Race Is Not Such An Important Division
Jim Blair

This essay was originally a response to an article by J. Philippe Rushton, professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario in London, arguing against the 1996 Knight-Ridder article from Washington arguing that, as a biological concept, race has no validity. For the original article, take a look at Jim Blair's home page.

There is a view of race, probably so widely held that it counts as the "conventional wisdom" right now, that holds that it is fundamentally a very important decision. Books like The Bell Curve espouse this 'race science' view, which can be summed up as saying that race is more than just skin deep.

But I see some problems with it. First, by dividing the human "race" (species) into three "races" (subspecies), you are leaving out a lot of people who don't fit into any of your three races.

In all this, I do not want to confuse geography with "race". But it is hard not to, since those who insist on classifying people by "race" usually use the language of geography to describe their "races".

The people of the Indian subcontinent: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal for example. This is about a billion people or about 20% of humanity. Where do they fit in your picture? They are from Asia, but the term "Asian/Mongoloid" as used by you (and by the US Census Bureau) really means what we commonly call "oriental", ie., people from China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. We do agree that these are different from the "Asian Indians", who are darker skinned "people of color", but are also certainly different from Negroid/Africans. So are they a 4th "race"?

Or how about the people of Central and South America? While many there are immigrants from Europe, and the native population is assumed to be similar to the North American "Asians", I read that about 90% of the people can be considered "mestizo", the mixed white/indian "race". The organization that claims to speak for them in the US is La Raza, Spanish for "The Race". They also have darker skin than White (Europeans) but lighter skin and different features than Negroid/Africans, and while maybe a skin color about equal to the above named "Asian Indians", generally different features. And very different cultures. Is Mestizo another "race"? Is it what the US classification "Hispanic" is trying to get at?

All the colors of the rainbow?

This reminds me of something that I learned while teaching a chemistry course in Instrumental Analysis (of all things!) many years ago. I was explaining the electromagnetic spectrum, and the visible light section of it from 400 to 800 nanometers. Energy at various wavelengths are given the names of the 6 colors, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

A student from Korea said that at home there were only 5 colors. I was puzzled by this and wanted to know which one the Koreans had "left out". As we went over a color picture of a spectrum I realized that the Koreans had not left any color out, they just divided the visible spectrum up differently! Their 5 colors did not correspond to ours, especially around the green-blue middle portion.

Then I realized that the reason we "see" the standard 6 colors is not because they are "real" but because we have words for them in our language. People who speak Korean "see" different colors. The reality is a continuum of wavelengths, not set of discrete colors.

In my "Affirmative Action" file, I used the number of degrees in a circle, but now I think the colors of the rainbow are a better example. How many colors are there? Any number you want.

I think this entire subject must cause some cognitive dissonance in people who fancy themselves to be "Liberal" and who support Affirmative Action. In reading my web page articles on "The History of Race", "The Modern View", and yours, they may want to side with the other two authors against you. But they must agree with you that there are "races", or else how could we have "Affirmative Action"? I mean, if the US Census Bureau stopped asking people what race they are, and took the position of Ben Ishmael Salahuddin, Lloyd James, and me, there could not even be Affirmative Action programs.

Essays on related topics...

Race and Affirmative Action
Title Author
The Inner City Underclass Jim Blair
America: Melting Pot Or Salad Bowl? Jim Blair
The Problems Of Dividing People Into Races Jim Blair
Race and Culture: A World View Jim Blair
Race Is Not Such An Important Division Jim Blair
Affirmative Action Is Not Quota-Based Reverse Discrimination Steve Kangas [off site]
Ethnic IQ Variation Is Not Genetic Steve Kangas [off site]
The Problems of Multiculturalism Kenan Malik [off site]


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