A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘race

[NEWS] Ten JSTOR Daily links: Beowulf, grain and beer, Sinclair, birds, TV, books …

  • JSTOR Daily considers race as a subject for discussion in Beowulf.
  • JSTOR Daily suggests the possibility that grain was domesticated not to produce bread, but rather to produce beer.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how the wild rice of North America resisted efforts at domestication.
  • JSTOR Daily notes the Outer Banks Brewing Station, a North Carolina brewery powered by wind energy.
  • JSTOR Daily shares a classic essay by Upton Sinclair from 1906 on the issues of the American economy.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at the history of the pet bird in the 19th century United States.
  • JSTOR Daily considers the ways in which streaming television might not fragment markets and nations.
  • JSTOR Daily reports on how Sylvia Beach, with help, opened legendary Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Co.
  • JSTOR Daily reports on the surprisingly democratic origins of the Great Books of American literature.
  • JSTOR Daily reports on how the horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s captured a new female audience by having more appealing girl and woman characters.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy notes the wonders being witnessed by the Dawn probe in orbit of Ceres.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the potential of effectively immortal interstellar probes.
  • D-Brief notes the discovery of some genetic origins of loneliness.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog notes the connections and potential conflicts between concepts of race and the British royal family.
  • Far Outliers shares the first part of the summary of an article examining contact between African and Japanese mercenaries in early modern Asia.
  • Gizmodo wonders if Uranus’ large axial tilt can be explained by some sort of massive collision.
  • Hornet Stories likes the way that Pose, a show set in queer communities in New York City in the 1980s, deals with HIV.
  • In the aftermath of the tumult regarding the New York Times’ coverage of Batman and Catwoman, io9 offers the paper some tips on covering pop culture.
  • JSTOR Daily shares a paper noting how and why, in belle époque Chicago, immigrant communities often sponsored Fourth of July celebrations.
  • Language Hat deals with the convention of many writers in English to italicize foreign words. Why do this, again?
  • Jonathan Freedland at the NYR Daily considers the import of the Fourth of July for the United States in 2018.
  • Science and Food looks at liquid nitrogen gastronomy.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel considers if the universe might be headed for a big rip.

[URBAN NOTE] “Why are so few Black people cycling in Toronto?”

D.C. Matthew writes at length in NOW Toronto about the various reasons why black people are so underrepresented in the population of cyclists. Some of the reasons are more benign than others.

People are connected to various social networks (the web of social relationships in which we are embedded), and researchers have convincingly – if not uncontroversially – argued that the behaviour of persons in our networks can affect our own in various ways. The idea is that a behaviour can spread as people pick up unconscious social signals that it’s normal.

But if more people are cycling because their friends are cycling, why aren’t more Black people cycling? Don’t they have friends, too? Yes, but it’s a well-studied fact that social networks are often less racially and ethnically diverse than we think.

Typically, when scholars study the racial homogeneity of social networks, their aim is to learn whether and how they work to disadvantage minorities by providing whites with privileged access to valuable resources such as jobs. If, for example, what matters most in getting a job is not what you know but who you know, and whites have historically dominated the most sought-after jobs, then it’s easy to see why homogeneous networks might be troubling.

But racially homogenous networks can also serve as conduits for the racially differentiated spread of healthy behaviours, and one of these is cycling.

This point finds some support when we look at the neighbourhoods where cycling rates are highest. In Toronto, the areas with the highest number of utilitarian cyclists (including Parkdale, Little Portugal and nearby ‘hoods) tend to be in the west end.

Although these neighbourhoods aren’t among the city’s whitest, they’re not the Blackest either.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2016 at 7:26 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • D-Brief reports on some highly unusual formations, including more bright spots and a pyramid (?), found on Ceres.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the effect the activity of our own sun would have on the discovery of Earth.
  • Joe. My. God. quotes Jim Parsons on how he never quite came out.
  • Language Log reports on multilingualism in China.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the question over state debt in Greece is extending moral hazard to private debt.
  • Steve Munro notes how the TTC has to balance spending on infrastructure and on operations.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflects on what the Australian equivalent to the New Zealand haka might be.
  • Spacing Toronto wonders why carding refuses to die.
  • Window on Eurasia argues Ukraine should press Russia harder on Crimea.

[FORUM] How have definitions of race changed, and are changing, in your community?

Will Baird made the point that “race” is a category of constantly expanding membership.

Keep in mind that Benjamin Franklin’s writings, he railed against the nonwhite immigrants moving into the US and corrupting its culture. Those immigrants? Germans. Yep. Germans. He considered the English, certain Germans (Saxons, iirc), Dutch and perhaps the Scots to be white. No one else was. 100 years ago, Italians and Irish were not “white” by general American social standards. They are definitely considered such today. What is ‘white’ and what is not is a moving standard. Dr Lee points that out in an interesting manner.

It appears that the definite of ‘white’ is moving to encompass asians and latinos. By 2035 or 2040, it may well be that being Mexican is no different than Italian. Or Irish. The differences would absorbed and some kept by society as a whole and some not, just like any other immigrant group in the past once the flow from the point of origin has slowed to a trickle. Had we still be getting waves of Italians from the late 19th century all the way to the present, our societal uneasiness might still be present.

Unfortunately, developments make it look like, as Dr Lee points out again, that white is going to be excluding black in the life trajectories of those within their categories. Listen to the short above. Its a bit depressing. Black is the underclass. Sad and depressing that.

“Blackness”–an antithesis–is key. Proof of this can be found in the “negrescence” that late Victorian ethnologist John Beddoe claimed to find in the Irish in his 1885 The races of Britain. Oh, and among other Celts, too.

In The Races of Britain Beddoe first introduced his main method of analysis of pigmentation data, his ‘Index of Nigrescence.’[74] To Beddoe, hair colour was far more important than eye colour. Stepan describes his method as “a curious mathematical formula” and a “quasi-algebraic equation ostensibly measuring precisely the darkness of the skin.” In the present context, however, it is the translation of his formula’s deliverance’s into cartographic form—an aspect that Stepan ignores—which attracts our attention. The procedure involved adding twice the percentage of niger to the percentage of dark hair, and then subtracting the values of fair hair and red hair. This was expressed as (2N+D−F−R), where N=Niger (jet black), D=Dark Brown, F= Fair and R=Red. The simple fact that Beddoe considered constructing an index of darkness at all seems to have strongly racist overtones. Even the use of the word nigrescence has racialist resonance with fears of civilization reverting to savagery, through increasing darkness of skin. The nigrescence index incorporates ideas of a progessionist ladder with blacks on a lower rung than whites. However, Beddoe was not the only one to adopt this approach. The Racial Committee of the BAAS, for instance, attempted to define racial categories, by calculation of ‘degree of nigrescence’ for different sectors of the population. “Criminals, for example, were shown to have an excess of dark eyes combined with dark hair . . . over the general population.”

[. . .]

Beddoe often emphasized the predominance of dark types in Ireland and Wales, which could also be extended to include the ‘Celtic’ types of Scotland. These ‘types’ were seen to be a degrading element of the population and Beddoe suggested that “[t]he combinations of dark brown or black hair with blue, light grey or dark grey eyes are remarkably prevalent in all Gaelic countries, belonging perhaps to the ancient race of Cro-Magnon, but certainly to a stock long ago thoroughly incorporated with the Gaels.” Beddoe also associated racial types with social issues, and remarked that “[d]ark hair and eyes are as prevalent in Wales as Radicalism and Non-Conformity.”

This is ridiculous to me and–I suspect–to all of my contemporary. The definition of “white” does seem to have expanded from “nominally or supposedly Germanic peoples of northern and northwestern Europe” to “everyone from Europe and its settler offshoots”. Any number of things, including the decline of cross-border migration in Europe but also things like the discrediting of racialized politics by the Second World War and the integration of Europe in the Cold War and so on, has contributed to this. “White” does seem to be open to any group that has enjoyed, or is perceived to have enjoyed, enough upwards social and economic mobility to compensate for whatever prejudices exist. Perhaps the Maghreb, the wider Middle East even, as the former region at least makes the transition from a labour-exporting region to a labour-importing one, will join in. “White” and “non-white” may become substantially, as one observers suggests in the American Prospect, a division between groups perceived as successful and groups that haven’t succeeded enough.

That’s one theory. Does this reflect your society’s experience? Do you think that this reflects North America’s experience? What groups have been excluded, which groups have gotten in, and where is this all heading?


Written by Randy McDonald

March 13, 2011 at 5:39 am

[BRIEF NOTE] Race, intelligence, history

pompe was the first person on my friends list to report that scientist James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, said that Africans were less intelligent than whites.

One of the world’s most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that “equal powers of reason” were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America’s leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when “testing” suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

I’ve two objections to make to Watson before I can cede the floor to commenters.

1. Back in August 2004, when I was still active on GNXP, I made a post on South African history, outlining how, for nearly a century, the South African state took great care to delay if not prevent the emergence of an educated middle-class non-white population in their country, through the destruction of their urban settlements, the provision of inferior education (when education was provided at all), and the imposition of a racial caste system that worked decidedly to the disadvantage of at least three-quarters of the country’s population. After such a history of intentional deprivation, I asked, would anyone be that surprised if black South Africans scored lower on IQ tests than their white counterparts? History–specifically, histories of oppression which would result, among other things, in lower scores on Western-designed tests–is something quite critical that Watson’s comments have managed to entirely overlook. One might as well say that Poland disappeared from the map of Europe for nearly a century because of some genetic shortfall among the Slavs and Balts of east-central Europe.

2. In keeping with the theory that homo sapiens sapiens first evolved in Africa, scientists have discovered that African populations are far more genetically diverse than other continental human populations, more genetically diverse than the rest of the humanity put together. This only makes sense since, as the African origins theory predicts, humans have had nearly a hundred thousand years to evolve in situ in different regions of a vast and frequently impassable continent. Talking about West Africans, Congolese, and Ethiopians as belonging to a single population defined by shared genes (as opposed to a population defined by ideology) really doesn’t make sense.

Other objections can be made, I’m sure, but I just wanted to make sure that these two got out there.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 17, 2007 at 7:22 pm

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