Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Those Genes

"Usual Question: Why is a biracial child considered black?

Usual Answer: Because the child looks "more black" than white.

Follow up question: Why does the child look more black?

Follow up answer: Because whites have recessive genes."



Awhile ago on http://www.contexts.org/socimages, I saw a post that summed up my feelings about the "First Black President". She posted images of the president's grandfather and of Obama as an adult. Here are those two pictures:



And:



Clearly, Obama is the splitting image of his grandfather. So what about him makes him 'look black' exactly, out of curiosity? Is it complexion, features, or because "we know"? When we assign people to a race (and when it's ambiguous we ask 'what are you?' so we can attach stereotypes to 'understand them better') what are we really looking at? Or is it that a biracial person is said to look "more black than white" because OUR definition of whiteness is much less vague and always has been, than blackness? The "octaroons" during colonization and slavery show that white superiority has always meant that blackness was "too dirty" to rub across it. A person who was 1/8th (and prior to that 1/16th) black was "tainted" and therefore left out of the construct of white privilege as punishment.

Bob Marley's father.


How strange it is that people who range from Alicia Keys complexion to Wesley Snipes complexion are considered to "look black"? Especially since Alicia Keys is much lighter than Osama Bin Ladin, who is "racially" considered caucasian, as is Angelina Jolie who has features associated with black women. What about those who range from say Zoe Saldana to Cameron Diaz, how can you safely say you can "tell" someone "looks" latina? This has always been a huge WTF and a big SMH, imho.

We can use "culture" to define who is "black" and "white", but most biracials are raised by their white mothers so by this argument, why aren't they considered "white"? Then, there's the fact that other than stereotypes, underprivilege, and isolation there's nothing in America unifying "blacks" to each other to create a distinct culture. There's also the issue that states that biracials have "trouble" with their identity without considering the same ramifications exist for someone who is "black" AND "GLBT", or "black" and "woman" and which part of their self-identity should come first. The fight for self-identity is a human experience that is not isolated to people who exist in between two "distinct"(fictitious) groups. But when your identity is tied to "natural" (social) privilege or lack thereof, this fight simply becomes much more complicated.

It is very real in many societies that anything deemed vulnerable needs to be better protected. This ranges in all scopes of things from children to our immune systems, from white female virginity to our economic budget.
If European phenotypes are considered "naturally recessive" to all other "races" it essentially says that white genes are more valuable and therefore meant to be kept pure. Diamonds are only valuable because they are considered rare, otherwise, what would differentiate them from regular rocks?

We cannot separate racial perception from social conditioning. When we look at real life evidence, we can simply see that "race" doesn't exist.

Can we safely say now that the jig is up?

A-iOn

11 comments:

uppitywhore said...

There are so many white conservatives who are SO worried that mixed-race breeding will desimate white christian culture. And there are religiou movements, sprung from racism, that believe white christians should breed like bunnies to raise an army of christian children. the word "genocide" has been popping into my mind a lot lately.
"Black culture" serves white privilege better than any other construct, and its ridiculous that people keep holding onto it in the name of civil rights. Whether you're Kenyan, Jamaican or Scottish, if you "look black," you're supposed to be a part of a culture of consumption, sexism, violence, poverty and menial labour (if you're a woman)- it's not people who "look black" profiting off of record and fashion companies, prisons, or wal-marts.

Alienation said...

"it's not people who "look black" profiting off of record and fashion companies, prisons, or wal-marts."

True, nor are whites benefiting from it really. If we think in terms of who benefits from Wal-Mart, they transcend race in the sense that they've reached a point of privilege where.

"There are so many white conservatives who are SO worried that mixed-race breeding will desimate white christian culture."

I think even many liberal folks are this way, only they don't realize it.

For example, when repubs want to ban abortion it is for those white christian children. Most Dems believe that abortion should be exercised in "extreme" options such as rape. But along with that rape, is all these ideas about what constitutes abortion as being a necessity, like race. Such as "if you can't afford a kid" (which means there'd be A LOT less black people), for example. But that wasn't my point, it was actually that in general regardless of the situation a white woman visibly pregnant encourages "awwww precious baby" or "ohhh she's glowing", as opposed to the disgust at seeing a black woman pregnant. This is the subconscious part of our racist conditioning that views black children as less "worth" than white children.

I noticed that people drive INSANELY in all black neighborhoods, where as in suburbs they generally slow down. Children could be playing after all. The black children crossing the street are not of value, so people unconsciously do not believe they deserve the same measure of safety. I know I say this repeatedly, but it really fits this situation. We live in a culture where we are supposed to "protect" what's of value...Like whiteness. And we should "protect" it so that it doesn't weaken or become tainted.

""Black culture" serves white privilege better than any other construct"

Usually the most seemingly innocent "racial compliments" are the ones that serve the most harm. There's no "black culture", as blackness is not a cultural construct, so it doesn't make sense. What people actually view as "black culture" is a variety of things that were created in isolation and out of necessity and scarcity. But if black culture is "positive", then we must also add that the construct it was created in is "positive" by default.

uppitywhore said...

i don't see a lot of difference between what "black" culture is supposed to be like and what "american" culture is supposed to be like. buy things, "get" sex, make money. it only serves the people with things to sell. it's also almost completely focused on the male experience. what are either black or american culture without all of the status goals that men are supposed to achieve?
i do think wal-mart, fashion companies and music companies- and most big business- supports white dominance, though, even poor whites. to begin with, american businesses operate on the idea that saving americans money is worth the destruction of people and land in the "developing" world. most of the people producing goods for wal-mart, or any other store, are female and "of colour." it places a monetary value on their lives, and the cost to white americans is not worth it. they also get to choose what foods, fashions, books, music, art etc. people will have access to- all filtered through white american cultural ideas of what's normal, usual, expected and necessary. they indoctrinate and force the entire world to bow to white dominance. prisons are for-profit corporations that use their inmates for labour, can get away with more "cost-cutting" (human rights abuses) if the inmates are not "valuable," and have a financial interest in obtaining more and more prisoners. the actual owners may be in a league of their own, but the rest of us need to participate to keep them there. we're like overseers, benefitting financially and socially, even as we do their dirty work for them.

Alienation said...

"i don't see a lot of difference between what "black" culture is supposed to be like and what "american" culture is supposed to be like. buy things, "get" sex, make money."

RIGHT this is key. Just like there's no real difference between "Soul Food" and "Southern Food".

Hip Hop was invented by black and latino subculture, but all subcultures are subject to inspiration from the LARGER culture. And we do not know who invented "Poetry", which hip hop draws its influence from. There are some aspects of "Soul Food" that come from scarcity and poverty in the south, such as "Chitterlings" and even "Collard Greens", but that is once again based on SCARCITY not on some unspoken cultural contract between blacks. And black Caribbeans (such as my father who was exposed to soul food from my mother as an adult) don't even eat "Soul Food", but other stereotypical Caribbean foods like rice and beans, plantains, etc., that is considered "Latino" food by some but is the SAME food. Traditional dish "Plantains" just becomes "Plantano's" Rice and Beans becomes "arroz y frijoles" and so on and so forth. Segregation does create subculture out of necessity, but that's it. This whole black culture being a strong force is because blacks are not assimilable, and that's it.

"i do think wal-mart, fashion companies and music companies- and most big business- supports white dominance, though, even poor whites."

Ahhh I see what you mean. I thought you meant the owners of wal-mart. lol

uppitywhore said...

no, i think the insitution of "retail shopping" in general creates a devaluation of people of colour because it needs that to support itself. vicious cycle and all.

i love plantains. i could replace every egg product i'm ever offered (i'm allergic) with a fried plantain and be the happiest camper in town. i'd always thought it was Jamaican food, though, had no idea it was "latino" (another weird, mixed-up race term that i stay away from). back to the point, i think white people would collectively shit a brick if we were all served a lasagna with haggis and cabbage and expected to eat it up because it's "white" food. my spouse and i are both white, and kinda like your mum and dad, he had never had much "british" food and i had never liked "eastern european" food. even though we both grew up in canada, our "cultures" were very different.
back off the point, i need to go to caribana and get me some potato pudding this weekend.

Alienation said...

"had no idea it was "latino" (another weird, mixed-up race term that i stay away from)"

Agreed, and that's because it's not a "race" but a "lingual group". So when someone "looks latino" it's based on stereotypes of what a "typical" latino would look like. However it's impossible for them to have a "look", because since it's NOT a race, someone can be a white-looking, mixed, or black latino. The unifying category of "latino" is based on language.

I used to ask the question "what does a latino look like?" if someone who is "almost white", "mixed", or black can fit into this category. But then I realized that this applies to blacks as well.

Of course, we know what a white person looks like, and that they all look more similar simply because there are less people allowed access to the definition of whiteness.

Anarchist Jew said...

Interesting that the same person could be spanish, white, black and jewish all at once, huh? NOT separate groups but purely based on perception...

uppitywhore said...

yeah... i came across an argument on a neonazi message board (from which i was repeatedly banned) about whether albanians or italians could be considered "white." everybody else in the world was lumped into "jewish" or "black."
it's a very exclusive club. apparently i get to belong because you can see my veins through my skin, but there was a point in history where my mother's english ancestors and my fatherms scottish ancestors would NEVER consider talking about themselves as the same "race" and it was both natural and scientific that the english would dominate the scottish.

Ivy Jain said...

I hate when I searching for certain race related topics message boards at neo-nazi come up in the search results! For example, after I saw Star Trek back in March I googled Spock and Uhura (I love their relationship in the movie). There weren't very many results for the movie pairing yet (It had just come out). I clicked on a link where people were actually discussing the couple. Lo and behold it turned out to be a thread on a popular racist site (I refuse to refer to these a**holes by name).

Anyway, every time I see those pictures of Barack and his Grandfather I smile. The resemblance is startling!

Mira said...

Race isn't a biological fact. It doesn't exist in genes. That's why you can't scientifically determine someone's race. (Obama or Bob Marley, for example, might be black according to some people, and mixed to others).

Race, however, does exist in social terms. It's not a natural, it's a social category. Which means various groups see it differently- or don't see it at all. Some cultures, especially Ancient ones, didn't have "race" as a category at all. To those societies, terms like "black", "white" or "biracial" wouldn't make any sense.

"If European phenotypes are considered "naturally recessive" to all other "races" it essentially says that white genes are more valuable and therefore meant to be kept pure."

Actually, "recessive" could easily be interpreted as "weak". "Dark" genes are often dominant(and "stronger").

This biological fact can be seen in two different ways, depending on what you're trying to proove. If you want to praise white people, you could say white genes are more valuable and should be kept pure. If you want to praise black people, you could say they are stronger because their genes are dominant. Again, it's just a social interpretation.

Lab Rat said...

There is no scientific basis for 'race' at all. No genetic basis, no phenotypical basis, no nothing. There are more differences with a so-called 'race' than between races.

Any scientist who says otherwise (i.e james-fking-watson) is doing so on their own beliefs and social basis, not a scientific one.