Under the skin

At San Jose’s Piedmont Hills High School, biotechnology students tested their own DNA for a genetic marker that originated in central China or Taiwan. Seventeen students share a common ancestry — but not a common race. Check out the caption on the photo:

Piedmont Hills High students who share a common ancestor include, from left, Simon Bao (Chinese and Vietnamese), Beth Gomes (white), Aaron Saini (Indian), Austin Buckner (African-American and Japanese), Michael Huynh (Chinese and Vietnamese) and Andrew Tran (Vietnamese).

Students began to question the racial and ethnic categories they’ve been taught to recognize.

Junior Aaron Saini, whose family comes from northern India, was surprised to learn that he has more in common genetically with classmate Christine Gonzalez, who is half Mexican and half European, than with Sefali Patel, whose heritage is also northern Indian.

After the lab experiment, junior Michael Huynh walked outside the classroom and saw a friend, who is Indian, in a different light.

“He was just standing there in the hallway, and I was just looking at him and thinking, `Wow. He may look different, but there’s no real separation between us,’ ” the 16-year-old said.

Very cool.

About Joanne


  1. To bad we cannot ask the multicultural lobby to try the same experiment.

  2. They should do this experiment in every school in this country.

  3. My first thought: Wow! Look what kids are doing in high school these days! Sounds like a very cool chemistry activity and an interesting sociocultural result.

  4. theAmericanist says:

    I’d be curious about the DNA, about which I know nada times bupkas. But I recall two items: 1) there s supposed to have been a bottleneck in the development of the species before the last Ice Age, roughly 100k years ago, in which we were reduced to a very few individuals, which is consistent with these findings. But 2 a few years back when they found the Swamp Guy (not to be confused with the Ice Man), a Neolothic fellow with his throat cut who’d been dumped in a peat bog that preserved him about 10,000 years ago, the DNA tests they did showed that he was a very close relative of many folks who still live in the area.

    But I’m with you, JJ: somebody get Bill and Melinda to spring for DNA tests as a civics exercise.

  5. D. Woolwine says:

    Note how many are mixed “Race”. The future of America and the ultimate assimilation.

  6. Diane Put says:

    This is exactly why I question trying to make connections between “race” (i.e. skin color) and medical conditions. It makes no sense.

  7. Discovery learning that works!

  8. Bob Diethrich says:

    Okay, I know nothing about this. Could someone please explain in layman’s terms how they trace this back to a single ancestor and over 100,000 years ago?

    This is really neat!

  9. theAmericanist says:

    I don’t think they CAN trace it back to a single ancestor, even only as far back as Thomas Jefferson: this was (is) a bone of contention for the Sally Hemings controversy. (In that one, I think they narrowed it down to something like a one in eight mathematical chance that Jefferson fathered her kids, and let reasonable people draw the inference: it seems sorta unlikely the Jefferson WOMEN were part of the genetic chain.)

    Like I said, I dunno about it, but I gather it is essentially applying math to the distribution of the genes: you get a sample from an individual or a population now, and figure how many variations within the range you can get, over time. Sooner or later, you either have to add new samples to account for variation, or else the pattern degenerates.

  10. Also “Jane,” IIRC in England. 9000 y.o. and they found 1 decendent.

  11. And the English person who was related to the peat bog person turned out to be the teacher who was running the test and not one of his students.

  12. Jeffrey Boulier says:

    Re: Sally Hemings & Americanist & more

    They can’t take it back to a single ancestor, but they can get close. Looking at the Y chromosome, one of Heming’s sons was certainly closely related to Thomas Jefferson along the male line. News reports quote p Re: Sally Hemings & Americanist & more

    They can’t take it back to a single ancestor, but they can get close. Looking at the Y chromosome, one of Heming’s sons was certainly closely related to Thomas Jefferson along the male line. News reports quote p

  13. The 17 students share a genetic mutation, as I understand it.

    Abbott’s students tested for a specific genetic marker, called an alu, a random mutation that occurred in one human being, then was spread worldwide over thousands of years through progeny and migration. The genetic marker doesn’t determine cell functions or human traits. But its presence in populations today allows scientists to determine that it first occurred in eastern China or Taiwan, one reason why there would be a high prevalence of the alu in Abbott’s class, which is majority Asian.

    Note that many of the “white” students at this school have Portuguese ancestry and the Portuguese were great explorers who made it to Asia.

  14. Doh! My probabilities were turned into HTML, and my shining paragraph was ruined. Above should read

    News reports quote p > .01 that this result was not in error (good enough for me!) But Thomas Jefferson was not the only male Jefferson around; at least I’ve yet to see anything that would conclusively mark him instead of one of his kin as the father of Eston Hemings.

    –Jeffrey “Should have Previewed” Boulier

  15. They have been selling this service to genealogy researchers for awhile now to determine your ancestors. I’ve often wished I could afford it.

    But I’ve also often wondered just exactly where they got this DNA from long dead famous people to match you up to. Are they out digging up graves or something?

  16. PJ/Maryland says:

    In case it’s not clear from Jeffrey’s description, the Y chromosome trace is straightforward because all us guys have a single Y chromosome and it came from our fathers, who got theirs from their fathers, etc. So, ignoring minor mutations over time, my Y chromosome is the same as my father’s father’s father’s… barring some fooling around by one of my ancestors’ moms… Note that my mother’s chromosomes don’t enter into this calculation at all.

    There’s more on the genetics of the Jefferson-Hemings story here, and Robert Turner wrote an op-ed about it for the Journal several years ago.

    Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson has no male-line relatives still alive, so they couldn’t actually check his Y chromosome. The study relied on Y chromosomes from male-line descendants of Jefferson’s father’s brother, which should be the same as his was. (Note that they did detect one mutation in their sample of five of these descendants.) Anyway, one of Hemings’ sons did have a Y chromosome that matched the Jefferson one, so some male Jefferson was involved. There seem several reasons to think this was more likely Tom’s younger brother Randolph than the 64 year old President.

    On the genetic testing the class at the San Jose high school did, the article says the alu’s mutation occurred 100k years ago in China. I wonder if that is long enough ago that some American Indians might have brought the gene across the Bering Straits? Which would be an alternate way for some Hispanic kids to have it. Joanne is right about the Portugese, but I don’t imagine many Portugese brought kids back to Portugal with them. (Tho maybe a couple brought wives back?)

  17. Wacky Hermit says:

    I was hoping to be the one to point out that the “white” student had a Portuguese name, but Joanne beat me to it. The Portuguese certainly did get around. There is a genetic disease called Machado-Joseph disease that (as I recall) is found only in two communities: people of Portuguese descent, and Jews in Yemen. Hmmm….

    The DNA experiment is really, really cool and ought to be replicated (pun intended). But I should note that the same result (appreciation for the brotherhood of mankind and debunking the notion of “race” as a genetic construct) can also be achieved by a bit of genealogical research or a reading of some non-fiction books such as “1421”.

  18. It’s not as scientific as Machado-what’s it, but…. I had a family living next door to me for many years who were from Bangladesh, which is an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Yet they were Catholic, with a Portuguese surname.

    Best of all, this highly accented South Asian family had names right out of a CYO basketball league: Jerome and Patrick and Margaret and Monica…

    LOL: sorta thing that NEVER happens in Norway.

  19. Steve LaBonne says:

    These students were taught nonsense by a teacher who does not understand genetics. Results from a single genetic marker cannot possibly have any bearing on whether there are such things as genetically identifiable racial groupings. And contrary to the politically correct propaganda the teacher is asking these students to swallow, there are indeed such objectively identifiable genetic clusters. See for example:

    We should indeed celebrate human diversity, but how can we do that if we’re supposed to pretend that it doesn’t exist?

  20. theAmericanist says:

    Psst, Steve: “broadly equivalent” means “not at all the same if words mean anything.”

    Which, it would seem, you don’t accept. There ain’t no such thing as ‘race’, so you simply change what the word means, so you have something to cling to.


  21. PJ/Maryland says:


    I think you’re misreading the article (and expecting a bit much of high schoolers). The exercise showed that some students in the class shared a common ancestor even though they belonged to different “races” as colloquially defined. The way most people think these days, it takes a special effort to convince high schoolers that the accepted racial categories have not always been as they are now (even if this class had to go back 100 millennia to discover it).

    I’m not familiar with the RaceSci.org you link to. I note that the essay merely suggests there is some genetic backing for racial categories; the five groups mentioned don’t really match the usual racial categories used here, tho. I mean, how many people would lump Europeans and Arabs in the same “race”? (Also, the chart mentioned is not actually shown at that URL.)

  22. I keep reading that there’s no such thing as race.

    So how come I also keep reading articles about black and white people having different propensities for breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sickle cell anemia? Not to mention different patterns of smoking and therefore nicotine addiction – I read that one very recently.

  23. Steve LaBonne says:

    Exactly, Laura. There’s an awful lot of doublethink in this area, but the taboos are starting to exert a bit less power, and the well-established importance of race in determining proper diagnosis and treatment for a number of medical conditions is an important force in weakening it. It’s difficult for all but the most hardened ideologues to stick to the the politically correct “race has no biological meaning” line when it becomes apparent that doing so may actually cost people their lives.

  24. theAmericanist says:

    (sigh) Nice to be referred to as an “ideologue” by somebody who doesn’t deal with ideas.

    “Race” is not the same as “ethnicity”, nor is it identical to “genetics”. Defining something in terms of itself, e.g., “the well-established role of race in diagnosis” is generally frowned on in serious inquiry.

    More to the point, referring to “race” when one means “genetics” or “geography” or “ethnicity” is a sign that somebody quite literally doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    “Writing maketh an exact man”, as Bacon observed. LaBonne writes that the kids were being conned, because a study found GEOGRAPHIC coincidence for genetic patterns. Apparently the authors of the article observed that these are ‘roughly equivalent’ to the cant about “race” — which means this “science” is just as imprecise as ordinary speech.

    Hardly seems worthwhile, huh?

  25. Steve LaBonne says:

    I wrote that the kids were being conned because they were- they were invited to draw a false “everybody’s the same under the skin” conclusion from an irrelevant datum- the inheritance of a single mutation. I don’t, by the way, get the feeling that you have the scientific background to know what you’re talking about when you pontificate about what’s “generally frowned on in serious inquiry”.

  26. Steve LaBonne says:
  27. Steve LaBonne says:

    A bit more searching yielded this freely available Scientific American article, which gives a good, balanced summary of the state of the art. Enjoy.

  28. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Ahh…. now he “gets the feeling”. Gotta love that rigorous devotion to scientific standards of inquiry.

    Kindly define “race” without reference to genetics or ethnicity, and we’ll see who’s pontificating.


  29. Steve LaBonne says:

    “Kindly define “race” without reference to genetics or ethnicity”. Kindly write something that makes sense; who exactly has denied that these categories are all related, except of course for those of the “race has no biological reality” persuasion?. Races (in humans as in other species) _are_ fuzzy-boundaried groups of populations that cluster together genetically. The PC position is that races as crudely categorized by “the man in the street” bear little or no relationship to genetic clusters defined by characters that are more than skin deep. As I have documented, genetic evidence strongly and increasingly supports common sense in saying that this denial is way overblown (and indeed that it may have serious consequences for public health.) As to what you think you are talking about, I have no idea and it’s pretty clear that you don’t either.

  30. theAmericanist says:

    Ahh… so it isn’t “race” now, it’s “genetic clustering” and all that political correctness — like the civil rights movement? — just damaged public health.

    When you use words precisely — “genetic clustering” for example, instead of “race”, you’re more likely to make sense.

  31. Steve LaBonne says:

    When you- especially, as a non-scientist, addressing a geneticist (which I am)- attempt to use slippery language to insinuate that the genetic clusters into which human populations fall have nothing to do with the traditional sociological / anthropological categories of “race”, you are in no position to lecture others about making sense. It is typical of those more attuned to language than to reality to imagine that since a perfectly good word like “race” (whose biological meaning I outlined above)happens to have been abused by some people in the past, that removing such a still-useful word from discourse will miraculously bring about desired changes in the real world. How postmodern.
    Wake me up when you actually have a point to make.

  32. theAmericanist says:

    Gotta admire a guy who publically endorses the science beneath phrenology in this day and age. Attaboy, Steve!

  33. Americanist:

    Could you please spell out your personal definition of the word “race”? I’d be very interested to read it.

    I have a new job, which I like very much, except for one thing: the radio is on all the time in the lab, which I find very distracting. (Nobody else seems to, so I wonder if I have undiagnosed ADD. Oh well.) Due to the prevalent demographics around here, it is kept on a self-described “black” station, so I get to hear a lot of yackety-yack from a certain point of view. I’d love for you to tell those people that there’s no such thing as race. Ha ha ha ha.

  34. theAmericanist says:

    I grew up in a neighborhood where, well — let’s just say the first time I heard Richard Pryor, I had the lightest skin in a crowded room.

    “Race” has two standard, old definitions. The first contains a deeply racist assumption — that “race” denotes the “biological divisions of mankind”. A more precise way to put that is to refer to “genetic groupings”. So why not speak more, rather than less precisely? (Which I kept asking Steve, who doesn’t seem interested in speaking precisely — a deficiency in a scientist, among others.)

    The reason that is a racist definition, btw, is because it defines the word in terms of itself — that is, “race” is defined as meaning the biological categories of humanity which are… racial. I try not to use words much that are so meaningless.

    The other definition regards ‘race’ as denoting all those who share a common ancestor. This is more broad than the first definition, in that it includes but extends past ‘genetics’, and the thread deals with it in terms of the ‘bottleneck’ of DNA which precludes most discussions of race — and, in fact, which is reflected in the story that JJ posted which started this whole thing.

    A third, even more broad definition includes the Latin root in other languages, e.g., ‘la raza’, which is most accurately interpreted as ‘our people’. Since Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Salvadorans (Costa Ricans?) and Spanish don’t have THAT much in common, even genetically, it resolves itself into something other than what the word ‘race’ is intended to communicate in English: culture, or language, even.

    Havng some experience in marketing, I know what you mean by a “black” radio station. Most folks talk about race like that — black, white, etc. Dr. Johnson (the guy who wrote the first English dictionary) pointed out that it’s okay to TALK the way people do — but it’s vital to THINK clearly.

    What I — and most folks who note that ‘race’ is essentially meaningless — recognize is that the word ‘race’ doesn’t mean what it says. It seems precise when it’s not, and most meaningful when it is meaningless – to Steve’s embarrassment. So use the word everybody uses when it’s easy, but don’t confuse that with thinking.

    For example, most rap and hip-hop music is sold to
    “white” kids. So what’s a ‘black” radio station?
    Ice T’s biggest market is kids who are more like Vanilla Ice than thug life, just like Chuck Berry inspired the Rolling Stones who inspired a zillion garage bands who took years to figure out that Eric Clapton didn’t write Crossroads.

    All that is CULTURE — not race. In another thread on JJ’s site, I noted that the MOST American ethnicity/culture is African-American — Lord knows, it ain’t the subscription list for Atlantic Monthly.

    The single boldest thing I ever wrote in my life, was that much of what we consider to be ‘race’ in America isn’t racial as such, but rather the legacy of slavery — which was largely a racist institution in the U.S., but still: an important distinction. It is social science dynamite to note that there is a difference in performance between the descendants of house servants (Condaleeza Rice), and of Caribbean slaves whose families CHOSE to immigrate here (Colin Powell), and those who are the direct descendants of the American middle passage.

    Which is one reason why the closer you look at the meaning of “race” (without taking for granted that it IS meaningful, as Steve does) the more it evaporates: it says nothing that isn’t more accurately and precisely communicated by ‘genetic clusters’ (for medicine), or culture (for music and language), or any of several other words.

  35. OK.

    On this station, which as I say is self-described as a black station, they proclaim “everything black people need to know about what’s going on in the world”. Before Wesley Clark dropped out, Andrew Young occasionally came on and talked about how every black major-general or whatever spoke highly of Clark. And so forth and so on. These people mean something when they say “black” and they would tell you that they mean race. So how is that wrong, and what should they say they mean instead?

    And I don’t think you can say it’s culture they mean, because as you point out, the culture does cross “race” lines. The music on this station isn’t necessarily my cup of tea but I do enjoy New Orleans jazz and I know that’s not “white” music.

  36. theAmericanist says:

    That’s why I quoted Dr. Johnson, that it’s perfectly legit to talk as people do, but vital t think more clearly.

    The word “race” is common and useful, precisely because it is amorphous. F’r instance, a number of folks liked to observe a few years back that Bill Clinton was our first black President. (Among them, Clinton himself.) Words that are that evocative, rather than precise, are very useful, and even easily understood — nobody thought that Clinton belonged to the ‘genetic clustering’ which Steve was talking about: it meant simply that Clinton was a southerner from a broken home, with a tough mom, a dead father, an alcoholic stepfather (who he stood up to), and a set of political beliefs and personal flaws which a significant chunk of our population is comfortable with.

    In the article that JJ linked (remember that? it’s what got us started), race is used in something like the same sense that you’re using it: a handy label, more succinct than longer descriptions. The point of the genetic tracking that they did in the class was to prove that there was a common ancestry for folks who were NOT of a common “race”.

    Steve is an example of the Expert Fallacy. It’s hard to tell, but he might have simply meant that having that single gene in common doesn’t prove tht two individuals DO share a common ancestry. I’m no geneticist, but if true that would have been a valid point — the experiment not proving what it claimed to prove.

    Instead, Steve seemed to be insisting that there is, too, such a thing as ‘race’, and indeed, it is a useful concept. But to DO that, he had to change the meaning of the word in a way that actually makes it less useful (which is why he got mad).

    To communicate precisely what he was talking about, terms like “geography”, or “ethnicity” or even, most precisely “genetic clusters” make more sense.

    LOL — and if you think jazz is not “white” music, let me introduce you to Bix and Dave B.

  37. Steve LaBonne says:

    “Instead, Steve seemed to be insisting that there is, too, such a thing as ‘race’, and indeed, it is a useful concept. But to DO that, he had to change the meaning of the word in a way that actually makes it less useful (which is why he got mad).”

    I see that you think you’re Humpty-Dumpty, with the power to decree that words mean whatever you want them to mean. Fine, whatever floats your boat.

  38. theAmericanist says:

    LOL — just for the (ephemeral) record, I privately sent Steve THREE dictionary definitions of “race”, and observed that even HE agrees that he did… precisely what I noted that he did in the first place.

    Observe how it’s done, Steve:

    You wrote: “there are such things as genetically identifiable racial groupings. And contrary to the politically correct propaganda the teacher is asking these students to swallow, there are indeed such objectively identifiable genetic clusters….”

    I noted: “”broadly equivalent” [as the article he cited stated] means “‘not at all the same’ if words mean anything.”

    Which, it would seem, [Steve doesn’t] accept. There ain’t no such thing as ‘race’, so you simply change what the word means, so you have something to cling to.”

    To which our geneticist replied tht he could, too, change the meanings of words at will: “Races (in humans as in other species) _are_ fuzzy-boundaried groups of populations that cluster together genetically. The PC position is that races as crudely categorized by “the man in the street” bear little or no relationship to genetic clusters defined by characters that are more than skin deep….”

    As the correspondence with Laura above illustrates, nobody is talking a “PC position” here, excepting Steve — and he is only using it to refute it, cuz he doesn’t understand it. (nor how to use a straw man, evidently, since he can’t seem to knock down the one he set up)

    “Race” does not mean “genetic clustering” — in fact, there ain’t any dictionaries that so define it, which is why I sent him THREE definitions, and cited two other uses (the census and spanish). For what he wants to say, there are better words and terms than ‘race’.

    But that is what Steve WANTS the word ‘race’ to mean — which is particularly odd, since as a professional he has several perfectly useful and precise terms available to him. Why try — and fail – to alter the meaning of ‘race’?

    Evidently he has something emotionally invested in insisting that “race” — a linguistically imprecise and profoundly morally suspect term — is useful.

    Again, I wonder: why?

    It’s the Expert Fallacy, I think: somebody who genuinely knows a subject insisting, against all evidence, that nobody who is not such an expert CAN handle the facts competently, even as he fumbles ’em egregiously. It’s remarkably like a guy insisting that the science beneath phrenology was quite sound, and insisting that folks who are mite better informed are trying to deny that different parts of the brain do different functions.

    LOL — and perhaps cuz they’re both geneticists, this guy sounds more like Shockley in his last 20 years every time he speaks. In charity, I’ll assume that’s an accident.

  39. Steve LaBonne says:

    I still don’t know what point you think you’re making, but you’re triply wrong. First, as a non-biologist you clearly are ignorant of the fact that race has a technical meaning in population biology (which applies to non-human species as well) where it is indeed defined genetically. Second, the “man-in-the-street” usage of “race” most definitely connotes genetic as well as cultural / historical relatedness, as do the older discussions of “race” by anthropologists. Finally, I linked to actual evidence that the usual “man-in-the-street” racial classification (as well as racial classification by self-reporting) shows an appreciable degree of congruence with the actual genetic structure of the human population. It’s another piece of ignorance on your part to think that only a _perfect_ categorization is a usable or valid one (if there’s a point buried in all your verbiage that’s the only one I can discern); in the real world and especially in biology, boundaries are always fuzzy. Your statment that “broadly equivalent” [as the article he cited stated] means ‘not at all the same’ if words mean anything” is therefore entirely fallacious. Virtually no category used to describe any aspect of the real world would survive such a stricture.

    If you’d like to actually address any of these points instead of favoring us with another logorrheic screed, feel free. But the McCarthyite mindset, revealed by what you no doubt thought of as a very clever parting shot, holds little promise that you’re capable of a useful response.

  40. theAmericanist says:

    LOL — oh, get me re-write. How about I make your case, better than you evidently can?

    What doubtless set you off (the Expert Fallacy, again) is the headline to the effect that race is only skin-deep. The lede of the article actually noted that high school is often stratified along racial lines, which is why the class was startled to learn that, according to the article, half of the class, with a variety of racial and ethnic identities, turned out to have the same ancestor. Further, the article stated, “traditional notions of race no longer hold up.”

    To which you snapped:

    “These students were taught nonsense by a teacher who does not understand genetics. Results from a single genetic marker cannot possibly have any bearing on whether there are such things as genetically identifiable racial groupings…”

    Hmm. ‘Course, the article also observed: “Modern humans vary by only .02 percent of their genetic material — and none of those variations correspond with DEFINITIONS OF race. [Emphasis added, cuz you keep skipping over that pesky notion that words mean what people use them to mean.] … There is still debate over THE FACT THAT RACIAL GROUPS RESPOND DIFFERENTLY TO DISEASES, as well as medications. Most geneticists attribute human differences to environmental adaptations, not race….”

    Now — if you were smarter or less offensive, you might have said: ‘Well, I’m a geneticist, and I don’t see a consensus among my peers that environment is more important than heredity.’ That way, folks reading this could have recognized your authority in contradicting a factual claim made by the reporter.

    Or you could have said no single genetic marker could prove these kids actually had a common ancestor. Like the first couple posts said, we dunno — sounds a bit exaggerated.

    The Expert Fallacy, though, is when somebody — like Steve — insists that folks who are speaking intelligently about the Expert’s field are ignorant and incompetent, even though — no matter how patiently anybody tries — the Expert doesn’t make sense.

    “We’re 99 percent the same”, says a biotech person in the piece. Evidently, you think that is false. THAT is the echo of Shockley in your rant, Steven.

    It is just barely possible — and I’m trying damned hard to give you the benefit of a dwindling doubt — that you might have resolved your confusion by observing: “Race has a highly specific meaning in biology, in the same ways species and order and phylum do. It is unfortunate that a teacher trying to make a civic lesson blurred a scientific term….”

    ‘Course, if you had done THAT — an intellectually honest, and event respectable thing to do — you’d have run smack into the pitiful limits of your own understanding of the term: “race” is NOT commonly used in civic discussions, nor in fact even among scientists, in the precise meaning you tried to claim for it — promptly adding yourself, that it isn’t all that precise.

    So — you’re back to the Shockley thing. You didn’t understand the article, which made all the points you claimed it ignored or got wrong, nor did you understand the class experiment — and, naturally, you haven’t a clue what the rest of us have been talking about.

    Because, after all: you’re the Expert.

  41. Steve LaBonne says:


  42. theAmericanist says:

    LOL — gotta love a graceful concession. As a biologist, Steve knows the reason animals yawn is to demonstrate that they are not a threat.

  43. I still disagree about the meaning of the word “race”. If it means biological distinctions, like between dogs and cats, of course there aren’t different races of humans. But regular people use the word and they know what they mean. If I put a “for sale” sign in front of my house, and refused to consider offers by black people, that would be illegal because I would be discriminating by race. Obviously the word means something real to somebody. If race doesn’t exist, there are a whole lot of laws on the books that are complete nonsense.

    I think race as most people understand the term is a mixture of genetic clusters and culture. Sometimes it’s such a mixture that you can’t tell what’s what. If a black child is at greater risk than a white child for sickle cell anemia, that’s a genetic cluster thing. My black former coworker, who’s so far to the right of me that she’s in the next county, thinks she has to vote Democrat or she’ll “lose her identity”, meaning turn white, I guess – that’s a culture thing. Then there’s the fact that black people are at greater risk of diabetes. Is that a genetic cluster thing, or a culture thing due to different eating habits? There are studies devoted to this. If you can’t say “race” what can you say?

  44. theAmericanist says:

    Very sensibly put.

    I don’t object to folks talking about “race” in an ordinary sense. I DO object to folks insisting there is some genuine scientific basis for what the word “race” has always been used to mean — namely “the chief biological categories among humans”.

    THAT categorization is not based on fact; it doesn’t actually exist. Consider: suppose you know a guy named Malik, born in Brooklyn, who tries to turn you on to rap. You figure he is into the music cuz, well, he’s a guy named Malik from Brooklyn. Then you meet, say, a guy named Iskinder from Eritrea — whom you heartily offend, when you assume that HE is into rap. “Why, cuz you think I’m black?” he says — and he’s right: you’ve made a racist assumption. (I know lots of Eritreans and Ethiopians who routinely mark ‘other’ on forms, rther than say that they are ‘black’ or even ‘African-American’. More stuff a geneticist can fathom, but demographers hassle with it constantly — but then, they’re not Experts, huh?)

    This is the tar on Steve’s hands, when he is trying to manipulate the word “race” to mean something more precise, and more scientific, than it has ever been used to mean. That’s why I cited a mess of dictionary definitions.

    But that doesn’t mean there aren’t genetic clusters or other identifiable factors which indicate it makes sense to talk about, say, hemophilia among European royalty. That’s not racist, PRECISELY BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT RACE. Likewise with sickle cell.

    When Steven bitches incoherently that there ARE genetic factors which make certain populations more at risk for certain diseases, or which indicate certain treatment, he ain’t talking about “race” either, in any precise way: he’s talking about genetic clusters, which can correlate to geography or even ethnicity — but NOT to the point of confusing the musical tastes of a guy named Malik from Brooklyn from a guy named Iskinder from Eritrea.

    He doesn’t see the difference, but Laura’s post shows that she does — most folks do, in fact.

    But then, we’re not Experts.

  45. Steve LaBonne says:

    Laura, I woudn’t bother feeding the troll any more- I did so for too long.

  46. It took me 10 minutes to scroll through this “he said/she said” yadda yadda, and . . . why yes, I do believe that both sickle cell anemia and Tay-Sachs disease STILL have no cure. But hey, as long as we spend time discussing whether or not Tom Jefferson liked to take a walk of an evening, or some Kikuyu tribesman would prefer Moby or OutKast, who cares, right?

  47. “Sorry – I haven’t unsencored animal porn done this for an audience. Give me a moment to adjust!”
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