Race, Gender and Class

May 2024 Forums General discussion Race, Gender and Class

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  • #91518
    HollyHead
    Participant
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    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?  

     TomYes, and yes.Here is a statement of current scientific thinking on the subject of race from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. (The passages in bold type have been emphasised by me):Statement on Biological Aspects of Race  Published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 1996 vol. 101, pp 569-570:As scientists who study human evolution and variation, we believe that we have an obligation to share with other scientists and the general public our current understanding of the structure of human variation from a biological perspective.Popular conceptualizations of race are derived from 19th and early 20th century scientific formulations. These old racial categories were based on externally visible traits, primarily skin color, features of the face, and the shape and size of the head and body, and the underlying skeleton. They were often imbued with non-biological attributes, based on social constructions of race.These categories of race are rooted in the scientific traditions of the 19th century, and in even earlier philosophical traditions which presumed that immutable visible traits can predict the measure of all other traits in an individual or a population. …1. All humans living today belong to a single species, Homo sapiens, and share a common descent. Although there are differences of opinion regarding how and where different human groups diverged or fused to form new ones from a common ancestral group, all living populations in each of the earth's geographic areas have evolved from that ancestral group over the same amount of time.Much of the biological variation among populations involves modest degrees of variation in the frequency of shared traits. Human populations have at times been isolated, but have never genetically diverged enough to produce any biological barriers to mating between members of different populations….3. There is great genetic diversity within all human populations. Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogenous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past.4. There are obvious physical differences between populations living in different geographic areas of the world. Some of these differences are strongly inherited and others, such as body size and shape, are strongly influenced by nutrition, way of life, and other aspects of the environment. Genetic differences between populations commonly consist of differences in the frequencies of all inherited traits, including those that are environmentally malleable.5. For centuries, scholars have sought to comprehend patterns in nature by classifying living things. … Humanity cannot be classified into discrete geographic categories with absolute boundaries. Furthermore, the complexities of human history make it difficult to determine the position of certain groups in classifications. Multiplying subcategories cannot correct the inadequacies of these classifications.Generally, the traits used to characterize a population are either independently inherited or show only varying degrees of association with one another within each population. Therefore, the combination of these traits in an individual very commonly deviates from the average combination in the population. This fact renders untenable the idea of discrete races made up chiefly of typical representatives.6. In humankind as well as in other animals, the genetic composition of each population is subject over time to the modifying influence of diverse factors…. The human features which have universal biological value for the survival of the species are not known to occur more frequently in one population than in any other. Therefore it is meaningless from the biological point of view to attribute a general inferiority or superiority to this or to that race.7. …Mating between members of different human groups tends to diminish differences between groups, and has played a very important role in human history. Wherever different human populations have come in contact, such matings have taken place. Obstacles to such interaction have been social and cultural, not biological. …8. Partly as a result of gene flow, the hereditary characteristics of human populations are in a state of perpetual flux. Distinctive local populations are continually coming into and passing out of existence. Such populations do not correspond to breeds of domestic animals, which have been produced by artificial selection over many generations for specific human purposes. FULL TEXT

    #91519
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Well done HH.I think that just about puts the "race" issue to bed on this thread.Only an outright racist would try to put up some defence of "race" theory based solely on what our eyes show us.Or perhaps genuine scientists and us socialists are not living in the real world, lol.But as for Tom's insistence in ignoring the definition of instinct, I would welcome a bit of further entertainment.We shall see.

    #91520
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    By coincidence the BBC has an article on Anglo-Indianshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20857969Slavery, Nazism and Apartheid introduced a whole legal classification of degrees of "race-mixing", sufficient reason i think to declare that we are all mongrels.Out of Africa or multi-regional origins of human beings, does it really matter much these days? I believe there is even some evidence of Neanderthal and Homo Sapians mixing.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiregional_origin_of_modern_humansIt is racism and discrimination against fellow workers that we stand together and oppose. We oppose discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age, physical and mental ability, religion, caste and, of course, class. Perhaps in the future we may add we oppose specism but right now it is the divisions fostered by capitalism which hinder human solidarity that we fight against.I think there is also evidence that taller people get preference in the job market and get higher up the career ladder. Symetrical beauty is more desirable than asymetrical looks according to psychological tests. So perhaps some "instinctive" reactions to appearance do exist at a certain level. But they are over-ridden by social factors, otherwise we wouldn't have had Napoleon.Preference for thin or plumper partners depends on cultural conditions, stout equals well fed and healthy which also means rich. Maybe it is the same with height.I read somewhere that in the past native American men preferred women with big backsides because in times of food shortage, he could have a slice of cheek to eat but i could be repeating an urban myth. 

    #91521
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    In practice, the evidence from multi-cultural societies is that one racial group tends to dominate another.  Of course, because you do not recognise 'race' as a valid term at all, to you multi-culturalism is simply the co-existence of different cultural groups, whereas to my mind, multi-culturalism is simply a code word for race-mixing.  You then state, ""Multiculturalism" is the government policy of encouraging historically-evolvd cultural groups to identify with that group and to construct and teach them a concocted history to that end." It follows from what I have just stated that this is also wrong in that multiculturalism is not just 'multi-cultural', it is also multi-racial, with different racial groups existing within the same geo-political space.  All the evidence from where this is tried is that one racial group tends to dominate over the other – South Africa is one example.

    This confirms what I suspected — that what you object to is "multiracialism" rather than "multiculturalism"., i.e to "race-mixing", just like the erstwhile rulers of the Old South in the US and of South Africa under apartheid.South Africa is not a good example for you. For a start, the "blank majority" does not dominate over the others. The vast majority of "blacks" in South Africa are dominated by an elite drawn from all the groups you consider to be "races". And the "blacks" do not compose a homogenuous bloc, but are divided into cultural groups with which they identify with more than with the rest of their "race". Finally, what "race" do you place the "Coloureds" in? Or do you think they are a separate "race".Assuming that you still consider yourself to be socialist (perhaps you no longer do; it doesn't sound like it) how do you reconcile your views on "race-mixing" with the fact that socialism will be, in your terms, a "multi-racial" society, probably more so than today? If, as you claim, "races" have difficulty in getting on with each other how will socialism deal with this "problem" supposed by you?

    #91522
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    HollyHead wrote:
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    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?  

     TomYes, and yes.Here is a statement of current scientific thinking on the subject of race from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. (The passages in bold type have been emphasised by me):Statement on Biological Aspects of Race  Published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 1996 vol. 101, pp 569-570:As scientists who study human evolution and variation, we believe that we have an obligation to share with other scientists and the general public our current understanding of the structure of human variation from a biological perspective.Popular conceptualizations of race are derived from 19th and early 20th century scientific formulations. These old racial categories were based on externally visible traits, primarily skin color, features of the face, and the shape and size of the head and body, and the underlying skeleton. They were often imbued with non-biological attributes, based on social constructions of race.These categories of race are rooted in the scientific traditions of the 19th century, and in even earlier philosophical traditions which presumed that immutable visible traits can predict the measure of all other traits in an individual or a population. …1. All humans living today belong to a single species, Homo sapiens, and share a common descent. Although there are differences of opinion regarding how and where different human groups diverged or fused to form new ones from a common ancestral group, all living populations in each of the earth's geographic areas have evolved from that ancestral group over the same amount of time.Much of the biological variation among populations involves modest degrees of variation in the frequency of shared traits. Human populations have at times been isolated, but have never genetically diverged enough to produce any biological barriers to mating between members of different populations….3. There is great genetic diversity within all human populations. Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogenous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past.4. There are obvious physical differences between populations living in different geographic areas of the world. Some of these differences are strongly inherited and others, such as body size and shape, are strongly influenced by nutrition, way of life, and other aspects of the environment. Genetic differences between populations commonly consist of differences in the frequencies of all inherited traits, including those that are environmentally malleable.5. For centuries, scholars have sought to comprehend patterns in nature by classifying living things. … Humanity cannot be classified into discrete geographic categories with absolute boundaries. Furthermore, the complexities of human history make it difficult to determine the position of certain groups in classifications. Multiplying subcategories cannot correct the inadequacies of these classifications.Generally, the traits used to characterize a population are either independently inherited or show only varying degrees of association with one another within each population. Therefore, the combination of these traits in an individual very commonly deviates from the average combination in the population. This fact renders untenable the idea of discrete races made up chiefly of typical representatives.6. In humankind as well as in other animals, the genetic composition of each population is subject over time to the modifying influence of diverse factors…. The human features which have universal biological value for the survival of the species are not known to occur more frequently in one population than in any other. Therefore it is meaningless from the biological point of view to attribute a general inferiority or superiority to this or to that race.7. …Mating between members of different human groups tends to diminish differences between groups, and has played a very important role in human history. Wherever different human populations have come in contact, such matings have taken place. Obstacles to such interaction have been social and cultural, not biological. …8. Partly as a result of gene flow, the hereditary characteristics of human populations are in a state of perpetual flux. Distinctive local populations are continually coming into and passing out of existence. Such populations do not correspond to breeds of domestic animals, which have been produced by artificial selection over many generations for specific human purposes. FULL TEXT

    This is an unattributed statement consisting of various assertions.  It is not a scientific.  Who wrote this statement (i.e, who are the individual authors)?  What is the connection between 'Ed Hagen' and the statement and what are Ed Hagen's political affiliations, if any?  What peer-reviewed sources are cited in support of the assertions in the statement?  What are the authors' own academic reputations within anthropology?  Did the statement have the sanction of the executive organ of the AAPA?  Is there any evidence that the statement broadly reflects the views and opinions of the membership of the AAPA?  If no such evidence was collated, or if the evidence is not peer-reviewable, and if the membership has not raitified the statement, then what is the legal and scientific status of the statement itself?  Why has the statement been 'modified' and what were the modifications and what is the editorial history of the article?Well?Furthermore, you clearly haven't read the statement very carefully, have you?  The statement itself is worded so contingently, with so many caveats and qualifications, that it is practically worthless in scientific terms.  I would venture to suggest that this is a political statement, not a scientific statement.  Even the most rigorous scientists (including anthropologists – in fact, come to think of it, especially anthrpologists) have a tendency to shape their interpretations and conclusions according to their own social outlook.  Would you care to comment?  Would you also like me to dissect the above statement while I'm at it?  I will, literally, take it to pieces.  I will be very glad to, it's just that I do have other things to do, but you do seem to think – bless you – that if a statement has a scientist as author and broadly supports your own prejudices, then it should be taken as gospel.

    #91523
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    Well done HH.I think that just about puts the "race" issue to bed on this thread.Only an outright racist would try to put up some defence of "race" theory based solely on what our eyes show us.Or perhaps genuine scientists and us socialists are not living in the real world, lol.But as for Tom's insistence in ignoring the definition of instinct, I would welcome a bit of further entertainment.We shall see.

    Yes, well done HH for copying and pasting a statement from somewhere on the internet.Incidentally, what is a 'racist' if race does not exist?

    #91525
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    Hi TomYou keep referring to human instinct, yet when I challenge it you fail to provide any answer.Instinct has a meaning, it describes fixed behaviour in animals, behavour that can not be controlled. If what you call instinct can be overridden then it is not instinct. It is not rocket science, just a bit of basic scientific description.As for "race" the early "racial scientists" thought they were recording actual biological "races" of humans. If you now say a biological definition of "race" is irrelevant, then what basis for "race" do you have?All you give is the fact we can see physical differences of skin colour.Again I ask you to define the number of "races" of humanity and perhaps show how we can explain the classification?If you fail to do so all you are left with is a vague idea that skin colour etc makes us a specific "race" and is therefore a social construct.

    I would define instinct simply as an inherent inclination towards a particular type of behaviour.  Instinct might manifest itself in reflexive or volitional behaviour.  The problem with your writings about instinct in this thread is that you seem to be confining your application of instinct to reflexive behaviour only, hence your assertion that instinct cannot be overriden.  I dispute that assertion and I can very easily and quickly produce examples of human behaviour which demonstrate the untruth of the assertion.  Turning to the definition of 'race', my tentative thoughts are that 'race' is less than a sub-speciecal classfication but more than a mere social construct of science and academe.  I would define race specifically as a biological, sociological and physiological expression of local variation within a human population which aggregates into sufficient discrete commonalities among the sub-population that it can be distinguished to a greater or lesser extent from other human populations, near and far, but with sufficient plasticity that the subject population shall remain, above all, human and still able to breed within other human populations and otherwise share the universal human experience.  The local variations should be measurable so that the expressions of race can be classified, recognised and falsified using accepted scientific methodologies.  In that respect, race is both a social construct and a physical and material reality and can be deployed conceptually using various modes and means.  Now, I am not an anthropologist, and this being my own definition, it should be treated as provisional as I am sure it reflects an imperfect understanding of the subject.  I am not going to use this home-brewed definition to enumerate the different races for you, but I do think the definition above is testable.  As with any test, the definition has to be applied with a degree of practical nous.  For instance, sometimes nationalities and sub-nationalities are referred to, colloquially, as 'races' – for e.g. we could say that Scots are a 'race' by the above definition, but in practical terms they are more accurately seen as a sub-racial ethnic group.  

    #91526
    twc
    Participant
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    Incidentally, what is a 'racist' if race does not exist?

    Like a 'Christian', even though Christ doesn't exist as a life-eternalising agency.So a 'Racist', even if Race doesn't exist as a life-separating agency.Social being determines consciousness — ideology is pervasive. 

    #91527
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    Tom Rogers wrote:
    Incidentally, what is a 'racist' if race does not exist?

    Like a 'Christian', even though Christ doesn't exist as a life-eternalising agency.So a 'Racist', even if Race doesn't exist as a life-separating agency.Social being determines consciousness — ideology is pervasive. 

    The comparison you make is unclear, and you don't say what a racist is, which is what I am asking.  Whether or not race is only a social construct and nothing else, it still exists as "a life-separating agency" [your phrase].  I have demonstrated this in one or two posts above, but elementary social observation also reveals it.  You only have to pick up a history book to see it, too.  But then, you use the wording [my emphasis]: "EVEN IF Race doesn't exist as a life-separating agency."  Are you implying here an acceptance that it might?  If so, then the comparison becomes meaningless, doesn't it?  After all, Christians are engaged in worship of Christ (regardless of his historicity or metaphysicality), whereas a 'racist' would not be engaged in any form of worship as a racist.  To take another example, even though alchemy is discredited, we don't say that an alchemist worships alchemy.  On the other hand, I could accept that an alchemist is still an alchemist even though alchemy is largely discredited scientifically.  The epithet is still accurate.  The question I am asking is whether SocialistPunk is using the term in that latter sense.Specifically, the question is, what is a 'racist' if 'race' does not exist?  Just to be clear, the position of my opponents on here is not the standard one.  Most researchers and commentators on this subject do not deny that race exists necessarily, they merely state that race as it is conceptually deployed is a social construct and consequently of little genomic value.  That is not the same as stating that race does not exist at all, but my question is, if we accept that race does not exist at all, then what is a racist?  It is for you to answer this question, since you have adopted the position, not I.  The question is asked in the context of a discussion in which the word 'racist' is used to describe people who affirm the existence of race.  Perhaps that is the intended definition – in which case, fine – but the words used by SocialistPunk suggest a quite different, more pejorative, definition: i.e. the looser political meaning of someone who vaguely hates or dislikes other races (a definition that infers a belief in the existence of races). 

    #91524
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    South Africa is not a good example for you. For a start, the "blank majority" does not dominate over the others. The vast majority of "blacks" in South Africa are dominated by an elite drawn from all the groups you consider to be "races". And the "blacks" do not compose a homogenuous bloc, but are divided into cultural groups with which they identify with more than with the rest of their "race". Finally, what "race" do you place the "Coloureds" in? Or do you think they are a separate "race".Assuming that you still consider yourself to be socialist (perhaps you no longer do; it doesn't sound like it) how do you reconcile your views on "race-mixing" with the fact that socialism will be, in your terms, a "multi-racial" society, probably more so than today? If, as you claim, "races" have difficulty in getting on with each other how will socialism deal with this "problem" supposed by you?

    To the contrary, South Africa is an excellent example both for you and for me.  The political system of South Africa is dominated by blacks while economic wealth is still mainly in the hands of whites.  You can add whatever nuances you like, but the facts are the facts.  South Africa highlights an important element of the socialist case, but it also betrays another aspect of human nature.  Turning to your other point, given that a socialist society is very far into our future and no-one reading or participating in this thread will ever see it, and given that the Socialist Party – quite rightly – declines to enumerate how a socialist society will deal with its problems, I too decline to speculate along those lines.  If you will not (and you are right not to), then why should I?  More to the point, how can you expect me to?However, what I would say – and this is purely a matter of generalities  – is that even in a socialist society, there may be 'national' groups.  Without states and borders, those groups will not be able to claim territorial exclusivity, but they would probably not need to, since the underlying social relationships that drove territorial and cultural acquisitiveness under capitalism will disappear in socialism.  I liken it to the example of the Amish (though I admit this is a crude example).  Groups that wish to maintain their own social and religious values, culture and racial and ethnic integrity would be 'territorially-' respected.  That is why, in the socialist context, I see the 'national' problem as largely of an epistemological nature.  

    #91528
    twc
    Participant

    For honest Christians, Christ does exist as a [divinely determined— sacred-text revealed] life-eternalising agency.For honest Racists, Race does exist as a [biologically determined] life-separating agency.Such conviction is circumstantially faith and/or prejudice, but is real for those who hold it.   

    #91529
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    For honest Christians, Christ does exist as a [divinely determined— sacred-text revealed] life-eternalising agency.For honest Racists, Race does exist as a [biologically determined] life-separating agency.Such conviction is circumstantially faith and/or prejudice, but is real for those who hold it.

    Right, so what is a racist?  This still doesn't answer my question.  It might be clearer if you just drop the comparison with Christianity, which is silly and doesn't work (apart from anything else, 'faith' is not the same as 'prejudice').

    #91530
    twc
    Participant

    A few observations on your riposte.

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    [1] I have demonstrated this [race as a life-separating agency] in one or two posts above, but elementary social observation also reveals it.  You only have to pick up a history book to see it, too. [2] Christians are engaged in worship of Christ (regardless of his historicity or metaphysicality)[3] a 'racist' would not be engaged in any form of worship as a racist.  [4] we don't say that an alchemist worships alchemy … even though alchemy is largely discredited scientifically. 

    [1] History shows tribe, class, nation, religion, politics as divisive agencies within the same popularly acknowledged racial group. History shows tribe, class, nation, religion, politics consciously forbidding inter-marriage between tribe, class, nation, religion, politics within the same popularly acknowledged racial group.History shows popularly acknowledged racial groups [relentlessly] out-lawing miscegenation on biologically racial grounds — not to pollute "racial purity" — which would presumably be unnecessary if the popularly assumed biological racial determinism held sway. [Although these "biologically unnecessary" prohibitions are framed and imposed in tribal, class, national, religious, political forms.]Whatever the biological determinism history shows biological determinism's subservience to social determinism. For me, whatever minute differences, they simply don't matter in the scale of things — in a society in which one class robs and rules another [namely, us — regardless of [popularly acknowledged] race].[2] Leave the sentient Christian the remaining comfort to worship his/her metaphysics…[3] History shows the reverse —  "Aryan supremacy", "chosen race", ancient superiority over the "barbarian". Ironically, the Empire came to worship the alien god of a barbarian people, and that has discomforted Christian racists down the ages.[4] Alchemy was driven by greed — the transmutation of base metal into gold — the worship of unbounded wealth.[For your interest, whatever reservations you still  hold out for the academic minutiae of "racial" distinction, alchemy is wholly discredited scientifically.]

    #91531
    Tom Rogers
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    A few observations on your riposte.

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    [1] I have demonstrated this [race as a life-separating agency] in one or two posts above, but elementary social observation also reveals it.  You only have to pick up a history book to see it, too. [2] Christians are engaged in worship of Christ (regardless of his historicity or metaphysicality)[3] a 'racist' would not be engaged in any form of worship as a racist.  [4] we don't say that an alchemist worships alchemy … even though alchemy is largely discredited scientifically. 

    [1] History shows tribe, class, nation, religion, politics as divisive agencies within the same popularly acknowledged racial group. History shows tribe, class, nation, religion, politics consciously forbidding inter-marriage between tribe, class, nation, religion, politics within the same popularly acknowledged racial group.History shows popularly acknowledged racial groups [relentlessly] out-lawing miscegenation on biologically racial grounds — not to pollute "racial purity" — which would presumably be unnecessary if the popularly assumed biological racial determinism held sway. [Although these "biologically unnecessary" prohibitions are framed and imposed in tribal, class, national, religious, political forms.]Whatever the biological determinism history shows biological determinism's subservience to social determinism. For me, whatever minute differences, they simply don't matter in the scale of things — in a society in which one class robs and rules another [namely, us — regardless of [popularly acknowledged] race].[2] Leave the sentient Christian the remaining comfort to worship his/her metaphysics…[3] History shows the reverse —  "Aryan supremacy", "chosen race", ancient superiority over the "barbarian". Ironically, the Empire came to worship the alien god of a barbarian people, and that has discomforted Christian racists down the ages.[4] Alchemy was driven by greed — the transmutation of base metal into gold — the worship of unbounded wealth.[For your interest, whatever reservations you still  hold out for the academic minutiae of "racial" distinction, alchemy is wholly discredited scientifically.]

    None of this rant answers my question. And when have I claimed adherence to biological-determinism (or any form of determinism, for that matter)?

    #91532
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Hi Tom

    Tom Rogers wrote:
    As with any test, the definition has to be applied with a degree of practical nous.  For instance, sometimes nationalities and sub-nationalities are referred to, colloquially, as 'races' – for e.g. we could say that Scots are a 'race' by the above definition, but in practical terms they are more accurately seen as a sub-racial ethnic group.

    Using your above example of the Scottish "race".What "race" would I be if I were born in London, and my parents one Latvian the other Greek, moved to Scotland when I was five years old?Your idea of "race" includes a large element of social construct with a mix of biology. I would be interested to know where you got it from, as you have no hesitation in questioning the authenticity of HollyHead's post?The old timers, the scientists who coined the four "races" we generalise human kind with still today, thought of "race" in terms of biology, with varied mixes of religion, behaviour and technological ability.I would still be interested to know if you think there are only four "races" or rather were only four "races" as bequeathed to us by the originators of "racial science"? Go on give it a rough guess, using your definition.As for my definition of instinct it does not refer to reflexive behaviour. It refers to complex patterns of behaviour that are not taught.I would be interested to read a list of human instinct. But please do not dish out a list of biological reflexes such as yawning or shivering. It needs to be non learnt complex behaviour.

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