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One Instance Where Political Correction is More Accurate

I generally despise anything politically correct. Topics concerning race are particularly mushy puddles of P.C./B.S.  They are at once overly talked about and under-analyzed. Same goes for gender. My last post on the topic of innate differences among groups highlighted the hysteria generated controversy of any academic foolish inquisitive enough to research any differences among genders. Well my friend and faithful reader, Dave, sent me a recent Slate article reporting on a study researching, gasp!, racial differences. For example, they argue that black men generally have higher centers of gravity which helps with the physics of locomotion (i.e. running) while whites’ general lower center of gravity helps in swimming. 


To me these are rather trivial, mildly interesting, topics – the reason I’m covering this study is something else entirely. The authors don’t argue that the differences are racial but biological or hereditary. Before you think that they are just being P.C. or nitpicking, read this explanation. First the scientists in science-y language:

Our approach is to study phenotypic (somatotypic) differences … which we consider to have been historically misclassified as racial characteristics. These differences represent consequences of still not well-understood variable environmental stimuli for survival fitness in different parts of the globe during thousands of years of habitation. Our study does not advance the notion of race, now recognized as a social construct, as opposed to a biological construct. We acknowledge the wide phenotypic and genotypic diversity among the so-called racial types.

Now the Slate reporter helping translate:

This is a fascinating bit of finesse. There’s nothing unusual about dismissing race as social construct. Racism watchdogs do it all the time. But they do it precisely to deny hereditary differences between blacks and whites.

 […]

Taking “race” out of the equation makes a substantive difference: It focuses the conversation about heredity on populations, a more precise and scientifically accepted way of categorizing people. 

[…]

The authors also help the conversation by pointing out that “environmental stimuli” caused differential evolution in different parts of the world. There’s nothing inherently good or bad about being West African or Eastern European. All of us are evolving all the time. As environmental conditions change in each part of the world, they change the course of natural selection. Ten thousand years from now, the average center of body mass might be higher in Europe than in Africa.

Simply put, it is not about being black or white that causes biological differences. Populations’ genetics blend and change all the time. We lump people into race groups because it’s visually easy, not because it’s a particularly accurate measure of anything. But that doesn’t mean different groups of people can’t have biological differences – but those differences aren’t static and aren’t inherently bad or good. In the future, populations that happen to have darker or lighter skin will have different sets of genes which produce different effects in those individuals. Accepting that genetic differences exist does not condemn anyone to prejudice or racism – it should eradicate it. 


(image from here)

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World Cup

This is sad.

On a more positive note: Yay for Mexico in its 2-0 win over France! I have high hopes for the US, but first we need a win against Slovenia. 

Categories: Race, Sports, World Cup

Constitutional "Gates"

I haven’t really thought too much about the ongoing Gates affair other than it seemed like Gates was being a bit oversensitive but that the police officer really should not have arrested him.  This clearly shouldn’t be more than a local issue and the President of all people should not have involved himself.  Of course the issue lets both sides of the racial questions blather on about how obvious it is that the other side is wrong, racist, or race-bating.  These types of disputes don’t interest me all that much but when I saw Hitchens had a new Slate column on the issue I was intrigued to see what he had to say.  Intrigued but a little disappointed that it was this of all issues he was writing about – until I read it.  Great column; and made me think in a new way about the issue (which is why I read Hitch.)  

There is absolutely no legal requirement to be polite in the defense of this right. And such rights cannot be negotiated away over beer.

Race or color are second-order considerations in this, if they are considerations at all. […] Professor Gates should have taken his stand on the Bill of Rights and not on his epidermis or that of the arresting officer, and, if he didn’t have the presence of mind to do so, that needn’t inhibit the rest of us. 
This incident highlights the more important issue of constitutional rights, not racial politics.  Also if anything, treating this issue in terms of its more serious components, not superficial concerns over skin color, can only help us get past that national complex. 
[update]:
Radley Balko over at Reason.com also takes the constitutional tract rather than the racial one on the Gates-Gate.  
The arrest of Harvard African-American Studies Professor Henry Louis Gates has certainly got everyone talking. Unfortunately, everyone’s talking about the wrong issue. 
[…]

Police officers deserve the same courtesy we afford anyone else we encounter in public life—basic respect and civility. If they’re investigating a crime, they deserve cooperation as required by law, and beyond that only to the extent to which the person with whom they’re speaking is comfortable. Verbally disrespecting a cop may well be rude, but in a free society we can’t allow it to become a crime, any more than we can criminalize criticism of the president, a senator, or the city council. There’s no excuse for the harassment or arrest of those who merely inquire about their rights, who ask for an explanation of what laws they’re breaking, or who photograph or otherwise document police officers on the job.

What we owe law enforcement is vigilant oversight and accountability, not mindless deference and capitulation. Whether or not Henry Louis Gates was racially profiled last week doesn’t change any of that.

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