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: Jun 26


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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Comment by Daniel W on June 29, 2009 at 5:54pm
Great question. There are quite a few parts to it. One place to look is the discussion that has started on "The genetics of race". Contained within that discussion is a link to a You-tube video that has a great story about the development of races and ethnic groups. That video is in several parts, but the initial link should get you started. Also, a second one that I havent viewed all of the way through, but on my initial look it also looks promising.

There is more more genetic variation among individuals within a race, than there is on average between the races. While I'm not a historian, I suspect that the concept of race arose partly as a way for the group who was dominant at the time (Europeans) to make it seem "OK" to subjugate, displace, kill, and enslave people who looked different.

I'll try to avoid too long of a discussion in the comment wall - too hard to follow. Moving it to the existing discussion on "The genetics of race", or starting a new discussion, will be easier to follow.
Comment by Jo Jerome on June 29, 2009 at 5:38pm
Good question Joshua, and I think I get what you mean; that yes, differences exist between us and we should be able to not judge on each other on that basis while also acknowledging and celebrating diversity. It's not 'racist' for a guy to say "I prefer redheads." And yet genetically, the difference between redhead and blonde, black and white, is just as tiny and hardly significant when, say, applying for a job.

I'm sure it's already been discussed to death, but the election of Barack Obama is an excellent example. A lot of Obama supporters got upset that race is even an issue on the good side. "Yay, we're getting our first Black president" gets chided, that it's somehow wrong to even acknowledge that he is Black. Simply making a deal about it, even in a positive manner, becomes somehow 'racist' in and of itself.

Yes, I voted for the man first and foremost on the basis of his political record and his character. The fact that he is also our first Black president is a separate but just as important issue. It really does represent a growing up of America that we can finally overlook race to elect a president despite the valiant efforts on the Right to make us afraid of his race, name, and presumed religion.

Hmm, maybe that needs to be its own thread. Will really need to peruse this group when I have a bit more time. ;-)
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.

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