Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
It’ll only take you a few minutes to read this (by this I mean the full text!), go on, indulge me!
“Regarded as one of the world’s greatest thinkers on African and African American cultural studies, Appiah has taught at Yale, Harvard, Princeton and now NYU. He follows in the notable footsteps of previous Reith lecturers Stephen Hawking, Aung San Su Kyi, Richard Rodgers, Grayson Perry and Robert Oppenheimer.”
Full text: Racial identity is a biological nonsense, says Reith lecturer | Society | The Guardian
It’s an excellent read. If we look beyond skin colour, we will see many different traits, some we’ll like some we won’t. We don’t have to like everyone, but it should be based on their beliefs and actions, not their skin colour.
LikeLiked by 3 people
I liked the full text! Well thought out and well written. I thought after reading it about the world of Star Trek. The entire world got along, they honored each other and their differences, yet still they had no nations against each other. The thing I noticed in Star Trek TNG was that even though they gave space for people to have faith if they chose to have it, it never was part of the governing structure. If we took religion out of the equation this world would have a lot less violence and strife. I think the main reason we don’t see each other as fellow humans on the same floating chunk of rock in space is because of the religions that support our egos.
One last thought. If we were one collective on this planet would it be so bad? If we had no boarders , no nation states, jsut humans helping humans to survive and acheive would that really be so wrong? If the lines drawn by man were to go away could the people find a way to live with each other?
Thanks for the post. Hugs
LikeLiked by 2 people
Consider yourself indulged. I’ve been working with DNA experts for the last twenty years, and virtually everyone I’ve consulted with has reached the same conclusions.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yep. What he said.
Society still largely operates under the misapprehension that race (largely defined by skin colour) has some basis in biology.
But it does. That’s the brute fact. What we make of these racial differences is a different question but Appiah is dead wrong to say it doesn’t.
Here’s Jerry Coyne’s point:
” That statement (ed. race is a social construct) is palpably false, but comes from the Leftist ideology that if you even talk about races, you’re promoting racism. As an evolutionary biologist interested in human differentiation, I know that the human species isn’t divided into a finite number of well-differentiated genetic groups, but that groups can still be distinguished by combining information from different genes, and that those groups tend to be those that evolved in geographic isolation, telling us something about human evolution. And I’m interested in understanding some of that genetic differentiation, like the processes involved in leading to morphological differentiation in traits like skin color, body configuration, and so on. Is that due to natural selection, sexual selection, or maybe genetic drift? Why do evolutionists pay so much attention to geographic differentiation in animals and plants, but avoid talking about it in Homo sapiens?
The answer, of course, is the ideological view that if you study that kind of differentiation, you’ll be promoting racism. And indeed, that has happened in the past. But I maintain that one can study human geographic variation in a purely evolutionary way, and simply criticize those who try to co-opt that work to set up any kind of racial hierarchy or to promote bigotry” (a href=”https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/race-as-a-social-construct/”>source).
And here’s Coybne’s post on a recent paper on just these racial differences in our biology.
LikeLiked by 1 person
In the post you mention, there is a comment by John that reads
which I think makes a lot of sense.
LikeLiked by 1 person
John Zande? Brilliant comment.
Nope, John Harshman.
Btw- it’s interesting how Coyne himself has done it in mentioning the proportion of Jews winning Nobel prizes. That association he’s happy to embrace. How many negative associations do you think he’d be inclined to embrace?
Very few, I think.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Coyne is going with a bait and switch- as if often the case these days. He embraces “controversy”, plays the victim and then presents evidence that doesn’t quite support his point.
Remember when Nicholas Wade took on the issue in Time?
It gets interesting when he gets to the 4 Key Traits. Allegedly the factors that made the English population more successful than others… delayed gratification, work discipline et al. Unsurprisingly *total myths* and throwbacks to the ideology of British Empire and white supremacy at large. In Latin America the Blacks and the Indians (natives) were labelled lazy. That’s despite all the slave work they did in fields. In the past few years a deluge of op-eds has come out of Germany (and sometimes the UK) accusing southern Europeans of that same alleged laziness. The problem is that Greeks, for example, on average work more and for longer than anyone in Germany, the UK or France. On the other hand (or perhaps on the same hand) German propaganda created the image of the efficient, honest, ethical Germanic citizen. When we think German, we don’t automatically think: Biggest art thieves of the 20th century. Or that they have a propensity for theft. We reserve those distinctions for people who look less like us.
But there really are genetic differences in allele frequencies by population. These genetic differences are not a social construct. Your genome does possess your genetic heritage which really does express differently in different population groups. How we may apply social meaning to these very real differences is the construct and not the differences themselves.
The dangers here are several. Promoting ‘race is ONLY a social construct’ is that this baseline assumption will be used to undermine the legitimacy of affirmative action programs to address and rectify historical social advantages and disadvantages based on race.
Think I’m making this concern up?
Well, we see this in action by those who have demonized, say, feminism – that gender is ONLY a social construct – and now claim affirmative action to address historical gender inequalities is itself sexist and therefore part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
By claiming race is only a social construct I suspect affirmative action programs to address historical racial inequalities will similarly be targeted… as being – you guessed it – racist.
Is this baiting and switching? I don’t think so. I think Coyne is exactly right to point out that admitting racial differences does not therefore exempt social constructs around these differences to be exempt from criticism as is currently in vogue
I didn’t mean bait and switch in that way. I meant he uses a loose headline (which plays perfectly into the hands of racists) and then goes on to refine the point- which to a large degree undermines the headline.
My point on the genetic “pre dispositions” or “inclinations” is that that’s murky water. I can use that in any arbitrary way I choose. A notable percentage of Jews received Nobel prizes? Hmmm… where have I heard Jews being singled out that way before? How many Jews were involved in the recent banking crises/scandals? Lehman, Madoff, Shor, Marrache. And that’s where the mistake is made.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The title is ‘Race as a social construct: trouble in Brazil’
His topic sentence is, “That statement (ed. race is a social construct) is palpably false, but comes from the Leftist ideology that if you even talk about races, you’re promoting racism.”
I see no bait and switch here. Race is not a social construct and the take away is that it shouldn’t be treated as one to derive social meaning. That it is used to construct social meaning is the problem. But Coyne’s point is that we don’t address the social problem by calling those who correctly identify race as a biological construct ‘racists’. Yet that is exactly what so many on the Left are doing. I don’t see this criticism of the Left undermining the title at all.
Coyne raised the Jewish Nobel prize total as a comparison with the Muslim. The difference in rate by population is very telling and used to indicate a tremendous disparity due not to human intelligence or wealth distribution but in part to the pernicious anti-scientific effect of Islam. He’s a secular Jew and is quite vocal in his criticism of religious Judaism.
So, again, I don’t see your point.
I think it’s important to appreciate those things we can change and those things we can’t. Race in its proper biological sense is one of those things we cannot escape. But we sure as hell can change the social construct that imposes different meaning on it. And a good place to start is remembering that self criticism and correction according to respecting what is the case over what is believed to be the case is as much the Left’s responsibility as it is those who are criticized by its members.
To correct a problem starts with identifying the problem. The disparity between social advantages and disadvantages (as revealed by different rates) needs social correction. But this correction has to be towards achieving a shared core principle (like equality). But what I see happening is this double standard actively supported that tolerates and excuses the very worst human behaviours as somehow okay for them (meaning cultures, ethnicities, religions, races) because they are committed by some disadvantaged group but not for us liberals who are oh-so-enlightened and should protect these groups from legitimate criticism. And the most prevalent way this is done by the Left is assigning the worst terms to those who stay true to respecting enlightenment values… names like bigots and racists (a la Ben Affleck assigned to Sam Harris)… to those who criticize the barbaric anti-enlightenment values on display. We see this repeated action by the Regressive Left constantly – from disinviting and deplatforming those who criticize Bad Ideas to ‘celebrating’ the cloaking of Muslim female athletes (just look at the positive reviews over at HuffPo for emancipated women not just going along with this disgusting cloaking but stamping it with social approval, the latest being FIDE and insisting all female chess players at the World Championship must cover up if they wish to play chess at the tournament while criticizing and vilifying those women chess masters who refuse to participate).
In his near paranoid concern for the “regressive left”, Coyne is becoming the Alt-Right of the atheist world.
His bait and switch tactics are becoming more and more common- particularly in respect to his song and dance on “Muslims”. He refers to Muslims as an ethnic group and then pretends he means a religious group when he’s called out as racist- except if anyone looks closely, his statements only really make sense if looked at in the ethnic sense. The same is true of Harris. And as we’re on the topic, the way Coyne pinned the Orlando attack on Islam wasn’t just racist, it was profoundly disrespectful to gay people. Imagine what would happen to anyone who suggested antisemitism had nothing to do with the holocaust? The real cause was Mein Kampf.
The biological concept of race is entirely meaningless without environment and culture. People from the entire world didn’t send their children to Eton or Oxbridge by accident. An Ashkenazi raised in an Israeli settlement will in all likelihood not perform as well as those of a very particular generation and geography. In fact, I believe statistically the greatest current predictors of success are education and the finances of the parents. And there we have rich white, poor white, rich hispanic, poor hispanic, rich black, poor black…
I gotta say, I think you’re veering off the rails here.
I used Coyne’s quote because he’s an authority on evolutionary biology. Indisputably, race is not a social construct but a biological reality that demonstrates human evolution. To dispute this – based as it on unarguable genetic differences – is to disregard scientific validity. That scientific validity is what matter here when put against sweeping claims that are factually wrong about race is only a social construct.
As Coyne himself points out, the meaning we construct from this biological fact of morphological and physical differences between population groups is what is highly disputable and deserving of sustained criticism because it’s not science. It’s backed by the very worst kind of sociology (also not a science), namely, the kind that so many people who assign meaning to it then treat the meaning as if it had scientific validity. That’s a problem when it’s used to form and support social policies that affect real people in real life (I’ll talk more about that in response to agrudzinsky) .but pointing out this problem invites the charge of ‘racism’ for daring to speak honestly and truthfully about what race scientifically means. That, too, is a growing problem and needs specific and targeted criticism.
Unlike you, I do not get a sense of the kind of duplicity of motivation you assign to Coyne. And I’ve read him for more than a decade… every day. Sure, he has his blind spots and some days he’s in a churlish mood but that is usually followed by later writing that is far more subdued and contrite. Your Miami shooting is a good example where he writes daily on an evolving issue. I think he is a very clear writer about many contentious issues and his comment section I think is a secondary source of tremendous value.
I also think he’s rather late to criticizing the Regressive Left’s anti-enlightenment emergence. His latest rash of writing about its multiple daily examples is because he’s beginning to see just how widespread and pernicious it has become and promoted by many recognized voices that have influence on the Left. Better late than never as far as I’m concerned.
To narrow the issue down to what I mean more specifically, Coyne’s “analysis” of the Orlando shootings was profoundly spurious and outright intellectually dishonest. He was fabricating controversy in a shameless exploitation of racism (the same reason Sam Harris chose Ben Affleck for his own little show.) I too have read him for over a decade, and I think it’s a terrible shame he’s going down this rather appalling direction. The example you give is wordplay. Tabloid style. (Genetic) “Race” isn’t a social construct, but of course (socio-cultural) race is a construct. It’s based on politics and colour, and sometimes class and religion.
As for the scientific/genetic debate the concept of race is, with very few and narrow exceptions (identifying disease for example), an absurd category because a predisposition is the most loose of concepts. A predisposition to be tall can be dramatically impacted by diet/environment. Not to mention the fact that race doesn’t exist in a vacuum unless people are planning to live on the Scottish isles and inbreed. What the world is dealing with now is more and more miscegenation. Mike is Welsh with a Franco-Belgian mother and a Flemish grandmother. Obama’s mother is Alabamian. Mine is Iberian. How does the concept of genetic race apply? How many groups are we going to have? Are they going to be classified as races?
Fabricating controversy? Seriously? Harris ‘chose’ Ben Affleck? Seriously? Shameless exploitation of racism? Seriously? Pointing out the double standard used to protect those who reject enlightenment values by vilifying those who do is now an appalling direction? Seriously?
Methinks your hyperbole exceeds reality.
By making the Orlando attack about Islam rather than about homophobia- yes. Exploiting racism. Also excusing the homophobia present in all other corners of society.
I have not read anything about excusing homophobia by Coyne… ever. And the shooter did in fact claim ISIS membership in his on scene phone call in case you’ve forgotten. We gained more and better information later but this was shortly after the San Bernadeno (sp?) shooting where even the President pointedly refused to admit Islamic motivation.
The day after the Orlando shooting, Coyne wrote a post talking about the case and blaming *Islam*. I pointed out homophobia isn’t a uniquely Islamic issue. Gay people are targeted by the Big Three on a regular basis. Homophobia crosses borders, skin colour and ideology. And for that reason it’s not the fault (or reaction) of a single group, but is itself a phenomena.
By reducing it to a *Muslim* issue, by blaming Islam, which only represents a fraction of homophobia faced by people in the world, he not just excuses but dismisses the plight of all victims of homophobia.
What more or better information is needed to know that much?
That seems to be evident in most prejudices. We have the courtesy to refer to anti-semitism as its own phenomena, not a uniquely Christian or uniquely Muslim issue. So what’s the difference? The difference is mediatic opportunism. Unless you’re going to propose that a highly educated and intelligent man like Coyne doesn’t understand proximate cause- I don’t see a single defence that justifies his behaviour.
So let me get this straight…. Coyne exercises homophobia by criticizing Islam for spurring religious death sentences against gays. He must also, by your way of thinking, a deplorable bigot for criticizing the religious motivation that compels women to wear body bags and other ‘modesty’ coverings.
And you see this criticism as ‘indefensible’ discrimination.
Worse. He doesn’t exercise homophobia, he denies homophobia by brushing it aside as a concept.
I don’t see which part of this you find confusing. The identity of persecuted groups are universally used to describe persecution. A racist crime is a racist crime, not a crime based on a manual written by the KKK. An anti-semitic crime is about anti-semitism. And homophobia is about the persecution/marginalization/discrimination of gays.
The reasoning for homophobia is probably a combination of many factors, and highlighting a single one of those factors as the probable cause of an act isn’t just irresponsible, it’s dishonest. As was proven by the evidence of this case. So yes, indefensible behaviour.
And btw, I didn’t call him a bigot. I implied and stand by the fact he’s an opportunist who uses deceptive headlines and fabricates controversy for attention.
Now, if you criticized his constant posting related to his love of cats and cowboy boots, I’m right there with you. But with nearly 50K subscribers, I simply don’t see the charge that his titles are used as click bait.
HA! I try not to judge. But yes. YES!
Anyway, just look at the comments on the posts I’m referring to. It turned into a message board for the Christian Right. The discussion was swerved away from a criticism of a religion and transformed into the criticism of A Single Religion. Antithetical to the fight against homophobia.
Affirmative action, IMO, promotes racism. It emphasizes the racial inequality. All is needed to oppose racism is a law prohibiting discrimination. That’s it. This is where anti-racism laws must stop. Laws giving advantages to people based on their race are racist because they promulgate the idea that some races need artificial advantages to succeed implying their inferiority.
A law and the ensured enforcement of the law.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I have said many times that embedded systemic privileges and disadvantages can be found by rates disparate from the average. This is as true for determining the validity of human caused climate change (the demonstrable change in frequency and amplitude of weather patterns linked to human activity) as it is patriarchy and racism.
This approach matters because it shows a systemic problem. And understanding a problem is essential to effectively addressing it.
Systemic problems require systemic changes. That means individual behaviour may mitigate the systemic problem but will not – cannot – fix the problem.
You say “Affirmative action, IMO, promotes racism. It emphasizes the racial inequality. All is needed to oppose racism is a law prohibiting discrimination. That’s it.”
We have these laws. The problem remains. This is a clue. Your solution does not address the problem. What your opinion does, however, is vilify those who wish to bring about a systemic solutions to a systemic problems. You carefully label such a systemic solution (in this case, affirmative action) as ‘racist’, which implies those who support affirmative action are racists. That’s not just an neutral opinion but very much an active impediment to anyone trying to address this particular systemic problem. That makes you part of the particular problem, you see. Your opinion has the affect of supporting and maintaining a discriminatory system.
I talk about using rates to identify systemic discrimination (from straightforward disparity between populations and their constituent rates of representation in easy to access rates of employment, wages, crime, taxes, remuneration, offices, wealth, etc.). This is really important to understand because most of us don’t think of ourselves as agents of discrimination when, in this particular case, we actively try to treat individual people by the quality of their character and not the colour of their skin. The intention is well-meaning but the effect is not neutral, not fair, not solution oriented. In affect, what your opinion does is create an additional problem that has to be overcome first before this particular systemic problem can be addressed by a systemic solution. (I urge people to think about the thesis of the book Weapons of Math Destruction to begin to appreciate just how systemic are many of our most pressing problems and the need for more of us to wake up and start demanding our representative governments to act in our interest and counterbalance the widespread abuse by powerful individuals skewing and gaming the system for their benefit and to our detriment).
Your thinking seems overly complicated to me. I like simplicity. The problem with racism is that people are deprived of rights and opportunities based on their race. Conversely, other people are given special rights and opportunities based on their race. Why giving privileges to blacks based on their race is better than giving privileges to whites based on their race? People must be paid the same money for the same job or have the same equal opportunities for college education regardless of the race. Race must not be a factor in decisions for employment, college enrollment, etc.
You might argue that blacks are “historically disadvantaged”, say, they have less money and less education than the whites, on average. I agree. Poor and uneducated people must be given a headstart. But not based on their race. There is no reason why a poor and uneducated black person should have an advantage or a disadvantage accessing college education compared to a poor and uneducated white person. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as they say. You can’t overcome a system of racial discrimination by creating a system of racial discrimination, if you want to think in terms of “systemic changes”.
How else can disadvantaged people gain parity and equality if the system is gamed against them? Expecting change by doing more of the same is hardly reasonable or even rational.
OK. Give blacks advantage based on economic need, but not because of race. And give the same advantage to whites in the same economic situation. That’s fair. Granting advantages based purely on race is racism. Disregard race as a social factor to determine rights and privileges altogether. It perpetuates the system where race determines rights and privileges, does it not?
LikeLiked by 1 person
This is a common misunderstanding, that we have a merit based system and so everyone should treat everyone the same way. But when the rates indicate a systemic disparity, then policy action is required to fix it.
For example, government (meaning public domain organizations and institutions) should represent the people from which they come. When the vast majority of representatives come from only one segment of the population (say, policing or teaching) then affirmative action raises quotas so that the police force represents the people they police, teachers represent the students they teach, and so on. . Everyone still has to get in by merit, still have to have the credentials or professional certifications, but until parity is reached (say, 10% native population should be represented with 10% of the police force being native but only 1% are currently represented) then hiring should adjust for this deficit and the most meritorious natives should be hired. These are temporary adjustments, in that once parity is reached, then the emphasis can go back to hiring either natives or non natives by merit to meet whatever needs are required. Usually, within a generation, systemic advantages are eliminated as well as populations represented fairly and equitably by government.
Not doing this policy action allows the disparity to become traditional and shapes certain institutions to become in service to privileged sections of the population. Altering the racial disparity landscape requires a racial adjustment, a gender disparity landscape a gender adjustment (sexist), and so on. Creating a firebreak by means of back burning means using fire but we don’t accuse firefighters who adjust the landscape and contain the threat of forest fire this way of being arsonists. We shouldn’t accuse those who implement affirmative action to combat systemic racism and sexism as bigots and racists.
I am not sure if I agree. What you say here is largely based on the premise that
Why can’t a male congressman represent the interests of women? Why can’t a white teacher teach black kids? Why can’t a white male policeman protect Latino women? Should policemen be hired based on their ability or should we have a quota to hire a percentage of Latino women to the police force proportional to the percentage of Latino women in the population despite of the availability of more able black males for this job? Isn’t equal voting rights sufficient to ensure that the interests of all groups are adequately represented?
As for racial or gender quotas for college admissions or some professions, I totally disagree. I have not seen the data, but it seems like there is a disproportionate number of black basketball players. Should we fix that by a mandate to recruit a proportional number of Asian and Latino basketball players? Should we mandate the Army to hire 50% of women to Marine Corps? There must be no rule prohibiting to hire women if they prove to be as capable as men for the job – I agree with that. But mandatory quotas do not make a lot of sense to me.
And, yes, exactly, expecting change by doing more of the same is hardly reasonable.
I agree with him. We spend so much time focusing on characteristics we have no control over instead of considering ideas because they come from another human being.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Consider yourself indulged.
I think it is an interesting article.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hear Hear, but how wonderful to hear it in a Reith lecture.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I understand the point he’s making, but is anyone truly naive enough to believe that appeals to /race/ are about logic or…-gasp-…facts? Apologies, it’s been a bad day.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The problem is more the effect than the intent. Recently I’ve been seeing more and more covert racism finding its way into the debate. Watch what Trevor Noah says in this video about the substitution of the N word:
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ugh..please..no more Trump. Watching him speak is like watching the White Rabbit disappear down the rabbit hole. “It’s rigged, it’s rigged!” 😦
LikeLiked by 1 person
All differences, as well as similarities, are drawn in the human mind. Take two identical twins with an identical genome, and you will have people finding differences between them. This is how the human brain works.
It is always important to consider the purpose of drawing such differences or similarities. Apparently, a biologist or a medical doctor approaches race with a different purpose than a lawmaker. This is why Coyne’s opinion on race differs from Appiah’s. Many arguments are meaningless without a context.
Apples and oranges are both fruits similar in shape and size which could matter for picking a box for them. But they have different taste and texture which could matter for the recipe.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Havent read anything this pertinent in a long long time … This man gives me hope and thanks a million for sharing it!! Much love … Sugarsatchet