Blog Three – Race “Nonexistence”

In reading these statements, what stuck out to me was how the stance on race was presented, what information was used to attempt to invalidate it, and what information was simply not discussed at all. The word race is old and has had many definitions over time, as described and discussed in the material from the preceding week. I find it interesting that there is a clear attempt to completely devalue and do away with the word race itself. Yet, we also read an article on race’s utilization in forensic anthropology as a way to very generally divide groups and individuals based on geographic ancestry in correlation to phenotypic expression. It was clearly useful, except when ancestry was mixed to a degree that race phenotypically really did no longer mean anything. But through genetic testing, even someone who did not show clear phenotypic traits of ancestry, or race, could be identified through genetic ancestry informative markers, haplogroup, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome data. They, then, could be grouped by their genetic lineage, indicative of general geographic ancestry, which is the colloquial, modern definition of race.

Is it because, then, of the historical context that the word race, used in its modern way of indicating geographic ancestry, is being painted as nonexistent? The AAA statement addresses this, detailing the colonial past of the word race, and indicating the flaws in its usage and definition according to the beliefs and justifications of that era. But that is indeed not the modern, or commonly used, definition. In this aspect lies my greatest quandary, I understand completely their argument, agree with its definitions, but am concerned by the clear attempt at language modification and word erasure. Earl B Hunt, in his book Human Intelligence, demonstrates that racial categories are defined by social conventions but correlate with clusters of both genetic traits and cultural traits. To me, that is a succinct definition of race, and the way I would explain why “biological race does not exist” to someone unfamiliar with the anthropological stance. The difference between the races is not genetically significant, but there are general clusters of traits that still statistically correlate to racial self-identification. This statistical significance is explained by C. Loring Brace, author of “Race” is a Four-letter Word: The Genesis of the Concept and professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, as not justifying the existence of biological race, but indicative of the differences between any geographically segregated groups.

In my other blogs, I have written on the importance of keeping politics out of science. Race was thought of as science when the idea was introduced, but those definitions have clearly been rebuked by science itself as it progressed. The old definitions were used politically in inhuman and immoral, unjustifiable ways. But those old definitions are gone, race still exists; just as a Christian today is nothing like a Christian was 1,000 years ago, what being a race means today is quite different from the definitions of the past. To attempt to erase a word because you disagree with its origins, is itself political. It is an artificial cultural edit. Intentionally editing language is an attempt to control thought and thought patterns. This is called “Newspeak” in the book 1984, which Orwell wrote as a warning and a premonition of the future he foresaw.

20 thoughts on “Blog Three – Race “Nonexistence”

  1. I also found some contradictions in the reading this week. Part of what I discussed in my blog post was my confusion after reading one statement that basically denied the existence of racial differences and then read the next statement that talked about how anthropologists can determine an individual’s race based on the bones. You made a good point about how race means different things in different contexts. What race means to a scientist is different than what it means to a politician. I think that race has way too much emphasis in our society today and that we should try to address this issue. There has been undeniable and historical racism and discrimination all over the world, but in our country especially. Perhaps education about the negligible differences between races would help quell some of the racism and hate remaining today.

    • Yes, I agree that genetics in relation to race should be taught in primary education, and that it would help to hasten the disintegration of biologically based discrimination.

  2. Hey Michael,
    I really understand the idea behind keeping politics out of science, but I do not think it is possible or practical when people falsely use science to justify racism. I believe this to have occurred in the past and to still be occurring now. In the past, people tried to make the argument that Blacks were not genetically the same as the rest of us humans, so therefore we can enslave them. A modern example of how people still truly believe that Blacks are genetically “different” is the violent arrest of Breaion King, where the officer who slammed her to the ground told her “Blacks have violent tendencies” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/22/video-austin-police-body-slam-black-teacher-tell-her-blacks-have-violent-tendencies/). It is not political to say race is a social construct, because that is what the science supports. If the scientific conclusion has political implications, so be it. After this weeks lectures, I am more confident than ever that the human race is one, so any racial divide is of political motivation. We can keep the politics out of science, but it is naive to keep the science out of politics. Politicians need to accept the truth about race. Anyways, solid blog post, I found it to be quite thought provoking.

    • I, too, abhor maltreatment, especially by police, of groups of people targeted by race. But your example does not illustrate that the officer’s statement is driven by a biological prejudice,his prejudice could be derived from experience or social factors; those, however, are outside the scope of this blog discussion and, as such, are not addressed within it. I do not dispute that he clearly said black people have violent tendencies. I say in my post race is socially defined, however I disagree that it is modern politics that supplies the definition, but rather it is the evolved definition crafted by society through education, scientific advance, social interaction, and time. I would challenge you to supply me with a cited quotation of a current politician attributing biological racial characteristics to a group of people: it would be political suicide on either side of the divide. I agree that science must inform politics, but not the other way around.

  3. Hi! I also found it very interesting the stances on race throughout the articles presented. I think that the articles that were completely trying to devalue race were not exactly scientifically charged. Instead, I think they may have been more political or politically motivated because of correctness we see in our society. And I agree with you- race desperately needs to be kept out of politics. I did really appreciate the sections which clearly showed how race is important and does play a large role in forensic anthropology. I really liked the way you explained race to someone who does not necessarily understand. Race does not have significant genetic differences, but there are traits which are linked with others with different races. Great work!

  4. I agree that the word race has gained many definitions over time and it something that has been around for some time now, I also find it interesting that their is an attempt to put away the word as as whole, however, I don’t completely disagree with it. The roots and context of which the word was created carries a lot of hurt maybe hate for some people. The fact is that the word was made to divide people, and this is time in which we need to do the complete opposite, we need to unite a people and not dived ourselves based on color, “race” or beliefs. Also agree what you point that cultures and races have mixed so much that race phenotypically really did no longer mean anything.

    • See Aaliyah Johnson’s comment in response to your claim that race should be put away as a whole. History is a field of study because it contains important lessons, on both what to do, and what not to do. No part of it should be obscured or erased, nor the associated words, because its content contains things modern people have objection to. Historical ignorance is how the mistakes of the past repeat themselves. Finally, yes I agree that the American citizenry needs more unity, and such unity would help to provide conflict resolution, however, race was not invented to divide people. It was a label, like the segregation of plants and animals, that has existed in historical records since writing began. Ancient people segregated those they encountered by racial patterns as a means of identification. Race was used in the more recent past as you described, but the concept was not invented explicitly for that purpose, it was bent to it at that time.

  5. I understand your concern. Race is a very real thing in our lives and claims that it simply doesn’t exist can sound more like a manipulation of language than solid facts. Race plays a large part in our cultural identities and how we see ourselves. That being said I disagree with a few of your statements.

    To reference 1989 and to refer to this claim as Newspeak is a bit of a stretch and a little off base. Neither statement suggested that the word race be completely erased from all usage, only that race categories are non scientific and should not be treated as such. Actually Newspeak better describes the introduction of race into our lexicon as the ruling classes invented much of it in 18th century to justify their ideals. As you mentioned they used it to oppress those of other races, claiming that others were naturally inferior or even predisposed for servitude.

    Socially, race is still a valid classification, for better and for worse. There are many social issues that run along racial lines. That being said what is there to gain or lose from not genetically classifying humans by race? If anthropologists find that race is not scientically relevant, why should they use it?

    • I never suggested the statements made overt claims the word should be erased, I claimed it was an attempt to devalue and do away with the word. I continue by explaining how they redefine it to match this subvert goal. Newspeak has to begin somewhere, and artificially redefining words, rather than allowing the natural evolution, is how it begins. Race is an ancient concept found in written records from the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and others. The people who redefined it during the colonial era, unfortunately, believed the science and premise they utilized that led to the redefinition of the word. That is not newspeak, it was not intentionally done to make people just think other races were inferior; they really believed they were. I accuse the blog prompt statements of newspeak because of how it is redefined to an outdated definition, implied as defunct, and yet explained as useful within the same field that is implying its nonexistence.

  6. Hi Michael,
    I read with interested your blog concerning race and the attempts by the AAPA and AAA to change the professional viewpoint of their organizations. I agree when you suggested they are attempting to devalue and essentially eliminate the word race itself. It does seem as though these organizations are stepping away from terminology that is controversial and does not serve their interests in discussions of human evolution. The genetic lineage gleaned from the Human Genome Project is clear evidence that Homo sapiens are a distinct species especially when considering the scientific definition of species and its application to humans across the globe. You hit the nail on the head by stating the old definitions of race were political and unjustifiable, yet not so much so to eliminate race from our society today. Eliminating race from our culture is far more difficult than crossing out a four-letter word. It could well be the warning implied by Orwell in 1984.
    -Jaclyn Kyko

    • There is nothing wrong with a science stepping away from a terminology they find no longer serves them, however, we also read an article about how it does serve them; so that is clearly not the case here. Yes, all humans are members of one species.

  7. WOW! That is my first thought after reading your blog. As an African American, I try not to play victim on this topic as I feel very strongly about being Black, African American, a person of color, etc. However, you make a very valid point and one I wholeheartedly agree with: To attempt to erase a word because you disagree with its origins, is itself political. It is an artificial cultural edit. Intentionally editing language is an attempt to control thought and thought patterns. This is called “Newspeak” in the book 1984, which Orwell wrote as a warning and a premonition of the future he foresaw. I believe that the U.S. was built on race/racism. It is an important part of our history. If we were to erase race/racism from language then future textbooks would lack the truth about what took place in the U.S. (although I feel that many textbooks lack many of the unimaginable, horrendous atrocities that took place in the U.S.). I look forward to reading more of your blogs. This one definitely should be read by all students!

    • I’m really glad you got the crux of my argument and found it valuable, it is always great when thinking that one transcribes successfully to convey a point is understood. Thank you for the compliment. I referenced your comment to another classmate who responded to my post, but did not see it how you did.

  8. The idea of keeping politics out of science when it comes to race is kind of flawed. Race is basically a political and social agenda backed by fake science in order to further the power of others. I do agree with you that race was definitely abused back in the day as it was created for this very purpose. For someone who doesn’t know that race doesn’t exist in science would be rather interesting. One side would be that there is no scientifically proven fact that there is a link to race and genetics, yet there are several cluster of traits within certain races. This can be explained by genetic variability throughout the years. People, just like animals, have to adapt to their environment resulting in certain traits.

    • Politics must always be kept out of science, science is objective by definition, and politics is not. They are incompatible intrinsically. Science corrects itself, and the science used by colonial era people to justify racial discrimination was corrected by science itself, not politics. Race clearly exists, anthropology uses it extensively in forensics. you cannot use something that does not exist. There are correlations, or links, between genetics and race, the article on forensic anthropology assigned to us described this, and I also cited peer-reviewed, credentialed resources expanding on it. They are the traits you reference, as well as genetic markers not displayed phenotypically.

  9. It is interesting to see the different stances and approaches on invalidating race. I don’t believe that race isn’t valid or that we could get rid of the idea of race. We all live in a racialized society. But we can educate our society that race is a social and historical concept. It’s shaped institutions, it’s shaped our legal system, it shapes interactions in law offices and housing offices and in medical schools, in dentist’s offices. By taking away ideals that biology is related to race we could eliminate some issues that arise due to race. Racism rests in part on the idea that race is biology. So, the biology becomes an excuse for social differences. The social differences become naturalized in biology and individuals find use science as a way to justify their racism.

  10. So, as you can tell from all of the above comments- your blog post was really received by myself and others. This post is super well written, so nice work. I find your third and final paragraph really interesting and informative. I like the way you referenced varying historical aspects throughout your post. Although race was first suggested as a way to categorize physical variations in humans it has since evolved into some sort of political platform. Biologically- we are all the same. Eliminating race in its entirety would, I believe, detract from the significance it has had and the role it’s played within our society. Understanding the unfortunate reality of our current mindset towards race, will help us better understand the need for improvement within our society.

  11. Wow! You managed to make several very valid points in your blog post. I like how you mentioned that the idea of race and race itself is mainly a political construct. That is something that was pointed out heavily in the readings we did this week, and that it was highly used further back in time. I do not think it is possible to erase the use of race in the United States and in the world because of the ties it has with the past, and its use in forensic anthropology for instance. I do like how you would explain race to someone who does not have an understanding of it, and I think you made a good stance on how race should be kept out of political matters. Good work and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  12. You make a great point I didn’t realize the way they are devaluing race and making it almost like it isn’t even have a history. You use great supporting evidence in your mention about how they use race in forensic anthropology which on the other hand shows that race does have some sort of value. I did not realize even though race in history generally became irrelevant when trying to attempt to solve ones ancestry but you twist that around by saying using our genetic lineage to figure that out is how we do it now and it is actually our modern definition of race. This to me is mind blowing, I have not heard someone explain it as clearly as you have, great post!

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