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Defining Race. Definitions and Ideologies. Class Exercise: Definitions. Write a definition of race. Be as precise as you can. Try to distinguish from related concepts, such as ethnicity and culture. Compare your definition of race with person on your left and right

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Defining race l.jpg

Defining Race

Definitions and Ideologies


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Class Exercise: Definitions

  • Write a definition of race. Be as precise as you can. Try to distinguish from related concepts, such as ethnicity and culture.

  • Compare your definition of race with person on your left and right

  • Decide with each person if the definitions are essentially similar or different. If different, note in what ways.


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Defining Race

A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics. (American Heritage Dictionary, 2007)


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Defining Race(American Heritage Dictionary, 2007)

A local geographic or globalhuman population distinguished as a more or lessdistinct group by genetically transmittedphysical characteristics.

   a.  skin color (primary) b.  hair texture, color, and distribution c.  stature d.  musculature e.  blood type


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Defining Race (other dictionaries)

 A division of mankind possessing traits that are transmissible by descent and sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type.~ Mirriam-Webster, 2005

A category of humankind that shares certain distinctivephysical traits. ~ Mirriam-Webster online, 2008

A group, especially of people, with particular similar physical characteristics, who are considered as belonging to the same type, or the fact of belonging to such a group. ~ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dict., 2008


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Did your definition resemble these?

Two Questions:

Is anything wrong with these definitions?


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Common unwritten (and incorrect) assumptions

1. Biological subspecies (i.e., races) exist

2. The rules about transmission of racial essence

in inter-racial unions are consistent across groups

3. Racial differences imply cultural differences (real

or imagined)

4.Social stratification exists and ought to exist

5. Subjective and objective identity are consistent

6. Definitions of race are stable across time, space, and ideology


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Unwritten assumptions (cont.)

  • Biological subspecies:

    Assumption: Ancestry defines genetically distinct and isolated breeding populations

    Biological evidence: Inconsistent with assumption

    • DNA sequencing indicates remarkable similarity across groups (fails test for biological subspecies)

    • While physical group differences exist, they appear to be continuous (and clinal!) rather than categorical and continental. Height is a good analogy.

    • Most traits are nonconcordant (e.g., blood type, skin tone, hair texture)

    • Racial classification is not stable across space and time


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“There are no races, there are only clines”

Every time we plot the distribution of a trait possessing a survival value that is greater under some circumstances than under others, it will have a different pattern of geographical variation, and no two such patterns will coincide. Nose form, tooth size, relative arm and leg length, and a whole series of other traits are distributed each in accordance with its particular controlling selective force. The gradient of the distribution of each is called a "cline" and those clines are completely independent of one another…. "There are no races, there are only clines."

-- Dr. C. Loring Brace


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The illusion of race

http://www.pbs.org/race/002_SortingPeople/002_00-home.htm

From http://allrelated.syr.edu/index.html

Play the sorting game here


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Unwritten assumptions (cont.)

  • Biological subspecies:

    Assumption: Ancestry defines genetically distinct and isolated breeding populations

    Biological evidence (NO!)

    • DNA sequencing indicates remarkable similarity across groups (fails test for biological subspecies)

    • While physical group differences exist, they appear to be continuous (and clinal!) rather than categorical and continental. Height is a good analogy.

    • Most traits are nonconcordant (e.g., blood type, skin tone, hair texture)

    • Racial classification is not stable across space and time


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Race timeline

http://www.pbs.org/race/003_RaceTimeline/003_00-home.htm


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Common unwritten (and incorrect) assumptions

1. Biological subspecies (i.e., races) exist

2. The rules about transmission of racial essence

in inter-racial unions are consistent across groups

3. Racial differences imply cultural differences (real

or imagined)

4.Social stratification exists and ought to exist

5. Subjective and objective identity are consistent

6. Definitions of race are stable across time, space, and ideology


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Unwritten assumptions (cont.)

Evidence: Not true

  • Americans (historically): by either hypodescent or the "one drop" rule

  • Americans (contemporary): transitioning from hypodescent to multiculturalism (biracial, multiracial)

  • Jews, Cherokees, etc: by mother

  • Malians, the Inuit, etc: by father

2. Strict rules about transmission of racial essence in inter-racial unions are consistent across groups


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Unwritten assumptions (cont.)

3. Racial differences imply cultural differences (real or imagined)

  • food, music, clothes

  • religion

  • levels of intelligence and "civilization"

  • values, virtues and vices

    Sneetches clip


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But… race ≠ culture

From C. Jaret’s Contemporary Racial and Ethnic Relations

  • Ethnic groups can be racial sub-categories

  • Racial groups can be ethnic sub-categories

  • Racial and ethnic groups are two kinds of groups

Evidence: Not true, racial groups contain multiple cultural groups…but perceptions count!


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Common unwritten (and incorrect) assumptions

1. Biological subspecies (i.e., races) exist

2. The rules about transmission of racial essence

in inter-racial unions are consistent across groups

3. Racial differences imply cultural differences (real

or imagined)

4.Social stratification exists and ought to exist

5. Subjective and objective identity are consistent

6. Definitions of race are stable across time, space, and ideology


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Unwritten assumptions (cont.)

4a. Perceived social stratification: Races are arranged in social hierarchy of power, privilege, and prestige (Christian "great chain of being")

4b.Normative social stratification: that the races ought to be arranged in a social hierarchy


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Great Chain of Being

Robert Fludd, from Utriusque Cosmi Maioris, 1617

From Didacus Valades, Rhetorica Christiana (1579)


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Unwritten assumptions (cont.)

5.Subjective identity:Individuals' conception of themselves is consistent with objective identity.

6. Definitions of race are stable across time, space, and ideology

see Webster’s 1913 Definition:


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So, given that …

1. Biological subspecies (i.e., races) do not exist

2. The rules about transmission of racial essence

in inter-racial unions are not consistent across group          

3. Racial differences do not imply cultural differences

4. Racial hierarchies were socially created and need not exist

5. Subjective and objective identity are not consistent

6. Definitions of race are not stable across time, space, and ideology

does “race” exist?


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Does “race” exist?

  • Biologically and Anthropologically: NO!

    “The notion of race is nearly as problematic from a scientific point of view as it is from a social one. European physical anthropologists of the 17th and 18th centuries proposed various systems of racial classifications based on such observable characteristics as skin color, hair type, body proportions, and skull measurements, essentially codifying the perceived differences among broad geographic populations of humans. The traditional terms for these populations—Caucasoid (or Caucasian), Mongoloid, Negroid, and in some systems Australoid—are now controversial in both technical and nontechnical usage, and in some cases they may well be considered offensive….Many cultural anthropologists now consider race to be more a social or mental construct than an objective biological fact.”

    (American Heritage Dictionary, 2013, usage note)


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Does “race” exist?

  • Socioculturally: YES!   

    • Characteristics attributed to race are associated with a variety of structural constraints on behavior 1.  access to education 2.  access to employment 3.  availability of housing 4.  treatment by police, media, and courts of law

    • Characteristics attributed to race are associated with a variety of interpersonal constraints on behavior 1.  interpersonal prejudice and discrimination 2.  availability of marital/sex partners3.  racial slur database


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Is there a definition that captures this meaning?

Dictionary.com does a nice job (click on link)

  • Here’s a more concise version that would be accepted by most scientists who study race:

    • A socially constructed system of classifying individuals according to arbitrary phenotypical characteristics that are genetically determined but not always consistent.


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The sociopolitical argument

Race does not exist in a political vacuum

  • First mention of “race” in English language in 1508

  • Racial categories fluid across time and place

    • South African case-study (population registration act)

    • U.S. case study (the census)

  • Racial categories frequently used to advance various political agenda and public policy

    • Affirmative action

    • Environmental laws

    • “Tough on crime” laws


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Defining race (socio-political def.)

“A concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies.”

(Omi & Winant)

  • A politically-motivated and maintained, socially constructed system of classifying individuals according to arbitrary phenotypical characteristics that are genetically determined but not always consistent.


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Racial ideology

Left

Right

Where do you think you are?

Where do you think “liberals” are?

Where do you think “conservatives” are?

Where do you think you are?

Where do you think “liberals” are?

Where do you think “conservatives” are?

Where do you think your organization is?


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Racial ideology

Mainstream U.S. ideology

Multicultural

Left

Right

Radical

Liberal

Neo-lib.

Neo-con.

Conservative

Fascist


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Racial Ideology (Fascist)

  • Race is divinely determined

  • Racial inequality exists due to God-given race-group differences in personal characteristics (e.g, vulnerability to disease, IQ)

  • These God-given differences make the White race superior to all other racial groups

  • Since God created the racial hierarchy, racial inequality is not only normal and desirable, it is God’s will

  • Cross-group understanding is irrelevant

  • Group equality is undesirable and is counter to God’s will

Our world is hierarchical. Each of us is a member of the Aryan (or European) race, which, like the other races, developed its special characteristics over many thousands of years….Our acceptance of this hierarchy…is in contrast to the attitude of the individualists, who do not recognize a responsibility to anyone but themselves; and to that of the humanists, who eschew their racial responsibility.

(National Alliance, General Principles)


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Compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center:


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Racial Ideology (Conservative)

  • Race is biologically determined

  • Racial inequality exists due to innate biological race-group differences in personal characteristics (e.g, vulnerability to disease, IQ)

  • People generally get what they deserve (i.e., a “just world”)

  • Group equality on Earth not an explicit goal but everyone is equal in the eyes of God.


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Just World Scale (JWS) sample items

  • I believe that, by and large, people get what they fairly deserve.

  • I firmly believe that injustices in all areas of life (e.g., professional, family, politics) are the exception rather than the rule.

  • I think people try to be fair when making important decisions

  • Students almost always deserve the grades they receive in school

  • It is rare for an innocent person to be sent to jail or prison


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Racial Ideology (Neo-Conservative)

  • Race is socially constructed

  • Racial inequality used to exist due to institutional & scientific racism

  • Cross group understanding is desirable (and neocons have it)

  • Path to equality: A color-blind society in which everyone pursues the “American” dream by “lifting themselves up by the bootstraps” (i.e., a “just world” belief system)

“My proposal for dealing with the racial issue in social welfare is to repeal every bit of legislation and reverse every court decision that in any way requires, recommends, or awards differential treatment according to race…We may argue about the appropriate limits of government intervention in trying to enforce the ideal, but at least it should be possible to identity the ideal: Race is not a morally admissible reason for treating one person differently from another. Period.”(Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980)

"With their infernal racial set-asides, racial quotas, and race norming, liberals share many of the Klan's premises. The Klan sees the world in terms of race and ethnicity. So do liberals! Indeed, liberals and white supremacists are the only people left in America who are neurotically obsessed with race. Conservatives champion a color-blind society." (Ann Coulter, P. 26


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Racial Ideology (Neo-Liberal)

  • Race is socially constructed

  • Racial inequality exists due to past institutional & scientific racism

  • Cross-group understanding is desirable (and neo-liberal have it)

  • Path to equality is a social agenda that provides assistance based on need, not race or some other group status.

The welfare reform that Bill Clinton endorsed and signed into law is a good example.


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Racial Ideology (Liberal)

  • Race is socially constructed

  • Racial inequality exists and is due to historical and current environmental disparities

  • Cross-group understanding is desirable (and liberals have it)

  • Path to equality is to even the “playing field” by remedying past injustices, which requires treating some groups differently.

  • “A profound difference separates governmental actions that themselves are racist and governmental actions that seek to remedy the effects or prior racism or to prevent neutral government activity from perpetuating the effects of such racism.”

  • Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall


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Racial Ideology (Radical)

  • Race is a socio-political construction

  • Racial inequality exists and is due to social oppression (i.e., white supremacy)

  • Cross-group understanding and equality are not attainable in today’s society

The white race is a historically constructed social formation… a social formation because it is a fact of society corresponding to no classification recognized by natural science. The white race consists of those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to the system that degrades them.

The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue in U.S. society, whether domestic or foreign. Advocating the abolition of the white race is distinct from what is called "anti-racism." …. Anti-racism admits the natural existence of "races" even while opposing social distinctions among them…. [However] race itself is a product of social discrimination; so long as the white race exists, all movements against racism are doomed to fail.

(racetraitor.org)


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Definition of multiculturalism

“A social-intellectual movement that promotes the value of diversity as a core principle and insists that all cultural groups be treated with respect and as equals.”

(Fowers and Richardson, 1996, “Why is Multiculturalism good?”)

  • Racial ideology of multiculturalism:

    • Race is socially constructed

    • But genetic descent may be important to a group’s self-identity

    • Racial inequality exists (due to historical & current environmental disparity)

    • Cross-group understanding is usually not present, but, along with equality, is attainable via a way of being that is non-judgmental and open to different perspectives.


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Assumptions of multiculturalism

  • Diversity (of all sorts) is valuable and should be pursued

  • Group differences should be recognized

  • A group’s cultural behaviors/practices should be understood from the perspectives of the group’s own members


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Legitimate criticism of Multiculturalism

  • Conservative

    • Multiculturalism is a form of cultural relativism, and some cultural practices are morally repugnant

    • Multiculturalism is a rejection of majority culture

    • Multiculturalism encourages cultural separatism

  • Neo-Conservative

    • We are really all fundamentally the same

    • We are all fundamentally different

  • Liberal

    • Multiculturalism is a form of cultural relativism, and some cultural practices are morally repugnant (same as conservatism)

    • Multiculturalism is a rejection of majority culture (same as conserv.)

  • Radical

    • Multiculturalism does not acknowledge power dynamics

    • True multiculturalism is unattainable because of power differential

    • Multiculturalism may threaten the “authenticity” of a group through contact with other cultures.


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What are the implications?

Mainstream U.S. ideology

Multicultural

Left

Right

Radical

Liberal

Neo-lib.

Neo-con.

Conservative

Fascist

Final ideological thoughts: Racist people vs racist acts


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CNN clip

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2007/07/01/roesgen.la.jena.6.update.affl


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