Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Ron Kephart (
31 Oct 1996 14:19:06 GMT (Paul Gallagher) wrote:

> If you're particularty interested in human variation, try a book like
> R.C. Lewontin's Human Variation, which shows that the variation within
> human subgroups is much greater than that among the subgroups. That is,
> the average genetic difference between any two human subpopulations is
> less than the average difference between two members of the same
> subpopulation.

This is an extremely important point and one which I hope the people
following this thread will think carefully about. If within group
variation is greater than between group then there is SOMETHING WRONG

A few days ago, in a private (?) post to me, someone suggested that
just because groups are fuzzy at the boundaries does not mean the
"core" differences are not meaningful. Paul Gallagher's point is that
there is no "core," only fuzziness.

There is an analogy here with language variation. "Spanish" is a
language, which varies within Spain and also around the world
wherever it is spoken. The ideological "core" for this variation is
the variety spoken around Madrid. This "core" is a historical
accident however, as is the "language" called "Spanish", not to
mention the "country" called "Spain." If speakers of some other
variety of Iberian Romanic, say those in the south, had been the
ones to gain political, social, and economic control over "Spain"
then Andaluz, rather than Castellano, would have been the "core."

Human "racial" taxonomies have a similar structure. The "core" of
the "white" or "black" race is an ideological, emic construct which
does not hold up under etic scrutiny. (An interesting footnote:
"white" and "black" Americans are more similar to each other
genetically, because of gene flow, than either is to their "parent"
population in Europe or Africa.)

In case anyone missed it the first time around, let me make two
other important points. The folk racial taxonomy used in the US, and
elsewhere, is "real" in the sense that it affects the lives of real
people in both positive and negative ways, depending on the group you
happen to be classified into. The fact that the folk taxonomy
does not accurately reflect a biological taxonomy is small comfort
to the people negatively affected.

Second point: There is absolutely no doubt that human variation
exists, that it is interesting, and that it ought to studied; but,
our understanding and explanations of it are not served by assuming
the biological reality of our folk racial taxonomy.

Finally, if you haven't already done so read Marvin Harris' book
Patterns of Race in the Americas. It's an oldie, but goodie.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida