Addendum to Race: The Social Construction of a Biological Reality

Now I am going to try to express a bit of nuance, staking out a position somewhere between “race isn’t real” and “Derbyshire is a race traitor.”

In the “race isn’t real” department, we have Sarah Zhang’ Will the Alt-Right Promote a New Kind of Racist Genetics?:

In the genomic age, it is now easy to compare the DNA of people from around the world. And it has indeed revealed that our racial categories are fuzzy proxies for genetic difference—an African man may be more closely related to an Asian than to another African.

From there, Zhang basically tries to argue that race doesn’t real even though genetics and medical science sure make it look real, that the differences in the distribution of genetic traits in large, historically isolated populations don’t matter because of a few tiny populations that are the genetic equivalent of the Basque language.

Kyle Field
Kyle Field, population 102,700

Remember, the world’s entire population of Bushmen wouldn’t even fill the Texas A&M football stadium. Combine them with a few other tiny populations, like the Khoikhoi and Pygmies, and you’re still looking at <1 million people.  Meanwhile, there are billions of Europeans, west Africans, and east Asians.

Mundane racial categories work just fine for the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of Americans, who are not drawn from a rainbow of racially-mixed groups like Tuaregs or fringe outliers like the Bushmen, but from distinct populations of West Africans, Europeans (primarily NW Euros,) Native Americans, and East Asians. If I say someone is “black” or “white,” not only do you understand what I mean, there is an actually consistent genetic reality underlying my statements–in almost 100% of cases, a genetic test would in fact confirm that the people I call “black” are actually primarily Sub-Saharan African by ancestry and the people I call “white” are primarily European by ancestry. Exceptions like Rachel Dolezal are quite rare.

Zhang is trying to argue that you can’t make a reasonable argument about the average distribution of traits between whites, blacks, and Asians in the US because there is a handful of tiny, genetically isolated populations over in Africa. A does not follow from B.

On the other side of the coin, we have people who believe it’s morally imperative to only marry people from one’s own race.

Most of the time, people fall in love with people from their own culture and ethnic group. This is what we’d expect, because you’re more likely to meet and share values with people from your own group. (Interestingly, most people are more genetically similar to their spouses than they are to the average person in their community, not because they married a close relative, but because similar genes make for similar people.)

But some people, for whatever reasons, marrying within their own group isn’t a real option. (White men who are under 5’5″, for example.) These people are looking out for their own best interests–really, if you’re considering calling Derbyshire a race traitor, you’re probably thinking too much about other people’s business.

Capitalism works because it self-corrects; it allows consumers to pick the best products at the best prices, and companies to hire the most talented workers for the best wages. Unlike socialism, where companies are told what and how much to produce, consumers are told what to buy and how much it will cost, and ultimately people starve in the streets, capitalism actually works. Self-interest is a powerful organizing principle that has radically increased the welfare of billions of people over the past century.

And capitalism doesn’t care about race.

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Where people live in close proximity to people of other races, some of them will fall in love.

That said, don’t date people for status points or because you’re trying to prove how not-racist you are. Like Obama’s parents, most inter-racial couples don’t stay together; the majority of mixed-race children have parents who are not married–according to one study, 92% of biracial children with black fathers are born out of wedlock and 82% end up on government assistance because their fathers do not bother to take care of them.

picture-6And if you are ever tempted to compare your vagina to the UN because of the sheer number of different ethnicities that have been in it, you need to stop and re-evaluate your life for multiple reasons.

 

Ultimately, real-life decisions should be based on real-life concerns.

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8 thoughts on “Addendum to Race: The Social Construction of a Biological Reality

  1. Now I am going to try to express a bit of nuance, staking out a position somewhere between “race isn’t real” and “Derbyshire is a race traitor.”

    I am not sure how your article addresses this. What does capitalism have to do with it? “Race isn’t real” and “one should be completely race centric” are not opposite poles, at least I can’t see how they are.
    “Race isn’t real” is a political position. It has some rationality in that depending upon context, classification is based upon political valuations. In a biological context the classification is arbitrary.

    All of us signal and I don’t see the connection to “race isn’t real.”

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    • Eh, nuance is hard to convey. People who say race isn’t real think they are making a factual statement. (This is true of many political statements, tbf.) Race is real, but it doesn’t follow that it’s some absolute guide to life.

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      • Okay, I have been at the anvil and I can now see the signaling and some of the confusion in my comment.

        “People who say race isn’t real think they are making a factual statement.”

        They are making a factual statement in a political sense.

        “Race isn’t real” is a political position. The person using this argument is trying to deny legitimacy to the political concept of race by denying the biological basis. But, of course, only in those instances where race is used to the detriment of a minority race. If the use of the concept is to the advantage of the minority race then this person will want to use it.

        What is the opposing pole to this political position?

        It is not that races exist in a biological sense.

        The opposing political position is that races are discrete and we need to preserve them, keep them separate, all sorts of racialist views, etc. (Your Derbyshire critic.)

        I have noticed that different bloggers and commenters insist upon challenging this “race isn’t real” premise.
        If you are challenging the “race isn’t real” premise then you have some sort of political use of race in mind. That race is real is true enough in the biological sense, but that fact is not an opposition to the political use of race. It is not a middle position.

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      • I disagree. The people who say “race isn’t real” think they are making a factual, scientific statement. They think that “races” are just a thing our ancestors made up. Kind of like if we had classified albinos as a race, and then discovered we were wrong.

        “Race isn’t real” doesn’t have to be a political statement. It could just be a true one. Likewise, “Race is real” doesn’t have to be a political statement–it only is in the context where “race isn’t real” is a political statement.

        But it doesn’t follow that I therefore think people should make marriage decisions based on notions of racial purity.

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      • iffen,

        Most race-deniers cite Lewontin’s Fallacy as ‘race don’t real’. “More genetic diversity within races than between them!” Re: Edwards 2002, Frost’s work, Razib’s work.

        “If you are challenging the “race isn’t real” premise then you have some sort of political use of race in mind.”

        Not really. I talk about race in the biological sense; what race-deniers deny.

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      • “Not really. I talk about race in the biological sense; what race-deniers deny.”

        I read your blog, you do both and you frequently mix them.

        “If you are challenging the “race isn’t real” premise then you have some sort of political use of race in mind.”

        I am familiar with the arguments.

        My comment left it as either/or. I am trying to reason a neutral position, but haven’t yet.

        I point out that fretting over the existence of mixed race children, intimating that promiscuous behavior with men of different races is worse than promiscuous behavior with the same number of men of one’s own race are not neutral positions. That’s not even mentioning that selecting a mate is probably more about status than it is anything else. As for you RR, allowing commenters to write in the vein of “We Wuz Kangs” is not neutral, you have to decide whether Nubians were (are) black or white.

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  2. “Zhang is trying to argue that you can’t make a reasonable argument about the average distribution of traits between whites, blacks, and Asians in the US because there is a handful of tiny, genetically isolated populations over in Africa. A does not follow from B.”

    She is, of course, laughably wrong.

    Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1196372/

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