Re: Definition of Race

Gerold Firl (
31 Jan 1995 13:05:50 -0800

In article <> (Calvin Bruce Ostrum) writes:

>In article <>,
> Gerold Firl <> wrote:

>| When "race" is used in a consistent, meaningful way, it is based on
>| genetics.

>I guess I don't understand what you mean by "based on genetics". You use
>the term below in a number of contexts. I assume you believe you are using
>it in a "consistent and meaningful way", so could you explain how your
>use is "based on genetics" below?

Erf. I had decided that participating in any discussion of race in humans
was futile, but I guess I owe you a reply. If I seem a little testy at
times, it is largely due to the fact that I am being asked to repeat
myself, which I don't like to do. It seems like a waste of time. I realise
that you may not have seen the earlier parts of this thread, but keep in
mind that a request for explanation on a subject which has been extensively
discussed in recent posts, particularly when phrased in the high dudgeon of
outraged morality, will tend to elicit responses lacking the civility we've
come to expect from a newsgroup in the science heirarchy. But I'll try.

>In particular, I asked you once before,
>(but I don't recall your answer), how is it that a person who has only
>one parent of the (a) "black" race, and one parent of the "white" race,
>is himself a member of the "black" race?

As I've stated twice before, the term "black race" is an inconsistant use
of the term. I've never used it.

>This is how he would be
>categorised in the crime statistics you are alluding to, I believe. But
>how is this classification "based on genetics" in a meaningful and
>consistent manner? This is what I don't understand about what you are

I'm saying that a significant black american subculture has incorporated
criminality as a lifestyle option. There are correlations between race and
culture, but these are historical artifacts, subject to change. Culture
does not equal race, and race does not equal culture. Surely everyone in
this group understands that? That is why I suggested that your earlier
question along these lines was rhetorical. I expect that black americans
who end up as crime statistics do so as a result of their culture, not
their race.

>What is it that you think is obvious? I note that some other people
>as well seem to have trouble understanding your position. Perhaps I am
>not the only one, then, labouring under misapprehensions?

Right. It's almost funny. People are so eager to show how non-racist they
are, that they claim they can't tell the difference between a hawk and a

>When you say "there are 5 indigenous races", I assume you are using your
>"scientific" definition of race. Can you please provide this definition
>and then provide the authoritative evidence which allows you to conclude
>that there are 5 such races in Africa?

I've already described the biological definition of race/subspecies. Look
in any textbook on evolutionary biology.

As for the subdivision of sub-saharan africans into 5 races, I'll cite the
_penguin atlas of african history_, (I think the editor was colin
macevitty, but I could be wrong about that). This is a very useful
reference. I recommend it.

>There doesn't seem to
>be any strong agreement on how many races there are, or what they are?
>Or is there? Is this the obvious stuff that I don't understand?

The question of how finely to differentiate between genetically clustered
human breeding groups is, to some extent, a question of taste. A natural
level of discrimination is that based on visual discernment; if you can
tell, just by looking at a person, the population from which they are
descended, then that group has some claim to be considered a "race". If
you're a lumper, rather than a splitter, you may prefer a coarser mesh. I
have no problem with that. But as we better understand the biology of
humankind, a more subtle taxonomy becomes more useful.

>I don't see that the issue I have raised is at all spurious. Then again,
>most people that I respond critically to on the net are quick to be
>frustrated with my incredibly low intelligence. This low intelligence is
>so low that it can't itelf deduce how low it reaches. How sad.

Are you sure it's a problem with intelligence? I suspect it's something

You've amply demonstrated how tolerant and open-mined you are. You believe
that all men are brothers, we're all the same under the skin, and all you
need is love. Great. I'm sure you're a wonderful person. If it was just
you, I'd chalk it up to an individual quirk. But look how this discussion
has sprawled over numerous newsgroups, crowded with people vieing to
demonstrate their noble-minded progressive views; not only do they trumpet
themselves as being certified 100% racism-free, they are quick to impute
the worst of motives to anyone who doesn't jump on the bandwagon.

I see this as a symptom of the sudden change in western culture, which
largely accepted racism and racial segregation until the 60's, and then
abruptly repudiated it. People are still trying to come to terms with that.
Some stridently denounce everything to do with race, as if racism could be
banished by pretending that race doesn't exist. Gould bears a heavy
responsibility for his irresponsible and inflammatory comments couched in
scientific terminology. Some retreat into the fantasy world of militaristic
authoritarianism, as in the aryan and muslim fanatics. I reject both those

>more crime, abuse more drugs, etc. Perhaps you might consider some of the
>large scale economic trends? The kind of jobs that were available then,
>and are no longer available? The way that migration patterns caused by
>the availability of jobs ended up producing ghettos (I believe something
>like this probably happened, but I'm not an expert. Perhaps someone else
>can comment).

Why don't you comment? You seem to have plenty of ideas. What about the
large scale economic trends? What about jobs? Migration patterns? Tell us
about it.

>Not to mention, widespread systemic institutionalized
>discrimination levelled against generations of their ancestors, still
>very present, no doubt, in the memories of many of us, whether we are
>black or not? Don't you think that has at least some causal effects?

I'm sure it does. I'd just like to know how and why, at a more detailed
level. And why does the *memory* of discrimination produce maladaptation
once the discrimination has ended? It really isn'r "racism" to ask these

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf