How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

BuzzFeed
2018-03-30


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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Race and Rachel Doležal: An Interview

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2017-03-29 18:55Z by Steven

Race and Rachel Doležal: An Interview

Contexts: understanding people in their social world
2017-03-28

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

In June 2015, I got an email from a California radio station asking me for an interview about a person I had never heard of: Rachel Doležal. I quickly Googled her, and based on a brief news item, agreed to the interview. She seemed to be a White woman passing as Black, working as the president of the Spokane NAACP chapter to boot. I didn’t really see why this was national news, but I figured even a fluff piece could be an opportunity to foster public conversation about the fluidity of racial identities and the constructed nature of racial categories.

The slow summer news day turned into a weeklong media frenzy, with shockingly intense public attention focused on Ms. Doležal’s racial self-identification. My Soc 101 lesson about racial construction turned into a dozen interviews with incredulous reporters, fascinated by the notion of “transracial” people. And based on Ms. Doležal’s comments at the time as well as her new book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World, the term “passing”—with its connotation of masquerading—couldn’t quite capture the gradual and deeply-felt process of Black affiliation that she underwent. In my view, she is not a passer—someone who seeks to turn existing racial categories to their advantage—so much as a person who rejects widespread beliefs about the criteria for racial categorization.

The concept of race as a social construct is one that Rachel Doležal invokes repeatedly as she explains and defends her self-identification with a race different from the one claimed by her biological parents. Is she wrong? Has she misinterpreted something fundamental to our discipline’s contemporary teaching on race? And can her case shed any light on the millions of people who alter their racial self-reporting from one decennial census to the next, according to research by sociologist Carolyn Liebler and colleagues at the U.S. Census Bureau? I expect sociologists will vary in their answers to these questions, but I also suspect that many of us have found a teaching opportunity in what Rogers Brubaker calls “the Doležal affair.” I’m grateful that Doležal agreed to share an advance copy of In Full Color and answer a series of questions for the Contexts audience…

AM [Ann Morning]: In the press and in your new book, you really double down on claiming a Black identity. In the very first pages of In Full Color, for example, you write about your “identity as a Black woman.” But if you could create a longer, more complex label that more fully captured your experience or viewpoint, what might that look like?

RD [Rachel Doležal]: I get fatigued by the overly simplistic race labels, as if people are only one aspect of who they are at a time and not able to be simultaneously a person with a gender/race/age/class/religion/sexual orientation/nationality/disability/language. Yes, Black is the closest descriptive race or culture category that represents the essential essence of who I am, and I stand unapologetically on the “Black side” of the racially constructed Black/White divide. But, if I could choose a more complex label with my own terms, it might be “A pro-Black, Pan-African, bisexual artist, activist, and mother.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Panel Discussion: Social Inequalities in Health

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2015-12-23 18:05Z by Steven

Panel Discussion: Social Inequalities in Health

National Institutes of Health (U.S.). Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
Bethesda, Maryland
2015-05-08, 14:00 EDT (Local Time)

The NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research will host the Panel Discussion: Social Inequalities in Health, on May 8, 2015, at the NIH Campus, as part of the 2014-2015 BSSR Lecture Series to promote open and engaged discussion about cutting edge research in the behavioral and social sciences field.

Panelists:


Watch or download the video (01:56:15) here.

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It’s Impossible to Lie About Your Race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science on 2015-07-26 15:13Z by Steven

It’s Impossible to Lie About Your Race

The Huffington Post
2015-07-01

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

There’s an important question being left out of the furor over charges that Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, has been “lying” about her race: How can you lie about something that doesn’t have any objective truth to it in the first place?

The frenzy over Dolezal has erupted because her claim to black identity defies a longstanding American belief that human beings come in three or four or five flavors called “races,” which are linked to the geographical areas from which our ancestors came, and which are characterized by physical characteristics that are passed down from one generation to the next. According to this dominant view, Dolezal is objectively white because her parents are white Americans whose recent ancestors were from Europe.

But instead of being a matter of natural, objective facts, race is more like astrology. It’s a way of dividing human beings up into different categories, and we are the ones who invent those categories, not Mother Nature. The idea that there are “black” people and “white” people is no different than the belief that there are Geminis and Scorpios. Indeed, astrology and racial classification both claim to be grounded in nature. Race ostensibly reflects our biological constitution, while sun signs are meant to capture planetary forces that imprinted us at birth. But it’s not too hard to see that a whole lot of human cultural thinking has gone into both. The reality is that scientists are far from any agreement on what race has to do with genes. And the racial classifications so familiar to Americans today are actually products of the 1700s, when they were forged by Europeans who were trying to explain the physical, social and moral qualities of peoples they had come to colonize across the world.

So when Rachel Dolezal says she is black when we consider her white, it’s akin to her claiming to be a Virgo when by our lights she’s a Leo. Would it really be a lie to say you’re a Virgo instead of a Leo when both of those categories are made up in the first place?…

Read the entire article here.

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SCIENTIFIC RACISM REDUX? The Many Lives of a Troublesome Idea

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-07-23 01:40Z by Steven

SCIENTIFIC RACISM REDUX? The Many Lives of a Troublesome Idea

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 2015
pages 187-199
DOI: 10.1017/S1742058X1500003X

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

Nicholas Wade, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. New York: Penguin Press, 2014, 278 pages, ISBN 978-1-5942-0446-3. $27.95.

What, if anything, does Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes. Race and Human History have to offer sociologists?

For most of us, the answer is “nothing.” Because simply put, this is not scholarly work. A Troublesome Inheritance is not an empirically-grounded monograph that offers substantiated arguments, but rather a trade book targeting general readers who are probably not interested in the literature reviews and citations that academics expect. All kinds of claims are made without reference to any supporting evidence or analysis. As a result, the book cannot serve as a source of data or credible theory regarding race, culture, social structure, or the relationship of genes to human behaviors.

But for sociologists of knowledge and of science, A Troublesome Inheritance is a gold mine. These scholars will no doubt delight in discovering the echoes of eighteenth-century race science, nineteenth-century polygenetic and Romantic thought, twentieth-century eugenics and development theory, as well as enduring sexism and the occasional tirade against “Marxists.” This book may also well become a classic for students of racial ideology, right up there with Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994). Both books are poignant cultural artifacts that testify to the ways in which biological science is invoked in the United States to shore up belief in races and to justify inequality between groups…

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Census considers new approach to asking about race – by not using the term at all

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-21 01:40Z by Steven

Census considers new approach to asking about race – by not using the term at all

Pew Research Center
2015-06-18

D’Vera Cohn, Senior Writer/Editor


Possible 2020 census race/Hispanic question for online respondents, who would click to the next screen to choose more detailed sub-categories such as “Cuban” or “Chinese.” Credit: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.

Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading or insufficient to describe their identity.

Census forms now have two questions about race and Hispanic origin. The first asks people whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, and states that “Hispanic origins are not races.” A second question asks, “What is this person’s race?” and includes a list of options with checkboxes and write-in spaces. The U.S. government defines Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race.

The problem with using the word “race” is that many Americans say they don’t know what it means, and how it is different from “origin.” The agency’s focus group research found that some people think the words mean the same thing, while others see race as meaning skin color, ancestry or culture, while origin is the nation or place where they or their parents were born…

…The content test also will experiment with adding a new Middle East and North Africa category. The test represents the bureau’s final major research effort before locking down its proposed 2020 questionnaire wording…

…“I’m very happy that they are going to test a question which gets away from the language of race and ethnicity because frankly that is just a quagmire, that language,” said Ann Morning, an advisory committee member and New York University race scholar. “No two people seem to be able to agree on what those terms mean.”

In follow-up comments in an email, Morning said she believes “the beauty of simply referring to ‘categories’ is that it avoids that problem of people getting hung up on the terminology. So I would expect this term will allow people to answer the question more quickly, and to feel more free to check more than one box if they wish, and to lead to a lower non-response rate on that question.”…

Read the entire article here.

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What’s Radical About “Mixed Race”?

Posted in Canada, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2015-05-24 18:50Z by Steven

What’s Radical About “Mixed Race”?

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
2015-04-20

On April 20, 2015, the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU hosted “What’s Radical About ‘Mixed Race’?“. Eschewing an apolitical “celebration” of mixed race, this panel examined the movement’s implications for multiracial coalition and the future of race in the US and Canada, asking: does the multiracial movement challenge—or actually reinforce—the logics of structural racism?

Minelle Mahtani critically located how an apolitical and ahistorical Canadian “model multiracial” upholds the multicultural claims of the Canadian settler state. Jared Sexton called to task multiracial activists who leverage a mixed race identity in opposition to those who are “all black, all the time.”

A roundtable conversation moderated by Ann Morning (NYU Department of Sociology) followed.

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And you thought we had moved beyond all that: biological race returns to the social sciences

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-08-27 15:45Z by Steven

And you thought we had moved beyond all that: biological race returns to the social sciences

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1676-1685
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.931992

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

Recently, sociologists have argued in high-profile journals that racial categories are linked to genetically distinct clusters within the human population. They propose theorizing race as a socially constructed categorization system that is related to biological groupings within our species. This work overlooks, however, the extent to which statistically inferred genetic clusters are themselves socially constructed, making it impossible to juxtapose ‘subjective’ social categories with ‘objective’ biological ones. This editorial urges social scientists to take a critical look at claims about the genetic underpinnings of race, and to contribute their insights to ongoing debates about the nature of race.

Read the entire article here.

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“Everyone Knows It’s a Social Construct”: Contemporary Science and the Nature of Race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-08-27 15:32Z by Steven

“Everyone Knows It’s a Social Construct”: Contemporary Science and the Nature of Race

Sociological Focus
Volume 40, Issue 4, 2007
pages 436-454
DOI: 10.1080/00380237.2007.10571319

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

Sociological literature frequently claims that scientists across the disciplinary spectrum have arrived at the common conclusion that race is socially constructed, not biologically anchored. I investigate contemporary scientific thinking about race by interviewing more than 40 biologists and anthropologists at four northeastern universities. Contrary to sociologists’ expectations, racial constructionism is revealed to be a minority viewpoint. Moreover, this research shows that the usual “constructionist” versus “essentialist” dichotomy a blunt tool for characterizing the debate about race; a third platform—“antiessentialism”—must be taken into account. Recognizing antiessentialist discourse calls for a reevaluation of prior research that emphasizes socioeconomic status and professional affiliation as influences on interviewees’ concepts of race; this project demonstrates that such tectors do little to distinguish essentialist from antiessentialist veiwpoints.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Global Mixed Race

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-08-18 02:29Z by Steven

Global Mixed Race

New York University Press
March 2014
357 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780814770733
Paper ISBN: 9780814789155

Edited by:

Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, Senior Lecturer
National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Stephen Small, Associate Professor of African American Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Minelle Mahtani, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Geography and the Program in Journalism
University of Toronto, Scarborough

Miri Song, Professor of Sociology
University of Kent

Paul Spickard, Professor of History and Affiliate Professor of Black Studies, Asian American Studies, East Asian Studies, Religious Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Patterns of migration and the forces of globalization have brought the issues of mixed race to the public in far more visible, far more dramatic ways than ever before. Global Mixed Race examines the contemporary experiences of people of mixed descent in nations around the world, moving beyond US borders to explore the dynamics of racial mixing and multiple descent in Zambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Okinawa, Australia, and New Zealand.  In particular, the volume’s editors ask: how have new global flows of ideas, goods, and people affected the lives and social placements of people of mixed descent?  Thirteen original chapters address the ways mixed-race individuals defy, bolster, speak, and live racial categorization, paying attention to the ways that these experiences help us think through how we see and engage with social differences. The contributors also highlight how mixed-race people can sometimes be used as emblems of multiculturalism, and how these identities are commodified within global capitalism while still considered by some as not pure or inauthentic. A strikingly original study, Global Mixed Race carefully and comprehensively considers the many different meanings of racial mixedness.

Contents

  • Global Mixed Race: An Introduction / Stephen Small and Rebecca C. King-O’Riain
  • Part I: Societies with Established Populations of Mixed Descent
    • 1. Multiraciality and Census Classification in Global Perspective / Ann Morning
    • 2. “Rider of Two Horses”: Eurafricans in Zambia / Juliette Bridgette Milner-Thornton
    • 3. “Split Me in Two”: Gender, Identity, and “Race Mixing” in the Trinidad and Tobago Nation / Rhoda Reddock
    • 4. In the Laboratory of Peoples’ Friendship: Mixed People in Kazakhstan from the Soviet Era to the Present / Saule K. Ualiyeva and Adrienne L. Edgar
    • 5. Competing Narratives: Race and Multiraciality in the Brazilian Racial Order / G. Reginald Daniel and Andrew Michael Lee
    • 6. Antipodean Mixed Race: Australia and New Zealand / Farida Fozdar and Maureen Perkins
    • 7. Negotiating Identity Narratives among Mexico’s Cosmic Race / Christina A. Sue
  • Part II: Places with Newer Populations of Mixed Descent
    • 8. Multiraciality and Migration: Mixed-Race American Okinawans, 1945–1972 / Lily Anne Yumi Welty
    • 9. The Curious Career of the One-Drop Rule: Multiraciality and Membership in Germany Today / Miriam Nandi and Paul Spickard
    • 10. Capturing “Mixed Race” in the Decennial UK Censuses: Are Current Approaches Sustainable in the Age of Globalization and Superdiversity? / Peter J. Aspinall and Miri Song
    • 11. Exporting the Mixed-Race Nation: Mixed-Race Identities in the Canadian Context / Minelle Mahtani, Dani Kwan-Lafond, and Leanne Taylor
  • Global Mixed Race: A Conclusion / Rebecca C. King-O’Riain
  • Bibliography
  • About the Contributors
  • Index
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