Race, Gender and Class

October 2021 Forums General discussion Race, Gender and Class

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 86 total)
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  • #91488
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Tom,the reason we say there is no such thing as race, is that there are no inherent sets of characteristics/bundles of features by which any human population can be separated from any other.  The perceptive differences between people are accompanied by overwhelming similarity.  What there are are a series of characteristic frequencies. Take a look at the notion "black" how many "black" people actually have black skin?  hardly any.  Most are a shade of brown.  Most "white" people are a funny sort of grey/red colour.  Some east asians used to be referred to as yellow, but other than Jaundice victims, no one is actually a yellow colour.  The discourse of skin colour is socially determined, and has little to do with the reality of human morphological variation.Lets try an easy counter example.  Dapple horses are easilly distinguished from chestnut, but no-one would seriously claim that dapple horses were a different race/sub-species, it's just a colour tone (and no stallion would spend five seconds choosing a dapple over a chestnut mare).Likewise, a horse looking at two humans would probably not notice the skin colour or hair, and just see a human.

    #91489
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    I see, as a last resort, you are bringing social etiquette into the equation.  Please explain how it is insulting to argue that human beings might instinctively wish to associate with kin groups?  Please enumerate for us the ways in which one might find this insulting.

    My reference was to people who consciously decide to marry/have children with someone they considered to be of the same "racial group" as them.  You are talking of people who might "instinctively" do this. I doubt that this is a human "instinct" if only because of people of the millions of people who don't do this (the reason why me and others described your claim about this to be nonsense) but also because one of the features of the human species is to have very little instinctual behaviour. 

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    You then go on to dispense an insult yourself, by suggesting that those who sexually select based on race are "racist".  It is of course fine for you to insult whoever you like, and at will, but please define racist and explain why people should be castigated (and presumably, in your view, locked-up) for this attribute?

    A racist is someone who wants to discriminate between what they consider to be "races". So, yes, someone who consciously sexually selects on "racial grounds" would be racist. I'm not sure, though, that there are many people who do do this as all sorts of other social factors enter into this selection. And I don't accept that people do sexually select "instinctively" (but agree that if they did they could not be criticised), but I do think that those who consciously sexually select on "race" grounds do should be criticised. Of course I don't think they should be punished or even prevented from doing this. To encroach on another current thread, I don't even think they should be prevented from expressing their point of view. We, the Socialist Party, have always opposed the policy of "No Platform for Fascists".

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    You finish with another rhetorical flourish, asking me not to use the term 'we'.  I am not sure why, but I have never asked the Socialist Party to refrain from using the term 'we' in its arguments for socialism.  Why should I do so?  Of course, I shouldn't.  It's just another silly, disingenuous distraction from you.

    The "we" I wanted to be excluded from was the "we" in this claim of yours:

    Quote:
    we want to have our children with females who 'look like us' (in the racial sense) because we want our children to resemble us.

    You might want this, but I don't. I wouldn't have thought anyone else would either.

    #91490
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Tom,the reason we say there is no such thing as race, is that there are no inherent sets of characteristics/bundles of features by which any human population can be separated from any other.  The perceptive dfferences between people are accompanied by overwhelming similarity.  What there are are a series of characteristic frequencies. Take a look at the notion "black" how many "black" people actually have black skin?  hardly any.  Most are a shade of brown.  Most "white" people are a funny sort of grey/red colour.  Some east asians used to be referred to as yellow, but otehr than Jaundice victims, no one is actually a yellow colour.  The discourse of skin colour is socially determined, and has little to do with the reality of human morphological variation.Lets try an easy counter example.  Dapple horses are easilly distinguished from chestnut, but no-one would seriously claim that dapple horses were a different race/sub-species, it's just a colour tone (and no stallion would spend five seconds choosing a dapple over a chestnut mare).Likewise, a horse looking at two humans would prbably not notice the skin colour or hair, and just see a human.

    Fine, but I am not suggesting there are sub-species of humans.  I think we are dealing with a straw man argument here and I have already explained why I think racial classification is of significance.

    #91491
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Tom, what you said was:

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    Thanks.  You state [as far you know] that race has no solid basis in biology or DNA terms, but I do not see how that assertion can hold.  I am white and it seems apparent to me that there are both particular and average group differences between, on the one hand, myself and other whites, and on the other hand, people of other races: for instance, people of African origin.  Apart from anything else, it just seems empirically self-evident that there are differences and it seems to me quite odd  to deny this.

    to which I replied

    YMS wrote:
    there are no inherent sets of characteristics/bundles of features by which any human population can be separated from any other.

    i.e. that the apparent differences are only accidental, and not a factor of a coherent thing called 'race'.  indeed, within apparent "racial" groups, you'll find more variation of genetics/features than between such groups.  The coincidence of, say, blond hair and blue eyes is not essential, the two features can be divorced.For instance, I am "white" (well, grey), but I have patches of brown skin (often referred to as freckles, but essentially, they are patches of melanin, which means that the difference between myself and a "brown" person is not qualitative but quantitative).Differences in skin tone are no more significant than difference in height or eye colour.

    #91492
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    I see, as a last resort, you are bringing social etiquette into the equation.  Please explain how it is insulting to argue that human beings might instinctively wish to associate with kin groups?  Please enumerate for us the ways in which one might find this insulting.

    My reference was to people who consciously decide to marry/have children with someone they considered to be of the same "racial group" as them.  You are talking of people who might "instinctively" do this. I doubt that this is a human "instinct" if only because of people of the millions of people who don't do this (the reason why me and others described your claim about this to be nonsense) but also because one of the features of the human species is to have very little instinctual behaviour. 

    It depends on how one should define 'instinct' and 'consciousness' respectively and how one sees the relationship between the two.  I see consciousness as a formation of both instinct and intellect.  I accept that intellect can override instinctive behaviours, but I also probably ascribe greater importance to instinct than you do.You refer to "millions of people" who don't form relationships on the basis of what I define (roughly-speaking) as kin instincts: it would be good to see evidence for this. While I don't necessarily doubt that is true, I would suggest that such people are overriding an instinct to procreate within their own racial or ethnic group.  In your view, that is a good thing. In my view, it might not necessarily always be a good thing, but no matter how you define the terminology, I don't see how you can deny that historically and prehistorically humans have mated within genetically-cohesive social groups. The rest, whether you think consciousness should override this is, to me, a normative point.  You either agree with it or you don't.  I don't necessarily.  

    #91493
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    to which I replied

    YMS wrote:
    there are no inherent sets of characteristics/bundles of features by which any human population can be separated from any other.

    i.e. that the apparent differences are only accidental, and not a factor of a coherent thing called 'race'.  indeed, within apparent "racial" groups, you'll find more variation of genetics/features than between such groups.  The coincidence of, say, blond hair and blue eyes is not essential, the two features can be divorced.For instance, I am "white" (well, grey), but I have patches of brown skin (often referred to as freckles, but essentially, they are patches of melanin, which means that the difference between myself and a "brown" person is not qualitative but quantitative).Differences in skin tone are no more significant than difference in height or eye colour.

    OK, but again so what?  Just because the characteristics that form a man-made, socially-constructed racial classification are accidental – even random – it does not follow that race itself is not a physical fact.  Don't misunderstand, I do see your point.  You are saying (and I appreciate this is putting it crudely and simplistically) that the various characteristics crucial to racial classification were just thrown together, more or less ad hoc using crude observational techniques, and that essentially 'race' means nothing useful in scientific or anthropological terms and is merely a concept designed to serve a social purpose (i.e. oppression of other races by white people).Personally I have to reject this argument (though I appreciate the internal logic of it).  To me, this argument is, in itself, a social construct.  The flaw is in separating race from its material reality.  In a sense, race is being seen through a deconstructionist, anti-materialist lens.  In short, it's quackery.  Sort of like transsexualism: the notion that if a man has his genitals surgically removed, he then becomes a woman.  It's plain that he doesn't become a woman – he is still a man – but some very intelligent people would rubbish this and say that he is a woman because, after all, sex and gender are social constructs.  Maybe the desk I am sitting at now is a social construct and the PC I am typing this into is too?  Perhaps the lady who is shouting at me for being a sad idiot who spends so long on the computer is also a social construct?  Perhaps I am imagining it all?  I really do need to keep off those magic mushrooms.  

    #91494
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    OK, but again so what?  Just because the characteristics that form a man-made, socially-constructed racial classification are accidental – even random – it does not follow that race itself is not a physical fact.

    Nearly, except that I am disputing the "physical fact of race".  The onus is now on you to demonstrate that there is some "physical fact", some Thing we can call race.  Specifically, you'll need to demonstrate how the "empirically self-evident" differences between people differ from the "empirically self-evident" physical fact that the sun goes round the Earth.If you can't, we're left with the relatively banal idea that human beings are not genetically identical with each other, and the differences between any given two people become greater the further back you can trace a shared ancestor.p.s. gender is a social construct, sex isn't.

    #91495
    HollyHead
    Participant
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    ….  I am white and it seems apparent to me that there are both particular and average group differences between, on the one hand, myself and other whites, and on the other hand, people of other races: for instance, people of African origin. 

     Are we not all of "African origin"?

    #91496
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    OK, but again so what?  Just because the characteristics that form a man-made, socially-constructed racial classification are accidental – even random – it does not follow that race itself is not a physical fact.

    Nearly, except that I am disputing the "physical fact of race".  The onus is now on you to demonstrate that there is some "physical fact", some Thing we can call race.  Specifically, you'll need to demonstrate how the "empirically self-evident" differences between people differ from the "empirically self-evident" physical fact that the sun goes round the Earth.If you can't, we're left with the relatively banal idea that human beings are not genetically identical with each other, and the differences between any given two people become greater the further back you can trace a shared ancestor.p.s. gender is a social construct, sex isn't.

    As previously stated, the physical fact of race is, to me, empirically self-evident.  By denying this, you deny what is plainly in front of you. For that reason I think we have exhausted this discussion as our differences on this basic point are intractable.

    #91497
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    HollyHead wrote:
    Are we not all of "African origin"?

    Are we?  And if we are, does it follow that race does not exist and is a mere social construct?  

    #91498
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    As previously stated, the physical fact of race is, to me, empirically self-evident.  By denying this, you deny what is plainly in front of you.

    Well, I'm open to debate, but I also don't believe the self-evident fact that the sun goes round the Earth.  If you're unable to defend your position, to given any examples of the evident existence of race, to which I appear ignorant, then I will have to continue to suffer my delusion.

    #91499
    DJP
    Participant
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    As previously stated, the physical fact of race is, to me, empirically self-evident.  By denying this, you deny what is plainly in front of you. 

    Of course it cannot be denied that there are slight differences in the DNA of human beings that give rise to different observable physical characteristics. However, which of these observable differences determine "race" and which do not are arbitrary and a social construct.

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    Are we?  And if we are, does it follow that race does not exist and is a mere social construct?  

    You really should learn something about the origin of the human species. Humans first evolved in Africa and then spread out throughout the world. I would have thought that for the race to have any physical basis there would have to be separate groups of humans with origins from different parts of the world. I far as I understand, the human genome project has proved this not to be the case.

    #91500
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    As previously stated, the physical fact of race is, to me, empirically self-evident.  By denying this, you deny what is plainly in front of you. 

    Of course it cannot be denied that there are slight differences in the DNA of human beings that give rise to different observable physical characteristics. However, which of these observable differences determine "race" and which do not are arbitrary and a social construct.

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    Are we?  And if we are, does it follow that race does not exist and is a mere social construct?  

    You really should learn something about the origin of the human species. Humans first evolved in Africa and then spread out throughout the world. I would have thought that for the race to have any physical basis there would have to be separate groups of humans with origins from different parts of the world. I far as I understand, the human genome project has proved this not to be the case.

    Yes, but I'm curious as to why you think it is self-evident that a common origin (assuming that is the case, which I don't necessarily doubt) precludes the existence of races?  I think I said above that I do not consider humanity to have any sub-species (though, interestingly, there is some debate about the variety of pre-historic 'human' sub-species and how this might influence our origins).  Isn't it possible that, from common origins, various and distinct racial groups might have evolved?  Obviously, if we assume common origins (and I am willing to accept this), it is acknowledged that there would be a close genetic relation between the groups, but each group would over time adjust to its environment and develop distinct physical attributes to reflect its needs.  Is this not the case?  If so, how can race be considered as a mere social construct?  The fact that there are defining physical characteristics for each group that reflect its environment is evidence that race is a physical reality, not just – or not merely – a random, man-made classification.Of course, even if I am right about this, you could still argue that the idea of race is just stupid, crass and bunkum anyway, and even if it is a natural epiphenomenon, we should do away with it on the ground that in the modern world it serves no utility.  That's fine but that's a matter for debate, and my response to that would be negative.  To encourage a consciousness that is grounded in utilitarian values rather than instinct is anti-human, in that it turns human beings into social objects, cogs in a machine.  OK, it may be that the instinctual aspect of our consciousness is less attractive, even unpleasant, not to mention didactically inconvenient for socialists, but it does not follow that we should work to impose a layer of consciousness that goes against our essential natures.But let us suppose – just for the sake of argument – that you are right and I am wrong on the point in debate here and in fact race does not physically exist and is merely a social construct.  OK, but even if I were to accept this (which I don't, but let's suppose for present purposes that I do), my next question would be: So what?  Even if race is a social construct, it can still be said to exist and the argument for racial separation (which essentially is what this is about) and against multi-culturalism would still hold – in fact, in a sense, the argument would be stronger because we would be acknowledging that race is a purely conscious phenomenon, even rational, and if people wish to live among 'their own kind', and they make that choice (which, I would assert, they have so far not resiled from) then they are quite entitled to do so, even if what they define as 'their own kind' is, scientifically-speaking, based on fairly superficial characteristics and other dubious criteria.

    #91501
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Anyone who still has doubts that 'race' is a social construct could do far worse than read Strange Fruit by Kenan Malik (OK, ex-SWP; ex-RCP, but don't let that influence).  Here's a review:-"Debates about race are back and they're only getting bigger. The US government has licensed a heart drug to be used only on African Americans. A pharmaceutical company is trialling a white-only anti-hepatitis drug. A genetic study claims that Jews are more intelligent because of their history of money lending. There has recently been a massive upsurge in scientific racial research, and in "Strange Fruit", Malik reveals this rise is paradoxically due to the efforts of liberal anti-racism; a movement that celebrates human difference over human commonalities. Navigating readers through the historical and scientific thinking on the subject, Malik shows that races are a social construct – they do not actually exist. Stressing that scientists should be allowed to study population differences without the distortions of political race debates, Malik provides a gripping and essential guide to understanding difference in a multicultural world."

    #91502
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Hi TomEarlier you asked me about instinct.I am of the opinion that humans are not instinctual creatures. The following quote is taken from an earlier thread "Human Nature? Whoopee!"Here is the link.http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/human-nature-whoopee?page=3

    SocialistPunk wrote:
    Inborn complex patterns of behaviour that must exist in every member of the species and that cannot be overcome by will.Or simply put, non-learnt, unalterable behaviour. Examples being spiders web building and sea turtles heading for the sea after hatching.

    I don't want to stray too far off topic, but the above quote sums up instinct pretty well. Please feel free to prove otherwise.Now back to "race". The following is a nice little comment found on a blog, answering a Professor with a similar position to yourself, (that it is obvious by looking around we have different "races" of humans.)"Obviously genes can vary with geography. I don't think any reasonable person would deny that. That isn't at all the same thing as saying that race is a biologically meaningful concept. The point Sternberg is making is that the races we've invented based on skin color are completely arbitrary classifications. Different human traits vary independently of each other, and they don't obey sharply differentiated boundaries, but vary along graduated clines. If we divided humans into groups based on some other characteristic, such as body proportions, skull shape, or blood type distribution, we would get a completely different set of "races." Sure, traits like cystic fibrosis and susceptibility to prostate cancer are more or less prevalent among certain populations. But "Africans" or "Europeans" are only rough approximations of those populations. Because different human populations aren't genetically isolated from each other, they haven't become clearly defined and biologically meaningful races." Now again we must look at the early taxonomists, privileged men obsessed with classifying "creation". Usually with a hierarchic slant.Let us take their favourite classification, skin colour. It seems obvious that "races" exist. If so, how many? And how do we work it out, what do we use to base our "races" on. Skin colour alone shows vast difference, likewise hair, nose, skull shape etc. What of height, stature. Size of hands and feet. The list of human characteristics are endless. Given enough time and a powerful enough computer it may be possible to break down human populations into countless "races".Instead humans still use just four "races" to generalise. A bit like those who insist you can tell all there is to know about people based on the twelve signs of the zodiac.I and many others on this forum are pointing out the flaws of "race". We say it makes the notion a bit ridiculous and completely useless.You say otherwise.So to clarify your position it may be helpful if you could please tell us how many "races" of humans there are?

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