Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Robert Snower (
Fri, 01 Nov 1996 03:37:15 GMT

Race is, in the end, a matter of gene similarites. Geography and
biological features, observable or measurable, are markers toward this
end, that of establishing gene similarities. Cultural anthropology
has every reason to be concerned with gene smilarities. But race,
i.e., sub-species, are not very interesting to cultural anthropology.
Cultural anthropology does not find taxonomies based on sub-species
very helpful. Why? Because such classifications are not nearly fine
enough for good cultural relevance. The "splitters" do not go nearly
far enought for its purposes. Their divisions are too gross.

The gene similarities which cultural anthropology is appropriately
interested in are best measured not in terms of race, but in terms of
genetics' coefficients of relationship. These provide the delicacy of
classification required. When we talk race we are talking kinship, of
course, but on a very gross level.

Cultural anthropology is vitally interested in kinship. Because,
pursuant to sociobiology, kinship is the primordial basis of all
society, human or otherwise, and all cultures. This is not to say a
culture's principle of cohesion need be biological. Or that ethnicity
need have a biological basis. Far from it. Any arbitrary
construction will serve, if, by concensus, it is shared. Most
cultures, and ethnicities, find their identities in a blend of the
biological, and the arbitrarily constructed. But the biological is
not essential, e.g., a street gang needs only, perhaps, a shared
tattoo, or insignia. But every such culture is, in the larger sense,
a descendant from a social cohesion based on biology, i.e., a metaphor
of biological kinship, for biological kinship was the original
cohesion of which all social constructions are mere imitators.

The ethnic problems today are not solely the result of "folk-lore"
biology, or of biological markers. These ethnic problems could and
would exist in the absence of such identifiers. If biological
identification was not available, it would be socially constructed,
and, in fact, is socially constructed, all the time, as some posts
here have maintained. But that ethnic identity happens to be
constructed, instead of being truly biological, does not solve the
problems of ethnicity in the modern world. The arbitrariness of
social construction does not solve the problem of ethnicity, as many
falsely assume. It is a problem being generated by adherence to the
archaic variety of competition, which was on the group level, as
opposed to the modern-day ethic of competition on the individual

Best wishes. R. Snower