Re: Definition of Race

Calvin Bruce Ostrum (
28 Jan 95 05:20:23 GMT

In article <>,
Gerold Firl <> wrote:

| >I need some help of professionals! I work for a k-12 school district and
| >we are in the midst of a controversy with parents over the definition of
| >"race" in our curriculum guides (1988). Although our middle school
| >program focuses on "culture" as part of the geography course, the
| >question of defining race always seems to crop up.
| I'm afraid that the "professionals" are just as emotional about race as the
| parents in your district. It's an emotional issue.

Where did the original poster complain that the parents were "emotional"
about race, and that this was a bad thing which he wished to avoid?

It seems like my first version of this earlier reply didn't get out so
I will post it here. Earlier, you wrote:

| >I presume you are saying that there are more members of the "black race"
| >in prison than there are members of the "white race".
| In the US blacks are over-represented in prison populations, if that's what
| you mean.

Actually, I was asking what *you* meant. But you have removed the part
of your earlier post that I was commenting on, and I no longer have
access to a copy of it. I suspect, although I do not recall, that I
was confused by your use of the term "race". Perhaps you didn't use
it, though, so I will just use what you say below to point out where
my confusion lies.

| >Now, I've
| >noticed that in the past, you have maintained that "race" is a scientific
| >category, based on something or other to do with genetics, and not a
| >social category.
| 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? 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? 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

| >So either there is some kind of equivocation above, or you
| >have access to some statistics that most of us lack, statistics about
| >this "scientific" definition of race and how it relates to incarceration
| >rates.
| You appear to be laboring under some misapprehensions. I'll try and
| clarify. Most of this is either obvious or has been recently discussed in
| this newsgroup, so I suppose your question is largely rhetorical, but I'll
| play it straight anyway.

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?

| First of all, there is no "black race". Africa alone has 5 indigenous
| races, members of which would be called "black" in the US, but which are at
| least as genetically distinct from each other as caucasians and east
| asians. American blacks are largely descended from negro peoples, with some
| nilito-sudanese component. But this is largely a discussion of culture
| rather than race. The US has a number of afro-american subcultures,
| so-called because most of their adherants are afro-american, or black.

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? Perhaps you could provide some
references, too, that provide this definition and reach the same
conclusion that you do about individuation of races? Perhaps you could
also comment on race scientist JP Rushton's views, since I think he thinks
there are 3 main races (black, white, mongoloid)? 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?

Next, what do you mean when you say the "adherents" (do cultures have
"adherents"? I didn't think so. Religions and movements have "adherents")
of the cultures are "black"? Do you mean they are members of one of the
5 black "races"? Or are they a member of some other "black" race? You
say the "cultures" are named because the members of them are "black", so
wouldn't it be circular to say your use of "black" here is a cultural one?
I am left confused as to what you really mean by it, then.

| Individuals which grow-up in these subcultures develop in such a way as to
| make it more likely that they will be incarcerated. On a per-capita basis,
| blacks commit more crimes than any other american racial subgroup. (I
| haven't seen income-adjusted inter-racial comparisons of crime rates;

You said above that this was a discussion of culture, and not races. But
now you are talking about "racial subgroups" and "inter-racial" comparisons.
This is the kind of thing I find confusing. What is the difference between
a "racial subgroup" and a "race", or the difference between a "racial
subgroup" and a "culture"? And isn't an "inter-racial" comparison a
comparison between races, not cultures?

If you do mean "race" when you say "racial subgroup", then we are back
to my original question: what crime statistics do you have that go along
with the scientific definition of "race"? Perhaps those guys in prison
have a fair bit of "white" race (in the "scientific" sense of "race",
of course). They sure aren't as "black" as those much purer "black" races
(from the "scientific" view point, of course) of Africa, after all.

I just don't see, at this point, how a "meaningful" and "consistent"
use of "race", based upon genetics, is very relevant to the issue of
incarceration rates.

| anyone with data?) This disparity appears to have *increased* since the
| 60's, when full civil rights were granted to all citizens, which I find to
| be an interesting and important fact. I was hoping to discuss the how and
| why of this anomolous result from the standpoint of cultural evolution,
| rather than getting bogged-down in accusations of racism etc. This kind of
| static makes it difficult to discuss the problem of race in america. You
| seem to feel that you are waging some kind of noble battle against racism
| when you raise spurious issues such as this; in the end you merely preserve
| the status quo by stifling open discussion.

Again, you are back to the problem of "race" in America. What does this
have to do with any scientific definition of "race", in any sense that
this definition is at all relevant? Recall that people were considered
to be of the "black race" even when only some of their ancestors were.
This is the term that counts, it seems, and it doesn't relate in any
obvious way to any "science".

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. But
one thing it isn't doing is "stifling open discussion". I find it
incredible that you claim my few innocuous posts in this group have
served to "stifle open discussion". This seems absurd to my puny brain.
Could you please explain how it is that my post has in any way
"stifled open discussion"?

As for the "anomalous" effects that result in the worse situation of blacks
today. First of all, is it obvious that they are all, as a group, worse
off? I don't think so, but what do I know? To judge these things requires
some careful definition. However, definitely some are worse off in at
least some important ways. Like they don't have jobs, they experience
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). 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?

Calvin Ostrum
It's a trade off: more brain or more penis. You can't have everything.
-- J. Phillipe "not a crackpot" Rushton