May 16, 2013

Coates: "Race Is a Social Construct"

From the Atlantic
What We Mean When We Say 'Race Is a Social Construct'
In a world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check "black" on the census, even the argument that racial labels refer to natural differences in physical traits doesn't hold up.
TA-NEHISI COATES MAY 15 2013, 12:55 PM ET
Walter White. Chairman of the NAACP. Black dude.
Most of the honest writing I've seen on "race and intelligence" focuses on critiquing the idea of "intelligence." So there's lot of good literature on whether it can be measured, its relevance in modern society, whether intelligence changes across generations, whether it changes with environment, and what we mean when we say IQ. As Freddie mentions here, I had a mathematician stop past to tell me I needed to stop studying French, and immediately start studying statistics -- otherwise I can't possibly understand this debate. 
It's a fair critique. My response is that he should stop studying math and start studying history. 
I am not being flip or coy. If you tell me that you plan to study "race and intelligence" then it is only fair that I ask you, "What do you mean by race?" It's true I don't always do math so well, but I understand the need to define the terms of your study. If you're a math guy, perhaps your instinct is to point out the problems in the interpretation of the data. My instinct is to point out that your entire experiment proceeds from a basic flaw -- no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.

I constantly hear this line of argument. Millions of people must find it incredibly persuasive, but it doesn't make any sense on two levels. 

Consider, as an example of the complexities of racial classification, the President of the United States, Barack Obama. In philosophy debates, the current President of the United States is a stock example, so I'll use him too. The President seems like a reasonable example, right? I don't know what the President's IQ is, but it's obviously above average. Imagine that Obama were part of a study of IQ by race. I'll answer the questions in this FAQ:

Q. What race would Obama be classified under?

A. Black.

Q. Why?

A. Because he says so. (The White House announced that on the 2010 Census, the President checked only the "black" box.) The standard methodology in studies of race and intelligence is exactly the same as in the studies of race and discrimination cited by liberals: self-identification. People check whatever box or boxes they feel like, and that's what the researchers use.

Q. Why rely upon "self-identification?"

A. Because it's easier bureaucratically, for one thing. This isn't apartheid South Africa where bureaucrats told people they are different races from what they claim to be. Here, they just go with the flow.

Q. How accurate is this?

A. It's good enough for government work, evidently.

Q. But what if we gave genetic tests to all subjects in studies?

A. These days, that would be increasingly affordable.

Q. So wouldn't that change the results?

A. Yes. It would likely make the white-black IQ gap slightly worse than under self-identification.

Q. Huh?

A. Consider Obama, who had an sub-Saharan African father and >99% white mother. Currently, because the President chooses to self-identify as black and only black, his above average IQ would be credited wholly to blacks. But, genealogically, he's half white and half-black. So, if his IQ were split among the white category and the black category, the white average would go up slightly and the black average would go down slightly. 

Q. Is this true on average that genetically whiter self-identifying blacks average higher IQs?

A. Probably:
The quants at Human Varieties have been kicking this around and it appears to be modestly true, although the correlation isn't enormous. I could imagine that this might change. If Jason Richwine were put in charge of immigration policy and he only let in high IQ immigrants, over time the average IQ of people who are 100% sub-Saharan African might get pretty high.

Q. La-la-la-la, I have my fingers in my ears, I can't hear a word you are saying.

A. Let's put it another way: leaving out recent African grad school immigrants, nobody, white or black, has ever argued that blacker African-Americans are smarter than lighter ones on average. But let's just assume they are absolutely equal. Then what would be the effect of divvying up subjects in an IQ study by genetic background? C'mon, it's simple arithmetic.

Q. I'm a history guy, not a math guy.

A. Zero. You'd get the same results as now. So, even under the most favorable of assumptions, this entire discussion is a red herring.

Q. Red herring? Is that racist?

A. Or consider your photographic example, Walter White (presumably the ironic namesake of the anti-hero of "Breaking Bad," but that's a whole different story). Walter White was 27/32nd white, the direct descendant of two Presidents. Or consider former NAACP head Julian Bond in the SNL video from the 1970s above. Or consider the current NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, who looks like Mark Ruffalo. (There'a reason the dark-skinned masses called mixed-race elites of the NAACP the "National Association for the Advancement of Certain People.")

Presumably, these are guys with IQs > 100. How in the world would moving them from the black to the white category narrow the IQ gap?

Take your time and think about it. Get back to me when you've done the arithmetic.
------
To drop out of the FAQ format, I'm fascinated by the terrible statistical sense displayed by pundits in the race-IQ debate. Evolutionary psychology suggests that human beings ought to be pretty decent at statistics. And, indeed, we see that intelligent people are pretty good at figuring out which are low crime neighborhoods to buy a home in and which are low violence schools to send their kids to, even if they aren't particularly good at math.

Yet, when they try to talk about the statistics of race and IQ, they seem completely inept. Why?

It's a little like conspiracy theorizing, where the most popular conspiracy theories are almost always wrong, even though conspiracies really do play a massive role in history.

For example, there's a new major history of World War One out that traces the origin of the Great War to one man's conspiracy: Dragutin Dimitrijevic, called Apis, the head of Serbian military intelligence, who arranged the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But I was unaware of that name until Greg Cochran told me it when I was about 45. Nobody is interested in Dragutin Dimitrijevic  even though he organized the most catastrophic conspiracy since the assassination of Julius Caesar. Conspiracy theorists would rather pull out their toenails than discuss how Dimitrijevic's conspiracy blew up the world.

Same with race and IQ: pundits seem to have an instinct, a magnetic attraction, for being wrong.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ta-Nehisi Coates apparently is haunted by that banshee of dropping his stats class in college. He is full of magical thinking on this issue and should drop it because he looks like a clown.

Anonymous said...

The reason race is an issue at all is that everyone would like to understand why it is that black and Hispanic neighborhoods have to be so darned awful. You can't stop for gas in their neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

A kitchen table meta-analysis of the Richwine pile on reveals that Coates has the most moronic commenters, closely followed by the dismal scientists over at the Economist.

Gilbert Pinfold.

Steve Sailer said...

TN Coates is the Hootie and the Blowfish of punditry.

TGGP said...

Lots of people know the Black Hand was supported by folks in the Serbian government, but D.D. is a lot less famous than Gavrilo Princip. Although even without government complicity, the Black Hand was still a kind of conspiracy (as was the hijacking by al Qaeda of four aircraft).

el supremo said...

"My response is that he should stop studying math and start studying history."

How convenient for the guy whose schtick is complaining about historical racism! I don't need to learn your complicated skills - instead, you should listen to me go on and on about I book I read about redlining or the one-drop rule.

just a nobody said...

here is a short poem about the future of america using anagrams of ta nehisi coates for 9 lines. it was fun.

* * *

america!

hi-octane? siesta?

oh, cease titans!
and
associate thine
atheistic aeons
with
nacho satieties.

america!

his taco is eaten!

incite hate so as
to chains, tease i.

see: I toast china

TGGP said...

Coates says we don't do studies to see if the "Southern race" has more hot-headedness, but in fact we do. We measure their cortisol levels after they've been slighted.

AlexT said...

Apis ended up in front of a Serbian firing squad in 1917 for treason. A show trial if ever there was one. Could someone (steve) explain to me why he is so completely ignored by historians?

@TGGP
Actually DD acted without government approval, which is why they eventually killed him. He was a bit of a loose cannon by all accounts, but apparently his motives were pure: The resurrection of the medieval Serbian empire as a religious obligation.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

Folks who wish to opine about race/IQ should be REQUIRED (held down by force if necessary) to read The Bell Curve. I don't care if they agree with all of it or not, but they need to be aware of the data.

**** Disclaimer: TBG is normally a mild mannered libertarian. he feels bad that his inner Stalin reared it's ugly head....*****

Anonymous said...

Steve, minor correction. You wrote, "A. Consider Obama, who had an sub-Saharan African mother and >99% white mother." It should be father.

Alan said...

I don't agree with TNC, and although this discussion can certainly get toxic, I don't agree that the truth should be buried. I like this take:

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/jason-richwine-race-immigration-article-1.1344963

But while I don't want us to shy away from looking at correlations between race and IQ, let's not shy away from other correlations as well. If we restricted voting to the top 5% of Americans, which party do you think they would support? My money is on Democrats, with some support for moderate Republicans. There are a few intellectual archconservatives, to be sure; but they are way at the tail end of a different sort of bell curve.

Anonymous said...

"I was told there'd be no math. "


It's sort of embarrassing when you have to admit your own stupidity, but TN doesn't even know enough to be embarrassed. Maybe knowing math is "acting white"?

If there is really no such thing as race, then we can get rid of all this affirmative action stuff, right, TN? How could you single out certain people for belonging to a certain group if said group doesn't exist in the first place?


Anonymous said...

I think much of the confusion is the result of thinking that African-Americans and Africans are the same race: Africans are a race, and whites are a race, but African-Americans are a hybrid. So the 1 drop rule works both ways: with one drop you stop being white, but you stop being African as well. With modern testing you are able to say what proportion you are of different races. Most of the attempts to confuse the issue assume that African-Americans are the same race as Africans.

Chip said...

"TN Coates is the Hootie and the Blowfish of punditry."

Just don't call him 'Flip' or 'Coy.'

Anonymous said...

" Q. Is this true on average that genetically whiter self-identifying blacks average higher IQs?

A. Probably:
The quants at Human Varieties have been kicking this around and it appears to be modestly true, although the correlation isn't enormous."

There is no real reason to believe white ancestry has any association with IQ among american blacks, and even if it did, it wouldn't necessarily be for the reasons proponents of the idea think it would. People who drum up the idea of racial admixture and IQ frequently make the assumption that the mixing happened where people with the averages of their group's IQ breeded with eachother, even though it's been very well established that, atleast in modern times, couples generally have similar IQ's. We in many cases do not know what the exact patterns breeding were for many groups prior to modern times, which were more complex and followed all sorts of trajectories.

If there is a positive association with skin color/white ancestry in american blacks, it could have very well been due to essentially random mixing somewhere along the lines.

This argument seldom gets brought up in objections to this line of thinking, and the only time I really recall it in an academic context was in some kind of anthology in the 1970's.

Most studies I've seen associating skin color with IQ in american blacks find only mild correlations, and I'm not up to commenting on those Human Varieties since they use a lot of statistics I'm rusty with. I'll also say that I don't really trust people who drum up GSS results like this- not that it isn't insightful, but many HBD bloggers basically fetishize it and seem absolutely convinced the wordsum is truly just as good as an IQ test.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

Major typo re: Obama's African ancestry

Anonymous said...

Also, my personal impressions are that white ancestry/skin color have virtually nothing to do with IQ among american blacks. People like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson etc. are dark skinned and clearly have little white ancestry, and most black-white mixing even today does seem to occur among low class white women and low class black men. There's very high IQ overlap in the low 90's between blacks and whites, so...

Anonymous said...

"Same with race and IQ: pundits seem to have an instinct, a magnetic attraction, for being wrong."

Its different for race and IQ.

Most pundits are wedded to the university taught ideology of equality and that only university training in the fine points of social justice makes one morally superior.

Race and IQ challenges their sense of moral superiority.

Snippet said...

>>> A kitchen table meta-analysis of the Richwine pile on reveals that Coates has the most moronic commenters

He has a lot of the sort of commenter with a high IQ which is used not to understand the world, warts and all, but rather to make denial sound more plausible and intellectually solid than it really is. Lots of squid ink over there.

Svigor said...

In a world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check "black" on the census, even the argument that racial labels refer to natural differences in physical traits doesn't hold up.

In a world where owners of mixed Chows/Poodles, mixed Chows/Retrievers, and mixed Chows/Chihuahuas all check "Chow" on their veterinarians' forms, even the argument that breed refers to natural differences in physical traits doesn't hold up.

Nonsense, of course. Just because these people are too proud to admit that their dogs are mutts, or their vets are too dumb to have a "mutt" check-box on their forms, doesn't mean the dogs are all Chows.

I'm fascinated by the terrible statistical sense displayed by pundits in the race-IQ debate. Evolutionary psychology suggests that human beings ought to be pretty decent at statistics. And, indeed, we see that intelligent people are pretty good at figuring out which are low crime neighborhoods to buy a home in and which are low violence schools to send their kids to, even if they aren't particularly good at math.

Haha. They are, you coy boy. They run the odds of being honest, don't like what they find, and they go with venality.

Captcha word: eRacent

Anonymous said...

"TN Coates is the Hootie and the Blowfish of punditry."

What does that mean? You'll have to spell it out for your foreign readers.

Glaivester said...

Race is a social construct, just like evolution.

(Based on "Evolution is just a theory, like gravity.")

panjoomby said...

"race is a social clusterf*ck" is more apt.

Torn and Frayed said...

"Consider Obama, who had an sub-Saharan African mother and >99% white mother."

I think we have one too many mothers in this equation!

C. Van Carter said...

I don't need permission from a puffed-up, innumerate, affirmative action negro before discussing race, or any other subject.

Anonymous said...

"This isn't apartheid South Africa where bureaucrats told people they are different races from what they claim to be."

Did this actually happen in South Africa?
And Steve, WWI would have mostly likely happened without that assassination. You're making it seem more important than it was. The most that can be said about it is that it helped determine the timing of the war's start.

Anonymous said...

In a world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check "black" on the census ..


What box does Coates tick on the census?

Anonymous said...

Fine, fine then let's not make it about race. Instead we can say "People with significant amounts (x percent) of sub-Saharan African (or Papua New Gineuan or Native American) ancestry have lower IQs than people with entirely European ancestry."

Anonymous said...

I'm sure all the folks deriding "race" as a "social construct" are opposed to affirmative action, right? I mean, if we can't accurately and consistently sort people into different "races" how can we ever hope to determine who should receive a leg up at the expense of other so called "races."

Glad we settled that.

DPG said...

I read some of Coates's blog posts a few years ago. It was too much to wade through all of the misspellings and grammatical errors he made. That he is a professional writer is an affront to the English language and a sign of how far The Atlantic has fallen. Of course, he gets paid to write for the same reason that Obama was elected President.

Josh Yellowfever said...

Steve: Can you find articles presenting evidences to prove that IQs between races are similar? Everybody may overestimate his/her own intelligence just for the sake of self-esteem. Many of those who think themselves smart are actually quite dumb. Unless someone proves that IQs between races are similar, we can assume that their IQs are different. The average brain size of Asians is larger than that of blacks, while the average femural bone density of blacks is 50% more dense than that of Asians. These are well known facts. I don't understand why media makes such a fuss on Richwein. It makes any kind of thinking in this area a taboo if one does not conform a fixed ideology. One will lose his dignity or job when he speaks his mind. This is sad. One hundred years later when truth is settled, the current 30 years may be labeled as dark age for intellectual freedom in social science, similar to the years when Copernican lived, except Vatican is replaced with politcally correct media.

NOTA said...

Most people have a hell of a hard time reasoning into a headwind of social disapproval or "what everyone knows." If you have logic and probability theory nailed tightly into your head, you can manage it, but otherwise, it's easy to just not quite be able to make that mental connection when it kinda hurts to do so.

This is how everyone who scraped by with a C in basic stat in college can remember that correlation is not causation when they don't like the results of the study, but forget it entirely when they do like the results. It's related to all kinds of similar directed mental malfunctions, in which reasoning toward an unwanted conclusion is just *harder.*. It's a good reason to try to burn good thinking in at a really basic level in yourself, lest you endup helping your enemies lie to you.

There is a different flavor to comments from people who know better but feel like they have to spin their way around an issue. Malcolm Gladwell can convincingly convey faith in the falsehood of hbd ideas in ways Steve Pinker simply cannot, because Pinker is too smart to fool himself into not thinking. He may still disagree on other grounds, but it won't be because his brain malfunctioned when thinking about the difference between populations and individuals within a population, or between probabilistic statemens and absolute ones. ("How dare you say women are shorter than men. I knew a really tall girl once.")

Anonymous said...

"The reason race is an issue at all is that everyone would like to understand why it is that black and Hispanic neighborhoods have to be so darned awful. You can't stop for gas in their neighborhoods." - look if you don't buy the idea of raceblindness then the top 10% of blacks can't move away from those neighborhoods.

David said...

Why stop at race? Many things are on a continuum, such as color. Where is the dividing line between red and yellow, for example? If there is one, isn't it arbitrary? Therefore, according to the modern mentality, there is no such thing as red or yellow.

We've regressed to the time of Thales. "All is one."

An even more relevant example might be the myth of the frog and the pan on the stovetop. Precisely what degree centigrade marks the difference between life and death? Well, since it's a range (I don't mean the stove), there is no difference between life and death; there isn't any life or death. All is one.

Perhaps The Atlantic writers and editors were fond of dropping acid in their hot youths, and still are. No politer explanation of their cognitive incoherence is possible.

pat said...

The meme 'Race is a Social Construct' does not come from the arguments that Coates gives here. It comes from Lewontin's analysis if the Fst statistic of the human genome. Nowadays this is known as Lewontin's Fallacy. The mistake that Lewontin made was first pointed out by Harpending I believe.

Basically Fst is a an ANOVA like argument. It shows that very little of the explained variance is in the individual SNP differences between the races. That is to say when you look at base pairs, blacks and white appear to be virtually identical.

But race isn't a SNP level phenomenon at all. That is to say having a 'G' instead of a 'A' at one spot in your genome doesn't make you black or Asian. Race is polygenic. It is a constellation of correlated attributes. No one knows which ones contribute to race anymore than anyone knows which define intelligence or even simple stature. We are not like Mendel's peas. We come in more varieties than just tall and short. Race is spread (probably) across all the somatic chromosomes.

The Social Construct idea is an idea that springs from a political agenda.

You have to also understand that Lewontin like his erstwhile partner Stephen Jay Gould are (or were) Marxists. Together and separately they fashioned a number of evolutionary concepts to reconcile Darwin with Marx. Among the most famous were the idea of spandrels to attack adaptationists and punctuated equilibrium to attack uniformitarians.

Marxists created the idea of the "New Soviet Man". They are extreme environmentalists. Lysenko similarly was troubled by natural selection. They are uncomfortable with any kind of determinism except that which arises from the class struggle. They bend Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism to be reconciled with what they believe to be the deeper reality - Marxist economics.

The Social Construct notion of Race is popular with cultural anthropologists and sociologists - many of whom are also Marxists.

Albertosaurus

Aaron Gross said...

First of all, forty years ago Arthur Jensen made the same point you made in defense of using self-identified race, that it underestimates the gap between (Jensen's scare quotes) hypothetical "pure" races. If I remember correctly, Jensen compared it to measuring the different densities of impure alloys of copper and tin, or something like that: the difference between the alloys underestimates the difference between the "pure" metals.

But more importantly, race realists themselves share a large part of the blame for the kind of utter stupidity written by Coates here. That's because race realists can't resist arguing about the biological reality of race, when they should just learn from Jensen and talk instead about self-identified - that is, socially constructed - race. When people object that race is a social construct, say, "That's what I mean by Hispanic, white, etc. - the socially constructed, socially defined races."

Socially constructed races differ biologically, for instance in skin color, due to genetic differences. That's absolutely undeniable, and once you get people like Coates to admit its truth, it's a short step from there to the empirical question - not a priori, but empirical - of whether IQ happens to be one of those traits whose between-race variation is partly explained by genetics or not. Again, this is all about socially defined races.

So if you want to get race realism across to the public, stop talking so much about the reality of biological race. It's a red herring. All it does is distract from the real issues and make life easier for willfully ignorant people like Coates.

Aaron Gross said...

Race is a social construct. It's not "just" a social construct, as if it weren't based on biology, but it is a social construct. Practically every social construct is based on biology. Obviously, when Barack Obama is classified as black but not white, that's a sign there's a lot of social constructing going on.

This whole "social construct" argument should be laid to rest. I mean, the Sokal Hoax was way back in the 1990s. There's really no reason to argue about the term "social construct" anymore.

Big Bill said...

Cute! That means that I can simply say I am "black" and the government will give me Affirmative Action?

Don't make me laugh!

The federal government employs private agencies to go out and "inspect" people to see whether they are truly what they claim to be.

These agencies decide whether or not your "self identification" is BS.

If they agree, you will be an "official certified Negro" who gets Affirmative Action.

If they disagree, you are just a plain old everyday honky.

They make the legal determination of your race.

Ta-Nehisi Coates knows he is lying.

Ray Cyst said...

I feel awkward mentioning this, but "TNC" is perilously close to, erm, another acronym which has some currency on the world wide web.

NOTA said...

pat:

I think Gould's approach to evolution was more a difference in level of focus than anything to do with Marxism or other ideologies. He noticed patterns that showed up in the fossil record, which is a very different sort of thing than trying to mathematically model how evolution works. Describing those patterns and understanding how they work seems like exactly what you'd want a scientist in Gould's position to do.

In general, I find analysis of a scientist's work based on his political associations worse than useless--whether that's Gould or Richwine. (Coates' piece on Richwine was made of 100% pure guilt by association.)

Aaron:

I think the sticking point for most people is that the "race is biologically meaningless" line is obviously factually wrong. And the fact that it persists has a lot more to do with motivated reasoning and the difficulty of reasoning into a headwind than with anything else. People believe it for the same reason people believe we're the good guys in our foreign policy--they've heard it, it made them feel good, and they want it to be true.

Big Bill said...

Cancel my last comment. I thought that Coates said the President is black "because he said so".

Mr Lomez said...

This "socially constructed" definition of race is how 90% of college undergrads learn the concept -- with the attendant lesson that these "social constructions" were (and are) all part of some devious scheme by the white man to enslave and subjugate "the other."

ALbertosauras is 100% right, these notions began as Marxist critiques of both the humanities and the sciences. From the late 60's onward, these ideas spread through the humanities like wildfire, reaching a zenith (or nadir, as it were) with the Post-Modernists in the 80's, who came up with some clever ways to dismiss cultural and biological realities by dismantling the language used to talk about them (notably Gender and Race). It was all a lot of semantics and sophistry, but it stuck, mostly because it gave the answers that people wanted to hear. Coates is merely summarizing what has been taught in sociology classrooms in every corner of the country for the last 20 years.

I think Aaron Gross has the right idea for how to reframe the discussion. Let them keep their dear old terms: Sure race is a "social construction;" sure race is historically contextual, now let's start looking at some of the phenotypic overlap among members of these self-identifying groups (including IQ). Then: Hey, whodathunkit, there is in fact some genetic underpinning to these group differences -- regardless of how "socially constructed" these groups' boundaries.

Finally, Steve, your definition of race as an extended family with some inbreeding is about the best, and most readily comprehensible one out there. Pinker, or someone, if you're listening, use that in an article/book. If that's how people understood the concept of race, this whole discussion would be settled.

Gray Falcon said...

Mostly because the "Dimitrijevic conspiracy theory" is the work of folks who tend to be apologists for Austria-Hungary and Germany, or Brits and Frenchmen seeking to shift the responsibility for their own mistakes onto the Serbs and Russians.

David said...

Socially constructed is a scare term for mental distinctions. The idea that our mental distinctions have no basis in objective reality (and the idea that there is no objective reality) is old, but no more than about 230 years old in its strongest, modern form. Kant said reality could be known only without modalities; so if you use your eyes to see, you aren't seeing reality, you're seeing a "construct" (he used the term "categories") instead. It's a piece of anti-Enlightenment sophistry (are true houses built only without tools?), but unfortunately it had profound effects on Western culture since. So profound that people aren't aware of how it's shaping them. For example, Aaron's heart is in the right place, but suggesting that race really is socially constructed so we should argue about it on that premise is to concede implicitly that we're arguing over mere figments of the imagination, or fairy tales. Race is something real, despite the fact that a current census form isn't the best place to go for the latest research on it. Implicit or explicit concessions of the facts underlying your position aren't good in argumentation, regardless of apparent short-term advantages. (On principle, there are no short-term advantages either. Any such would depend entirely on how quick-witted your opponent is.)

ben tillman said...

TN Coates is the Hootie and the Blowfish of punditry.

It's pretty funny that the Atlantic's moderators ban commenters so aggressively in Hootie's threads. It almost seems paternalistic and racist, as if he couldn't possibly defend his ideas.

Anonymous said...

Anti-racism or racidalism is a social destruct.

Sideways said...

TNC only has two modes: vapid, and clown.

Alan said...

I guess no one is disputing that the highest IQ Americans are more liberal than conservative.

"Of course, he gets paid to write for the same reason that Obama was elected President. "

BS. Obama's race was a drag on his vote totals, not a boost to them. A scandal-free John Edwards would have racked up LBJ type numbers.

"Africans are a race"

If we are going to try to be scientifically rigourous, we need to say that they are a number of races as there is far more genetic diversity within Africa than without.

"If there is really no such thing as race, then we can get rid of all this affirmative action stuff, right, TN? How could you single out certain people for belonging to a certain group if said group doesn't exist in the first place?"

Valid question.

I see a lot of reference to "Marxist" in this thread as a synonym for "inherently, axiomatically wrong". Lazy thinking there. Karl wasn't right about everything, but surplus value explains capitalism and inequality better than Adam Smith ever did. If you disagree, I would challenge you to defend your position rather than using the word as a talisman (or bogeyman).

Anonymous said...

And Sailer, I don't get why you emphasize the cases of Walter White and Mark Ruffalo; as you noted over 10 years ago: http://www.isteve.com/2002_how_white_are_blacks.htm

"According to Shriver, only about 10 percent of African-Americans are over 50 percent white."

However accurate that may be now, "blacks" that are as white as Walter White are rare.

GOP goes the weasel said...

If you think about it, EVERYTHING is a social construct or artificial construct. We don't perceive reality as raw reality but through the prism of ideas and concepts.

What is a chair and what is a table? I suppose we could put food on a chair and sit on a table. So, there is no cosmic truth that says 'this is a chair' and 'that is a table'. We make and use them as such things, and so they take on such meanings.
However, even though 'chairs' and 'tables' are socially constructed, they do serve REAL purposes. People wanna sit and people wanna eat, and they serve those real purposes. They are associated with needs, issues, and problems of real reality.

'Truth' is a social construct in that every culture defines it different. Also, truth is science is different from truth in spirituality from truth in arts from truth in emotions, etc.

How humanity viewed wolves, rats, and snakes largely depended on social constructs. Mankind has seen wolves as ruthless marauding killers, rats as disease carriers, and snakes as agents of the devil. Such exaggerations arose from man's fear of predators, venomous animals, and pestilence. So, entire myths developed around wolves, rats, and snakes as diabolical creatures. There were socially constructed ideas about those animals.

However, such myths didn't arise out of thin air or idle imagination without reason/evidence.
Wolves ARE truly dangerous predators. Some snakes are indeed poisonous and kill with a bite. And rats have raided crops and carried and spread disease. So, even though mankind sometimes socially constructed exaggerated accounts of those animals, the fears were rooted in reality.

Human group differences are real. We have used all sorts of categories to explain such differences. There have been spiritual explanations, as in the stuff about how God created 12 tribes of Israel. There have been creation myths saying, 'our people originated thus and thus'. There have been legends.

And finally there was science. Initially, some white folks thought maybe different races were different species, especially primitive folks in places like Australia. But science showed that all humans are of the same species. And also, Christianity applied moral pressure to see all humans as possessed of souls given to them by God.

Soul is a social construct but rooted in the reality of our awareness of our feelings and consciousness.

Liberals seem to assume that everything associated with something must be a fairytale or falsehood if that something has been shown to be a social construct. But even if something is primarily a social construct, it is likely to have underlying basis in reality. Even if souls don't exist, consciousness/feelings exist that create the illusion of soul.

So, even if our current category of race is faulty and imperfect, who can deny the underlying reality of different human groups and differences.

GOP goes the weasel said...

For a long time, even scientists divided living things in man, animal, and plant. And then, science regarded man as animal too, so it was animal and plant. Then, another category was added with 'protist' and now, there are something like 5 major life groups according to biology. So, our perception of biology has changed but one thing that has remained constant is our awareness of differences and variations in nature. So, even if we categorize race differently in the future and arrive at a more accurate way of gauging differences among human groups, the fact remains that mankind has been noticing differences for a long time and will continue to do so. Of course, we could say 'difference' is a social construct, but then, so is 'equality'. The idea of the equality of man is a social construct based partly on biological reality. On a fundamental level, yes, all humans are roughly same or similar: two eyes, language ability, ability to learn math, and etc. So, in the most generic sense, yes we are all equal. But in a more specific sense, differences do arise among humans and human groups. As science and technology are about being more exact, precise, and accurate, it is bound to measure and recognize more differences among human groups. It's like if we look through a microscope, we notice all sorts of minute differences we otherwise might have missed. The great irony of liberals is they want more science but can't tolerate what science is showing more and more of through better techniques and methods.

PS. I think we should stop with the idea of a single black race. Whites and Asians both have light skin and straight hair, but they are different races. So, why can't different black groups in Africa be considered as different racial groups? Ethiopians look markedly different from Nigerians. They might even have different general personalities.

GOP goes the weasel said...

Consequences of human/human group differences matter more than ever because the modern science/technology in a free society has huge consequences that it didn't in the past.

Suppose we are all living in the 18th century with 18th century technology. A very smart person wouldn't be able to much more than an average person.
Though remarkable discoveries were being made, they were still basic stuff. Also, due to lack of social freedoms, most people could rise only so high.

Even 50 yrs ago, guys like Brin and Zuckerberg couldn't have gotten so far so fast with their brains. Computer technology was in its nascent stage, and most smart people were into industrial stuff. Brin might have been a physics professor, Zuck might have worked as an engineer building dams.
But as science and technology advanced, very young and very smart people could make billions in no time. And such people are not equally distributed among all groups or races. Some races/groups have many more of such people, and that has huge social and political consequences.

Science is supposed to have discredited ideas about racial differences forever, but the advance of science and technology(and wealth that can be generated from them)has amply demonstrated the true nature of racial differences. Some races are much better at science than other races. And because so much more can be done with science/technology and so much money can be made from it, some groups are shooting way past others.

Anonymous said...

Cootie and the blowhard.

Anonymous said...

One drop rule was a bad idea. Without it, lots of light-skinned blacks would have come over to the white side, and black community would have only dumbass leaders.

Maybe Jews and white liberals know this, which is why they're coaxing mulattos like Obama, Holder, and Jarrett to hang around Jews than around them unruly black Negroes.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of reference to "Marxist" in this thread as a synonym for "inherently, axiomatically wrong". Lazy thinking there. Karl wasn't right about everything, but surplus value explains capitalism and inequality better than Adam Smith ever did.


Since Marx originated the term "capitalism" it's no big surprise that his definition of it tends to be accurate. Adam Smith was not a "capitalist".

Most modern libertarians are people who took their ideas from Marx. They just decided that certain things he called "bad", they'd call "good".

Rather like the way modern liberals read "1984" and "Brave New World" not as cautionary tales but as how-to guides to constructing the perfect state.

Anonymous said...

Even 50 yrs ago, guys like Brin and Zuckerberg couldn't have gotten so far so fast with their brains


They didn't get very far with their "brains" today. Can we all stop acting as if Google and Facebook are some terrific intellectual accomplishments?

Mr Lomez said...

I see a lot of reference to "Marxist" in this thread as a synonym for "inherently, axiomatically wrong".

All right, Alan, I'll bite, though your reach FAR exceeds your grasp. Nowhere in this thread is there even the remotest hint that Marxist equates to what you say it does.

Calling Coates theory of race construction Marxist is not only uncontroversial but also non-qualitative. This is simply how academics in the humanities talk about this strain of social theory, i.e that race (or gender, or insert pet identity marker), is a consequence of economic and historical circumstances related to Capitalism, modes of production, and class struggle. (Later Marxists like Derrida would attack language itself to further unsettle how we conceive of race--among other things). Race, then, according to this "Marxist" reading is a tool by the empowered class to subordinate the prole classes. The use of the term Marxist here says nothing of whether these ideas are right, wrong, brilliant, silly, or whatever else. (Though you'd be correct in assuming that I personally think Marxist social theory is, well, flawed.)

On the other hand, one might argue that race isn't merely a social construct, but biological at its core, evolutionary. We might call such a theory Darwinist.

Anonymous said...

>>> A kitchen table meta-analysis of the Richwine pile on reveals that Coates has the most moronic commenters

>>>He has a lot of the sort of commenter with a high IQ which is used not to understand the world, warts and all, but rather to make denial sound more plausible and intellectually solid than it really is. Lots of squid ink over there."

The type is satirised in The Great Negro Space Project. But if their output is perverse, at least they are engaged to some extent because they need to follow the debate to generate obfuscations and diversions.

The Economist crowd, OTOH, the captains of industry, are clueless. All they have in their 'white privilege knapsacks' is the following:
- the subject is toxic
- Scientific racism is debunked because Lewontin's fallacy
- Race is socially constructed (even though we know a good school when we see one)
- IQ is problematic (even though our HR guys use cognitive tests for recruitment)

Such wisdom they have accumulated via corporate 'diversity training' and mandatory agit-prop content in MBA and similar courses.

Re the comment moderation at TNC, the vibe I get is: 'HE DIRESPECTED THE PRESIDENT.'

Gilbert P.

Anonymous said...

"What does that mean? You'll have to spell it out for your foreign readers."

Hootie and the Blowfish were a grunge band also-ran, fronted by a somewhat black guy, promoted very heavily IIRC. When most people think of grunge, they think of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and not much else usually. That's my take.

Svigor said...

I guess no one is disputing that the highest IQ Americans are more liberal than conservative.

You're not suggesting that correlation is causation, are you? 'Cause dass raciss.

If we are going to try to be scientifically rigourous, we need to say that they are a number of races as there is far more genetic diversity within Africa than without.

Care to show your work, there?

One drop rule was a bad idea. Without it, lots of light-skinned blacks would have come over to the white side, and black community would have only dumbass leaders.

Maybe Jews and white liberals know this, which is why they're coaxing mulattos like Obama, Holder, and Jarrett to hang around Jews than around them unruly black Negroes.


One drop rule was a good idea. You send your roosters into their henhouse, not the other way around. Jews know this, which is why they've been sheeding their genes into surrounding populations, while erecting strong barriers to the reverse, for eons.

Aaron Gross said...

I'm not recommending that anyone concede one inch of ground here. If you're talking public policy, then you should be talking about socially defined and constructed races, not about biological race. Socially constructed race is the right thing to talk about no matter what your interlocutor claims.

It's an interesting philosophical question whether biological race is real (answer: yes), but it's completely, 100% irrelevant to these questions of society and public policy. You're not conceding anything by pointing that out if someone "accuses" you of believing in a non-existent biological concept called race.

I'm all in favor of rhetorically accepting your adversary's incorrect premises or framing of the question if they support your own conclusions rather than his. But that's not what I'm talking about here! I'm saying that your opponent has the correct frame - socially-constructed race - and that you should be using that correct frame as well, if you want to get things right in your own thinking.

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan said...

You're not suggesting that correlation is causation, are you? 'Cause dass raciss.

Sometimes it reflects causation (though sometimes the directional arrow of causation is in the opposite direction it is assumed to be). Why do *you* suppose that those with the highest 5 percent of IQs are more likely to be liberal than conservative?

Care to show your work, there?

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-205_162-4981240.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953791/

Svigor said...

Sometimes it reflects causation (though sometimes the directional arrow of causation is in the opposite direction it is assumed to be). Why do *you* suppose that those with the highest 5 percent of IQs are more likely to be liberal than conservative?

I don't have any solid suppositions, I'm just pointing to that big sign on the wall that says "appeal to authority."

My first speculation would be that the smartest 5% in Germany were more likely to be Nazis than liberals in 1944, and more likely to be liberals than Nazis in 1946, the smartest in Russia were more likely to be commies than capitalists in 1950, and more likely to be capitalists than commies in 2000, etc.

There's a whole "just how smart is it to go against the orthodoxy, even if it's bullshit?" discussion to be had here.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-205_162-4981240.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953791/


Is your logic of "more diversity = must be multiple races" supported somewhere therein? I'm skeptical. And I'm on dialup and I hate wasting my time.