ostensibly “white” Americans walking around today would be classified as “black” under the one-drop rule? Judging by the last U.S. Census (pdf), 7,872,702. To put that in context, that number is equal to roughly 20 percent, or a fifth, of the total number of people identified as African American (pdf) in the same census count!

[ . . . ]

“Southern states with the highest African American populations tended to have the highest percentages of hidden African ancestry,” Hadly writes of Bryc’s findings. “In South Carolina at least 13 percent of self-identified whites have 1 percent or more African ancestry, while in Louisiana the number is a little more than 12 percent. In Georgia and Alabama the number is about 9 percent. The differences perhaps point to different social and cultural histories within the south.”

If we apply those percentages to the last federal census (pdf), that means 487,253, “white” people in Georgia, 385,156 “white” people in South Carolina, 328,186 in Louisiana and 288,396 in Alabama are actually “black,” according to the one-drop rule. And that is a lot of the white people in these states! (It’s also worth noting that the percentage of “hidden blacks” who self-identify as white in South Carolina—13 percent—is the same as the percentage of people nationwide who self-identified as black in the 2010 U.S. Census.)

 

 

Race Realism, Social Constructs, and Genetics

Denisovans, Neandertals, Archaics as Human Races – Anthropology 1.11

by Jason Antrosio, from Living Anthropologically

Current studies show genetically significant interbreeding with Neandertals, Denisovans, and possibly other archaics did occur. Milford Wolpoff’s idea that Neandertals should be considered a subspecies or race of humans seems closer to the truth (How Neandertals inform human variation, 2009). Neandertals are distinctive, so distinctive that many would say they were a separate species. Denisovans seem to be in a similar position. These are what races would really look like, not like the relatively minor differences observed in contemporary humans (see section Race Reconciled Re-Debunks Race).

Race and Consequence: “Reality” and Social Constructs
by Cory Harris, from Torso and Oblong

Students definitely do usually interpret the traditional anthropological critique of race as “oh, anthropologists say race doesn’t exist, so it’s not important.” And while that’s clearly not what I’m arguing in class, it’s painstakingly difficult to clearly articulate the nuance.

This problem reminds me of an excellent, concise post by Jeremy Trombley, which I’ll quote in its entirety here:

We have to get past the idea that things that are socially constructed are somehow not real. I encountered it again today in something I was reading. “X is socially constructed” or “X are social constructs” as if to say they areonly or just social constructs – as if to say X is not real. But social constructs are real – that’s what makes them so powerful. Race, Class, Gender – these are all social constructs, but it is because they are socially constructed that they have tremendous effects on the lives of people who live in a particular society.

In fact, the only thing that saying something is socially constructed does is to indicate that it could have been (or could be) constructed differently – that it is historically and politically contingent. This is a first step (though maybe not a necessary step) towards creating the possibility for change, but it is not the change itself. Social constructions are powerful, deeply embedded structures, and change takes time and work. We’ve spent the last 30 years showing how socially constructed everything is – that was the easy part – now it’s time to get to work on making change.

In Gravlee’s article, he maintains the spirit of the critique of race as a social construct, but embraces race as a “real” concept–real in the sense of having real consequences, and he argues to “take seriously the claim that race is a cultural construct that profoundly shapes life chances” (2009:48).

I completely agree and think is is a critical goal in teaching about anthropology and race to undergraduates. Despite Gravlee’s clear elucidation of the relationship between social contexts and biological outcomes, I feel that many of my students implicitly continue to think that any reality to race can be reduced to gene pools (Gravlee 2009:51). In the end, I think many come away thinking anthropologists are a bit full of shit–”race is a ‘social construct,’ so it’s not real, but I see the reality of race all around me.”

Racial Realism
from Rational Wiki

Human genetics doesn’t work like race realists think it does.

Race realists spend a great deal of time and effort pointing out genetic differences between geographically separated populations in gene clustering research and insisting this is evidence for “races”.

In gene clustering research a set of populations is typically determined via subjective descriptors in ethnicity, language and geographics and people can be reliably identified as members of these groups. However, this way of categorizing people depends fundamentally on the quantity and method used to create the aforementioned framework of ancestral populations. Depending on what you subjectively chose to be aforementioned populations people may or may not end up in the same group. This is completely different from the problem of “races”, which presupposes that there is just one objectively and biologically demarcatable set of populations among all humans.

As Jonathan Marks points out

What is unclear is what this has to do with ‘race’ as that term has been used through much in the twentieth century – the mere fact that we can find groups to be different and can reliably allot people to them is trivial. Again, the point of the theory of race was to discover large clusters of people that are principally homogeneous within and heterogeneous between, contrasting groups.[4]

The idea of large clusters of people that are principally homogeneous within and heterogeneous in-between in terms of genetic similarity — the latter being necessary to speak of distinct “races” — has no scientific basis and in fact there is evidence against it. Witherspoon et al concluded in their 2007 paper “Genetic Similarities Within and Between Human Populations”:

The fact that, given enough genetic data, individuals can be correctly assigned to their populations of origin is compatible with the observation that most human genetic variation is found within populations, not between them. It is also compatible with our finding that, even when the most distinct populations are considered and hundreds of loci are used, individuals are frequently more similar to members of other populations than to members of their own population.[5]

Once “intermediate” populations — people living between two greater geographical extremes — are included, you find genetic continuity, not discontinuities. Racial realists’ proposed race-labeled genetic clusters all exclude “intermediate” populations; sampling and including such populations destroys any illusory genetic discontinuity.[6]

Icelanders and Ashkenazim constitute genetic clusters; “Asians”, “Europeans” and particularly “Negroes” do not.

why both sides are wrong in the race debate
by Kenan Malik, from Pandaemonium

An individual can have a number of social identities some of which may be important to the research at hand, and some of which are irrelevant. An individual donating DNA might be simultaneously a resident of a particular Indian village in Arizona, a member of the Hopi tribe, a descendant of a Laguna tribal family, a Native American, and someone of Spanish ancestry, as well as an American citizen. Each of these identities, Morris and Foster observe, tells a different social story about the individual and leads to a different scientific perspective on genetic variation. Researchers, in other words, should not assume a priori that the world is naturally divided into a set of ‘races’. Rather, depending on the particular questions they are asking they have to decide which of the socially-given populations are most useful to sample.

The importance occasionally of group differences in medicine does not reveal the reality of race. Indeed, what we popularly call races are generally least suited to genetic research. That is because the degree of biological relatedness in Continental groups is barely greater than in a randomly chosen group of people. That is what we mean when we say that just 4 per cent of total human variation exists between the major Continental groups. Races are, however, socially significant and a major way by which we divide up our societies. It may make social sense, therefore, for researchers and clinicians to use race as the basis by which they divide up the population.

race, science and the politics of identity
by Kenan Malik, from Pandaemonium

The contemporary idea of diversity, as the cultural analyst Brady Dunkee neatly puts it, acts as a ‘double entendre’. As a valued liberal standpoint, it gives race realism a political legitimacy. As an expression of genetic variation, it gives political arguments scientific legitimacy. Diversity, Dunkee writes, ‘kills two authority birds with one stone and extends the already flexible term “population” to substitute in another way for race’.

Today’s race realism is not simply the resurrection of Victorian racial science. The idea of race clearly means something very different today than it did 100 or 150 years ago. It is intimately bound up with contemporary notions of identity and belongingness and is an expression not so much of reactionary claims about inferiority and superiority as of the liberal impulse to embrace diversity and difference. But that makes the concept of race no more scientifically plausible or politically amenable than it did in the era of Cuvier, Broca and Morton.

More Mothers than Mitochondrial Eve – Anthropology 1.12
by Jason Antrosio, from Living Anthropologically

Anthropologists may have hoped the out-of-Africa hypothesis with a Mitochondrial Eve in Africa would bring much-needed attention to sub-Saharan Africa, as a celebrated cradle of humanity. It did not. Instead, people began to imply that leaving Africa was a good thing. “I call this ‘Out-of-Africa: Thank God!’ to point to the presumption that hominids became human in the process of leaving Africa–a slight that seems always unintentional, yet is surprisingly common. . . . Leaving Africa has become a troubling focus of a great deal of research and popular celebration” (Proctor 2003:225-226).

In 2011 New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade raised this slight to an insult, writing about “when and how modern humans escaped from their ancestral homeland” (Tools Suggest Earlier Human Exit From Africa). Modern humans did not escape! There were migrations out of Africa, within Africa, and people also migrated back into Africa.

Extreme versions of Mitochondrial Eve and the replacement hypothesis are gone. It is time to recapture the complexities of anthropological models. It is time to go back to Wolpoff’s statement from the 1988 Newsweek article: “we have a long history of people constantly mixing with one another and cooperating with one another and evolving into one great family.”

Race Reconciled Re-Debunks Race – Anthropology 1.6
by Jason Antrosio, from Living Anthropologically

Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest genetic diversity. This is not a surprise, since Sub-Saharan Africa is where almost all human evolution occurred. For most of human history, it was also the region with the largest human population. What may be more surprising is “that the diversity in non-Sub-Saharan African populations is essentially a subset of the diversity found in Sub-Saharan African populations” (Long et al. 2009:23).

Genetic classifications of races outside of Sub-Saharan Africa are simply subsets of Sub-Saharan African diversity. Moreover, and perhaps most strangely, “a classification that takes into account evolutionary relationships and the nested pattern of diversity would require that Sub-Saharan Africans are not a race because the most exclusive group that includes all Sub-Saharan African populations also includes every non-Sub-Saharan African population” (Long et al. 2009:32). In the end, the authors “agree entirely with Lewontin that classical race taxonomy is a poor reflection of human diversity” (Long et al. 2009:32). They disagree with Lewontin over whether this is intrinsic to human genetics–rather, it is a product of evolutionary history and migration.

This evolutionary history is explained in the article The global pattern of gene identity variation reveals a history of long-range migrations, bottlenecks, and local mate exchange: Implications for biological race. Once again, sophisticated techniques reveal a “nested pattern of genetic structure that is inconsistent with the existence of independently evolving biological races” (Hunley et al. 2009:35). The authors confirm greater genetic variation within Sub-Saharan Africa, and all other humans are a sub-set of this variation. Taxonomic classifications of race cannot account for observed genetic diversity. The authors take this further, challenging medical research that uses visible race-markers as a proxy for genetic structure:

Our findings confirm that broad ethnic categories employed in medical genetic research might not adequately take into account the complex geographic pattern of genetic structure in the species, but for the same reason, neither may continental ancestry. This is because our results also indicate that substantial, potentially medically important genetic differences may exist between populations within regions. (Hunley et al. 2009:45)

Race and medicine: the BiDil trial
by John Hawks, from the john hawks weblog

Blacks have good reason to be suspicious of studies like this, and not only for a historical reason. Race is a miserable substitute for the knowledge of alleles and genotypes in a study like this one. Compared to other populations in the world, Africans are more genetically variable, which means predicting effects for a drug for the entire population based on the average of study subjects is probably a mistake. The problem is worse when applied to African-Americans, which share much of the genetic diversity of Africans, but also include a relatively high proportion of alleles that are common in Europeans — a proportion that varies greatly from individual to individual. And the socioeconomic and cultural differences between many black and white Americans also may affect the response to drugs and other medical treatments. In short, if doctors had better information than race alone, they had better be using it.

How race becomes biology: Embodiment of social inequality
Clarence C. Gravlee

The current debate over racial inequalities in health is arguably the most important venue for advancing both scientific and public understanding of race, racism, and human biological variation. In the United States and elsewhere, there are well-defined inequalities between racially defined groups for a range of biological outcomes—cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, low birth weight, preterm delivery, and others. Among biomedical researchers, these patterns are often taken as evidence of fundamental genetic differences between alleged races. However, a growing body of evidence establishes the primacy of social inequalities in the origin and persistence of racial health disparities. Here, I summarize this evidence and argue that the debate over racial inequalities in health presents an opportunity to refine the critique of race in three ways: 1) to reiterate why the race concept is inconsistent with patterns of global human genetic diversity; 2) to refocus attention on the complex, environmental influences on human biology at multiple levels of analysis and across the lifecourse; and 3) to revise the claim that race is a cultural construct and expand research on the sociocultural reality of race and racism. Drawing on recent developments in neighboring disciplines, I present a model for explaining how racial inequality becomes embodied—literally—in the biological well-being of racialized groups and individuals. This model requires a shift in the way we articulate the critique of race as bad biology.

Human DNA sequences: More variation and less race
Jeffrey C. Long, Jie Li, and Meghan E. Healy

The results are clear and somewhat surprising. We see that populations differ in the amount of diversity that they harbor. The pattern of DNA diversity is one of nested subsets, such that the diversity in non-Sub-Saharan African populations is essentially a subset of the diversity found in Sub-Saharan African populations. The actual pattern of DNA diversity creates some unsettling problems for using race as meaningful genetic categories. For example, the pattern of DNA diversity implies that some populations belong to more than one race (e.g., Europeans), whereas other populations do not belong to any race at all (e.g., Sub-Saharan Africans). As Frank Livingstone noted long ago, the Linnean classification system cannot accommodate this pattern because within the system a population cannot belong to more than one named group within a taxonomic level.

Race is a Social Construction – Anthropology on Race and Genetics
by Jason Antrosio, from Living Anthropologically

It is important to spell out what that means, and what people were after with the “race is a social construction” phrase. I am going to go out on an optimistic limb here and say that some recent posts on popular genetic-sorting blogs–Gene Expression andDienekes–demonstrate these bloggers

  1. acknowledge the genetic clustering data exhibits much more complexity and tells a much more complex story of human movement and mixing than is popularly understood; and
  2. therefore acknowledge that the lived experience of racial classification can be much more real than the kinds of genetic clustering they are outlining; so that
  3. correctly understood they are at least tacitly acknowledging that indeed “race is a social construction.”

Now before any of these bloggers or the people who inhabit their comment streams jump in and crush me, I want to make clear that this is an optimistic reading of some recent posts; that these comments apply to the main bloggers and not necessarily the commenters; and that since I am not a regular reader of these blogs, this may not be a new development even as I am reading a difference in tone.

Racecraft: Political Correctness & Free Marketplace of Ideas

Here is a passage that is absolutely brilliant. The authors cut to the heart of the issue like a surgeon with a scalpel.

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life
by Barbara J. Fields and Karen Fields
pp. 40-44

Sometimes the fog of racecraft rolls in at the last minute, as a derailing non sequitur to an otherwise logical argument. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that scientists who conducted an epidemiological study of asthma among schoolchildren in South Bronx produced damning evidence about environmental pollution caused by heavy truck traffic. Their study identified the particle emissions, cited the location of major highways, and, through resourceful data collection, drew conclusions about the children’s exposure, in specific neighborhoods, at different hours of the day, to “very high fine particle concentrations on a fairly regular basis.” The correlations emerged: “Symptoms, like wheezing, doubled on days when pollution from truck traffic was highest .” It would seem as clear as noonday that class inequality had imposed sickness on these American schoolchildren. Yet the article’s summary tails off into confused pseudo-genetics. To a list of contributors to high asthma rates that includes heavy traffic, dense population, poorly maintained housing, and lack of access to medical care, the article adds “a large population of blacks and Hispanics, two groups with high rates of asthma.” Racecraft has permitted the consequence under investigation to masquerade among the causes. Susceptibility to filthy air does not depend on the census category to which the asthma sufferer belongs. And even if that susceptibility is (to whatever degree) genetically determined, Dr. Venter’s account of his own asthma stands as a reminder that “genetic” is not equivalent to “racial” or “ethnic.”

Some of the oddest racecraft moments come when scientists yoke modern genetics to folk notions. In the controversy over Dr. James D. Watson’s remarks in London, some of his defenders charged his critics with a “politically correct” retreat from science, insisting that good science requires a free marketplace of ideas . Researchers must be free, they implied, to salvage the old bio-racist ranking of superior and inferior races, regardless of the collapse as science of its core concept, race. But it is doubtful that those foes of political correctness would wish to rehabilitate that part of bio-racism that once identified inferior white races.

If they took their own position seriously, they would applaud the writings of such eminent American scientists of the late nineteenth century as Edward Drinker Cope and Nathaniel Southgate Shaler (dean of Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School during the 1890s) on the inequality of races, not simply their work on dinosaurs and the earth’s history. Cope advocated both “the return of the African to Africa” and restrictions on immigration by “the half-civilized hordes of Europe.” Shaler agreed, characterizing those hordes as inferior “by birthright ,” “essentially in the same state as the Southern Negro,” and distinct from “the Aryan variety of mankind.” Popularizers hustled bio-racist “science” into public policy. Madison Grant, who advocated “Nordic” superiority in his 1916 best-seller, The Passing of the Great Race: The Racial Basis of European History, purported to map class inequality onto physical traits, such as height:

The Nordic race is everywhere distinguished by great stature. Almost the tallest stature in the world is found among the pure Nordic populations of the Scottish and English borders, while the native British of Pre-Nordic brunet blood are, for the most part, relatively short; and no one can question the race value of stature who observes on the streets of London the contrast between the Piccadilly gentleman of Nordic race and the cockney costermonger [street vendor] of the old Neolithic type.

In 1924, the lay and scientific streams of bio-racism converged in the Immigration Act of 1924 (which excluded European races deemed undesirable) and the Virginia Racial Integrity Act (which prohibited “miscegenation”). In the same year, Virginia adopted a law (upheld by the US Supreme Court three years later) providing for compulsory sterilization of persons held to be “defective and degenerate,” a group that included “the shiftless, ignorant and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South.” The Nazis followed these developments closely. When they decided to weed out the “unfit,” they had American models of how to proceed, from administrative searching of family trees to sterilization. They became “the dark apotheosis of eugenics.”

In 1946, Leslie C. Dunn, a distinguished geneticist and part of a group intent on severing genetics from eugenics, wrote that the field “had developed … out of the racial problems presented so vividly to the United States by the great immigration of the early part of the century.” Consistent application of the “free marketplace of ideas” principle today would restore to bio-racism and eugenics the respectability they once enjoyed. Instead, “inferior white races ” vanished from the lexicon of bio-racism, to rematerialize outside its purview as “ethnic” groups. The “shiftless, ignorant, and worthless” white people vanished altogether. No one attributes to political correctness the demise of bio-racism as applied to white persons. So, the free-marketplace-of-ideas apologia for Watson’s bio-racism as applied to black persons turns out to be a familiar interloper, the practice of a double standard.

One of the present authors some years ago tested the limits of the free market in racist ideas. A crotchety yet likable right-wing colleague approached, looking disquieted and in need of moral support. He was “having trouble” with a certain black student in his bio-psychology class. What was wrong, he wondered, with saying that “black people may, or (mind you) may not, prove to be intellectually inferior to white people? In science, you frame a hypothesis, devise an experiment, find out.” The student raised her hand and, when recognized, blasted him. “Do you know So-and -So (the student in question)?” asked the bio-psychologist. (The author did happen to know the student in question, an eighteen-year-old single mother of twins who was as bright as they come and not one to brook insult.) “Why can’t she grasp that there’s a scientific approach to things , blah , blah?” Finally, the author put a question. “If, as you say, there is no hypothesis that science excludes, why not try this assignment ? Let your students pick any white ethnic group and any stereotype commonly applied to it, greedy, mendacious, dumb, drunken, gangsterish, and so on, then formulate a hypothesis, design the experiment, find out.” The colleague’s face froze.

Race-Racism Evasion

The following is a passage from Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Barbara J. Fields and Karen Fields. I offer it here as an important point is made articulated. The key conclusion to be found is the specific section where the authors write:

Confronted with the intellectual arguments against the concept of race, my undergraduates react by grasping for another word to occupy the same conceptual space. “I don’t feel comfortable saying ‘race’ after your class . But I don’t know what else to call it,” is a characteristic response. At the suggestion, “Why not ‘ancestry,’ if that’s what you’re talking about?” they retreat into inarticulate dissatisfaction .

A very good question the authors ask: Why not speak of ancestry?

Nearly everything that is worthy of being spoken of is more clearly and fully found in categories of ethnicity and nationality (although I would also add socio-economic class and other related factors). The classifications of race don’t tell us anything we can’t discover without them. All that race does is conflate separate issues and obscure hidden causes.

From Racecraft (pp. 100-102):

“Race” appears in the titles of an ever-growing number of scholarly books and articles as a euphemism for slavery, disfranchisement, segregation, lynching, mass murder, and related historical atrocities; or as unintentionally belittling shorthand for “persons of African descent and anything pertaining to them.” 13 The more dutifully scholars acknowledge that the concept of race belongs in the same category as geocentrism or witchcraft , the more blithely they invoke it as though it were both a coherent analytical category and a valid empirical datum . In place of Jefferson’s moment of impassioned truth-telling, his successors fall back on italics or quotation marks, typographical abbreviations for the trite formula, “race is a social construction.”

The formula is meant to spare those who invoke race in historical explanation the raised eyebrows that would greet someone who, studying a crop failure, proposed witchcraft as an independent variable. But identifying race as a social construction does nothing to solidify the intellectual ground on which it totters. The London Underground and the United States of America are social constructions; so are the evil eye and the calling of spirits from the vasty deep; and so are murder and genocide. All derive from the thoughts, plans, and actions of human beings living in human societies. Scholars who intone “social construction” as a spell for the purification of race do not make clear— perhaps because they do not themselves realize— that race and racism belong to different families of social construction, and that neither belongs to the same family as the United States of America or the London Underground. Race belongs to the same family as the evil eye. Racism belongs to the same family as murder and genocide. Which is to say that racism, unlike race, is not a fiction, an illusion, a superstition, or a hoax. It is a crime against humanity.

No operation performed on the fiction can ever make headway against the crime. But the fiction is easier for well-meaning people to handle. (“ Race,” I have written elsewhere, “is a homier and more tractable notion than racism, a rogue elephant gelded and tamed into a pliant beast of burden .”) Confronted with the intellectual arguments against the concept of race, my undergraduates react by grasping for another word to occupy the same conceptual space. “I don’t feel comfortable saying ‘race’ after your class . But I don’t know what else to call it,” is a characteristic response. At the suggestion, “Why not ‘ancestry,’ if that’s what you’re talking about?” they retreat into inarticulate dissatisfaction. Instinctively, they understand that, while everyone has ancestry , only African ancestry carries the ultimate stigma. Therefore, what they are unknowingly searching for is a neutral-sounding word with racism hidden inside, which is what “race” is. The apparently blameless word permits students to reabsorb into the decorum of the routine something whose essence is not just indecorum but monstrosity: the attachment to fellow human beings of a stigma akin to leprosy in medieval Europe, only worse, in that it sets beyond the pale of humanity not the leper alone but the leper’s progeny ad infinitum.

Domesticating such a monstrosity for presentation in civilized company requires believers in race to attempt cosmetic repairs of its most obnoxious peculiarities. One such peculiarity is the fact that, effectively, there can be only one race, since the one-drop-of-blood or any-known-ancestry rule applies only to African ancestry; indeed , the rule ceases to function at all if applied to more than one type of ancestry. The cosmetic applied to the resulting asymmetry and invidiousness is “whiteness ,” whose champions purport to discover “racialization”— and therefore races— all over the shop. A further sleight of hand defines race as identity so that “white” also becomes a race. Similar cosmetic embellishments claim “agency” for the victims in creating race or deodorize it by tracing its origin to “culture” rather than racism. But people no more fasten the stigma of race upon themselves than cattle sear the brand into their own flesh. And, no matter how slipshod the definition of culture, no one can seriously assert that one culture unites those whom American usage identifies without hesitation as one race.

Eugenics: Past & Future

So far, I’ve written five posts where I mention or discuss race and eugenics, although I may have briefly touched on the idea of eugenics in other earlier posts: Race & Racism,  Slavery & Eugenics, Part 2, Black Superiority, and Racial Reality Tunnel. The first post listed (and the first in order of being posted) only briefly mentions eugenics so as to dismiss it from the central point of my thoughts. The other four posts directly consider eugenics and its implications for the American racial order.

Out of curiosity, I Googled these search terms: slavery, eugenics, and miscegenation. You might think that hundreds or even thousands of results might come up. But that isn’t the case. Only 22 results were given. Of these, there was an interesting Wikipedia article on slave breeding in the United States and a few other articles worth reading (here, here, here, and here). On a related note, there is also a thorough Wikipedia article on eugenics in the United States and a small section of a Wikipedia article about compulsory sterilization in the United States.

The last of the anti-mescegenation laws were overturned only in 1967. That is 8 years before I was born, 22 years after my mom was born, 25 years after my dad was born, and 2 years after my parents were married. Just imagine that. When my parents married, it would still have been illegal in some states for them to have been married if they had been legally determined to have been of different races. My parents are old enough to remember what America was like during the height of Jim Crow in the 1950s. My dad even remembers Jim Crow laws from when he visited his maternal grandmother in the Deep South where he and his brother wondered about the water fountains with signs that said “Colored”.

Also, consider that the last forced sterilization happened in 1981. Prior to that, over 65,000 forced sterilizations were done all across the United States. These weren’t just done to minorities, but that was one of their major targets.

This is all still fresh in the minds of many Americans. Many blacks who voted for the first black president didn’t even have the right to vote for much of their early life. The victims of Jim Crow, of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations are still with us today and they are a significant portion of the population. Heck, the last Civil War veteran was still alive when my parents were growing up (around when my dad would have been starting high school) and there still is a child of a Civil War veteran who is presently living (last I heard) and receiving a Civil War pension.

One point I made in my posts about race and eugenics is how it applies to the human biodiversity (HBD) view of recent human history and evolution. I mention how HBDers like hbdchick like to discuss the manorial system which allowed feudal lords to decide who could marry and so was one of the earliest somewhat systematic attempt at eugenics. I don’t know that it was the intention of feudal lords to breed a better human, but HBDers believe that was the result in the creation of a specific genetic inheritance for large areas of Western Europe.

I must give credit to hbdchick. Her posts are heavy on the data and she makes a very strong case for this, intentional or not, (proto-)eugenics practice of social/genetics engineering. HBDers like hbdchick, however, are less upfront about how this eugenics past could or should apply to our present. I doubt most of them are willing to go back to a time of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations (whether in terms of slavery or Jim Crow), but it is less than clear what they see as the practical implications of their racialist ideology. I would guess that some of them at least favor heavy-handed segregation through isolationist or semi-isolationist immigration laws and maybe some old school repatriation of unwanted or ‘illegal’ populations.

Vagueness or obfuscation aside, I do think HBDers make a good argument and I think it should be taken very seriously. I take it so seriously that I extend their argument into even more recent history. I see all of slavery and Jim Crow as a centuries-long eugenics program. It wasn’t always systematic in its application and its success is questionable at best, but it must be considered in its totality. As I’ve pointed out, the highly atypical bimodal distribution of racial genetics in the United States offers strong evidence for at least partial success of this state-sanctioned eugenics.

I honestly don’t know what to think of a lot of this. I’m a proponent of civil rights, both in terms of social freedoms and individual liberties. Yes, oppressive laws and practices are bad. But the world is becoming increasingly complex.

Between GMOs and DNA screening, we are truly entering a brave new world of genetic engineering. It always comes down to who is making the choice and who is suffering (or benefiting) from the consequence. Is embryonic eugenics all that much different from Spartans throwing their unwanted babies off of cliffs? I don’t know. But just imagine if feudal lords and slave-owners had the genetic knowledge and ability we have today. When HBDers look at the data about the past, the present real world implications are stark.

It gets me wondering, as it gets many people wondering. Certainly, it has caused more than a few fiction writers to wonder, from Philip K. Dick to Margaret Atwood.

How do our potential futures reflect our past? If we don’t learn from the past, what might we repeat? What if society finally succeeded in creating separate races of humans, what would that mean? And if some powerful nation such as China took up such a project, who would stop them? Is this dystopian vision an inevitable reality? Is a genetically engineered future necessarily dark and oppressive? Will humans ever learn to use our power responsibly?

What motivates my thinking is a single insight that, as far as I can tell, is original. Like others, I keep repeating that race isn’t biologically real. However, unlike others, I argue that race could be made biologically real. It matters not if it merely began as a social construct and opponents are naive to dismiss the power of beliefs such as these.

I wonder why I haven’t come across this insight before. What is so unusual about it? Why does it go against so much of the polarized debate about race and racism? To my mind, this insight naturally follows from the disagreement between the race realists and social constructionists, a bridging of the divide that may not make either side happy. To argue that there was an at least partially successful American eugenics project to create a black race is about as taboo as it gets when it comes to political correctness.

Eugenics in general rarely gets much attention in the mainstream media. There is something in all of this that our society is still afraid to face, even as it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. It is the territory of the dark imagination, of unmentionable possibilities.