When the Tory MP Ann Marie Morris usesu the N word they should be removed from the party and kicked out of parliament. In the days of bluekip and In Brexit times there can be no tolerance of such language . It is a measure of how casual racism unleased and made acceptable by UKIP and the far right has become mainstream and now used by a Tory MP. It's like the bigotry of the DUP now flows in Tory veins. What words will now be said about gay people or transgender people...the prejudice from the Tory id spills out and is spoken out loud...I have just heard that she has been suspended from the Tory party...but what difference does it make she will still support and vote for the government...the words Morris spoke linked Brexit and keeping them out...Morris makes explicit the implicit comments of Farage, Gove and others....it makes me sick..
A few days ago I was debating on a Facebook group about the rise of intolerance to those who are not white or appear different. One comment stands out. Someone I know and have quite a lot of time for made this point. He said “You should be proud of your race Martyn” Since then I have begun to reflect on the myth of race . I have seen over the years how our language is racially loaded and subject to cultural prejudice. People often say “I dont see any evidence of worsening hate crimes “ its because they dont experience because they are not the minorities that they experience it and they fail to understand that as their culture and outlook is seen as normal and everyday they do not see it. I am white, middle class and heterosexual so it took me the best part of 30years to understand and recognise how prejudice and discrimination works
. We haver to think, reflect , gain information and talk to others before we understand.
I remember some time ago picking pick up my paper at Neath Railway Station. I was chatting to a friend about the Tory leadership contest. Suddenly I head a voice saying “ We have voted to leave and they are still here those Muslims ..they haven't gone back yet” I had images of deportation, ethnic cleansing, the deep hatred and loathing that has been released since June 23 2016 . Ordinary people have been confused , manipulated, made afraid. I thought back in history to the massive deportation of Germans, Poles , Ukrainians, of Greek and Turkish populations kicked out of Turkey and Greece at the end of World War 1.
Their is a myth of race that confuses many people. There is a confusion between ethnicity and culture, genetics and belief. It is fundamentally depressing and we live in a sea of ignorance and prejudice.
I have a genetic mix that is Irish, Welsh, Jewish, there are Greek and Italian traces. There are also Scandinavian and East European. So where would you send me you bigots?
I have found some old notes I made or discovered because of my interest in Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies. I hope these things have some effect. How long will it me before we see the little signs appearing in Neath that Say “No Irish, no Blacks , no Dogs” I wonder......... a sobering thought on a summer morning.
How difficult is it to jettison the idea of race as biology?
To understand why the idea of race is a biological myth requires a major paradigm shift - an absolutely paradigm shift, a shift in perspective. And for me, it's like seeing what it must have been like to understand that the world isn't flat. The world looks flat to our eyes. And perhaps I can invite you to a mountaintop or to a plain, and you can look out the window at the horizon, and see, "Oh, what I thought was flat I can see a curve in n
ow." And that race is not based on biology, but race is rather an idea that we ascribe to biology.
That's quite shocking to a lot of individuals. When you look and you think you see race, to be told that no, you don't see race, you just think you see race, you know, it's based on your cultural lens - that's extremely challenging.What's heartening is that so many students love it. They feel liberated by beginning to understand that, in fact, whiteness is a cultural construction, that race is a cultural construction, that we really are fundamentally alike. It's our politics, it's political economy, it's an old ideology that tends to separate us out. It's institutions that have been born with the idea of race and racism that tend to separate us out.
Young children today, in my experience, love it that we can have some common humanity, that we can come together as one, that this idea of biological race is a myth that's separating us. They love the idea that there's really some wall that can be smashed down and help bring us together.
What's wrong with classifying by race as biology?
Scientists have actually been saying for quite a while that race, as biology, doesn't exist - that there's no biological basis for race. And that is in the facts of biology, the facts of non-concordance, the facts of continuous variation, the recentness of our evolution, the way that we all commingle and come together, how genes flow, and perhaps especially in the fact that most variation occurs within race versus between races or among races, suggesting that there's no generalizability to race. There is no centre there; there is no there there in the centre. It's fluid.
But many individuals will say, "Well, that's okay, at least it's an approximation. It at least gives us a way to classify. Hey, you know, our head size may be continuous and shoe size may be continuous, but we developed a way to classify people by hat size and shoe size. And it kind of works. Your shoe may be a little bit crunchy but you basically know to go in and start somewhere, So what's wrong with doing it for race?"
And I'll tell you, there's a couple things that are wrong with it, where that analogy really breaks down. We've developed a universal system for thinking about hat size that's measurable, for example. So you can go into Sao Paulo Brazil and the hat merchants there have the same scale that the hat merchants do in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And we can have universality because it's objective, it's measurable, we're just measuring the circumference around the head. It doesn't change culturally from one place to another.
But think about race and its universality or lack thereof. Where is your measurement device? There is no way to measure race first. We sometimes do it by skin color. Other people may do it by hair texture. Other people may have the dividing lines different in terms of skin color. What's black in the UK is not what's black in Brazil or what's black in South Africa. What was black in 1940 is different from what is black in 2000. Certainly, with the evolution of whiteness, what was white in 1920 - as a Jew I was not white then, but I'm white now, so white has changed tremendously.
There's no stability and constancy. That's life. That's fine as social ideas go, that we all have our individual classification systems and may use them, but for science, it's death. It does not work. Science is based on generalizability, it's based on consistency, it's based on reproducibility. If you have none of that, you have junk science.
What is non-concordance and what does that tell us about race?
For race to have meaning, for race to be more than skin-deep, for race to be more than a typology, one has to have concordance. In other words, skin color needs to reflect things that are deeper in the body, under the skin. But, in fact, human variation is rather non-concordant.
I'll give you an example of concordance. Height is actually quite concordant with weight. As we get taller, we gain weight, we have more weight. One aspect of size is concordant with another aspect of size.
But most of human variation is non-concordant. Skin color or eye color or hair color is not correlated with height or weight. And they're definitely not correlated with more complex traits like intelligence or athletic performance. Those things evolve and develop in entirely different ways. Just as skin color develops in a different way from size, intelligence, athletic performance, other traits develop in different and independent ways.
A map of skin color gradients looks sort of like the map of temperature. It gets lighter, as you go towards the poles and it's darker near the equator. But then take a map of, say, the distribution of blood type A. Looks entirely different. There's no relationship between the two maps. The distributions are non-concordant. Simply, one is not related to the other.
When we adopt a racial view, we have to see concordance. And perhaps if we don't see it, we make it up. Because if there's no concordance, there is no race. So, racist scientists, for example, have to see a concordance between skin color and IQ, otherwise there's no meaning there, there is no there there. There's nothing under the skin. Race stops at the color of your skin.
What's at risk? Quite a bit is at risk. It's how we see each other, how we respect each other. It's about understanding that somebody from one town in Poland, and somebody from the next town in Poland, could be more different from each other than a Pole and a person from South Africa.
It's about knowing that our assumptions about difference and who we're related to and who we're most alike may be entirely wrong. It's ultimately about a revolution in how we think about human difference and similarity.
How much human variation falls within any population, and how much between "races"?
Richard Lewontin did an amazing piece of work which he published in 1972, in a famous article called "The Apportionment of Human Variation." Literally what he tried to do was see how much genetic variation showed up at three different levels.
One level was the variation that showed up among or between purported races. And the conventional idea is that quite a bit of variation would show up at that level. And then he also explored two other levels at the same time. How much variation occurred within a race, but between or among sub-groups within that purported race.
So, for instance, in Europe, how much variation would there be between the Germans, the Finns and the Spanish? Or how much variation could we call local variation, occurring within an ethnicity such as the Navaho or Hopi or the Chatua.And the amazing result was that, on average, about 85% of the variation occurred within any given group. The vast majority of that variation was found at a local level. In fact, groups like the Finns are not homogeneous - they actually contain, I guess one could literally say, 85% of the genetic diversity of the world.
Secondly, of that remaining 15%, about half of that, seven and a half percent or so, was found to be still within the continent, but just between local populations; between the Germans and the Finns and the Spanish. So, now we're over 90%, something like 93% of variation actually occurs within any given continental group. And only about 6-7% of that variation occurs between "races," leaving one to say that race actually explains very little of human variation.
You know, geography perhaps is the better way to explain that 15% more than race or anything else. For instance, there can be accumulations of genes in one place in the globe, and not another.
But, for the most part, you know that basic human plan is really a basic human plan, and is found almost anywhere in the world. Most variation is found locally within any group. Why don't we believe that? Because we happen to ascribe great significance to skin color, and a few other physical cues that tell us that that's not so. And, in fact though, these may happen to be a few of the things that do widely vary from place to place. But, that's not true under the skin. Rather, quite another story is told by looking at genes under the skin.
Are there boundaries dividing populations?The idea of race, of course, assumes that there are set boundaries between the races, but we know that to be untrue. You know, there's no racial boundary that's ever been found. Any trait that one looks at, one tends to see gradual variation from one group to another. The facts of human variation are that it's continuous, it's not lumped into three or four or five racial groups.
One of the ways to begin to see a different paradigm, to see that the world really isn't divided into three or four or five types of individuals, is to really try to locate those individuals, to find them and to locate the racial boundaries between them. You could take any characteristic you want, but the most frequently used is skin color. We think that each type of person has a different skin color.
But do this as a thought experiment: start off in northern Scandinavian, say northern Finland, and take a walk in your mind through Scandinavia, perhaps into Germany, down through Germany into southern Europe, through the Mediterranean perhaps, circle around until you get to Algeria, into northern Africa, and continue on your way down towards the equator, and finally from the equator to South Africa.
The challenge would be to say where does one race begin, and where does another race end. Or even where does dark skin begin, and light skin end? Or, perhaps as you leave the equator, where does light skin begin to show up again? In fact, what you find is a rather subtle gradation in skin colors. This is called "clinal variation", and it's really quite like what you see in your weather maps of temperature in the back of the Sun, or your 11 o'clock weather forecast, where you can see how temperature grades change ever so slightly as you go from north to south. Well, skin color is actually quite the same thing. It varies clinally - continuously. There is no abrupt change from one skin color to the next.
How is human genetic difference - and similarity - traced to our history?
We basically are the same plan, and we don't need to alter our plan. In fact, one of the hallmarks of humans is that we're flexible. We are built with this very flexible brain and flexible structure that lets us go into a lot of new situations without needing to genetically adapt to it. We're kind of like the Swiss Army knife of species. We can apply culture and our ideas to conquer different environments. When we go into the cold we don't need to grow hair. We just need to find a buffalo skin to put on. Or better yet, we invent central heating.
As best we know, humans started in Africa. And they had a lot of time working out what they were going to be like in Africa. And through that time of working out what they were going to be like in Africa, they began to diverge and change slowly, ever so slowly.
Some of that change may have been due to selective pressures in different parts of Africa. And Africa is a very diverse place, with different climates, different eco-zones. There may have been some selection from that, and selection from diseases, with sickle cell being one concrete example of that, since sickle cell is a response to malaria. And malaria is not something that's a big problem throughout Africa, but is a huge problem, a huge selective force, in certain parts of Africa.
Adapting to different environments and circumstances is one way that we see change develop. However, it's probably not the major thing that makes us different clinally, geographically different. After all, we are a young species, and we're generalists.
Another way we change is more or less by random flow of genes. This is one of the big hallmarks of humans, that we tend to be very mobile. We've always been very mobile. And our genes are even more mobile. We may not move, but our genes may move because somebody we mated with, or the grandchild of somebody we've mated with, that person moves. And that person's great, great, great grandchild moves, and so our genes are constantly on the move and literally moving around the planet.
That was the story 100,000 years ago. It was the story 75,000 years ago. It's the story 50,000 years ago, and up to the present. We've had maybe 100,000 years of having genes move out and mix and re-assort in countless different ways.
Some of those movements may follow major migrations as agricultural people came into Europe, as people crossed the Bering Strait and came into the Americas. But, other movements are much more subtle. They're smaller groups of individuals that moved, or their genes moved from place to place, and time to time. We're constantly out-migrating and mating outside our group, responding to the urge to merge. And that happens all the time. And that is us. So, what you end up with, mathematically and in reality, are subtle gradations; one gene grading one way, another gene grading another way.
How does Social Darwinism - and race - rationalize inequality?
Social Darwinism was really just an explanation for the order of things. We had to come up with an explanation for why certain Europeans had more access to power and were wealthier than others.
So we use nature as an explanation for what we saw, or seem to think we saw in nature: those who were more aggressive, or more intelligent, got things, and those who weren't got less. So that became the continuing justification for taking over lands, for slavery, for competition. That competition was good. And to the winners went the spoils. And there's no need to feel guilt or anxiety about that, because that's natural, it's a reflection of nature. And to the winner go the advantages of having been a winner.
I think there are many, many legacies of social Darwinism today. We don't see how uneven the playing field is, for one. We don't acknowledge that individuals grow up with less advantage and more advantage. We seem to think that i we all are born with a blank slate and an equal ability to get ahead.
What about studies equating race with intelligence?
Scientific work abetting the idea that race is real, typological, and hierarchically arranged is actually rather an old occupation, you know. In the mid-1840s we see Samuel Morton measuring crania to get at cranial capacity and then to try to rank the races on the amount of cranial capacity they have, and to equate that with racial differences and intelligence.
And really about every 20 years somebody else comes along, almost with a best-seller, perhaps with a new method for measuring intelligence, ultimately to show that there is a ranking in intelligence, usually with whites up top.
The most recent effort was The Bell Curve, which came out in 1994 and literally reached number two on the best-seller list in 1994, behind a book, by the way, written by Pope John Paul. The Bell Curve threw a couple spins into this. One is that it actually promoted Asians as being closer to the top, also broke down whites a little bit more. But fundamentally it was the same type of book as was written by Morton in 1850; you use the same basic methods and the same basic logic.
Their argument went something like this: there is something called intelligence that we can put our fingers on, that we can measure; intelligence is some sort of univariable; it's one-dimensional. That intelligence then is measurable by something called an intelligence test that actually measures intelligence. And then that intelligence is highly heritable; it's something we really do get in our chromosomes, in our genes; it comes to us that way, it is highly heritable. Then one has to say that there is such a thing as white, black, and Asian, or whatever groups you're comparing, that they are real, that they are measurable, that they are reproducible.
But then let's to back and look at the assumptions again. Is there a white group, a black group, an Asian group? Are these reproducible? Are they trained equally? Can we really measure a variable called intelligence? Is it really something that's not affected by environment, about how we're trained, how we grow up, what stimulation we have by children?
I'll give you an example. One test has shown that just a little bit of lead in the blood can affect intelligence - a little bit of lead in the blood, prenatal, can affect intelligence by easily eight points on an intelligence score. Are we to believe that those factors were unimportant in looking at the differences in IQ scores? Of course not.
The assumptions that go into believing that there are racial differences in intelligence are absurd ones. They're ones that we shouldn't even be coming close to as scientists. The chief one is that here's such a thing as race, that there are races, and that a score on a test, an average group score, has any meaning for an individual.
Why is it important to overturn the idea of race as biology?
We live in racial smog. This is a world of racial smog. We can't help but breathe that smog. Everybody breathes it. But what's nice is that you can recognize that you are breathing that smog, and that's the first step.
We all live in a racialised society. And individuals of color are exposed to it more obviously, with more virulence, more force, than anybody is.
But what is important is that race is a very salient social and historical concept, a social and historical idea. It's shaped institutions, it's shaped our legal system, it shapes interactions in law offices and housing offices and in medical schools, in dentist's offices. It shapes that. And I think by stripping the biology from it, by stripping the idea that race is somehow based in biology, we show the emperor to have no clothes, we show race for what it is: it's an idea that's constantly being reinvented, and it's up to us about how we want to invent it and go ahead and reinvent it. But it's up to us to do it.
Racism rests in part on the idea that race is biology; it is based on biology. So, the biology becomes an excuse for social differences. The social differences become naturalized in biology. It's not that our institutions cause differences in mortality; it's that there really are biological differences between the races.
So, until we address that there is no race in biology, that race is an idea that we ascribe to biology, that there's no race there, there's a possibility that well-meaning and not-so-well meaning individuals will drag that up and will inevitably put that in our faces as the reasons why there are differences in life circumstances between different groups.