Race, Ethnicity, & Culture


Race, Ethnicity, & Culture

Beliefs about race and ethnicity influence our cultures, politics, and relationships.  What is race?  What is ethnicity?  This group explores those concepts.

Location: Global
Members: 234
Latest Activity: Apr 14


Racism and the effects of ethnocentrism are alive and well in the 21st century.  Racism and humanism are incompatible by definition. 


The most human, and humane, thing that we can do is acknowledge and support the humanity of people who are different from ourselves.  Curiosity about what makes us human, by necessity, includes curiosity about our human ethnic heritage.


We are incredibly enriched by immersing ourselves in a diverse world.  We are intellectually and emotionally impoverished when we exclude others who are not our mirror image.


This discussion group includes many topics about race and ethnicity.  Feel free to comment to new threads, or resurrect old threads, if any spark your interest.


My 2 cents. Daniel W.


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Discussion Forum

DOJ Civil Rights Division Perversity

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Grinning Cat Feb 2. 1 Reply

Lightning-Fast Normalization of the KKK

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Loren Miller Dec 25, 2016. 1 Reply

White Nationalism and Genocide

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by The Flying Atheist Dec 10, 2016. 1 Reply

White Nationalism Rising

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Bertold Brautigan Aug 26, 2016. 6 Replies

Trump leans into racism and violence

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Ruth Anthony-Gardner Jul 25, 2016. 4 Replies

Comment Wall


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Comment by Joshua on June 29, 2009 at 3:58pm
I have two questions/comments... First, why are we all afraid of the topic of race, and why is it bad to explore a historic knowledge of the races and how/why they came to be?

I know that all humans are nearly homologous genetically; however, most of our genome codes for incredibly complex structures that must be conserved. The part of our genome that codes for eye, hair, skin color, texture and other physical characteristics is far less than 1% as far as I know, so there isn't much variation genetically to be had. Phenotypically; however, there are obvious differences. Why is it necessary for us to eliminate the idea of race altogather? They exist don't they??? I personally find it interesting to note how many different varieties humankind has developed and how we have all stayed interrelated enough to continue on as the same species. I think our diversity and individuality is something to celebrate, not overlook. Personally I would like to know how did the races form and manage to stay inter-bred enough to share genetic traits. Why did they form? Was it truly geographical isolation, or did tribes gain some benefit from looking very different from other tribes? All over the planet there are cases of birds, salamanders, fish which have a singular diverse species which will form "races." Especially where two or more cohabitate. It seems as if being able to share genes through this long complex process is a benefit, but being able to be somewhat segregated is a benefit too. I personally think it is fascinating...3

Also, as a personal observation, alot of the research on race that I have seen is pretty much junk science. I saw this blood type distribution report trying to prove that the very idea of races was a fallacy, showing that ABO blood types were distributed regardless of race. I laughed until it hurt at A). how stupid it was and B). how the academic bodies of this nation have become such cowards that they would allow junk science like that to get published in the first place. Does no one realize that humans and chimps have the same blood type? No one? Ok, let me explain this. They tried to use blood type to disprove the existence of race, which has nothing to do with one another. Race is about physical obvious characteristics which help with sexual selection, blood type is about surface carbohydrates on a blood cell. How is a member of a species supposed to detect that??? Of course it isn't going to be subject to sexual selection. Secondly in attempting to disprove race via bloodtype, he may as well have been trying to disprove speciesism via bloodtype. Hell, we share like 98% of our genes with chimps and they have the same blood typing as us, so we MUST be the same species!!!

Why is it wrong to know about humankind. We have subtypes just like every other species on this planet. When they interbreed, they form hybrids just like any other species on this planet. Those hybrids survive, bluring the lines between groups, just like any other species on this planet, and the groups are only noticeable when two extremes are placed side by side just like any other species on this planet. I just don't see why people are trying to deny the existance of races. Humankind has races, get over it.

Now the big issue is, how to we get the races, which exist, to get along. I don't think lying to them and using junk science is the answer. Maybe, just maybe if we could explore our shared history in an open and honest way, interest in one another just might bind us together... We are still the same species after all, which is only possible if we maintain gene flow (ie breed with one another to some degree) that is a sure sign of hope, isn't it???
Comment by Jo Jerome on June 27, 2009 at 10:48am
Just joined, (and dead tired so it will be a while before I can start being actively active).

Very cool concept for a group. I sometimes lurk on places like black freethought atheists or gaytheists to gain insight and perspective. It sounds sappy and almost arrogant, but I really was raised by parents who did all in their power to keep the -isms of the world from me and I think they largely did a great job.

One of the big moments was as an adult living on my own, I went to an open AA meeting to support a friend. Being somewhat familiar with the AA crowd, this meeting of 50 or so strangers-to-me was as expected. Little judging of the new person, lots of acceptance, no problem with the new person coming not because I'm an alcoholic but to support a friend who is. In all the feel-good fest it took me a good hour or so before I realized I was the lone white girl in a room of all African-Americans.

Went right home and called Mom and Dad to thank them. None of us can truly be color-blind, especially in the society where we live. But it was thanks to their upbringing that I was raised to be so comfortable in such a setting I don't even notice at first that I'm the only soda cracker in the room. ;-)
Comment by Daniel W on May 26, 2009 at 2:06pm
Thanks for posting this inspirational story. For those without access to the video, here is a wikipedia bio of this amazing scientist.

This is a man who has touched millions of lives, and most people don't know his name. His research was key in making modern birth control possible. The wikipedia bio may have more chemical terms than some people are comfortable with - I would just gloss over those sections. According to the bio, Dr. Julien transcended prejudice, discrimination, and poverty, to become one of the great scientists of his time.

Thank you for sharing this information. I can add a humble suggestion, creating discussions with postings such as this would help people locate and comment on it specifically.
Comment by Ralph Dumain on May 26, 2009 at 10:10am
The documentary on Julien Perry (or is it Perry Julien?) was on PBS a year or two ago. It was excellent.
Comment by Ralph Dumain on April 10, 2009 at 8:50am
I think all topics should be moved to a discussion forum, instead of crowding the comment wall. There will be several topics to pursue-ethnicity, race, and the peculiar cases in which they merge. As for religion, the relation between religion and ethnicity is also a topic; for example, so many people do not recognize that Jews comprise an ethnic group and not just a religion, an ignorance of which leads to a lot of foolish and prejudicial judgments.
Comment by Daniel W on April 10, 2009 at 8:42am
Thanks for your comments. Do you think this would be a good topic to move to a discussion forum?
Comment by Ralph Dumain on April 10, 2009 at 12:48am
People can change their attitudes and valuations under certain circumstances, and it is the case that not everyone internalizes all the values and perceptions common in one's society, but it is decidedly false that people can choose not to perceive the significance of color in their society and not tailor their behavior in some way accordingly. One's ability to navigate and survive in one's society involves having some working idea of what's going on in one's environment and the consequences of behaving in one way rather than another, of how to react to a given situation or environment. First of all, minorities don't have the luxury of being oblivious to how others may deal with them. And when others maintain they are color-blind they are only blind to what is really going on in their society. In actuality, we are all forced in some way to respond to situations in a way different than our conscience might otherwise dictate: for example, how we react to people on the street when there is a potential safety issue. In fact, the internalization of expectations is so insidious, that even when we are wary of giving into them, we cannot help but under certain circumstances to do so. And even more insidious is the way that minorities develop the same expectations toward one another as the majority does towards them. For example, you will find where I live, and probably anywhere, that a black cab driver will avoid picking up black passengers, a black security guard will keep his eye on black customers in a store, a black woman encountering a black male on the street at night will cross the street to avoid passing him by, etc.

The only way to achieve actual freedom is to first give up the illusion that you are free.

Secondly, I should not be labelled as a "skeptic" based on my interventions here. I have a pretty realistic idea of how things go in American society, and I'm not about to pretend that what's real is not and what is not real is.
Comment by Daniel W on April 9, 2009 at 11:37pm
Thank you back, for joining and contributing. I hope that you find this group useful and continue to describe your thoughts and experiences. As one of the 'early joiners', your voice can shape the future direction of the conversation. This is true for the other early joiners as well, of course! Your comments on being civil and respectful are exactly the kind of spirit that can keep people talking to one another, I think. My boss always tells us "assume good intentions", although someone who has been burned a few times in life might want to quote Reagan (Oh no!) "Trust but verify".

I'm so glad that we have your analytical, skeptical voice to keep us grounded. I've had trouble coming up with the best term for this conversation - it's awkward to say "race, ethnicity, and culture' every time, but it seems that each has elements of what needs to be discussed, and no term has a clear definition. All are artificial, but there needs to be an agreed upon language in order to communicate. It seems that, even with the awkwardness of the terms, you are in agreement that this is a place to start? Maybe that would be a good subject for a discussion post.

I am not sure that I agree, that whether people attach significance to color is beyond their control. Just as people can decide to look religion in the face and decide whether their original thoughts are correct, I think that people can do the same with other preconceptions, including those about color. As some point, a person can question "why is it that I think this way", then look into it, and decide, "I think I was full of BS. I think I can learn something here". Someone who was raised on meat and potatoes can, with one taste of Tabasco, decide that they are truly missing something, and open themselves to a world that they were missing before that epiphany. Then they can enjoy, and Angelia describes, the smorgasbord (or, as they have in my area, the Chinese Buffet).

Let's keep talking.
Comment by Ralph Dumain on April 9, 2009 at 5:27pm
A biracial person presumably has quite a different take on the artificiality of racial/ethnic boundaries than the average unreflective individual who fits into whatever rut (s)he has been slotted into.

The term "Biracial" or any of its synonyms should not be taken as a literal biological designation, since member of pure "races", i.e. totally separated populations, probably no longer exist. So a "biracial" person should be defined as someone whose parents (or grandparents?) are identified as belonging to different racial categories. However arbitrary these distinctions are from the scientific standpoint, whatever groups are socially recognized as distinct are so for practical purposes.

The question then becomes, how do these physiognomic distinctions get translated into social and cultural distinctions? For whether you attach significance to color or not is pretty much beyond your control when dealing with the cumulative historical effect of others having done so and having divided society along certain lines thus creating the society in which you must now function.

Secondly, what is the relation between color and culture. People tend to be naive in failing to understand the meaning of their fusion and distinction. In the USA, culture was created out of the artificially created social significance of color, once the system of African enslavement was finalized (a process which did not happen overnight). The course of American history was once set, first culminating in the Civil War, and then, once Reconstruction was overthrown, in the system of Jim Crow and its de facto correlate outside the South. And then, the ultimate results of the Civil rights movement, resulting in an overthrow of the rigid racial order that ruled previously and the partial desegregation that has since occurred. There are other groups to be considered of course, esp. those once singled out for exceptional abuse: the American Indians nationwide, the Chinese, Japanese, and Mexicans in certain areas of the country, Puerto Ricans in others, and one could add the abuse heaped on European immigrant groups in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. But the bottom line is that the black/white divide pretty much defines everything. And the black/white divide is the one that most thoroughly fuses color with culture, given that black American culture, except for a few enclaves, was founded on stripping African slaves of their varied native cultures and imposing a common experience among them which created a new culture.

Since the effective end of segregation a new situation has been created, but first, it's necessary to see that the use of a color term to designate a race and a culture leads to much confusion. The mainstream liberal integrationism that prevailed until the mid-60s focused on racial prejudice as a subjective issue, save for the obvious problem of the Jim Crow South. This was exemplified in all the Sidney Poitier films, which ran their course by 1967. The black power movement among other things foregrounded the question of culture as well as institutional racism. As a result, white liberals had to readjust their reality, but at some point in the '70s another assumption became tacit common sense--the assumption of authenticity. If you watch reruns of Good Times, you will see this in effect at key moments. This was a decade of profound social change.

Now we are in a different era, in which, depending on social class, less can be assumed about people than before. The issue of social conformity also mutates, for the more choices there are, in theory, the less people should be forced into a narrow mold. And the relationship between one's individual identity and one's group identity is not cut-and-dried as it once seemed to be.

So these are the prerequisites for coming to terms with the reality of race and ethnicity beyond propaganda and platitudes.
Comment by Angelia Arrington on April 9, 2009 at 1:30pm
Daniel, I forgot to thank you for posting this blog.

I grew up predominately in South Central's "William Nickerson Garden's Housing Projects" and about four weeks in Mississippi. They both showed obviously different takes on race and ism in Americana in the 1960's. As a result, I chose to stay neutral and not join any race or creed unless it was a basis creed where we treat one another (and the knuckledraggers who did not subscribe to our views) as respectfully as possible.

I think being bi-racial kind of helps. The only difference between the blue plate special and the smorgasbord is that you will only get a "meat and three" (veggies) as opposed to foods from various regions. Plus you can eat some of them with your fingers. lol


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