The I’m About To Catch On Fire List of Racial Trends for 2007

(Second time typing this post; digital goblins must have eaten it the first one.)

Last month I posted a list of what I thought were the hot and not so hot racial trends for 2006. At that time, I promised to post a list of what trends I think will be popular in 2007. Here is my list.

1. Asia/Asians are Hip and Cool–Africa was hip in 2006, and I think Asians will be hip in 2007. I expect to see more attention given to Asian Americans and Asians on TV and in the movies. 2007 will be like the so called Latin invasion of the late 1990s. Get ready to hear about the “Asian Invasion.” Whether or not there really will be any substantive gains (or a lessening of stereotypes) for Asian Americans in politics, media, or other prominent positions is a different question, but I think media is going to frame it that way.

2. End of Voluntary Desegregation Plans–I’m not really going out on a limb here. The Supreme Court is reviewing voluntary desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville, and I expect to see them to rule these plans unconstitutional, which really shouldn’t surprise anybody given the conservative bent of the current Supreme Court. This will continue the trend of resegregation, moving schools back to the segregation levels of the 1960s.

3. Biological Notions of Race– Not that this isn’t already popular, but I think the “health disparities” research and the current obsession with DNA testing are going to combine to make biological notions of race very popular. Even though mainstream biologists and most health disparities researchers don’t necessarily believe in biological notions of race, their research will be spun this way by media outlets and advocacy groups.

4. Latinos Becoming White– I guess I am going out on a limb here especially since I said in my last post that the anti-immigrant backlash will continue until the presidential election in 2008. What I think is going to happen is that we will see two competing frames one that discusses how “illegal immigrants are ruining the US” and another that discusses how “todays immigrants are just like the immigrants of the past.” I know some people will be critical of me on this one, so I should make it clear that I don’t really expect Latinos to become white in a year, but I think this will be the beginning of a trend where those Latinos who are lighter will be seen as whiter. There may be a backlash against this from radical and progressive Latinos who see themselves being aligned more with Black, Asians, and American Indians, but this is a big issue to watch out for.

5. Non-African American Blacks are Popular– Maybe it can be called the Barack Obama phenomenon. This will be the year that Americans discover that black people are diverse. I know it should be more obvious, but it’s not. I expect Black immigrants in the US to get tons of attention, and I expect to see them set up as “model minorities” compared to their American born black counterparts. Nowhere in this discussion will people discuss how immigration policy helps select the most educated and wealthy people (regardless of race). This will be part of a divide and conquer strategy that challenges traditional Civil Rights models of African American organizing, and I have a feeling that civil rights leaders really won’t know how to respond.

6. Anti-Racism/Pro-Racial Equality Blogs Blow Up– Call me optimistic, but I have been noticing an increasing number of blogs that focus mostly on race related issues. I think 2007 is the year of the anti-racist/pro-equality blog. These blogs are reaching a critical mass, but whether or not this will translate into on-line activism is unclear.

What do you think? What trends did I leave out? Where do you think I”m right/wrong?

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32 Responses to The I’m About To Catch On Fire List of Racial Trends for 2007

  1. 1
    StudentX says:

    Amp, thanks for posting this.

    1. ….so turn-of the millinium, a bit apologetic too….Asians are labeled ‘ricers’ by the racists while the females are reduced to sexual objects and the males are percieved as small penised spazzball nerds (by the normative swine, of course, i’m sure all commenters/posters here hold unwaveringly progressive views)

    2. i’m with you, demographic maps of the USA look that way, (however I’m completely ignorant to any methodological skullduggery that may have distorted things and soforth)

    3. Well, we’ll see. I’m sure that *actual* biologists reject such patently psudeoscientific nonsense.

    4. hmm, true in so far as the only thing preventing ‘latinos’ from being percioeved as ‘white’ is their Native American blood/genes.

    5. True, at least until Americans are exposed to the sheer viciousness of sub-saharanafrican anti-Americanism. (particularly nigerian, congloese etc- nations w/ a history of suffering under US forces/firms)

    6. Yes a bird told me that such blogs will blow up and egg-on much activist action with unparalled success. … especiallythose meddling kids at ‘Alas, a blog’.

  2. 2
    Rachel S. says:

    It’s Rachel not Amp :)

  3. 3
    William Burns says:

    I think there’s a bit of a vocabulary problem here, because if I read you correctly you seem to be describing black immigrants from Africa as “non-African American,” which doesn’t make sense.

    For Asians being hip and cool, that’s nothing new. Asia’s been hip since at least the 90s, with the Japanese invasion of American popular culture–pokemon/anime/manga. I think the trend to light-skinned Latinos being seen as white has also been going on for a while. Another group increasingly being seen as “white” are persons of mixed Asian and European ancestry. My reading of the overall trend is that just enough groups will be accepted as “white” to keep “whites” the overall American majority, although that may not be possible for much longer.

  4. 4
    Dianne says:

    Random thoughts:

    Didn’t Latinos used to be “white”? I thought that the catagory “hispanic” was a relatively new one.

    Race is a tricky concept. It’s clearly a social construct, but it also has clear biological roots and can be a useful shorthand for a cluster of characteristics that might be different between different groups of people, especially in medicine. For example, if you have two otherwise healthy people with high blood pressure, one of whom is “black”, the other “white”, if you give the black one a diuretic and the white one a beta-blocker you’ll be right more often than you’ll be wrong. For some reason, possibly evolutionary pressure in the middle passage, African-Americans respond particularly well to diuretics whereas European-Americans are more likely to do well with beta-blockers. However, if you insist that the black person should NEVER be given a beta-blocker and the white person NEVER given a diuretic you’ll be wrong. Frequently.

    Furthermore, when studying a new medication or approach in medicine, it is useful to make sure that your sample includes a broad range of people with samples from as many of the ethnic groups in the target population as possible. Tracking the race of participants is one handy way to do that. And if you restrict your study group to a single race–intentionally or not–you’re likely to run into some nasty suprises when the approach is applied broadly (see G6PD deficiency and malarial meds, for example.) So I’m not willing to entirely give up on the concept of race, even if I’m also not willing to take it very seriously.

    Immigrants from Africa: I sometimes perform physical exams of people seeking asylum in the US who need documentation of abuse that occured in their home countries. So I’ve interviewed a number of immigrants from Africa and elsewhere. Almost without exception, these people are intelligent, brave, active, and thoughtful–in short, exactly the people any country should want for its immigrants. So why are we actually trying to kick them out? It doesn’t make any sense. Of course, their home countries should be begging them to return rather than threatening them with prison, torture, and death, so it’s not the US government alone that’s acting like a bunch of fools, but still…the US is supposed to be a country of immigrants. Why are we acting so hostile to immigrants then?

  5. 5
    Rachel S. says:

    William, Your point about language is fair. The fact is we simply don’t have a term in our current lexicon that differentiates between people of African descent who have lived in the US since the antebellum era and those who have come here in more recent generations are voluntary migrants.

    Personally, I don’t use the term “African Americans” to discuss immigrants who have come to the US in recent years as voluntary migrants because they don’t reference themselves in that way. Most people I know who are immigrants from Africa reference their particular country of origin or an ethnic affiliation. For example, they would call themselves Nigerian Americans, Ghananian Americans, etc or they may say “I’m Nigerian, and I’m Igbo.”

  6. 6
    Susan says:

    This has got me started, so prepare for a rant.

    This “scientific” idea (mostly in the newspapers, but sometimes in actual “scientific” studies believe it or not) that we can make statements like, “Black men are [more likely] [less likely] [to contract Y illness] [to be adequately treated for Z infirmity] (and the like) are all based on the lunatic notion that we can tell a “black” person from a “white” person.

    Now if we’re talking about ethnic Swedes and ethnic Tutus, OK. But that’s almost never what we’re talking about. We’re talking about Americans, usually, and in this context this whole construct is sheer lunacy.

    Unless ALL our test subjects have just this minute gotten off the boat from Zaire (Sweden), almost NO American is a purebred. So what we have is the garbled notion that some people who may have some African heritage back in the day are in some “scientific” way different medically from some other folks who may also have some African heritage back in the day, when we know FOR SURE that both groups have a lot of European heritage, and Europe isn’t homogeneous either, like a Norseman and a Greek???

    This got to be “science” how exactly?

    /rant

    Thank you for your patience.

  7. 7
    Dianne says:

    This got to be “science” how exactly?

    If you want to know, the ugly answer is convenience. Because there are diseases that are more common in people whose ancestors came from Zaire and others that are more common in those whose ancestors came from Sweden. And, at the moment, we have no better ways of making sure that all the genetic subpopulations of the US (including the huge catagory of “mixed race”) are taken into account than by declaring some people to be of one “race” or another and making sure that studies of various diseases include people of different “races” or ethnic backgrounds whenever possible. (Obviously, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as others. For example, if one is going to study sickle cell disease, one is probably going to be dealing mostly with people whose ancestors mostly came from sub-Saharan Africa. Though not always: phenotypically “white” (ie light skinned) people occasionally show up with SCA, just much more rarely.)

    Incidently, truth be known, ethnic Tutus probably aren’t all one “race” either. Or ethnic Swedes. People have traveled and mixed their genes since…well, since there were people. But some traits got associated with some groups, mostly because there was some local evolutionary advantage, thus making it hard to completely dump the idea of ethnicity or race.

  8. 8
    Susan says:

    If you want to know, the ugly answer is convenience. Because there are diseases that are more common in people whose ancestors came from Zaire and others that are more common in those whose ancestors came from Sweden.

    Let’s take this in two parts.

    First, there’s “convenience.” Since when do we make allegedly scientific classifications on the basis of “convenience”? It might be, it probably is, more “convenient” to lump mice and rats together, but that doesn’t mean it’s scientifically valid to do so. Science is often “inconvenient.” Science requires us to be “precise”, a different matter altogether, and usually opposed to convenience.

    I will agree that there are diseases more common in people from Zaire than in people from Sweden (and, vice versa). The real question in the United States in 2007, however, is how do we tell the difference?

    And, at the moment, we have no better ways of making sure that all the genetic subpopulations of the US (including the huge catagory of “mixed race”) are taken into account than by declaring some people to be of one “race” or another and making sure that studies of various diseases include people of different “races” or ethnic backgrounds whenever possible.

    The only problem with your statement here is the word “huge.” I’ll agree it’s “huge” except that with a very few exceptions, it’s everybody.

    So, in dealing with what is in effect the entire population, how, “scientifically”, do we separate populations between “black” and “white”?

    We don’t. We separate them by gosh and by golly, as it comes to us, and then base statements alleged to be factual on this process.

    We can do this. (We can do everything or anything that comes into our heads unless someone stops us.) But, maybe a little honesty? A little admission somewhere that the whole categorizing process is BS?

  9. 9
    Dianne says:

    I’ll agree it’s “huge” except that with a very few exceptions, it’s everybody.

    Bosh, there’s a largish immigrant population in the US. (On the other hand, who said that immigrants are all “racially pure”? What does “racially pure” mean anyway? Someone who just stepped off the plane from Sweden might have Viking ancestors, Anglo-Saxon ancestors, Celtic ancestors, and possibly American Indian or Middle Eastern ancestors…it’s not like people elsewhere in the world don’t interbreed.) Of course it’s BS, has anyone said otherwise? The problem is, if you ignore race altogether, you end up with nasty suprises later on. Much in the same way that gender is largely a social construct but ignoring it can lead to problems. For example, most of the early studies on heart disease were done exclusively on “white” men. Guess what? The results of these trials don’t always apply to women or minorities. And you can guess who gets worse health care because of this: the descendents of the slaves, not the descendents of the masters. So if we close our eyes and pretend that there are no average differences between one vaguely defined population and others, it’s going to be the poorer, often darker skinned people, more likely to have ancestors that came to the Americas straight from Africa without a stopover in Europe, who are going to suffer for it. It’s useful BS. On the other hand, if you have a better way of ensuring that all people are considered equally in clinical trials, I’d be quite pleased to dump this silly, BS catagorization.

  10. 10
    Susan says:

    Dianne,

    I am down with doing medical studies on everybody, not just those folks we think are “white males.”

    What is NOT OK are studies which say, in effect, “population X (nearly always a minority population) are more likely to be sick/less likely to be effectively treated/more genetically screwed-up than population Y (alleged white alleged males)” and which claim that this is scientific data. It isn’t. Scientific data. Because the alleged categories are not biological categories, they’re social constructs.

    Clinical trial are good. Wide samples of the population are good. Better treatment for everybody is good.

    “Studies” which say that “black men” are more likely/less likely to contract Y illness than “white men” may be morally good (or again, they may not), but it’s not science unless the categories are defined a lot more clearly than is probably possible.

    Science isn’t everything. BS can be useful. I’m just for truth in labeling.

  11. 11
    trishka says:

    my only comment pertains to item 5: malcolm gladwell actually wrote a new yorker article on this phenomenon a few years ago. the subjec was how jamaican immigrants were treated in brooklyn & other NYC boroughs as being the “model” blacks compared to the african-american blacks who had been living there for generations.

    however, this trend disappeared, obviously, within a generation or two as the children and the grand-children of the jamaican immigrants assimilated into american culture. they became subject to racism as african-americans, the “bad” blacks, no longer the “good” blacks that their parents had been.

    OTOH, jamaican immigrants in toronto apparently faced more racism than their u.s. counterparts.

    overall, it was an interesting article and probably would be easily accessible in the new yorker archives for anyone who wanted to check it out.

  12. 12
    Sandi says:

    Susan says: “What is NOT OK are studies which say, in effect, “population X (nearly always a minority population) are more likely to be sick/less likely to be effectively treated/more genetically screwed-up than population Y (alleged white alleged males)” and which claim that this is scientific data. It isn’t. Scientific data. Because the alleged categories are not biological categories, they’re social constructs.”
    I don’t disagree that race is a social construct. But determining that “Race X is more likely to have health condition Y” and learning why is still critically important. Not all health science is genetic. The question is: if Race A and Race B differ for certain health outcomes, why is this the case? What about our own classification system would cause such a difference?

    One’s own racial/ethnic self-identification, perceived discrimination, and the ways in which we are perceived by other individuals, our social organizations, and our governments are important. Why? Because we categorize ourselves and others and these categories, while social in nature, reflect the hierarchical structure of our society.

    Such studies are vitally important: they can guide research and policy necessary to change the unequal distribution of health damaging exposures and to foster equality.

  13. 13
    sylphhead says:

    “For Asians being hip and cool, that’s nothing new. Asia’s been hip since at least the 90s, with the Japanese invasion of American popular culture–pokemon/anime/manga.”

    It’s always good for us minorities to get input from those outside the community. Black Americans learned that racism was over because we can’t tell racist jokes and there are so many black people in supporting and/or sidekick roles. Not to equivocate this between the relatively minor issue of East Asians (which is the subset of Asian that I’m assuming we’re talking about) being considered ‘cool’, but how does pokemon and manga = hip and cool? We pwn the nerd and camp geners, yay us.

    OTOH, East Asians are penetrating primetime more and more, which is a good sign. Off the top of my head, I can think of four major East Asian characters in primetime shows, and among them there is actual gender balance, which is another good sign. One male is a quiet nerdy type and one female is self-hating, but we’re not asking for overnight revolution here.

    Even before accepting the position of scientific consensus that ‘race’ is a small collection of phenotypic differences that mean next to nothing, there is a major false dichotomy that the pro-racialists use that should be brought to attention. That is, that either race doesn’t exist at all, or it exists as they define it.

    The racist argument essentially goes like this: human beings separated out into different continents, for many, many years, and so lived under different environments, so of course there will be evolutionary differences. This is based on a mistaken, absurdly gradualist view of evolution that sees every species slowly building on advantageous niches, speciating as the generations tick by. In real life, of course, evolution is not some sort of genetic microwave oven. Most changes are regressed back into the gene pool after a few generations and the long term pattern for successful populations is homeostatis; sharks, for instance, have barely changed at all since the time of the dinosaurs. Humans have been the most dominant chordates in the history of the animal kingdom. But leaving that aside…

    Even if we grant one part of the racist’s premise, the rest does not follow. It’s true, I guess, that human beings have mostly lived in different continents with very little interbreeding. It’s also true that human beings have mostly lived in different nations, regions, and villages with very little interbreeding. There is no reason to assume that either, say, ‘caucasian’ can be considered a homogeneous entity, or even that it is internally homogeneous ‘enough’ relative to other, equally arbitrary groupings. Why not break down the human race into seventy, rather than seven, racial groupings? Certainly, the number of self-contained, reproductively isolated human groupings would actually have exceeded the former figure, to say nothing of the latter.

    The racist clique believes that no one’s listening to its science, that they’ve all been brainwashed by Stephen Jay Gould into comfortable Political Correctness and refuse to see the obvious. They don’t realize that what’s actually obvious to everyone else is that they are obviously trying to fashion a science around colloquial classifications whose ramifications are clearly political. It’s as if I declared that humankind has ‘natural’, ‘immutable’ divisions along five groups: the five income quintiles. The analogy isn’t perfect, of course, but to those of you who insist on a racist perspective, this is a useful window into why non-racialists distrust you so.

  14. 14
    Rachel S. says:

    sylphhead said, “The racist clique believes that no one’s listening to its science, that they’ve all been brainwashed by Stephen Jay Gould into comfortable Political Correctness and refuse to see the obvious……”

    That last paragraph is fabulous. I could not have said it better myself.

  15. 15
    sacundim says:

    Susan wrote:

    First, there’s “convenience.” Since when do we make allegedly scientific classifications on the basis of “convenience”? It might be, it probably is, more “convenient” to lump mice and rats together, but that doesn’t mean it’s scientifically valid to do so. Science is often “inconvenient.” Science requires us to be “precise”, a different matter altogether, and usually opposed to convenience.

    I think that’s just basically wrong as philosophy of science and epistemology. Science has plenty of classifications that are what they are precisely because they are convenient to the researchers or the end-users of the research; classifications are always tied to particular contexts, purposes and projects; and there is no universal, context-free standard of what is “precise enough” for scientific inquiry.

    In this particular case, for example, for many medical purposes, it is convenient to classify people by the color of their skin because it is an easy to observe characteristic that has a positive correlation with the incidence of some medical conditions (e.g., sickle cell anemia).

    What you should really be worried about, I think, is attempts to lend the authority of science to controversial value judgements, by trying to pass them as factual ones, often by decontextualizing classifications that are convenient for one purpose, and presenting them as if they were The One True Classification. The good old Bell Curve argument that “intelligence” is biologically determined by “race” is a prime example. IQ tests are used to take everyday value judgements we make about people’s ability to do certain (culturally and class loaded) tasks, and lend them the air of objective statements about “how intelligent” different people are. This is couple with racial classifications that are impossible to sustain (for reasons that you point out), in order to present class and cultural differences as biological inferiority.

    Still, the same instruments and classifications that are abused in that context are well used in others. IQ tests were designed to identify students who needed more attention from teachers; the color of a patient’s skin may be a hint for a doctor trying to diagnose their health (though of course, in practice it may impede diagnosis and treatement no less than facilitate it; I’m not in fact optimistic about it.)

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    Maybe it can be called the Barack Obama phenomenon.I saw an interview of my Sen. Obama recently talking about the perceptions people have of him. What he said was essentially, “I’m multi-racial, but due to my complexion, etc., people see me as black, so I operate as black in the world.” I contrast this with Tiger Woods, who has always emphasized that he’s multi-racial and rejects being labelled as black, Asian, or anything else.

  17. 17
    Dianne says:

    Susan: You’re a physicist, aren’t you? Sorry, but biology has a lot of slop in it. Cancer isn’t one disease. Heck, cancer of any given organ system isn’t one disease. Atherosclerosis, bronchitis, myocarditis and a long list of other “diseases” aren’t really single diseases with a single cause, course, and cure either. They’re useful catagories that we use until we have better ways to catagorize them. Race is similar–a way of catagorizing vaguely genetically similar groups of individuals so that we can study them with more assurance.

    The problem (well, one problem) is that race has social meanings that cancer, atherosclerosis, etc don’t have and statements like “black women are more likely to die in childbirth than white women” (which is true, incidently) have potential social and political ramifications. Depending on one’s prejudices, such a statement* can mean that blacks are “naturally weaker” or that prejudice can cause a lot of problems apart from the obvious ones or something else altogether. You don’t get that sort of response to statements like “people with germline Ras mutations are susceptible to numerous forms of cancer” (also true.)

    Ultimately, I think, genetic testing will make the concept of race irrelevent to medicine: when we can test someone and know what conditions they are likely to be more or less vunerable to and what treatments they are likely to respond best to then the question of whether or not those vunerabilities are the same as those of their closer or more distant genetic relatives becomes irrelevent. (Other problems might come into play then, but that’s a completely different post.) Until then, I’m afraid the concept, BS or not (and it’s pretty clearly BS), isn’t going to be dropped.

    Yes, I know, a long rambling post responding to someone who I basically agreeing with.

    *At least, that statement taken in isolation can be read either way. When you look at the details of who dies in childbirth and why it’s pretty clear that it’s a result of prejudice, not “innate weakness”.

  18. 18
    William Burns says:

    Being hip and cool has nothing to do with not being victims of racism–the original “cool” people were black jazz musicians who were definitely victims of racism. And if you think its only nerds and gamers buying manga you need to spend more time hanging out at Borders.

  19. 19
    Brandon Berg says:

    First, there’s “convenience.” Since when do we make allegedly scientific classifications on the basis of “convenience”? It might be, it probably is, more “convenient” to lump mice and rats together, but that doesn’t mean it’s scientifically valid to do so.

    In fact, we do lump mice and rats together into the subfamily Murinae due to the fact that they share a great many common characteristics. Different levels of precision serve different purposes, and the finest level of subdivision is not always the most appropriate one to use.

    The fact that most people are of mixed racial ancestry doesn’t mean that race is an invalid classification—it means that it’s a fuzzy classification. And there’s nothing inherently unscientific about that. Fuzzy classifications and probabilistic logic are far more applicable to the real world than Platonic forms and classical binary logic. If you held everything to the same standard to which you’re trying to hold race, you’d have to throw out big chunks of biology and just about all of the social sciences.

    Race is “convenient” because it has predictive value. Taking race into account allows us to measure someone’s disease risks and predict his response to certain treatments better than ignoring it does. I don’t think it will be long before individual genetic screening makes race irrelevant, but for the time being, it has unique predictive value. And it seems to me that that’s pretty much the definition of good science, as long as we don’t jump to unwarranted conclusions about the specific mechanisms involved.

  20. 20
    sylphhead says:

    “Being hip and cool has nothing to do with not being victims of racism–the original “cool” people were black jazz musicians who were definitely victims of racism. And if you think its only nerds and gamers buying manga you need to spend more time hanging out at Borders.”

    Interesting that you’d consider a comic book cartoonist to be on part with a jazz musician. There’s a legion of overstuffed cultural snobs and syphilis-stocked groupies out there who would disagree with you.

    How’s this. “Asia” as a romanticized concept, from manga to Feng Shui to electric eel sushi, is hip in the whole urban cosmopolitan scene. Of course, it has been since Japonisme and Chinoisme in the late 19th century. Let’s narrow it down into “Asians”. Certainly, “Asians” have a long way to go.

  21. 21
    sylphhead says:

    “The fact that most people are of mixed racial ancestry doesn’t mean that race is an invalid classification—it means that it’s a fuzzy classification. And there’s nothing inherently unscientific about that.”

    The level of classification can’t fuzz and unfuzz depending on the convenience on the proponents’ convenience. If we agree that, say, “White European” is not a race, the term shouldn’t even be used for purposes of shorthand.

    All this is rather beside the point. In a biological sense (that is, according to the standards we’d use for any other species), race doesn’t exist for humans. (The second paragraph of the second section is especially poignant, and digs to the heart of the matter.) That there doesn’t exist enough group variation versus individual variation in order for ‘race’ to be real isn’t a matter of interpretation. For humans, there’s not enough. Period.

    Equating human ‘races’ with biological races has the scientific validity of calling mushrooms plants. From a farmer’s standpoint, it’s probably more convenient to follow a blank prescription that lumps them in with other crops. (Being a pure city slick, I won’t pretend to know.) But to equate convenient everyday simplications with scientific rigour is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

  22. 23
    Megalodon says:

    The Fitzpatrick article is from 1998, and it’s largely premised upon Lewontin’s argument, which has come under heavy attack from Edwards, Stephens, Bamshad, Risch, Rosenberg, and Cavalli-Sforza these past 9 years.

  23. 24
    Charles says:

    Megalodon,

    That’s a relatively opaque response. Can you give cites?

    I’ve read some of the responses to Fitzgerald, and found them convincing (if I’m remembering the right research), although it should be pointed out that the basic point about human inter-population genetic diversity being way below the threshold at which we would designate groups as races (subspecies) in any other species besides our own is not original to Fitzpatrick and is not in dispute by anyone. The question is whether humans can be divided into distinguishable lineages. From what I’ve read, the answer appears to be, “just barely, but only if we assume that we are all descended from very recent common ancestors.” However, the researchers on the question of distinguishing lineages do try to do their best to make clear that the existence of distinguishable lineages should not be confused with the existence of biological races.

    Sadly, as Rachel’s prediction points out, there are a lot of people with a lot invested in misreading the research to mean that humans can be divided into biological races.

  24. 25
    Megalodon says:

    Risch, et al. Am. J. Hum. Genet. “Genetic structure, self-identified race/ethnicity, and confounding in case-control association studies.” Am J Hum Genet, 76(2):268-75, 2005

    Bamshad, et al. “Human Population Genetic Structure and Inference of Group Membership.” Am. J. Hum. Genet. 72, 578-589 (2003).

    Edwards, A.W.F. “Human Genetic Diversity: Lewontin’s Fallacy. ” BioEssays 25, 798-801 (2003).

    Mountain, J.L. and Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. “Multilocus genotypes, a tree of individuals, and h uman evolutionary history.” Am. J. Hum. Genet., 61:705-718 (1997).

    Rosenberg, et al. “Genetic Structure of Human Populations.” Science 298, 2381-2385 (2002).

    Rosenberg, et al. “Clines, Clusters and the Effect of Study Design on the Inference of Human Population Structure.” PLoS Genetics 1: 660-671 (2005).

    And last, certainly not technical or specific in analysis, but a nice commentary from the late Ernst Mayr.

    Mayr, Ernst. “The Biology of Race and the Concept of Equality.” Daedalus. Vol. 131, 89-94 (Winter 2002).

  25. 26
    Charles says:

    Megalodon,

    Thanks! I’ve read Rosenberg 2002 and 2005, but not any of the others.

  26. 27
    sylphhead says:

    Sigh… I don’t want to have to get into a big thing with this. The ‘heavy attack’ has largely consisted of specific attacks on Lewontin’s statements in the 70′s, and none of the scientists that racists cite share their views on race. Today, it’s mostly a matter of some fighting for their right to use the very word ‘race’; what the word would have denoted to conservatives of even a generation, doesn’t exist. Redefining ‘race’ as a cline or a cluster won’t cut it.

    Race is biologically defined as ‘subspecies’. There are no human subspecies; we all belong to Homo sapiens sapiens. Risch himself has stated that he is only measuring the social idea of ‘race’. And didn’t Cavalli Sforza himself state that the concept of human races serves no useful purpose? That the very standard of the word race as would be used with any other species is not met is not in dispute. (Fine, don’t use that 85% figure then. It still stands.) My concern is when we, as I said earlier, fuzz and unfuzz according to the racists’ convenience. Hey, analysis of neutral polymorphisms suggest that clinal variation may occur between populations. Great. Brilliant. You’re still the Homo sapiens sapiens like those niggers across the street. Boo fucking hoo.

    Most clustering is done with non-functional satellite DNA or neutral polymorphisms. What they can attempt to do with this is to trace genetic ancestry – though how the fact that every human population has a distinct genetic ancestry = subspeces exist is a task for the Right wing spin wonks to tackle – but what is starkly missing is any hypothesis that bundles of expressed traits and their associated genes are unique to certain phenotypes traditionally seen as ‘race’. For instance, even the famous sickle cell mutation is more a Mediterranean phenomenon than an African one; it abounds in Turkey and southern Europe, while being non-existent in southern Africa. From a real world perspective, no one cares about microtandem DNA. How about some linked traits? (By the way, does anyone have a non-French version of Caspari’s paper on how human ‘races’ cannot be considered clades? Send it if you do, it would be much appreciated.)

    Is ‘Black’ a race? Yes or no? If the answer is no, then my point is proven. You may say that that’s an oversimplification. I say that not to millions of (mostly) conservative citizens, voters, and newsreaders, it’s not. The main problem is that the word ‘race’ can mean what anyone wants it to mean. And that may mean pretending that ‘cline’ or ‘cluster’ is the same thing as ‘race’. Well, this is a political blog, and I’m expressing concern over the political consequences of such looseness with language.

  27. 28
    Charles says:

    sylphhead,

    And that may mean pretending that ‘cline’ or ‘cluster’ is the same thing as ‘race’. Well, this is a political blog, and I’m expressing concern over the political consequences of such looseness with language.

    Complete agreement on the fact that the social categories of race do NOT equal biological races, and that the fact that the research on what little human variation does exist (and whether it can be divided into clade-like clusters) is very prone to being misused for racist purposes. However, the research does strongly suggest that there are clade-like clusters that loosely align with the broad socially defined racial categories. On the other hand, also as you point out, the evolutionarily relevant expressed genes don’t actually line up with the clade-like clusters (or the socially defined races).

    I don’t know if Megalodon is doing so, but I tend to disagree with some of the specifics of how you are describing the state of research (the degree of isolation caused by the continental barriers is bigger than the degree of isolation caused by smaller scale physical barriers or social barriers, and the difference is weakly genetically detectable) without disagreeing with most of your description of the research (no biological human races), or of your description of the problems with how the research is used. I think that an important part of fighting the resurgence of belief in biological races involves developing ways of talking about the existance of the clade-like clusters and such not while making it very clear that these are not equivalent to biological races. Of course, this is extremely difficult, since the socially defined racial categories are the categories that we very much tend to fall back on (the tendency to treat the clade-like clusters as Caucasian, Asian, African, and Native American shows this problem immediately: half of Asia is in the same cluster as Caucasians, as is Northern Africa; the tendency to label Africans as Blacks makes this even worse, since people with very dark skin show up in every cluster except Native Americans).

    The tendency to associate what group based differences there are in expressed genes with the socially defined racial groups is a huge problem for effectively using the group based differences (in medicine). As you point out with sickle cell anemia, genetic traits don’t line up with socially defined racial groups, but because we want them to, we distort the actual information to make it match the groupings we recognize. If we had a socially defined racial group “Mediterraneans and Central Africans” then we would associate sickle cell with that group. Instead we assign its association to Africans. Since sickle cell is readily diagnosable, this probably doesn’t cause any major medical problems for Italians or Turks with sickle cell (although I bet it causes some racial confusion, “Isn’t that a disease that black people get”), but for less easily diagnosed genetic disorders, this false categorization does cause problems (We do this at the level of socially defined psuedo-biological groups at finer levels as well, thus all the genetic disorders associated with Ashkenazi Jews even though they are not exclusive to Ashkenazi Jews).

  28. 29
    sylphhead says:

    Human ‘races’ are not monophyletic, so they can’t be considered clades, which I think you know very well by your insistence on using the term clade”-like”.

    On the overall distribution part, I guess it’s a case of different interpretations of the same evidence. What I see is an underdeveloped science in where all the scientists whom the racists cite specifically disavow the claims made of their work, a major one being the genetic clustering of the human race. Many geneticists who study the matter assume a classical single digit race classification system beforehand, and admit to as much. Risch, for instance, is primarily interested in the subject as it pertains to medical applications, where self-identified race/ethnicities are the defining categories; therefore, that is where he looks.

    “As you point out with sickle cell anemia, genetic traits don’t line up with socially defined racial groups, but because we want them to, we distort the actual information to make it match the groupings we recognize.”

    True, and it’s a broader problem than just with medical applications. Hint hint.

  29. 30
    Charles says:

    True, and it’s a broader problem than just with medical applications.

    Oh, absolutely. I was just attacking medical applications because that is the currently fashionable Trojan horse for that sort of racism.

    On “clade,” I’ve gotten dinged for using it before, but it is heavily (if incorrectly) used in the literature. For instance, I recall Rosenberg (2006) using it repeatedly. Thus, clade-like. I should probably stop using even clade-like and just stick to “clusters” though, as clade isn’t the correct term, and clade-like is just as dubious.

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  31. 31
    Bryan says:

    The only thing that I wouldn’t agree with is the deseg section. I’m not sure if I’d assert we’d return to 1960′s segregation. During that time we had rules that required segregation.

    So, if they rule the way conservatives expect, I think school racial makeup will reflect the local community rather than any policy. So, if the community is diverse like in some cities, then no real change will occur. If there is still community level segregation, yeah, that would lead to “black schools” and “white schools”. But not like the 60′s. Remember, then they were busing blacks who lived in white neighborhoods out to black schools and vice versa. So, for probably the first time in our history, schools will actually consist of the people in their communities.