Is Racism about appearance?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by ElectricFetus, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. The Marquis Only want the best for Nigel Valued Senior Member

    Not really. I've only used a couple. And they still stand.

    Because visual cues are a primary identifier. That does not mean they are the only one we'd use were ocular identification not available.

    What else is it about? You either like something, you're ambivalent, or you don't. Aesthetics do not rely upon vision alone.

    And... a gardener, for the third time, is not only basing his decisions upion aesthetics. It is his goal to make something aesthetically pleasing, but it isn't simply about choosing only what you like. There are many factors to take into consideration. Climate. Soil. Insects, resistance to disease.
    Non-visual factors. Clear?

    You step into my line of sight, then you're mkaing yourself a focus.
    Would you rather I ignored you?

    All I did was make a comment that I hadn't understood what you were saying until I realised you missed the reference. If you would like to take that as being an insult, then perhaps that speaks more about your attitude toward me than mine toward you. Yes?
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  3. The Marquis Only want the best for Nigel Valued Senior Member

    Doreen, I've always come down hard on comprehension skills being lessened due to either a sympathy or lack of it to what you are reading. I come down harder on myself when I do it than anyone else, if it helps.
    If you have sympathy for Glaucon's argument, fine. Don't be surprised when I point out how it affects you.

    Glaucon first sentence in that paragraph read "You fallaciously assume that, outside of the scope of visual observation, there are in fact "differences"."
    This led to my initial misunderstanding of the intent of what he'd written.
    Now go away and have a think about how the use of the word "fallaciously" in there changes the meaning of what he was trying to say, and puts it at odds with the remainder of that paragraph.

    Oh dear.
    You want me to say I'm racist? Then you want me to tell you exactly why?
    I'm not going to offer any opinion on the first, and therefore the second is moot.
    I've used analogies, instead. From those, one might assume that I do indeed have certain leanings, deliberate or not, and that I have come to those conclusions based on far more than skin colour or physical appearance.
    Does that make it clearer? Of course it's all bloody abstract.

    I've said it before - if all these people in this thread took an MRI on the subject, we'd see some surprising - or perhaps not so surprising - results.

    One might say the same thing to you. Given that we're not all blind, and you can't prove what you're asserting either, and as I said not long ago this entire argument falls into the realm of the theoretical, then I believe my analogies go further toward "backing it up" than the simple assertion of "without visual clues, there would be no racism" does.

    So clearly visual observation isn't the be and end all of aesthetic choice, in which racism is intrinsically bound.
    Getting warm?
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  5. nietzschefan Thread Killer Valued Senior Member

    If everyone was blind, the hairlips would be fucked...
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  7. The Marquis Only want the best for Nigel Valued Senior Member

    Just going back to something earlier...

    Fraggle, this doesn't even remotely approach the level of thought and knowledge you usually put into your posts.

    I believe even Shakespeare described the notion of prejudice, and here we're going back to the 17th century alone. "Othello", and "The Merchant of Venice" for a start. I really don't think we can put it as recently as the colonisation of America, or even for some time before that.
    I particularly don't agree with it being, as you seem to be saying, an invention by business leaders. Perhaps they might have gone along for the ride, as it were, but I seriously doubt the ideological separation of white and black was some sort of marketing ploy. I'd have to do some serious looking around if I was going to dispute the origins of the terminology itself, but I would dispute that the use of certain words was the beginning of white/black prejudice.

    Racism has been prevalent as long as humanity has been around, and I'm not even going to limit that to the emergence of modern man.
  8. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Not to mention the role of Aron in Shakespeare's 'Titus Andronicus', a much earlier work.

    Arthur L. Little Jr. considers the element of race in Lavinia's rape, arguing that the sexualized presence of the black-skinned Aaron represents a contagion of Otherness in the story. Race is central to the character assessments of Francesca T. Royster, who places Aaron and Tamora at opposite ends of the racial spectrum in Titus Andronicus. Royster notes that both Aaron the Moor and Tamora the Goth are defined as racial extremes who depict moral evil and barbarity in relation to the Roman norm.

    Royster, Francesca T. “White-limed Walls: Whiteness and Gothic Extremism in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.” Shakespeare Quarterly 51, no. 4 (winter 2000)

    Little, Arthur L., Jr. “Picturing the Hand of White Women.” In Shakespeare Jungle Fever: National-Imperial Re-Visions of Race, Rape, and Sacrifice. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000.

    Ever see "A Patch of Blue"? The film makes this same argument that blindness somehow removes all race distinctions.

    The argument being made assumes that a blind world would not group themselves into distinct groups or that if they did, color being eliminated they would not discover distinctions that would identify a different racial group which may or may not lead to racism. It assumes for example that whites wouldn't recognize blacks or asians from their difference in speech, smell, habits and not to mention cultural distinctions or that if they did it wouldn't lead to a racial classification. In the meantime none of us are blind but to draw from another fiction 'Blindness' by Jose Saramago human nature doesn't arise out of one faculty alone, in short human weakness and cruelty abounds under all circumstances. But distinctions being what they are lead to this asinine criticism by the National Federation for the blind:

    Blindness, a movie starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo that opens in the U.S. October 3, uses lack of sight as a metaphor for all that is weak and evil and amoral in our society, and that makes the National Federation for the Blind fighting mad.

    "Blindness is no more an appropriate 'metaphor' than other physical characteristics, like hair color or ethnicity," according to a FAQ on the movie by Marc Maurer, the federation's president. "Movies in which all of the villains have dark skin or a foreign accent are rightly criticized as employing racial stereotypes. If a movie were to be made in which people’s hair suddenly turned blonde and all of the characters with blonde hair were vapid idiots, then people with blonde hair would rightly be outraged. In today’s society, it should likewise be unacceptable for blindness to be used as a stand-in for depravity, incompetence, and lack of understanding."

    Ironic isn't it?

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    Last edited: May 14, 2010
  9. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    But wait a minute if they had hairy lips who would want to kiss them let alone fuck them... OOOOOOHHHHHH I geeettttt it.
  10. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    No, it does not. I'm dealing with racists here, people who think it's appropriate to use an extreme color scheme (black/white) to describe real people whose real skin is any one of a hundred thousand shades of BROWN.

    Some of them, when faced with a logical train of thought, can make the leap of faith from the 19th century into the 21st, where the color of a person's skin is insignificant and what's much more important is his personality, his friends, his ability to work, socialize, pay his taxes, take part in local, state, or federal government, and be a good father or mother.

    There are others, however, who have grown up with racist parents, gone to racist schools, hung out with racist friends, and are either jealous or condescending of the lifestyle of other people on the "other side of the tracks". These people have been using racist words all their lives. Telling them that the "other people" are potential friends could be a real hazard to their thinking patterns.

    For their sake, it's necessary to create a bridge they can cross one step at a time. That bridge is the concept of a "mixed-race" person, one who, like our current president, has one dark-skinned parent and one light-skinned parent. When a person who uses colors to describe people, they are sometimes upset at the new thoughts I offer them, which I consider to be appropriate for a new century.

    As an extreme example of these new experiences that can sometimes produce new thoughts, I offered (two pages ago) the experience of Adolph Hitler watching Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games. If Mr. Hitler had a rational psychiatrist on his staff, he might have been able to begin a long process of accepting the humanity and perhaps even the friendship of Mr. Owens, but this would have required an adjustment in Mr. Hitler's thinking. The concept of a mixed-race person is one that can be used to form the bridge necessary to cross the chasm of racism. Please remember, the concept is not one I use myself. It belongs in the 20th century, which I consider a bridge from the 19th into the 21st.

    After the chasm has been crossed, and the former racist has accepted the FACT that skin color, hair texture, nose shapes, and other "racial criteria" are, in fact, useless as indicators of personality, food choices, work habits, religion, music choices, clothing styles, and other individual traits, the bridge that got him there should be burned so that the former racist cannot become a racist all over again. This means not using the semi-racist terms "mixed-race" or "multi-race" in favor of referring to people simply by their names, or perhaps by using an appropriate title. If the person's name is Ronald Smith it may be more appropriate to call them Judge Smith, Dr. Smith, Lieutenant Smith, Rev. Smith, or Mayor Smith.

    [I'm dealing with some people on this thread who sincerely believe that it's possible to put themselves and others into colored pigeonholes.]
    It's not a fact, it's your racist opinion. Race is a myth, for reasons I've been outlining for quite a while.
    Last edited: May 14, 2010
  11. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    [As far as I'm concerned, the colors are, strictly speaking, inaccurate as to an actual physical description of the color of anyone's skin.]
    Yes, I admit it, I'm color-blind. I had no idea that some people were walking around with skin that was the color of milk. I also had no idea that people were walking around with skin that was the color of a car tire, but you must think there such people somewhere.

    Saying that people "are" black or white implies a much bigger difference in the appearance of any two people who, in reality, usually have much smaller visual differences. As a single man, the length of a woman's hair is much more important than the length or width of her nose, and her hair color is far more interesting than the color of her skin.

    You just don't get it. Even though you use colors to describe real people, I don't. If I were to get mugged, I would give the police a description of the actual physical appearance of the perp. Such a description would involve an estimate of their age, their height, their weight, any facial hair they had, a description of their clothes, their voice, their habits, their mannerisms, and any tattoos or scars I saw. No police officer would take me seriously if I said that my perp was covered with white paint, but that's what your scenario sounds like.

    By the way, I have no idea what a caucasian person looks like, because I have never been to the Caucasas mountains, where I assume they live.

    Maybe you DO get it. Your grandfather never had black skin, and your grandmother never had white skin unless somebody painted them that way.

    I thought for a moment that you understood what color-blindness was, but it appears you don't.

    You can use any words you like to describe your grandparents. If I saw photos of them, I would probably use different words. It's a certainty that I would NOT use the words "black" or "white" to describe them because I never use either one of those words to describe real people unless they're painted that way.

    Let me try to make this concept easier for you. I used to be a student in a photography school, before digital cameras were very popular. I didn't believe it when one of my teachers told me this, but I could see it for myself. If I was taking a picture of someone outside during the daytime, and the sun went behind a cloud just before I took the picture, the whole scene would become just a bit bluer. The human eye makes the adjustment automatically, but film cannot. We think a white shirt is always white, but if you're photographing someone outdoors wearing a white shirt, and the sky is overcast, that white shirt will not be pure white anymore, it's now blueish-white.

    It's the same with people. You see people with dark brown skin, and you always call them "black people", but you don't notice that some of them, like our current president, have medium-brown skin because he has a mother whose skin is much lighter than his father's skin. President Obama's skin is somewhat lighter than his father's skin. But some people still call him "black", even though no color is darker than black, and even though, like the white shirt under an overcast sky, it's visually inaccurate. If Mr. Obama Sr.'s skin is dark brown, then it's simply visually inaccurate to describe Mr. Obama Jr. as "black". If Junior were to mug me, there's just no way I could truthfully say that his skin was as dark as dark chocolate. I would truthfully say that his skin was the color of milk chocolate, and that's what my police report would say.

    As I said in an earlier post, there are at least two methods of making a racial identification.
    1. One "black" parent produces "black" children. Always. No exceptions.
    2. Examine the person's appearance.

    These two methods contradict one another whenever you have a man like Thomas Jefferson fathering children by one of his female slaves. Many of those descendants went on to marry people who looked like Tom, thus producing slave descendants who looked like Tom. If you call these people "black" because of the first definition, then you're saying that the second definition is worthless because it ignores a person's ancestry, and if you use the second definition, then you have exceptions to the first definition.

    One more time. I don't call ANYONE "white" or "black" unless they're covered in paint. Any tatoos would be described as accurately as I could remember, including the colors. If someone has a red tattoo of a bird on his arm, then it's a red tattoo of a bird. Are you going to call someone a "red" man if he isn't painted that way? If someone isn't painted blue, are you going to call him a "blue" man? Then why do you insist on calling someone a "black" man if he isn't painted that way?

    I have a friend who can trace his ancestry back to literally dozens of different countries. He doesn't refer to himself as any one color because it would immediately be too foolish for words.

    If you wish to describe yourself as "black", please tell me which one of the above definitions you use, so that I can throw away the other one in your case.

    [Please pardon my references to two young women and their future husbands. Since they're so much in the public eye, this is an excellent way of forcing racists (my definition, please) to consider all the possible shades of brown (the only visually accurate description of a person's skin) that they could see in their delivery rooms, after they've grown up and had sex with men of their own choice.]
    1. They're not so small.
    2. They are likely to grow up and have children of their own.
    3. They're likely to choose their own husbands.
    4. If they choose a man that has skin that is lighter than either of their parent's skin, then any children they have (Barak's grandchildren) will be even lighter than Barak. With the exception of the gender switch, this is why Tom Jefferson and Sally Hemmings have descendants that look like Tom.

    Racists do consider all possible shades of brown. Just as you keep obsessively doing.[/QUOTE]

    No, they don't. If they're using the second definition, the visual examination, as opposed to the genetic ancestry method, they take every person whose skin is at least somewhat dark and call him or her "black", just as you keep obsessively doing. I don't do this at all because there are so many different SHADES of brown that if one shade is a bit darker or lighter than another, well, there are other things that are much more important about the person, LIKE THEIR NAME, their hobbies, their politics, their food choices, their music choices, their job, their car, and their economic theories.
    Last edited: May 14, 2010
  12. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    And with all this, I am in complete agreement with you.
    You're quite correct, from a behavioural position: I believe, as you do that, in the absence of vision, we would have made use of some other means of identification.
    And yes, I was delving into the hypothetical, to be sure. Via the thought-experiment, I was hoping to elucidate somewhat on the actual process of drawing distinctions, which, I would hope, is essential to the racist behaviour.

    My apologies to you then as well; I should have been more careful.

    Oh I was. I meant "fallacious" in its strictest logical sense.
    However, I should have been more explicit in my statement: I should have said "You fallaciously assume that, outside of the scope of visual observation, there are in fact "differences" that are actively used as a primary means of identification."

    Again however, we're into the hypothetical. I was (am) maintaining that vision serves as the primary means of identification, and as such, no other supplementary means could result in the development of a racist belief to the extent that vision has. In effect, I'm simply saying that vision more readily enables identification of difference than any other means.

    Oh trust me, I'm no man of faith. lol

    No, you're correct; given any means of sensation, and coupled with an environment that supports social stratification, humans would continue to stereotype.
    This is essentially why I introduced the thought-experiment in the first place. Each of us make use of whatever means we can, quite naturally, and quite correctly, to identify both similarities and differences. In and of itself this kind of organizational activity is of no negative consequence. It's when we move from recognizing tendencies of attributes amongst a group, to extrapolating those tendencies to become a rule, that racism appears.

    Again, my apologies.
    I should have known better than to jump into such a heated discussion at such a late date.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans can tell each other apart with amazing accuracy.
    Within my lifetime, in many communities the same fate would have befallen a Jew once the other person found out that he was Jewish. It would just take a little longer without the visual cues. My parents carefully hid from me the fact that there was any Jewish "blood" in our family tree, lest I give anyone a clue that would serve as a reason to discriminate against me. After watching Hitler murder people who had one Jewish grandparent and were raised as Christian Germans, anyone remotely Jewish was understandably a little paranoid. But the fact that Hitler did that to people who were not identifiable by either appearance or culture suggests that racism is a deeper subject than any of us has dug up yet.
    The Nazis were consummate bureaucrats and they did it by reviewing their paperwork, since they could not do it by sight.
    I make no such admission and I have yet to be presented with convincing evidence for that premise. Further down I will make my case for each instance of racism developing from its own unique identifier.
    Well they are. The Slavs began differentiating into separate tribes in the second half of the first millennium CE: Rus, Ukrainians, Poles, Bohemians, Slovaks, etc. The Slavic people in the Balkans are as different from the Rus as the Czechs and Poles are; and in fact the Bulgars were an anomaly because they came from elsewhere--some authorities say they were a Mongolic tribe--and assimilated to Slavic culture.
    I don't know how long the Hutus and Tutsis have had to differentiate from each other, but I presume you do. The Slavs have had more than a thousand years so there will be some genetic markers.
    That's a little oversimplified. There truly were four races at one time: the Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid and Native Australians. It wasn't until the Neolithic Era dawned 12KYA that people began to travel enough to cause significant blending of the gene pools. The subsequent domestication of riding animals accelerated that, as did the invention of the wheel and sailing ships. The fossil fuel-powered vehicles of the Industrial Era with their enormous capacity and unprecedented speed have effectively obliterated the differences, but that only happened within the last couple of centuries.
    You absolutely must be joking. Antisemitism rivals discrimination against Afro-Americans as the quintessence of racism in today's parlance.

    The Jews started out as a reasonably distinct gene pool which was muddled by their conquerors, which is also exactly true of the Afro-Americans.
    I take the opposite position, that people confuse racism with a certain appearance-based dislike. As I will clarify further down, neither of us is totally wrong.
    The four largest Muslim nations are Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria, none of which lie within the region known as the Middle East. Indonesia alone has more Muslims than all the nations of the Middle East combined.
    Since this is a place of science and scholarship, I would hope that everyone hear understands that sound is the vibration of the molecules that comprise air (or some other medium), and therefore the production of sound waves occurs whether or not there are eardrums near enough to sense them.
    Othello was a Moor. Europeans had good reason for anti-Moorish sentiment, namely their attempted conquest of Europe, resulting in their occupation of Iberia for several centuries. Imagine if the Russians hadn't stopped at Cuba and had established a beachhead in Florida!
    I read that a couple of months ago, either in an article in the Smithsonian magazine, or in a book review in the Washington Post. I'll try to track down my source. There was considerable scholarship behind it: specific events, passage of laws, etc.

    Still you may be right, yet after all, we do know that slavery was not originally race-based. Since it had nothing to do with an accident of birth, it did not typically begin at birth or end with death, and was more commonly called "indentured servitude." The most common way to become an indentured servant was to sell oneself into servitude for a specific period of years, as payment for passage to America, although there were other ways. There were also ways to become free, most commonly by performing work for people other than one's master (since indentured servants were allowed to conduct business transactions and accumulate their own wealth) and buy one's freedom, as well as manumission, the cancellation of the servitude contract by a grateful or compassionate master.
    Not marketing, politics. Oh wait. There's not much difference, is there?
    From everything I've found, "black" is a very recent term in American English. I certainly never heard it used before the 1960s. Americans originally called them "negroes," using an anglicized pronunciation of the Spanish word for "black," since captured Africans first showed up on Spanish ships. This of course tells us that the Spanish identified them by their color. But there was no dichotomy: as far as I can tell neither the Spaniards nor the Spanish settlers in the New World referred to themselves as blancos.
    Of course. Homo sapiens is a pack-social species. (Here is the argument I promised earlier in this post.) The essence of the pack-social instinct is to care for and depend on the other members of your own pack, and to feel hostile to members of other packs because they are competitors for your scarce food resources: hunting range if you're carnivores, grazing/gathering range if you're herbivores. This hostility is the raw, primitive, basic kind of racism: us against them.

    Bearing in mind that packs are small (unlike herds) and every member has known every other member since birth (with rare exceptions for the matriculation of an outsider to keep the gene pool healthy), the way a pack member identifies an outsider is that he's someone he doesn't know. Racism is triggered on an individual basis: this person is not one of us, because I know every one of us and he's not in that group.

    Is this racism based on appearance? Sure, because you know what each of your pack mates looks like. But it's more than that. It's also based on how you sound, how you interact with your pack-mates, how you move, how you rspond to stimuli, what you smell like.

    It's racism based on who you are not rather than who you are.

    The Agricultural Revolution--the dawn of the Neolithic Era--brought us into conflict with our pack-social instinct:
    • There's a certain economy of scale to farming and animal husbandry. For two packs/tribes to join forces in a single village resulted in greater food production. This is the exact opposite of two tribes attempting to share a hunting or gathering range and competing for scarce game and nuts.
    • Furthermore, since agriculture created the first food surplus in history, there was no longer a compelling reason to defend the food supply from outsiders. We could trade some of our excess food for things they made, like tools, clothes or music.
    Suddenly we had a good reason to increase the size of our pack and admit outsiders.

    But 12,000 years is not enough generations of evolution to eradicate an instinct. Inside each of us there is a caveman with the pack-social instinct, and occasionally he takes control. He has no way to exercise his pack-social instinct in the original way because most of the people he lives among are not ones he has cared for and depended on since birth. He can't identify outsiders the way his distant ancestors did, by simply being people with whom he's not familiar.

    So he finds inventive new ways to identify "his pack" and distinguish it from everyone else. Physical appearance is one way, but so are language, social customs, religious belief, and even economic systems. No one identifier is universal. Each instance of racism has its own criteria. And that's my point!

    It's interesting to note that a dog generation is only one year, so a lot more of their generations than ours have passed during this time. And it shows. Dogs' social instincts have actually changed since the days when they were wolves, even though they are still the same species. Wolves gather in very small packs; dogs congregate in dozens. Wolves challenge strangers; dogs are more likely to play with them. Most wolves have the alpha instinct and will fight to be pack leader; most dogs are happy to let a human give the orders. Wolves are predators; dogs are scavengers.

    So there's hope for us. Eventually we, too, shall fully adapt to this civilization we have created, and racism will disappear just as it has among our dogs. We have a lot to learn from dogs.
    Don't apologize. Often a newcomer can bring some much-needed clarity.
  14. Bells Staff Member

    In other words, you're just not happy with the way society attributes or describes people or the words used used in those descriptions.

    Racism is not when you notice someone is different to you, that someone is of a different racial background to yourself. Racism at its heart is thinking or assuming that because someone is racially different to yourself, that they are somehow beneath you or less of a human being, etc.

    A "dark brown" man saying that he's black or describing himself is "black" is not racist. Nor is it racist for a "milk coloured person" to describe a "dark brown" skinned person as black. What is racist is if one deems the other less worthy of consideration because of their differences. Can you understand that distinction? For example, lets say that you get on a bus and you are told that you cannot ride that bus because you're African, for example and the only people allowed in the bus are Asians (as a wild example). That is racism and deemed racial discrimination.

    You seem to have this belief that my saying that my grandfather was "black" instead of giving a vivid description of his skin tone as a 'warm milk chocolate' for example, is somehow racist. All I can say to you to that is bollocks.

    So if someone had blue skin, you would not be able to give an accurate description of their skin colour?

    You can be colour blind and not judge others based on the colour of their skin, or you can be anal about it and accuse anyone and everyone of racism because they don't use your exact classification.

    You are so obsessed with people's colour that I am beginning to wonder why. Why do you care what colour Obama's skin happens to be? Or what colour his daughter's children might be?

    As a single man, the length of a woman's hair might be important to you. But to other single men, other things may be more important. Do not attribute yourself to all men in the world.

    I think it is you who does not get it to be honest. Race, as a definition exists. To ignore that is silly. To use that as a basis of rights and to attribute to one but not the other because of one's race is racist.

    That is what you are not getting.

    No police officer would take you seriously if they asked you what colour the person was and you told them that you can't do that as you are colour blind to people's colour and then attempted to describe them as being the colour of "milk". Then of course you'd have to go through the classification of milk.. Flavours, etc, all of which have a different tone. In short, you'd sound like someone who wasn't all there.


    Why are those words so problematic for you? What if my grandfather really was "black"? Why is it uncomfortable for you to describe him that way? Why are you demanding that people can only be different shades of 'brown'? What of albino's who are more pink?

    I really don't give a hoot what words you use to describe people. But do not refer to others as racist because we're not as obsessed with it as you are.

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    So you are more concerned with visual accuracy? Good for you.

    But not everyone is as anal about such descriptions. Nor are they as concerned as you appear to be with the colour of people's skin.

    Firstly, they are children, so your obsession with their future sexual partners is a tad disturbing.

    Secondly, they may or may not have children of their own. No one really cares. That will be their choice when they are ready to. It's not something that anyone should be obsessing over now.

    Thirdly, they may or may not get married, they may or may not end up homosexual, they may or may not remain single. No one really cares.

    Finally, who gives a crap who they end up with, if anyone at all? And who cares what colour that person will be? Why do you care so much about this?
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

  16. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    I don't think Croats and Serbs and Bosnian Muslims can tell each other apart visually or by spoken accent but they could still figure out who was who well enough to kill each other.

    I think that is more than a little oversimplified. There is no reason to think that was not almost as much diversity within the hypothesized four races 15KYA as there is now.

    We have bred dogs into all sorts of strange races of dogs but what happens when you randomly let them interbreed for a few generations? Something like the proto-dog starts re-emerging. Lower populations of humans in the past made more isolated pockets in which distinct racial features could arise.

    I don't think those 4 races ever existed. I think that if we could travel back in time to 15KYA the people who are supposed to have been part of those 4 races would have appeared more racially/ethnically diverse back then than they do now.

    Even now who the hell are the Mongloids and what is Asia? Asia is absurd as a continent because it is too big and to diverse to be comparable to the other continents.

    I don't think so. I think Jews were more like the French, an ethnicity created by blending. If we believe the story of Abraham the Jews begin with a Iraqi region tribe invading Canaan. But Hebrew is not an Iraqi region language.

    The greatest muddling of Jews happened not because of conquest but rather from intermarriage with non-Jews in the diaspora.

    Slavery has been around long before recorded and has taken many ever changing forms and has taken many forms that are a few steps outside our definition of slavery. Indian castes, patriarchical control of women, pimps and hoes, European feudal serfs and indentured servitude are all just outside slavery.

    According to Wikipedia "Approximately 10–20% of the rural population of Carolingian Europe consisted of slaves". The word slave comes from Carolingian Europe/ old French because a large proportion of those slaves were Slavs. So the word "slave" itself incorporates a phase when race/ethnicity played a role in who would become a slave.

    Originally different races did not meet each other. In general it has been more acceptable to turn people captured from the "others" into slaves than it was to enslave one of "us". "Us" and "them" can be defined by race class or religion or whatever.

    I agree with this. I think the foundations of racism can be found In the way groups of Lions, Wolves, Hyenas, Baboons and Chimpanzees treat other groups of their same species. I think it is only after humans form into larger groups and alliances of tribes that racial features start being applied to the instincts for tribal antagonism.

    Something like racism makes animals mate with their own species but this does not create antagonism towards other species.

    The mental flexibility regarding who is "us" and who is "them" seems to to be present throughout humans. It makes me think that tribal alliances must have begun a very long time ago. How long would it take the instincts that enable tribal alliances to be present and strong in all humans?

    Some of us find it much harder than others of us to ally with people who are not like us. How we are raised probably explains most of the variation but I suspect that we may have quite a bit of genetic variation in our instincts regarding "us them antagonism" and how different somebody can be and still be accepted as one of "us".
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Which illustrates my contention that each instance of racism has its own unique identifier. Frankly, despite the likelihood of genetic markers in the various Slavic tribes, based upon my travels in Eastern Europe I suspect that all of the modern Slavic peoples identify each other primarily, if not exclusively, by culture and language, rather than by appearance. The ebb and flow of imperial dominance in the modern era has resulted in considerable migration and intermarriage throughout the Slavic region, with the Russians of the Soviet era being merely the most recent. Furthermore, the Germans and Austrians (a Western Indo-European people) and the Hungarians (a non-Indo-European people related to the Finns, Sami and Estonians) have also taken their turn in the gene pool blender. None of my Czech friends ever claimed to be able to spot a Pole by his looks; the same for my Serbian and Bulgarian friends regarding each other. Even my Hungarian friends seemed reluctant to guess the nationality of a Slav or a German until they heard him speak.

    Since American tourists were rare 40 years ago, everywhere I went with my olio of Czech, Jewish and English DNA giving me a cosmopolitan but vaguely Eastern European countenance, people often approached me speaking their native language, assuming I was one of them.

    Since Serbo-Croatian is a single language, for them "racial" differences are strictly about religion: the Serbs are Orthodox whereas the Croats are Catholic. The Kosovars are the "Bosnian Muslims" you refer to, and they are obviously also identified by religion; however they have considerable Albanian ancestry (an Eastern Indo-European people but distinct from both the Slavs and the Indo-Iranians) so they may have visible identifiers as well.
    Au contraire. As I pointed out, Paleolithic people avoided traveling outside their own tribes' boundaries, which was literally punishable by death. There's evidence suggesting that at the height of the season when there was plenty of food, tribes who were close both geographically and genetically may have called a truce, held festivals and exchanged a bit of DNA. But the lack of horses and wheels, the need to spend most of their time finding food, and the hostility of neighboring tribes after festival season ended, prevented them from traveling more widely.

    As today's fast and affordable DNA analysis is applied to more and more of the Paleolithic corpses we keep digging up, we'll have a much better genetic map of our ancestors. But so far it appears that there really were four distinct populations for about twenty thousand years, separated by geography: water, mountains, climate, etc. The Australians, in particular, were very thoroughly isolated once sea level rose back to its current level and it was no longer quite so easy to sail to and from the continent on a primitive raft.
    And the same is clearly happening to our species, but the process is a long way from completion.
    Even with the transportation technology of the Iron Age, geography made travel between the civilizations of the Far East and those of India and the Middle East quite difficult. There's a reason that the Silk Road stands as an icon of cultural contact. With Stone Age technology that would have been a journey of epic proportions.

    The same is true of the water, mountains and other obstacles that separate Europe from the rest of the Afro-Eurasian continent. Homo sapiens didn't even colonize the place until about 25KYA, leaving it as the last Neanderthal homeland.

    The Americas are the most recently colonized large land mass. Humans first arrived here around 15KYA. Their DNA shows them to be clearly of "Mongoloid" origin, and in fact 21st century research appears to have identified the Siberian tribe of their ancestors. Even their language is tentatively related to the Na-Dene family, pushing linguistic relationships back almost ten thousand years earlier than had ever been done before.
    Fortunately we have more reliable evidence than Bronze Age mythology. The Semites are one of six Afroasiatic ethnic groups, the only one whose homeland was in Asia. (Their five cousins are descended from explorers who reverse-migrated back to North Africa, using Neolithic agricultural technology to survive and repopulate the region which the Paleolithic Africans had to abandon when it became a desert. This history is not universally accepted and there are other hypotheses, but I find it convincing.)

    The first evidence of the Semitic peoples is on the Arabian Peninsula around 6000BCE. They spread throughout southwestern Asia, and eventually the Semitic languages were divided into three groups:
    • East Semitic, now extinct, represented by Akkadian.
    • South Semitic, which spans Sinai and includes both Amharic (migration back to Africa continued after the original wave) and languages spoken in Yemen.
    • West Semitic, the most successful group. This is broken into two subgroups. One is Modern Arabic and all the historical Arabic languages; the other covers everything else, including Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician.
    Hebrew and Phoenician are descended from Proto-Canaanite, which arose in the Levant. The Palestinians and Lebanese are also Canaanites and are the Jews' closest relatives (I suspect they are descended from the Canaanites who chose not to adopt Judaism), but they now speak Arabic, practice Islam, and identify themselves as Arabs.
    Indeed. But since throughout the Diaspora they were most often treated as second-class citizens (or worse), the distinction between that and conquest is subtle.
    During the Early Middle Ages the empires of Western Europe preyed upon the people they conquered in Eastern Europe. The word for "slave" in the Slavic languages goes back to a root that means "one who changes allegiances," i.e., from himself to his master. This became rob-/rab- as in Russian rabotat', "to work," and is the source of the word robot coined by Czech playwright Karel Čapek (he gave his brother Josef the credit).
    As I noted in my previous post, humans are a pack-social species and it goes against our nature to form harmonious and cooperative communities with strangers. This is a triumph of reasoned and learned behavior over instinctive behavior, a phenomenon that is essentially unique to humans because our massive forebrain gives us the ability to override messages from our midbrain. But this override comes with a cost: the midbrain occasionally pushes through and encourages us to be suspicious or hostile to those strangers. Obviously we can't reject them all or civilization would collapse, so we find clever ways to divide them into "us" and "them."


    My reasoned hypothesis, based on millennia of evidence, is that each instance of racism is largely crafted rather than instinctive, and that the "racial" identifier varies from instance to instance, occurring often but by no means consistently. This is my rebuttal to the premise that "racism is about appearance."


    If anyone has strong evidence to falsify my rather well-supported hypothesis, please step forward and present it in accordance with the Scientific Method. This is, after all, a place of science and scholarship.

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    No, that's the mating instinct. Remember that unlike humans, chimpanzees and dolphins, the overwhelming majority of mammals are only physically capable of copulation when the females are in estrus ("heat") and the males are aroused by the pheromones they emit. A male has to be of the same species for the female's pheromones to arouse him (although it is sometimes possible between closely related species) and furthermore there are often visual and other cues in addition to the (conscious or unconscious) odor of the pheromones. Lions and tigers, for example, are genetically capable of mating and hybrids have been produced in captivity (usually by AI). But tigers require having their mate claw them to become sexually aroused, whereas lions with their non-retractable claws hate this. This may occur in the wild under stress. Wolves and coyotes have been hybridizing in eastern Canada, since the wolf population has been drastically reduced by humans and they're having trouble finding mates. The resulting gigantic wolf-coyote hybrids are crossing back into the eastern USA, where they will doubtless solve our deer problem.

    The definition of "species" has changed since I took biology in 1958, but one of the criteria is now "willingness to mate." Under normal conditions mammals are only willing to mate within their own species, and furthermore they are willing to mate with any subspecies, population, variety, breed, etc. of that species. The only reason that distinct subspecies arise is geographical separation or human-directed selective breeding.

    Humans are no exception. Even during the era of slavery in America, Southern slaveowners routinely mated with their female African slaves. The extent of this dirty little secret is unfolding now, as DNA testing has become a compulsion in race-obsessed America.
    As I noted above, this is actually a conflict between instinct and reason. What we have been doing for the past twelve thousand years is teaching our inner caveman to redefine what constitutes a "pack." In the Paleolithic Era it was the couple of dozen extended family members who hunted and gathered together for life. In the Neolithic Era it was several extended families who combined their efforts for efficient agriculture, yet they were still well acquainted, if not intimately. The first cities required people to learn to live in harmony and cooperation with people they barely knew, and as the cities grew into civilizations of cities linked by commerce and culture, they had to regard strangers as pack-mates.

    Cities became states became nations, and we had to extend that harmony and cooperation to people we would never meet, but who made a compact with us that they trusted us and cared for us and shared our core values. Frequent wars gave us a chance to solidify that relationship by actually sacrificing our lives for each other, but unfortunately it also solidified our animosity toward the pack on the other side of the front.

    Today's transnational communities are pushing that pack definition even further. See the Germans rescue the Greeks, grumbling all the while, but doing it because this phenomenal extension of harmony and cooperation will (hopefully!) make life better for everyone.

    A great many of us have gone a step beyond, and find ourselves able to regard people as pack-mates who live on the other side of the planet and are nothing but abstractions to us. I am by no means the only American who wept over the video of Neda the Iranian dying in the street. She was a member of a people that we don't even really like very much, but dammit, she was one of us, a human being.

    There is hope.

    As I have opined on this forum many times, I think that the greatest force for perpetuating our atavistic pack-social behavior is Abrahamic religion. The holy books of the Christians, Jews and Muslims all contain passages which are often interpreted as commands to regard people outside their faith as inferior.

    This neatly points back to Nirakar's original observations about the Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Kosovars. That instance of racism is all about Abrahamic religion.
    You bet. Our species' incredibly long childhood is unique. Even elephants and whales reach adulthood in two years. Our parents and other elders spend two decades teaching us "how to be successful humans." Our instinctive behavior is vastly augmented by reasoned and learned behavior. Our instinct to distrust, fear and reject people outside of our pack can be easily focused by our parents and elders.

    My parents did a crappy job in many important ways, but they did one wonderful thing that I didn't even know about until I was older: they raised me not to be a racist. They compulsively brought me into contact with Afro-Americans (in Chicago where I was born) and with Latinos (in Arizona where I would have grown up had I chosen to undergo that process). They never said a word about it, merely taught me by example that those folks were people just like us and there was nothing the least bit remarkable about them. I wasn't until I was about fourteen that I heard one of them slip and make a derogatory remark about "those colored people," and a couple of years later about "those Mexicans."

    My parents were racists! Yet they knew, deep down inside, that that was wrong. They did not have the strength to change themselves, but they would be damned if they would pass the teachings of their parents down to me. Boy was that ever a revelation I had to spend some time struggling with.
    Sure. As I pointed out in my previous post, we've gone through about seven hundred generations since the Neolithic Revolution, when pack-social behavior became something of a liability. Dogs, in contrast, have gone through twelve thousand generations. Their instincts are distinctly different from those of wolves, members of the same species.

    My dog will run joyfully up to absolutely any dog he encounters and crouch to make the pitty-pat front paw gesture which is Universal Dog Language for "Hi pal, I ain't no alpha. Let's play!"

    How about all of us doing that? Oh wait, that's what we're doing right here on SciForums with our "virtual pack-mates," isn't it!
  18. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    I had one summer all over Europe and into Turkey in 1986. I was struck by how everything from the look of the people to the style of cooking and to the sound of the music changed in small increments towards the next place as you travel in that direction. Going from Germany to Vienna you could feel the closeness of the Slavs and even the Greeks and Turks making Vienna different from Germany.

    The Bosnian Muslims speak Serbo-Croat and have always been there in Bosnia Herzegovina they just adopted Islam after the Turkish conquest where as their Serbian neighbors stuck to Orthodox Christianity that they inherited from the Byzantines. The Croats were the same people but they were ruled by the Catholic Austrian Empire. The Kosovar Albanians are in Kosovo which was until recently part of Serbia. That is a different place from Bosnia Herzegovina.

    I was only in Yugoslavia for a few days. I had no clue about the ethnic tensions that would explode a decade later. The only clue I got was somebody telling me that Tito was the only Yugoslav.

    There is a semantic problem with referring to any cultural or ideological hostilities as racism. Xenophobia is not the same as racism. Bigotry is not always racism.

    The reason I use "us" versus "them" is because that feels like the core issue to me. We can stick whatever we want on the us versus them mold.

    At roughly the same time I read Chimpanzees of Gombee, Nathan McCall's "Makes me want to Holler" about a young black guy growing up in gang life, and "The Reckoning" by David Halberstam partly about corporate culture at Ford. I saw parallels in these books. The Gang behavior Chimpanzee behavior parallel is rather obvious but at Ford there was "us" versus "them" tensions between marketing and engineering and design and finance within Ford. My high school and the neighboring town played a football game every thanksgiving. It was so easy to get caught up in the town rivalry.

    I agree that each instance of "us" versus "them" is largely crafted rather than instinctive, and that the "us" versus "them" identifier varies from instance to instance, occurring often but by no means consistently. Race means race. Since ordinary people don't run DNA to determine race, race is largely determined visually. That which is determined linguistically is not race.

    When somebody says that they are comfortable with Obama because he does not sound black they are sort of saying that their bigotry is ethnic bigotry against African Americans rather than racial bigotry against the African race. Whites used to like OJ Simpson I think because he smiled and could talk in a basically white dialect. I liked Reverand Wright and felt like while America may be ready for black skin the are not ready to appreciate the intelligence and brutal honesty of a man who speaks like reverend Wright.

    I think racism as a word can't really be separated from appearance unless we are willing to separate racism from the root word race. Unless I need to be brief and quickly understood I will stick with "us" versus "them" as my name for those flexible antagonistic tribal instincts.
  19. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I don't think that's so true as you make it sound and, anyway, where it is it relies as much on linguistic and fashion cues as purely physical visual ones.

    And that latter qualifier ends up being a difference in kind. Absent any innate visual cues, the discovery in question could well never occur - it's a question only of how the person presents themselves. There are entire communities of "crypto-Jews" in certain places, who have secretly been Jewish for many generations while presenting themselves publicly as members of the majority religion (Christianity, typically).

    Now imagine someone trying to be "secretly black" in that way. The whole pretense would crumble the moment they step out the front door.

    It's a quintessential bigotry, but the question of whether it's racism is not so clear-cut. I would not invoke that example as some kind of definitive proof that Jewish is a "race;" there are plenty of people and organization that think and speak as though the two categories are distinct.
  20. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Yeah that is a fib on Fraggle Rocker part. Often a mentioned problem with japans "no foreigner" exclusion for businesses is that they only target people they can identify a "foreigners" they have been specifically tricked by allowing through say a Chinese women by making sure the Chinese women does not say a word (and thus give away her accent). The equal argument would be to say that one can easily tell apart a Brit from a French man or a German.

    Certain if a white business owner could put up a "whites only" exclusion in the USA, it would not be hard to sneak a Jews past (fuck I usually pass for white despite my Jewish-Hispanic background) just dress them up like Billy bob redneck and you could easily get them into the KKK! Now you are spot on that this kind of "racism" is not visual as say Blacks or Asians, and represent a bigotry rather then racism, but racism has become such a blanket term with so many definitions it practically can mean anything these days!
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Chinese, Japanese and Korean people have told me that they can tell each other apart just by facial appearance, about 90% of the time. The other ten percent is surely because there has been considerable intermarriage (not to mention rape) over the centuries.
  22. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    They've told me that as well, but I don't really believe them. In the first place, situations where they'd be called upon to make such a designation based purely on facial appearance are very very rare, so there's no real scientific basis for the claim. Moreover, ethnic nationalism is pretty extreme in that part of the world, so that's an obvious factor that would lead to exaggerated perception of one's ability to distinguish.

    Also, there is actually a website that attempts to test exactly this issue: . They show you pictures of faces of Japanese, Chinese and Korean people, and you try to assign them to the right category. And while I can't find a link presently, I could swear that I've previously read statistical results from there showing that Asians are any better at this than anyone else.
  23. BennyF Registered Senior Member

    No, that's bigotry. I've been talking about racism, the preliminary step that involves:
    1. making a classification system based on arbitrary and meaningless facial features, hair textures, and the lightness or darkness of a person's skin, and
    2. exadurating those small differences by assigning people to a highly contrasting color scheme, e.g. "black" and "white".

    In reality, due to the never-ending ability of most people to bridge small differences by marriage and parenthood, there are, in fact, a hundred thousand shades of brown skin on the planet, requiring a hurculean effort on the part of the racial classifiers to draw the line between their mythical "races".

    Is it accurate to call a man "black" if his mother and his father look very different than each other, as you do when discussing Barak Obama? I made the point much earlier, as an intellectual exercise. Imagine the world being composed of six races, identified by the first six letters of the alphabet. Now assume that a man from the B race meets and falls in love with a woman from the C race. After they marry and have children, the racists have a difficult choice to make:

    1. arbitrarily assign the children to either the B "race" or the C "race", or
    2. create a seventh race for the children.

    If you choose the first option, which many people are now doing when they claim that our current president is "black", they are immediately making themselves vulnerable to seeing his descendants being called "black" for the same reason, even if they resemble Ted Turner or Jane Fonda.

    If you choose the second option, you've established a method for creating a hundred thousand new races, one for each of the hundred thousand shades of brown skin that exist in the world today.

    [As far as I'm concerned, the colors are, strictly speaking, inaccurate as to an actual physical description of the color of anyone's skin.]
    If someone had blue skin, then they have blue skin. I don't say that they're a member of a blue "race", because it's just as mythical as the "black race".

    Likewise, Barak Obama's skin is a medium-brown color, not dark brown, and certainly not black, so he's not a "black" man. This is simple visual accuracy, which is required whenever a person needs to fill out a police report, or to describe a color photo of him, like this one.

    Because they could give him grandchildren or great-grandchildren who resemble his mother's light-colored appearance, depending on who they marry (not absolutely necessary, but it helps).

    Remember, they're not small children anymore.

    And the same goes for you, too. Don't assume that because you use a classification system, the rest of the world also uses it. As I've pointed out many times, other parts of the words have their own system, just as inaccurate as your own, including one used in Moscow that makes Muscovites "biologically different" than the Cossacks, the Tartars, the Mongols, and the people who live in the Baltics, who they refer to as members of the Baltic "race", simply to create an artificial "difference" where none exists.

    Racists exist, people who use a color-coded classification system. Some of them are also bigots, and some bigots are violent. I don't ignore the obvious, but as a person who doesn't use any color-coded classification system, I can never be a bigot, and neither will anyone else who takes the same truly enlightened 21st century attitude.

    [You can use any words you like to describe your grandparents. If I saw photos of them, I would probably use different words. It's a certainty that I would NOT use the words "black" or "white" to describe them because I never use either one of those words to describe real people unless they're painted that way.]
    Those words aren't "problematic", they're inaccurate. Nobody, I said NOBODY, has skin that is the color of a car tire, and nobody has skin that is the color of milk. Those are the standards I use, and they're the basis for a truly rational view of people based on something other than an arbitrary choice of one of six or seven color-coded pigeonholes to put the world's population into, an exercise that has always seemed to require more effort than any possible benefit you could get from using it.

    Race is a myth, one that will be in steep decline at the end of this century, thanks to the free choice that people like Barak's children will have and make when they grow up, date, marry, and produce children of their own, possibly very different in appearance than either one of Barak's parents.
    Last edited: May 22, 2010

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