The National Geographic Race issue looks like it will be a treasure chest of iSteve material. For example:
It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.
… DNA reveals what skin color obscures: We all have African ancestors.
By Elizabeth Kolbert
This story is part of The Race Issue, a special issue of National Geographic that explores how race defines, separates, and unites us. Tell us your story with #IDefineMe.
In the first half of the 19th century, one of America’s most prominent scientists was a doctor named Samuel Morton. Morton lived in Philadelphia, and he collected skulls.
Oh, boy, Samuel Morton again. Ms. Kolbert undoubtedly cribbed Morton from the late Stephen Jay Gould’s 37 year old bestseller The Mismeasure of Man, even though a 2011 replication of Morton’s study showed Gould was more biased than Morton was. (Here’s an NYT editorial making that point.)
This is the case even though what science actually has to tell us about race is just the opposite of what Morton contended. …
In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”
Oh, boy, the 2000 Clinton Rose Garden Human Genome Project whoop-tee-doo again. It’s the Current Year, not 2000. What Venter, Collins, and Bill Clinton expounded in 2000 was obviously wrong then, but at least you could be charitable and not quote it 18 years and a vast amount of genetics later.
THERE’S MORE DIVERSITY IN AFRICA THAN ON ALL THE OTHER CONTINENTS COMBINED.
Oh, boy, that chestnut again. A I pointed out in 2000 in a short essay called “Seven Dumb Ideas about Race:”
Most of the human race’s genetic variation is among black Africans.
This chestnut is true only for junk genes, the DNA that doesn’t do anything. Junk genes are highly useful to population geneticists tracing the genealogies of racial groups, but they don’t affect anything in the real world.
Then, are black Africans highly diverse physically? Well, that depends upon who you are lumping together. There are indeed some highly unusual peoples in Africa, but almost none of them were brought to America as slaves. The most genetically distinct people in sub-Saharan Africa are the Khoisan. These are the yellowish-brown, tongue-clicking Bushmen and Hottentots of the Southern African wastelands, the remnants of a great race that once dominated most of Africa before the blacks ethnically cleansed them from the more desirable lands. The most striking contrast in Africa is between the tiny Pygmies and the ultra-tall herding tribes of East Africa. But except for the 7`7″, 190-pound basketball novelty Manute Bol, few of either group made it to America. In contrast, the West African tribes that did provide the vast majority of American slaves are relatively homogenous. [Stanford geneticist] Cavalli-Sforza sums up the situation on the ground like this, “… differences between most sub-Saharan Africans other than Khoisan and Pygmies seem rather small.”
So who is Elizabeth Kolbert? Wikipedia says she’s a staff writer for The New Yorker. Here’s the best bit from Wikipedia about her:
Kolbert spent her early childhood in the Bronx, New York; her family then relocated to Larchmont, New York, where she remained until 1979.
Whiteflighting from The Bronx to Larchmont definitely makes you an expert on Race Does Not Exist.
Larchmont is a tiny but famous village in Mamaroneck in Westchester County. It’s home of the Larchmont Yacht Club and right next to Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge Golf Clubs. From Wikipedia:
According to a 2009 estimate, the median income for a household in the village was $165,375, and the median income for a family was $204,695. …
Larchmont in popular culture:
Mad Men … – Crab Colson comments to Roger Sterling et al. on how lovely it is to travel by taking a “sloop from his folks’ place in Old Lyme all the way down to Larchmont for race week.”
Wall Street – when Gordon Gekko and Bud Fox are in the change room of the health club, Gekko asks another member, “How’s Larchmont treating you?”
The West Wing – In season 3 episode 8, when speaking with President Bartlet, Bruno Gianelli says, “When I was a teenager, I crewed Larchmont to Nassau on a 58-foot (18 m) sloop called Cantice.”
Aimee Crocker, Gilded-age era heiress, princess, Bohemian and mystic
D. W. Griffith, Academy Award–winning film director