Race: May 2007 Archives

It's not on the genetic issues with nature favoring interracial reproduction, but Sam's been reflecting on other aspects of interracial relationships.

Undercover Black Man has a nice post outlining the genetic advantages to race-mixing, something I've always thought should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about genetics. You don't even need to know about genetics. Just look at the hereditary problems in close-knit and inbred populations. The post details quite a few of those. It's a nice, inconvenient fact for those who think race-mixing is unnatural. Even aside from the difficulty such views face in identifying exactly which populations are the races that can't be mixed, it does seem as if nature prefers combinations of genes that are less closely-related than combinations that are too closely-related.

I do think, however, that it's worth acknowledging that some effects of combining the DNA of very distantly related people could be more harmful. If a trait requires gene coordination from both parents, and the coordination requires more closely-related DNA, then such a crossbreeding could lead to a loss of those kinds of traits, even if it's more likely to preserve traits one of the populations has lost (because those traits are usually simpler).

So it's not purely a matter of race-mixing being healthier and monoracial reproduction being less healthy. There are benefits and disadvantages either way. But the most common opposition to race-mixing in the U.S. context is the racist idea that white genes shouldn't be polluted with black genes, and blacks and whites in the U.S. at this point are much more closely related than most other interracial pairings, largely due to race-mixing in the past (ironically caused mostly by white slaveowners raping or seducing their slaves). Given that, I would expect these negative effects to be significantly reduced in black-white pairings than would have been true in the time of slavery.

So I do think the conclusion is correct. If anything, interracial relationships are at least in one respect more natural than same-race pairings.

What would you describe as the typical Disney family model? Jae Ran Kim points out how frequently the main character of Disney movies has either an absent or dead parent (or two absent or dead parents), among other unusual anomalies that should be surprising for a line of children's entertainment. I think the only one in her pretty long list to have both parents raise her ends up a cross-dresser.

This isn't necessarily a criticism. This particular story device often simply makes for a good story. But doesn't it seem excessive for Disney to be so overwhelmingly like this? Or is this more common in children's stories in general than we notice? Since we generally don't notice it with Disney, maybe that's so. But why don't we notice it, if we don't?

There is always the stray race story, but lately it seems as if there have been far more than usual.

NPR had a story called "The Multiracial Identity" that I still haven't had a chance to listen to, and I'm not sure if I'll have any thoughts on it when I do, but I thought I'd link to Sam's post on it for now.

Someone is offering evidence for racial bias among NBA refs (NYT registration or Bugmenot required). They found much higher calls for black players when there are more white refs and somewhat higher for white players when there are more black refs. I'll hold my judgment until the study can be subjected to peer review. I haven't had a chance to look at it, but the first thing I'd want to rule out is whether black players are more likely to foul more often than white players. This gap, if it turns out to be real, might be partially explained by black refs going too easy on black players as much as it could be white refs being too hard on black players, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's some unconscious bias from residual racism also or instead.

There's also Lee Epstein's post at Balkinization, which says that panels of judges are more likely to be swayed toward a black plaintiff suing for discrimination if there's a black judge on the panel (and the same is true of women with women judges on the panel). As I commented there, the question is whether the presence of a woman or black makes other judges more likely to see discrimination that is present or whether it makes them more likely to find discrimination that isn't present. I suppose it's possible that both are true. I can't see how the study itself shows that having more women and minority judges improves things, though. You need to have a prior judgment about whether the finding of discrimination in the particular cases is the correct judgment if you're going to see this as good, bad, or neutral (or mixed). I'm not sure you can get an independent judgment on that.

Then there's this weird story, which says that interracial couples spend more time and resources with/on their kids than monoracial couples, except if the father is black and the mother white, and then it's less than monoracial couples. I have no idea what might explain any of that.

Finally, everyone's been making a big deal about a new study that shows that black students at elite colleges and universities are overwhelmingly more likely to be non-citizens, immigrants, or children of immigrants than descendants of slaves in the U.S. Why is this surprising? If you'd asked me ahead of time which one I would have expected to occupy more slots in the top schools, I would have without hesitation said the immigrants and children of immigrants. This isn't just from experience at an Ivy League institution (whose black community did seem to me to be over-represented by immigrants and children of immigrants in terms of percentages) but because scholars have long known this. Black conservatives and other opponents of affirmative action (or those who seek affirmative action reform) have been using this fact for quite a while as a piece of evidence in their argument against affirmative action policies as they currently stand. Many people, both in major news media and in race-specific specialty blogs, are reporting this study as major and surprising news. I think this raises some very interesting issues that I won't get into at the moment, but I'll say one thing. That people are surprised by this confirms my suspicion that most people don't have much of a clue what the arguments against affirmative action really are. If you knew them then you'd probably be aware of this fact. Maybe I'll have to get back to my affirmative action series to do my part to remedy that.

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