This is off the usual pattern of the blog (I have posted on “Race” before though), and I don’t have the readership to go up against the great almighty Greg Laden, but I couldn’t resist.
The story: apparently, one can speak of the “differences in gene distribution across various geographies” among members of the human species, but if you call that broad spectrum of biological diversity “race”, then you’re inflicting pain into non-whites and perpetuating racism.
No, I’m not kidding. The original post was titled “Insisting that ‘races are real’ is a self-fulfilling and overt racist act.”
Oh I completely agree that defining race is a tricky thing. But I’m a racist for thinking it okay to discuss race as a reality, and thinking that racial diversity is real (and something to celebrate)??
Update: Maybe it’s okay, because now Greg is a racist too. We all are, apparently. Talk about “politically-correct” as an ideology unto itself.
Update 2 and Main Follow-Up: an open question…
I mean, I know too well that care should be used when talking about race, and that the term is fraught with difficulty. For instance, trying to group people into races from the top-down just doesn’t work, as there are too many people in the world that fall in between conventional racial separations. Some have used the term “clines” to describe this gradual change in human genetics or traits over geography, and this seems appropriate in some sense, but it doesn’t fit with the word “race,” which tends to group people.
I tend to think of it in terms of gene flow and gene drift, which fits with another commonly held position, which is a bottom-up way of looking at race as extended families with lower degrees of mixing with the whole of humanity. It fits with my position, because gene flow is the mixing and homogenization of two or more populations over dozens of generations, whereas gene drift is about the accumulation of differences in eras of separation.
None of that really gets at the question “do races exist?”, it just better describes the pattern of human variation that exists. Period. So it really puzzles me why, on such an ambiguous word representing a complex series of observations about diversity (that really exist), someone can take such a polemic stand on the question and call everyone who says “yes” a racist. Do you think I’m off my rocker for getting peeved off about that?