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Is Race Purely a Social Construct? watch

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    I can't be bothered to debate about this anymore. I was originally just playing the devil's advocate.
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    (Original post by TheTranshumanist)
    Bear in mind that I'm talking about race, not ethnicity (they are not necessarily the same).

    I'm not suggesting that there aren't differences between certain groups of people, but if races (as we know them) truly exist, how exactly do we define them? Where do we draw the line between these 'races'?

    How would one define, for example, the black 'race'? Which exact physical/anatomical characteristics would one have to possess in order to be a member of the black race? Black skin, right? However, what if a white-skinned Albino child is produced from two black people? Would they be considered as a 'black' person? If so, why?

    So, how do you define 'race'? Is it a social construct?
    Yes. Genetic and physical variation occurs at the individual level, so selecting a few traits then saying, "I declare these are important and should serve as the basis of a racial categorisation" is intrinsically a social construct. Even your example is problematic because skin tone is a continuum; the point at which the category of 'black skin' begins is chosen arbitrarily. The category in itself is equally arbitrary, for that matter.

    "[D]ifferent genetic polymorphisms are differently distributed over the planet, and their distributions are not generally correlated. Clusterings are always possible, but the fact that two populations fall in the same cluster (or in different clusters) when described at loci A, B, C does not imply that they will fall in the same cluster (or in different clusters) based on loci X, Y, Z. In addition, differences between populations are often so subtle that the location of boundaries may change substantially even when the same data are analysed under different assumptions on the mutational model" (Barbujani and Belle, 2006).

    "Medin and Wattenmaker (1987) point out that plums and lawnmowers are unlikely to be categorised together, even though they are clearly similar on a number of dimensions (both weigh less than 1000 kg, both cannot hear, both have a distinct smell, both can be dropped). It is not the case that one comparison dimension is objectively more relevant than another one, and that empirical reality would dictate which dimension should be attended to. Rather, the choice of comparison dimensions is informed by socially constructed meaning." (Zagefka, 2009).
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    (Original post by whyumadtho)
    Yes. Genetic and physical variation occurs at the individual level, so selecting a few traits then saying, "I declare these are important and should serve as the basis of a racial categorisation" is intrinsically a social construct. Even your example is problematic because skin tone is a continuum; the point at which the category of 'black skin' begins is chosen arbitrarily. The category in itself is equally arbitrary, for that matter.

    "[D]ifferent genetic polymorphisms are differently distributed over the planet, and their distributions are not generally correlated. Clusterings are always possible, but the fact that two populations fall in the same cluster (or in different clusters) when described at loci A, B, C does not imply that they will fall in the same cluster (or in different clusters) based on loci X, Y, Z. In addition, differences between populations are often so subtle that the location of boundaries may change substantially even when the same data are analysed under different assumptions on the mutational model" (Barbujani and Belle, 2006).

    "Medin and Wattenmaker (1987) point out that plums and lawnmowers are unlikely to be categorised together, even though they are clearly similar on a number of dimensions (both weigh less than 1000 kg, both cannot hear, both have a distinct smell, both can be dropped). It is not the case that one comparison dimension is objectively more relevant than another one, and that empirical reality would dictate which dimension should be attended to. Rather, the choice of comparison dimensions is informed by socially constructed meaning." (Zagefka, 2009).
    Good post. Thanks.
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    There are differences in the genes of different "races" so I would think no.
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    Any more thoughts?
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    Yes and no. There is no particular gene that defines someone as black, white or Han Chinese, but there are sets of genetic characteristics that make different phenotype groups, which we then artificially categorize into races (this is the social part).

    Moreover, race is more to do with someone's skin colour and facial structure, which forms a very small part of the genome. The genetic differences between 'races' are therefore not very large in that respect. Races are, however, more likely to breed within their own gene pools due to geographic and social divisions, therefore there is some truth in that specific genetic characteristics (other than skin colour or facial structure) are more prominent within breeding racial groups.

    Therefore 'race' is a human invention based on the categorisation of phenotypical groups. One could say the same about dog breeds or even animal species, however.
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    It's irrelevant if it is a social construct or not.

    "a social construct" is just a buzzword that has no meaning and gets thrown about.
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    The classification of people into particular groups is to a certain extent arbitrary and a product of our need for order, but I don't agree that the genetic characteristics some people share is tantamount to a social construct.

    If I decide to classify people according to gender or height does this mean tall people don't really exist because their height is little more a 'social construct' that I've made up rather than a quantifiable characteristic?
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    Race should be completely down to genetics, i.e. something you can't help. If it was culture then you can help being whatever race, which therefore makes being 'racist' seem not as bad than if 'racism' was your physical appearance.
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    (Original post by chefdave)
    The classification of people into particular groups is to a certain extent arbitrary and a product of our need for order, but I don't agree that the genetic characteristics some people share is tantamount to a social construct.

    If I decide to classify people according to gender or height does this mean tall people don't really exist because their height is little more a 'social construct' that I've made up rather than a quantifiable characteristic?
    The height exists, but the classification of 'tall people' is a social construct. Similarly, there is an electromagnetic spectrum, but 'gamma', 'x-ray', etc. are socially constructed categories.

    The emboldened seems to be a straw man retort made by those who believe 'race' is equivalent to genetic difference; consequently, they interpret the statement, "race is a social construct" as, "genetic difference is a social construct". You've done this by conflating the category 'tall people' with height per se.

    An analogy that should be easier to comprehend:
    1: A large number is 1,000,000 and above
    2: There's no such thing as a 'large number'; it's a category based on your arbitrary opinion
    1: Are you saying there's no such thing as 1,000,000 and above?

    It's like saying because I declare countries and territories are social constructs, I am declaring the world doesn't exist. The fact that countries and territories are based on the world does not mean that they are one and the same.
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    I agree that race is biological... to some extent, however, more recently, Travellers have been identified as a race now, even though they strike no biological differences to people of their own country. So surely there is an element of a social construct in the definition of race?
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    (Original post by chefdave)
    The classification of people into particular groups is to a certain extent arbitrary and a product of our need for order, but I don't agree that the genetic characteristics some people share is tantamount to a social construct.
    There is so much genetic variation among humans that to categorise people into 'races' based on certain differences in physical appearance/anatomy is arbitrary. Who decides which differences are important? For example, why should skin colour play a bigger part in determining 'race' than height?

    If I decide to classify people according to gender or height does this mean tall people don't really exist because their height is little more a 'social construct' that I've made up rather than a quantifiable characteristic?
    I don't think your example works. My point wasn't that there aren't differences between people; my point was that to group them into races based on insignificant differences is pretty arbitrary and that 'race' may be nothing more than a social construct.

    How exactly you would define a 'race'?
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    (Original post by TheTranshumanist)
    There is so much genetic variation among humans that to categorise people into 'races' based on certain differences in physical appearance/anatomy is arbitrary. Who decides which differences are important? For example, why should skin colour play a bigger part in determining 'race' than height?
    The exact characteristics we use to determine race are debatable I suppose. But I don't understand why anyone would think it's unreasonable to make a distinction between Europeans and Africans for example based the inhereted traits that both these 'groups' (if I'm allowed to use that term) of people exhibit.

    I can't help but think that the objection is political rather than anthropogenic and probably something to do with anti-racism.


    I don't think your example works. My point wasn't that there aren't differences between people; my point was that to group them into races based on these insignificant differences is pretty arbitrary and that 'race' may be nothing more than a social construct.

    How exactly you would define a 'race'?
    As I'm not a geneticist I'm not qualified to say what the exact determinants of race are. But in principle I find it no more objectionable than the classification of birds into seperate species. Do you believe we should just accept that all birds are birds or that all fish are fish because a system of categorisation is 'arbitrary' and possibly disresectful?
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    i think race is just like the way other species are divided into categories based on appearance etc.

    but not just appearance. different races have average differences biologically -- like hormone levels etc.
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    (Original post by chefdave)
    The exact characteristics we use to determine race are debatable I suppose. But I don't understand why anyone would think it's unreasonable to make a distinction between Europeans and Africans for example based the inhereted traits that both these 'groups' (if I'm allowed to use that term) of people exhibit.
    You're not being specific at all. Why are the differences between Africans and Europeans significant enough to categorise them into 'races'? Additionally, I could say that everyone is 'African' in at least one sense because (according to a popular theory) apparently the first humans were African, so we all have African ancestry. How would you define 'European' and 'African'?

    I can't help but think that the objection is political rather than anthropogenic and probably something to do with anti-racism.
    I could say the same to you.

    As I'm not a geneticist I'm not qualified to say what the exact determinants of race are.
    That seems like a cop-out to me. Are you telling me that you couldn't have done some research?

    But in principle I find it no more objectionable than the classification of birds into seperate species. Do you believe we should just accept that all birds are birds or that all fish are fish because a system of categorisation is 'arbitrary' and possibly disresectful?
    I don't think there's much interaction or 'cross-breeding' between different species of birds or fish so it's probably easier to classify them.

    You're still not getting my point. Why should we determine 'race' based on such specific, arbitrary criteria? If races (as we know them) actually exist, where do we draw the line between them?
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    (Original post by chefdave)
    The exact characteristics we use to determine race are debatable I suppose. But I don't understand why anyone would think it's unreasonable to make a distinction between Europeans and Africans for example based the inhereted traits that both these 'groups' (if I'm allowed to use that term) of people exhibit.

    I can't help but think that the objection is political rather than anthropogenic and probably something to do with anti-racism.
    "Allele-frequency differences exist between all populations, including communities separated by short geographic distances, or by cultural barriers at geographical distance zero. With large sample sizes, these differences reach statistical significance" (Barbujani, 2005).

    Let's not pretend your decision to treat 'Africa' and 'Europe' (both recent territorial inventions) as significant geographical scales, opposed entities and the bases of analyses isn't political.

    As I'm not a geneticist I'm not qualified to say what the exact determinants of race are. But in principle I find it no more objectionable than the classification of birds into seperate species. Do you believe we should just accept that all birds are birds or that all fish are fish because a system of categorisation is 'arbitrary' and possibly disresectful?
    Taxonomy, being a social construct, can be subject to debates about its social consequences.

    (Original post by thebiggy)
    i think race is just like the way other species are divided into categories based on appearance etc.

    but not just appearance. different races have average differences biologically -- like hormone levels etc.
    Then the trait in question is not governed by membership into these so-called 'races'. Associating the two creates an imaginary and misleading perception of the world.

    Example: "Japanese people are different to Dutch people because they are, on average, 165cm tall and 180cm tall, respectively."

    You cannot declare Japanese and Dutch people are distinct on the basis of an average distinction because this begs the question and doesn't establish an actual difference. Is anyone who is 180cm Dutch and anyone who is 165cm Japanese? If not, in what way is height relevant to someone's status as Dutch or Japanese? Or is it just an attempt to link a quality to a 'group' that does not in fact exist as an essential/universal quality of that 'group'?
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    (Original post by TheTranshumanist)

    I don't think your example works. My point wasn't that there aren't differences between people; my point was that to group them into races based on insignificant differences is pretty arbitrary and that 'race' may be nothing more than a social construct.

    How exactly you would define a 'race'?
    The rolling-elements of a rolling-element bearing ride on races. The large race that goes into a bore is called the outer race, and the small race that the shaft rides in is called the inner race.

    In the case of ball bearings, the bearing has inner and outer races and a set of balls. Each race is a ring with a groove where the balls rest. The groove is usually shaped so the ball is a slightly loose fit in the groove. Thus, in principle, the ball contacts each race at a single point. However, a load on an infinitely small point would cause infinitely high contact pressure. In practice, the ball deforms (flattens) slightly where it contacts each race, much as a tire flattens where it touches the road. The race also dents slightly where each ball presses on it. Thus, the contact between ball and race is of finite size and has finite pressure. Note also that the deformed ball and race do not roll entirely smoothly because different parts of the ball are moving at different speeds as it rolls. Thus, there are opposing forces and sliding motions at each ball/race contact. Overall, these cause bearing drag.
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    (Original post by whyumadtho)
    Example: "Japanese people are different to Dutch people because they are, on average, 165cm tall and 180cm tall, respectively."

    You cannot declare Japanese and Dutch people are distinct on the basis of an average distinction because this begs the question and doesn't establish an actual difference. Is anyone who is 180cm Dutch and anyone who is 165cm Japanese? If not, in what way is height relevant to someone's status as Dutch or Japanese? Or is it just an attempt to link a quality to a 'group' that does not in fact exist as an essential/universal quality of that 'group'?

    dutch people are europeans and japanese are east asians -- obviously, its easy to tell these different groups apart from appearance alone. not sure why you think differences would stop there.

    i mean, lions and tigers for example have no real distinctions but its pretty silly to say they are exactly the same -- maybe you think humans are the only species in the existence of the world history to not have different groups?
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    (Original post by TheTranshumanist)
    You're not being specific at all. Why are the differences between Africans and Europeans significant enough to categorise them into 'races'? Additionally, I could say that everyone is 'African' in at least one sense because (according to a popular theory) apparently the first humans were African, so we all have African ancestry. How would you define 'European' and 'African'?



    I could say the same to you.



    That seems like a cop-out to me. Are you telling me that you couldn't have done some research?



    I don't think there's much interaction or 'cross-breeding' between different species of birds or fish so it's probably easier to classify them.

    You're still not getting my point. Why should we determine 'race' based on such specific, arbitrary criteria? If races (as we know them) actually exist, where do we draw the line between them?
    I don't understand where you're coming from as it's incredibly easy to be able to distinguish between an indigenous African and an indigenous European. One set of people is black and the other white, only someone who had been consumed by Political Correctness would claim that they were unable to tell the difference (waits for a spurious example about an albino African)

    You could say the same about me but you would be false. I'm just going by what my own eyes tell me and the theories I've grown up with, if I was going to criticise a group of people I would do so openly and honestly instead of relying on racial classifications to sew division through the back door. Do you honestly believe that we can end racism by pretending that we're all the same? lol.

    I can tell the difference between the various races by looking, I don't need a PHD in genetics!

    So if you accept the notion of cross breeeding you also accept that there are diffferent 'breeds' of people?
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    (Original post by whyumadtho)
    "Allele-frequency differences exist between all populations, including communities separated by short geographic distances, or by cultural barriers at geographical distance zero. With large sample sizes, these differences reach statistical significance" (Barbujani, 2005).

    Let's not pretend your decision to treat 'Africa' and 'Europe' (both recent territorial inventions) as significant geographical scales, opposed entities and the bases of analyses isn't political.

    Taxonomy, being a social construct, can be subject to debates about its social consequences.
    I just don't see the left being able to stamp out racism or foster equality by carrying on with this pretence that there's no such thing as race and we're all the same when the world is flush with diversity and culture.

    Do you suppose that indinenous Africans see themselves as no different to the white man? No. In your view would this make them racist or is it only a term that can be applied to white people (ironically)
 
 
 
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