Who's White: Debriefing

I have been using the “Who’s White Exercise?” for years in my classes (I also did a “Who’s Black?” version once in my African American sociology class.) There are several points to the assignment, but I would like to highlight a few of them. One of the primary points of the exercise is to point out that race is a social construction. The exercise demonstrates this because the answers vary and the reasons given are often unrelated to biology, and in many cases unrelated to phenotypical appearance. I always tell the students to look around and see what others say, so they can get a sense of the level of agreement. What also inevitably happens is that debates break out for some of the groups (as you can see in the comments section of the thread.) This lets us know that race is also contested. We don’t agree, and the definition is influx. Most of my students take race for granted. They think it is biological, and they think it is fairly straight forward. My other goal is to get them to understand that race is not so simple or straight forward.

I also wanted to use this exercise to create a “whiteness scale.” I don’t typically do this in class, but this exercise is a little harder to do on line. I compiled all of the answers on this site and Rachel’s Tavern (Total of 27 answers.) If people said that a group was not white I gave the group a zero. If people gave ambiguous answers or “sort of” answers I gave the group a 1, and if they said white, I gave the group a two. I tallied the results. If people said, they do not know I didn’t fill in any answers. After this I tabulated a “whiteness score.” On this scale score could range from 0 to 2, with zero indicating that no one thought the group was white and 2 indicating that everyone thought the group was white. Of course, the two sites I posted on will not generate a random sample, but I still think it is instructive to think about “whiteness” as a sort of continuum rather than a rigid box. Here is how the groups ranked based on your answers (from least white to most white):

Whiteness

Iranians, Chileans, and Israelis drew very diverse answers. Many people labeled them white, many labeled them not white, and others thought they were somewhere in between. Other groups like Cameroonians, Chinese and Nigerians we mostly considered not white, and on the other end of the spectrum English, Germans, and Irish were almost always considered white. What do you think about this chart? Why do you think each groups falls where it does? Does any group surprise you?

Many people thought that there was a “hidden trick” to the exercise. This happens in class too, and the students usually think they have figured it out when we get to “Americans” (which is why I put this last on the original list). They believe that I am trying to get them to say Americans are white. Changeseeker also brought up another point about the term Americans, which occasionally leads people to think they are being tricked, sometimes people will say “North Americans or South Americans?” What I have generally found is that my students only worry about this with the American category, not other countries most of whom also have a somewhat mixed population. This generally provides an opportunity to talk about the US’s image here and abroad. Are we viewed as a white country? Do we view ourselves that way? Do others view us that way? Nevertheless, this really isn’t the main point.

The main point is to get people to think about race, and not take it for granted. Race is generated out of collective knowledge. In other words it’s sociological, and the best way to understand it is to see it debated and discussed. Because contemporary racial ideology tends to squash open discussions of race; many people never get the chance to see or discuss race in public company and in mixed race company. Once this is done, the unstable nature of race emerges.

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40 Responses to Who's White: Debriefing

  1. 1
    Tuomas says:

    Rachel, remember that you also said:

    There is no trick here. Think about the numerical majority of the population and then answer.

    This may account for many American/yes answers.

    Because contemporary racial ideology tends to squash open discussions of race; many people never get the chance to see or discuss race in public company and in mixed race company.

    LOL!

    No shit, sherlock. ;)

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    I think part of your lack of controversy about other countries is that your students (and I don’t know what level of education you are talking about) may well not be familiar with how multi-ethnic some of these other countries you are talking about are.

  3. 3
    Kell says:

    Sorry, but any analysis that concludes being Irish is socially equivalent to being Protestant is obviously not worth much. Even as last as the 1980s, I was getting hit with regular hate speech, drunk jokes & even job discrimination from the WASPs.

  4. 4
    Rachel S. says:

    RonF, “may well not be familiar with how multi-ethnic some of these other countries you are talking about are.”

    I think this is probably true. We are talking about 3rd & 4th year college students. I guess they probably should know better, but in this country we get so little information about the goings on in other places.

  5. 5
    Tuomas says:

    So, I suppose everyone who played by the rules (“YES or NO”) kind of “failed”, and everyone who cleverly answered “multi-ethnic!” has showed his/her wisdom and enlightenment?

    Is protestant=white btw?

    If you are target of drunk jokes, you are not “white”?

    Brain hurts…

  6. 6
    nolo says:

    Kell, I think it underscores the notion that race is a social construct. Ireland probably strikes most contemporary test-takers as an ethnically homogenous country, thus the ranking. I doubt that most of the test-takers are thinking about social equivalence between (presumably Catholic) Irish and Protestants, nor do I think most of them are even aware that in 19th century America, protestant “nativists” didn’t consider the Irish to be “white.”

  7. 7
    nolo says:

    Tuomas just made my point for me.

  8. 8
    Tuomas says:

    Tuomas just made my point for me.

    Which point would that be?

  9. 9
    nolo says:

    That not many folks out there are aware of the history of anti-Irish prejudice in the U.S. — otherwise you wouldn’t have been confused by the way Kell characterized the prejudice he encountered.

  10. 10
    Tuomas says:

    That not many folks out there are aware of the history of anti-Irish prejudice in the U.S. — otherwise you wouldn’t have been confused by the way Kell characterized the prejudice he encountered.

    Ho hum. Maybe I just have less need to brag with my historical knowledge than some people? The brain hurts referred mainly to the fact how the test was phrased (YES or NO, think about the majority…) which obviously manipulated people to answer in a certain way.

    I just dispute the fact that because there has been prejudice against the Irish, that means they’re “not white” (yes, I’m aware of “How the Irish became white” etc.), and the generalization of protestant=white. Just because there was prejudice against catholics doesn’t necessarily mean that catholics were non-white.

    Nor do drunk jokes. There are other (white) ethnicities who get those, and that doesn’t make them non-white.

    IMHO that is just an attempt to fit all the oppression under the umbrella of “whites oppressing non-whites” because admitting that some whites are oppressed would make the sky fall.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    IMHO that is just an attempt to fit all the oppression under the umbrella of “whites oppressing non-whites” because admitting that some whites are oppressed would make the sky fall.

    Tuomas, you should be embarrassed that you always treat people you’re disagreeing with to a combination of snide contempt and rank (and usually false) generalizations.

    Regarding your point, I think it’s obvious that some whites in the USA are oppressed. They’re just not oppressed because they’re white, but for other reasons.

    I have no idea if the Irish were considered white or not, because I’m pretty ignorant of the history there. But I don’t have any problem accepting the possibility that the Irish were considered white and nonetheless oppressed by anti-Irish prejudice. Should I be afraid that the sky will fall now?

    Regarding your other point,

    So, I suppose everyone who played by the rules (”YES or NO”) kind of “failed”, and everyone who cleverly answered “multi-ethnic!” has showed his/her wisdom and enlightenment?

    Rachel didn’t say this, nor did she imply it. No rankings were made of individual participants; the only results presented were in the aggregate. There were no winners, and no losers, and no one “failed” or was declared enlightened.

    You’re seeing attacks where there are none, in other words.

    As for Rachel’s wording, it’s likely that many people didn’t follow her instructions to the letter. That doesn’t mean she “manipulated” them.

    Even if Rachel’s wording was wrong, it’s needlessly belligerent of you to jump to the conclusion that she’s a tricky manipulator, rather than having just made an error in wording.

    * * *

    Looking through this thread, I see that the majority of posts are either written by you, Tuomas, or in direct response to you. You’re completely dominating this discussion so far. And it’s my impression that you’ve had a similar effect on other discussions here – usually operating from similarly belligerent and misguided premises. As I wrote in the “moderation policies” post:

    People aren’t banned based on breaking rules; they’re banned based on my perception that they’re moving “Alas” discussions away from what I’d like “Alas” discussions to be.

    With all due respect, Tuomas, you consistently move “Alas” discussions in what I think are the wrong direction. For that reason, I’m asking you to not post comments on “Alas” any longer.

    If you want, you may post two more comments; one in this thread to respond to me and other posters, and once in the “moderation policies” thread if you want to object to my moderation policies.

  12. 12
    Barbara says:

    nolo, did you know that most people of Irish descent in the U.S. are not Catholic but Protestant? (It has to do with immigration patterns of the Irish versus the geographic expansion of the Catholic church and the ability to find suitable brides in locations without many Catholics. Think the South.)

    I only say this because I too am somewhat flummoxed as to what being protestant has to do with being white. Most African-Americans (non-white) are protestant. Germans are either Protestant or Catholic. Most Poles and Czechs are Catholic. I don’t know of too many non-white Poles. Non-white Germans tend to be Muslim. And so on.

  13. 13
    Tuomas says:

    Rachel didn’t say this, nor did she imply it. No rankings were made of individual participants; the only results presented were in the aggregate. There were no winners, and no losers, and no one “failed” or was declared enlightened.
    You’re seeing attacks where there are none, in other words.

    I didn’t feel particularly attacked.

    Nor did I didn’t claim there were invidual rankings. But in a white or non-white (majority) question, how can anyone be claimed that “they should have known better” if they don’t talk about how multi-ethnic some of these countries are, like her students she talked about?

    It’s just that multi-ethnic wasn’t an option here.

    Even if Rachel’s wording was wrong, it’s needlessly belligerent of you to jump to the conclusion that she’s a tricky manipulator, rather than having just made an error in wording.

    “Wording was wrong?” Which part? I just kind of suspect that the results were f irrelevant, the lesson would have been the same

    The main point is to get people to think about race, and not take it for granted. Race is generated out of collective knowledge. In other words it’s sociological, and the best way to understand it is to see it debated and discussed.

    nonetheless.

    You’re completely dominating this discussion so far.

    Hmm, I suppose I could have limited my posting.

    With all due respect, Tuomas, you consistently move “Alas” discussions in what I think are the wrong direction. For that reason, I’m asking you to not post comments on “Alas” any longer.

    Very well, I shall not.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Rachel S.:

    I think this is probably true. We are talking about 3rd & 4th year college students. I guess they probably should know better, but in this country we get so little information about the goings on in other places.

    I spent two weeks in the summer of 2004 with 35 young men and women between the ages of 15 – 19 in Japan. We spent most of the two weeks with Japanese Venture Scouts and Scouters, and a few of those days additionally with Scouts and Scouters from all over Asia and the Pacific Rim. After talking to the young people before, during and after this experience I became convinced that it would make a big difference in this country if more people got to travel overseas and experience how people in other countries think and live.

  15. 15
    inge says:

    Kell, “Sorry, but any analysis that concludes being Irish is socially equivalent to being Protestant is obviously not worth much.

    I didn’t see anything about “protestant” in the analysis. What are you referring to?

  16. 16
    Kell says:

    Seems to me the “Who’s White” question is primarily about who gets to pass as a normal, default person. Historically, that’s straight (or straight-looking), tallish, married WASP men without visible disabilities who aren’t manual laborers. And, interestingly, definitions of “white,” aka. “human,” have consistently been massaged and tweaked to make sure nobody but those guys get to stay in the country club.

    Biologically, there ain’t no such thing as discrete “races,” so I don’t see any other way to take the question than as a look at social constructs.

  17. 17
    Dan Morgan says:

    Rachel,

    Many people thought that there was a “hidden trick” to the exercise.

    It seems to me there is a hidden trick. You do this exercise and then tell your class that there is this scientific truth: “One of the primary points of the exercise is to point out that race is a social construction“.

    Anthropologists as a group are about as far left-of-center as any occupational group in north America. On the left, this concept that race is a social construction is beginning to set in as dogma. But even among anthropologists, there is an even split in opinion on whether race is a biological reality or a social construction. So if you tell your students it is a social construction, you are avoiding the controversy. Why would you not instead teach both sides of the argument rather than teach your opinion?

    Personally I think it is silly to say race is a social construction. People indigenous to different parts of world have distinctly different features. Yes we are all human, but clearly there is also biological diversity among groups that have lived in isolation from each other for many thousands of years.

    You say “racial ideology tends to squash open discussions of race”. But isn’t that exactly what you are participating in? You imply that by scientific definition, there are no races. So if someone claims that there are biologically distinct races, that immediately implies that their motives are suspect since they are rejecting science. So they better keep their mouths shut.

  18. 18
    Charles S says:

    Rachel,

    While I’m entirely of the race is socially constructed camp, I’m not sure how this exercise helps to demonstrate this claim. It seems to me that a race is biological position would expect much the same results. There is a strong divide between European countries (including countries that are assumed to be settled predominantly by Europeans and in which there is assumed to be little intermarriage between European descended people and non-European people – USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would all be on this list), with a gradation within that category that appears to correspond to how purely European the country is assumed to be.

    The Portuguese seems to be the only real outlier, where the Portuguese (European country with little non-European immigration) are probably tainted by being associated with Brazil and its racially well-mixed population or by its association with Spain, and therefore with Spanish, and therefore with the racially well-mixed Spanish speaking countries of Latin America, rather than being viewed as mixed race owing to occupation by the Moors in the Middle Ages.

    Latin Americans seem to be viewed as an intermediate category, with most people seeming to express uncertainty based on degree of mixing of indigenous and European populations.

    Middle Eastern people also seemed to be viewed as an intermediate category, and this case did seem to have a significant cultural aspect, where Middle Easterners are viewed as unlike Europeans on a cultural level as much as a biological racial level.

    Chinese seemed to be viewed as very much not-black, and therefore somewhat less non-White than Africans. I think the only source of Cameroonians being labeled anything other than a zero on the whiteness scale came from uncertainty over where Cameroon was.

    I can see how this exercise might be useful for people who have assumed that their own scale of whiteness was universal, and that race is obvious, but I’m not clear on how it relates to the idea that race is socially constructed (or rather, to the idea that it is not biologically constructed, which I realize you didn’t say, and is actually merely implicit in the idea that race is socially constructed).

    Other than Iranians and Portuguese, which groups do you see as being labeled based on something other than phenotypical appearance?

  19. 19
    nolo says:

    nolo, did you know that most people of Irish descent in the U.S. are not Catholic but Protestant? (It has to do with immigration patterns of the Irish versus the geographic expansion of the Catholic church and the ability to find suitable brides in locations without many Catholics. Think the South.)

    I believe that, if for no other reason than my maternal grandfather was Irish Protestant– “Scotch Irish,” to be precise.

  20. 20
    nolo says:

    Personally I think it is silly to say race is a social construction. People indigenous to different parts of world have distinctly different features. Yes we are all human, but clearly there is also biological diversity among groups that have lived in isolation from each other for many thousands of years.

    It is true that there is biological diversity among humans, but biological diversity between human groups hasn’t got that much correlation with social distinctions between groups — which is where the concept of “race” comes in. This doesn’t really answer all the questions that can be posed on this issue, but I was really struck when I heard about the different ways American Southerners and South Africans categorized people by race. Pardon me for going from memory and not providing links, but in the American South, a mere “drop” of african blood was enough to make you black, regardless of your appearance, whereas in South Africa the calculus went the other way. Apparently, European colonists in South Africa were more willing to extend their privileges to progeny from their unions with indigenous Africans. Thus, in South Africa, a third caste of “coloreds” eventually arose, whereas in the United States no such caste really developed (except, perhaps, in very regionally limited circumstances).

  21. 21
    Charles S says:

    Of course, I’m making the mistake of treating the positive statement that race is socially constructed as the equivalent of the negative statement that race has no biological basis. The two are not the same. This exercise has to do with the social construction of race, but doesn’t have much to say about whether there is any biological basis for the categories.

    To those who argue that races are biological categories, I found the wikipedia entry on human genetic variation very interesting. Some salient points:

    Genetic diversity between populations within Africa is larger than the genetic variation outside Africa, with the genetic variation seen outside Africa largely being a subset of the variation within Africa. So if there are biological races in any sense, most of them are African, and the ones that aren’t solely African are represented by both Africans and non-Africans.

    Genetic diversity between populations is smaller than genetic diversity within populations. 85-95% of human genetic diversity is found within any continental population, 5-15% of human genetic diversity is found only between continental populations. There is one major trait for which this is not true. The genetic diversity for skin color is 90% between populations, and only 10% within populations. Skin color correlates strongly with latitude of origin (or rather, of long ancestral stay). Similarly dark skin tones are found in peoples with long ancestry in Southern India, Australia and Africa, although these populations with dark skin have closer ancestry to lighter skinned peoples than they do to each other. It can be inferred from all this that skin color actually has either a selection advantage or a selection disadvantage based on degree of solar exposure.

    Also interesting in relation to the idea of race within mixed multi-racial societies (like Chile or Mexico or Puerto Rico), “Furthermore, in some parts of the world in which people from different regions have mixed extensively, the connection between skin color and ancestry has been substantially weakened (Parra et al. 2004). In Brazil, for example, skin color is not closely associated with the percentage of recent African ancestors a person has, as estimated from an analysis of genetic variants differing in frequency among continent groups (Parra et al. 2003).”

  22. I guess it is supposed to be consciousness-raising, but for those of us who know already that most countries have racial issues of their own and have a whole caste system based on skin tone, it is just sort of depressing. i mean, we already know that it is a social construct and that the class-based way people use it to keep POC down screws up life for everyone. Can we move on and discuss how to get rid of it?

  23. 23
    Rachel S. says:

    Charles,
    I don’t think we actually need to talk about genes to help demonstrate that race is a social construct. This is the very first exercise we do in class. The students start to realize that the debate is not really about genes, but about phenotype and in some cases geography. I ask the students questions about real celebrities or other people that they know–i.e. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Vin Diesel, and other people who have racially ambiguous appearances and identities. When you have two student who see the same exact person and they do not agree on what their race is, it become clear that we are not talking about genes.

    It also shows that race is contested. You can’t easily contest genes, but you can contest social identities fairly easily. Moreover, I also let the students know that we are not arguing about genes, we are arguing about national origin. I mention these points in the class throughout the semester.

    The notion of race as a social construction is very difficult for most people to grasp, and it takes a long period of time to drive the point home to people. This is one of the first steps.

  24. 24
    Rachel S. says:

    nolo,
    Good point about cross cultural variation in definitions of race. That is a big part of my lecture on social construction. The exercise would be even more interesting if I had people from different cultures in the same room.

  25. 25
    Rachel S. says:

    Dan Morgan said, “It seems to me there is a hidden trick. You do this exercise and then tell your class that there is this scientific truth: “One of the primary points of the exercise is to point out that race is a social construction“.”

    And why is that tricky because it violates your notion of race? Because people don’t agree with each other.

    Dan Mrogan said, “Anthropologists as a group are about as far left-of-center as any occupational group in north America. On the left, this concept that race is a social construction is beginning to set in as dogma. But even among anthropologists, there is an even split in opinion on whether race is a biological reality or a social construction. So if you tell your students it is a social construction, you are avoiding the controversy. Why would you not instead teach both sides of the argument rather than teach your opinion?”

    This is not just about opinion. It is about science. At the turn of the 20th century (1900s) many people accepted the idea of biological races, but since then our scientific knowledge has expanded and we can know measure genes we know that the idea of distinct racial gene pools is a myth. Nobody is saying that there are no difference between individuals; nobody is saying that the hair color and skin color you are born with are not influence by genes. However, the way we chose to divide people is what makes race a social construction. Why divide people based on skin color and not height? Why use hair texture, and not attached/detached earlobes?

    Dan M said, “Yes we are all human, but clearly there is also biological diversity among groups that have lived in isolation from each other for many thousands of years.”
    But those distinctions do not correlate with race–See Charles comment above.

    Dan M. said, “But isn’t that exactly what you are participating in? You imply that by scientific definition, there are no races. So if someone claims that there are biologically distinct races, that immediately implies that their motives are suspect since they are rejecting science. So they better keep their mouths shut.”

    No I didn’t say “shut up” and I didn’t say that race isn’t real. I said it is real, and it is a social construct. What do we have to gain by clinging to an outdated view of human biology? People once claimed the earth is flat, and we found that is not true. Now that we can test genes we know that there is very little difference between humans, and those difference do not necessarily correlate with race.

  26. 26
    Eva says:

    Anna from Portland writes “I guess it is supposed to be consciousness-raising, but for those of us who know already that most countries have racial issues of their own and have a whole caste system based on skin tone, it is just sort of depressing. i mean, we already know that it is a social construct and that the class-based way people use it to keep POC down screws up life for everyone. Can we move on and discuss how to get rid of it?”

    Anna, I understand where you’re coming from. However, from a group process point of view I think “moving on” hasn’t arrived, yet. Who is the “we” who already knows race is a social construct, etc? Although I learned a lot about race, class, and social constructs when I was in college (almost 20 years ago), I find that just trying to get by from day to day my grip on these fundamental truths isn’t as firm as it once was.
    Recognizing that the race/class system was constructed by people (that it hasn’t ALWAYS been this way), is the first step to recognizing that we, ordinary people not so different from the architects of social constructions from decades/centuries past, CAN “get rid of it”, that is, be the architects of a healthier social paradigm. Maybe there’s already another thread with that theme?

  27. Pingback: The Word “Race” Is Bad « Creative Destruction

  28. 27
    Agnostic says:

    I find it interesting that the Irish were rated so highly. In the 1800s, when Irish immigrants occupied the same position that Mexican illegal immigrants do now, they were subject to some of the nastiest racial vilification (nasty not only because it accused them of being racially inferior, but because it did so by comparing them to blacks). So now they’re the whitest of the white…goes to show something.

  29. 28
    Sally says:

    Ugh. I know that I’m harping, and that Rachel is the one playing teacher here, and that probably nobody is going to listen to me. But I’m going to try again.

    I find it interesting that the Irish were rated so highly. In the 1800s, when Irish immigrants occupied the same position that Mexican illegal immigrants do now

    Nobody in the 1800s occupied the same position that any illegal immigrant does now. (Actually, you could argue that illegal Chinese immigrants did after 1882, although there would still be real differences.) “Illegal immigrant” is not a cultural category, and the main feature of illegal-immigrantness is not being subject to “villification.” It’s a category of legal disability, and its primary feature is the absence of basic rights, starting with the right not to be deported. When the Irish started coming in large numbers, and at the moment of their most intense villification, nothing like the category “illegal immigrant” existed, which was a very good thing for the Irish-American community.

    they were subject to some of the nastiest racial vilification (nasty not only because it accused them of being racially inferior, but because it did so by comparing them to blacks).

    It’s true that you can find instances of people comparing the Irish to black people. I just think it would be a huge mistake to think that meant that they actually thought the Irish were black. The people who compared Ann Althouse to the Taliban didn’t actually believe that AA was a member of the Taliban, and in fact they were reinforcing the idea that the Taliban is the gold standard for oppressiveness. Similarly, people who compared Irish people to black folks were insulting the Irish, but they were also reinforcing the idea that black people were the most racially inferior people that there were.

    I’m harping on this for a couple of reasons. First of all, I’m a historian, and it’s frustrating to watch people repeatedly, in my opinion, get the history wrong. But also, I think there are real political perils to the “how the Irish became white” narrative. Despite whiteness studies’ origins as an anti-racist move, that’s not necessarily how it plays out in the general culture. It comes up all the time in arguments against affirmative action, for instance. “In the 19th century, my family wasn’t even considered white, and we pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, so why can’t you?” a line that ignores the ways in which even racialized European immigrants were privileged vis a vis those who weren’t classified as white.

    I’m not disputing that race is a social construct. I just don’t think it was constructed in exactly the way that people here seem to think it was.

  30. 29
    LJ says:

    Way back when I took sociology 101, at a university with a larger than usual percentage of Latinos, the professor grabbed random people from the class, put them in the front, and had the class line us up darkest to the right, palest to the left. I’m what people call “white,” but I had four or five Hispanic girls to my left. And I was the palest white kid up there!

    It was literally an eye-opening experience for that class, especially the white kids. I thought it was hilarious that vampirella me (I hardly every go out in the day, or outdoors at all) was darker than some of the Latinos, but one white boy in the lineup was terribly uspet to be in the middle! He kept saying “Quit messing around, I’m paler than her/him! Come on!” It really meant a lot to him.

    My hope is that he got the good old epiphany about race being a social construct, that one couldn’t tell/say for sure what anyone’s race was.

    But I have a feeling he became a white supremacist instead. He was that upset.

  31. 30
    Rachel S. says:

    “Way back when I took sociology 101, at a university with a larger than usual percentage of Latinos, the professor grabbed random people from the class, put them in the front, and had the class line us up darkest to the right, palest to the left.”

    That is an interesting way to demonstrate it. That would work well in a large lecture hall.

  32. 31
    Agnostic says:

    Sally,

    1) In the mid-1800s, the Irish in the United States were low-status, often uneducated, poor immigrants who did unpleasant jobs and were among the prime targets of nativists. That’s what I meant by “occupied the same position.”

    2) Yes, nobody actually thought the Irish were black. But if you passed around this survey in America at that time, the Irish would certainly not get a 2.00 whiteness rating, which is what I was remarking on.

  33. 32
    William O. Romine Jr. says:

    I want to elaborate on what Dan Morgan commented on. I am a disabled
    scientist whose undergraduate major was in physical anthropology and
    evolutionary biology (I have a doctoral degree in Physiology). I can get a
    DNA analysis done and be told precisely what my ethnic makeup is including
    the geographical area of the world my ancestors come from. I think that it
    is more “political correctness” on some parts of the left than it is scientific
    reality to claim that races do not (or at least at one time did not) exist. If
    the term “race” becomes meaningless it will be because of intermarriage
    (the average black American is 19% white genetically). I am a liberal
    democrat but I want to set the scientific record straight. Science is based
    on honesty and this should include discussions on ethnicity.

  34. 33
    William O. Romine Jr. says:

    I have a book that I want all people to read before discussing whether
    races exist biologically or not. It is Nicholas Wade’s book BEFORE THE
    DAWN: RECOVERING THE LOST HISTORY OF OUR ANCESTORS
    (2006, Penguin Press). The book was reviewed in NATURE magazine
    and the author is the science editor of the New York Times. It is a book
    on the most current research in physical anthropology and human genetics.

  35. 34
    huxley says:

    I can get a DNA analysis done and be told precisely what my ethnic makeup is including the geographical area of the world my ancestors come from.

    Well, William, if you can get that then you have access to technology far in advance of anything that exists today.The type of DNA analysis you are talking about will tell you the probability that sections of your DNA matches those sections in DNA samples taken from certain populations (and usually show lower probabilities that you match other groups). It can’t tell you where YOUR ancestors came from geographically, but looking at the data, one can then make some suppositions and say with some degree of confidence that a particular line of your ancestors are related to a group that currently resides in a geographical area. There is nothing definitive about that sort of analysis, even if it is marketed as such and as a scientist you should know better than to be so sloppy.How this proves that “races” are a biological category rather than a social one is beyond me (but then I’m part Irish and part Latino and am sometimes confused for an Arab, so the point might be too subtle for me). Maybe you should read Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man” before you bother trying to explain it to me.

  36. 35
    William O. Romine Jr. says:

    Gould also still thinks that Freudian psychiatry is valid. And it was the
    New York Times that had a op-ed on the editorial page pointing out that
    one can get a DNA analysis done and have his ethnic makeup defined.
    Also, yes you are right that it is probabilities of location and ethnicities
    and not precisely defined locations in view of the fact that one has genetic
    drift to deal with (including geographical genetic drift). This was loose language on my part that should not have detracted from the meaning of my post. Again, I suggest you read Nicholas Wade’s book BEFORE THE DAWN. Are you aware that American Indians use DNA analysis to define who is eligible
    for profit sharing from reservation gambling casinos – and Nicholas Wade
    was an editor at both SCIENCE and NATURE magazines prior to becoming
    the science editor at the New York Times.

  37. 36
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    Comparing the Irish to blacks would have been a step up. From here

    “Irish people were concentrated at the lowest rungs of the employment ladder, often in jobs considered too unsafe for black slaves to carry out because the loss of a slave was an out of pocket expense for the owner”

    From here:

    “In much of the pseudo-scientific literature of the day the Irish were held to be inferior, an example of a lower evolutionary form, closer to the apes than their “superiors”, the Anglo-Saxons . Cartoons in Punch portrayed the Irish as having bestial, ape-like or demonic features and the Irishman, (especially the political radical) was invariably given a long or prognathous jaw, the stigmata to the phrenologists of a lower evolutionary order, degeneracy, or criminality. Thus John Beddoe, who later became the President of the Anthropological Institute (1889-1891), wrote in his Races of Britain (1862) that all men of genius were orthognathous (less prominent jaw bones) while the Irish and the Welsh were prognathous and that the Celt was closely related to Cromagnon man, who, in turn, was linked, according to Beddoe, to the “Africanoid”. The position of the Celt in Beddoe’s “Index of Nigrescence” was very different from that of the Anglo-Saxon. These ideas were not confined to a lunatic fringe of the scientific community, for although they never won over the mainstream of British scientists they were disseminated broadly and it was even hinted that the Irish might be the elusive missing link! Certainly the “ape-like” Celt became something of an malevolent cliche of Victorian racism. Thus Charles Kingsley could write

    I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw [in Ireland] . . . I don’t believe they are our fault. . . . But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much. . . .” (Charles Kingsley in a letter to his wife, quoted in L.P. Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts, p.84).”

    “No Irish need apply” was a very common sign in employer’s windows back in the 19th century. The reason that police and fire deparments are even now in many cases dominated by Irish is because these jobs were quite ill-paid and didn’t require any education, and they were among the few jobs paying a living wage that were open to the Irish when they migrated to the U.S.

    Here are some pictures depicting Irish as apes and pigs.

  38. 37
    Megalodon says:

    Maybe you should read Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man” before you bother trying to explain it to me.

    Mismeasure was primarily an attack upon psychometrics, not biological race categories. Gould only made one brief mention of race being invalid and cited Lewontin, not his own research. The Lewontin study which he cited has since been vociferously criticized these past thirty years.

  39. 38
    RonF says:

    It can be inferred from all this that skin color actually has either a selection advantage or a selection disadvantage based on degree of solar exposure.

    I have no reference readily at hand, but it has been posited that the reason that skin color evolved as it did was that 1) there are optimal levels of Vitamin D, and both a deficit and an excess causes health problems, including lassitude and bone problems, 2) Vitamin D is ingested as a pro-vitamin form that does not have the biological activity of Vitamin D, and 3) Vitamin D is created by the action of ultraviolet light (from sunlight) penetrating through the outer layers of the skin into capillaries and striking the provitamin molecules, converting them to Vitamin D.

    The theory is that people in latitudes with lots of sunlight evolved dark skin to protect themselves from making too much vitamin D. People in higher latitudes, especially those where it’s so cold that they wear clothing, evolved light skin to absorb more sunlight.

    This has the interesting collorary that if you then take people with dark skins as slaves, move them to a higher latitude and make them wear clothes, their Vitamin D production goes down and they have health problems. That in turn means that the people flogging labor out of them think that they are a bunch of lazy bastards instead of understanding that they’ve got metabolic problems that make them incapable of working as hard as they might otherwise (of course, there were a lot of other issues as well, but they don’t pertain to why people in sunny areas tend to develop darker skin).

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