Race, Ethnicity, & Culture

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Race, Ethnicity, & Culture

Beliefs about race and ethnicity influence our cultures, politics, and relationships.  What is race?  What is ethnicity?  This group explores those concepts.

Location: Global
Members: 231
Latest Activity: Nov 26

Welcome!

Racism and the effects of ethnocentrism are alive and well in the 21st century.  Racism and humanism are incompatible by definition. 

 File:BlueMarble-2001-2002.jpg

The most human, and humane, thing that we can do is acknowledge and support the humanity of people who are different from ourselves.  Curiosity about what makes us human, by necessity, includes curiosity about our human ethnic heritage.

 

We are incredibly enriched by immersing ourselves in a diverse world.  We are intellectually and emotionally impoverished when we exclude others who are not our mirror image.

 

This discussion group includes many topics about race and ethnicity.  Feel free to comment to new threads, or resurrect old threads, if any spark your interest.

 

My 2 cents. Sentient Biped.

 

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Comment by Joshua on June 29, 2009 at 11:46pm
The significance is human driven, as is every significance. We all determine differences and we behave accordingly. My only point is that to deny them isn't going to solve any problems at all whatsoever. Education is the only key. There are differences. Only an idiot would try to deny that. They are so pronounced that right or wrong they drive us into different neighborhoods, different institutions, different careers, and different cultures. Just as any other animal in the field, when approaching humans I would look for trends. Are A and B different, how often do they breed with one another, do they have different survival patterns, do they have different habitats. Are they geographically separated. The last portion is becoming obsolete, but everything else is still valid.

Ok, here is an example of the error I am trying to overturn.

Person A: "There are races."

Person B: "There are races, and race A is better than race B."

Person C: "There are no races."

now person C is trying to be humanitarian, but in reality they are creating a false dichotomy which will only lead to the inevitable failure of their argument. Because their argument lies in falsehood, it can never be complete and can never completely revoke arguments A and B.

The argument I am looking for is Person D: "There are obviously races. Historically we have recognized them. Phenotypically they are obvious. Socioeconomically they have devastating effects, and personally I find them to be ultimately non-vital to the moral fiber of a person; however they exist. The fact that they exist is no endorsement of supremacy in one form or the other. All of us, ultimately are individuals answerable at the end of the day to our own consciousness alone. Any trends which may seem racially correlative are in fact merely coincidental. It is our greatest duty to one another to investigate the truth about race and its effects to better understand the power relationships involved and correct them."
Comment by Ralph Dumain on June 29, 2009 at 6:03pm
I'm not aware of any taboo of discussing the biological aspects of race, or more accurately, of diverse populations. The point is that "race"--the trivial phenotypical characteristics used to establish the pretense of superiority or inferiority of given groups--is of no intrinsic biological significance whatever. You need to check your own junk science.

As for the history of racism, it's difficult to pinpoint an exact specification of an imputed biologically based racism, since secular biology, divorced from supernaturalist superstitions, is a historically recent phenomenon. Rebecca Goldstein nonetheless thinks that the Spanish Inquisition had something like a biological conception of race in its persecution of Jews. Pseudoscientific biological racism basically developed in tandem with real biology, as occult qualities were stripped away from the scientific world-picture.

As interesting as the strictly biological characteristics of population are, what relevance to they have to this group, which is sociological in focus, i.e. on the social facts of various ethnic and racial groups in the world?
Comment by Daniel W on June 29, 2009 at 5:54pm
Joshua,
Great question. There are quite a few parts to it. One place to look is the discussion that has started on "The genetics of race". Contained within that discussion is a link to a You-tube video that has a great story about the development of races and ethnic groups. That video is in several parts, but the initial link should get you started. Also, a second one that I havent viewed all of the way through, but on my initial look it also looks promising.

There is more more genetic variation among individuals within a race, than there is on average between the races. While I'm not a historian, I suspect that the concept of race arose partly as a way for the group who was dominant at the time (Europeans) to make it seem "OK" to subjugate, displace, kill, and enslave people who looked different.

I'll try to avoid too long of a discussion in the comment wall - too hard to follow. Moving it to the existing discussion on "The genetics of race", or starting a new discussion, will be easier to follow.
Comment by Jo Jerome on June 29, 2009 at 5:38pm
Good question Joshua, and I think I get what you mean; that yes, differences exist between us and we should be able to not judge on each other on that basis while also acknowledging and celebrating diversity. It's not 'racist' for a guy to say "I prefer redheads." And yet genetically, the difference between redhead and blonde, black and white, is just as tiny and hardly significant when, say, applying for a job.

I'm sure it's already been discussed to death, but the election of Barack Obama is an excellent example. A lot of Obama supporters got upset that race is even an issue on the good side. "Yay, we're getting our first Black president" gets chided, that it's somehow wrong to even acknowledge that he is Black. Simply making a deal about it, even in a positive manner, becomes somehow 'racist' in and of itself.

Yes, I voted for the man first and foremost on the basis of his political record and his character. The fact that he is also our first Black president is a separate but just as important issue. It really does represent a growing up of America that we can finally overlook race to elect a president despite the valiant efforts on the Right to make us afraid of his race, name, and presumed religion.

Hmm, maybe that needs to be its own thread. Will really need to peruse this group when I have a bit more time. ;-)
Comment by Joshua on June 29, 2009 at 3:58pm
I have two questions/comments... First, why are we all afraid of the topic of race, and why is it bad to explore a historic knowledge of the races and how/why they came to be?

I know that all humans are nearly homologous genetically; however, most of our genome codes for incredibly complex structures that must be conserved. The part of our genome that codes for eye, hair, skin color, texture and other physical characteristics is far less than 1% as far as I know, so there isn't much variation genetically to be had. Phenotypically; however, there are obvious differences. Why is it necessary for us to eliminate the idea of race altogather? They exist don't they??? I personally find it interesting to note how many different varieties humankind has developed and how we have all stayed interrelated enough to continue on as the same species. I think our diversity and individuality is something to celebrate, not overlook. Personally I would like to know how did the races form and manage to stay inter-bred enough to share genetic traits. Why did they form? Was it truly geographical isolation, or did tribes gain some benefit from looking very different from other tribes? All over the planet there are cases of birds, salamanders, fish which have a singular diverse species which will form "races." Especially where two or more cohabitate. It seems as if being able to share genes through this long complex process is a benefit, but being able to be somewhat segregated is a benefit too. I personally think it is fascinating...3

Also, as a personal observation, alot of the research on race that I have seen is pretty much junk science. I saw this blood type distribution report trying to prove that the very idea of races was a fallacy, showing that ABO blood types were distributed regardless of race. I laughed until it hurt at A). how stupid it was and B). how the academic bodies of this nation have become such cowards that they would allow junk science like that to get published in the first place. Does no one realize that humans and chimps have the same blood type? No one? Ok, let me explain this. They tried to use blood type to disprove the existence of race, which has nothing to do with one another. Race is about physical obvious characteristics which help with sexual selection, blood type is about surface carbohydrates on a blood cell. How is a member of a species supposed to detect that??? Of course it isn't going to be subject to sexual selection. Secondly in attempting to disprove race via bloodtype, he may as well have been trying to disprove speciesism via bloodtype. Hell, we share like 98% of our genes with chimps and they have the same blood typing as us, so we MUST be the same species!!!

Why is it wrong to know about humankind. We have subtypes just like every other species on this planet. When they interbreed, they form hybrids just like any other species on this planet. Those hybrids survive, bluring the lines between groups, just like any other species on this planet, and the groups are only noticeable when two extremes are placed side by side just like any other species on this planet. I just don't see why people are trying to deny the existance of races. Humankind has races, get over it.

Now the big issue is, how to we get the races, which exist, to get along. I don't think lying to them and using junk science is the answer. Maybe, just maybe if we could explore our shared history in an open and honest way, interest in one another just might bind us together... We are still the same species after all, which is only possible if we maintain gene flow (ie breed with one another to some degree) that is a sure sign of hope, isn't it???
Comment by Jo Jerome on June 27, 2009 at 10:48am
Just joined, (and dead tired so it will be a while before I can start being actively active).

Very cool concept for a group. I sometimes lurk on places like black freethought atheists or gaytheists to gain insight and perspective. It sounds sappy and almost arrogant, but I really was raised by parents who did all in their power to keep the -isms of the world from me and I think they largely did a great job.

One of the big moments was as an adult living on my own, I went to an open AA meeting to support a friend. Being somewhat familiar with the AA crowd, this meeting of 50 or so strangers-to-me was as expected. Little judging of the new person, lots of acceptance, no problem with the new person coming not because I'm an alcoholic but to support a friend who is. In all the feel-good fest it took me a good hour or so before I realized I was the lone white girl in a room of all African-Americans.

Went right home and called Mom and Dad to thank them. None of us can truly be color-blind, especially in the society where we live. But it was thanks to their upbringing that I was raised to be so comfortable in such a setting I don't even notice at first that I'm the only soda cracker in the room. ;-)
Comment by Daniel W on May 26, 2009 at 2:06pm
Dallas,
Thanks for posting this inspirational story. For those without access to the video, here is a wikipedia bio of this amazing scientist.

This is a man who has touched millions of lives, and most people don't know his name. His research was key in making modern birth control possible. The wikipedia bio may have more chemical terms than some people are comfortable with - I would just gloss over those sections. According to the bio, Dr. Julien transcended prejudice, discrimination, and poverty, to become one of the great scientists of his time.

Thank you for sharing this information. I can add a humble suggestion, creating discussions with postings such as this would help people locate and comment on it specifically.
Comment by A Former Member on May 26, 2009 at 10:51am
Actually, I got it almost all wrong. It is Percy Julian, not Julian Perry. That's my bit of dyslexia for ya!
Comment by Ralph Dumain on May 26, 2009 at 10:10am
The documentary on Julien Perry (or is it Perry Julien?) was on PBS a year or two ago. It was excellent.
Comment by A Former Member on May 26, 2009 at 9:29am


NOVA presents: Forgotten Genius: Against all odds, African American chemist Julian Perry became one of the great scientists of the 20th century.

Tuesday, June 2nd at 8 PM on PBS.
 

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