the term ‘Race’ as an obscuring misnomer: Pt. I

‘Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue’,
Megan Gannon, 04 February 2016,

“More than 100 years ago, American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was concerned that race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences between different populations of people. He spoke out against the idea of “white” and “black” as discrete groups, claiming that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity.

Science would favor Du Bois. Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning. And yet, you might still open a study on genetics in a major scientific journal and find categories like “white” and “black” being used as biological variables.
“Assumptions about genetic differences between people of different races have had obvious social and historical repercussions, and they still threaten to fuel racist beliefs. That was apparent two years ago, when several scientists bristled at the inclusion of their research in Nicholas Wade’s controversial book, “A Troublesome Inheritance” (Penguin Press, 2014), which proposed that genetic selection has given rise to distinct behaviors among different populations. In a letter to The New York Times, five researchers wrote that “Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in IQ test results, political institutions and economic development.”

The authors of the new Science article noted that racial assumptions could also be particularly dangerous in a medical setting.

“If you make clinical predictions based on somebody’s race, you’re going to be wrong a good chunk of the time,” Yudell told Live Science. In the paper, he and his colleagues used the example of cystic fibrosis, which is underdiagnosed in people of African ancestry because it is thought of as a “white” disease.

Gannon goes on to quote several scientists who suggest alternatives to the term ‘race’, such as ‘ancestry’, or ‘geographical populations’ as a genetic perspective, but that has limitations given the wide variance of Europeans compared to North America, where most inhabitants have come from elsewhere.

“And never mind that the concept is enshrined in the U.S. census, which last time it was taken, in 2010, asked Americans to choose their race from a list of choices that included “White,” “Black”, “American Indian,” “Asian Indian,” “Chinese,” “Japanese,” and “Samoan.” To the victims of racism, it’s small consolation to say that the category has no scientific basis. Perception is what matters”, a paraphrased version of an Elizabeth Gannon National Geographic quote.

 Spencer Wells: The Human Journey | Nat Geo Live, Jan 23, 2012  (24 mins.)

Outline from National Geographic

  • Introduction, updates, and underlying questions of The Genographic Project (start-02:16 min.)
  • The stones and bones theory: Paleoanthropology and Archaeology (02:17-03:00 min.)
  • The geneticist approach: using family trees to study human history (03:00-04:08 min.)
  • Primer on DNA: markers of descent, and the creation of a family tree (04:09-05:30 min.)
  • Patterns of human variation: mitochondrial DNA and the Y-chromosome (05:31-06:36 min.)
  • The earliest man and theories of African origins (06:37-08:16 min.)
  • A map of human migration over time (08:17-09:14 min.) (click for larger)
  • The Journey of Man and the beginning of The Genographic Project (09:15-11:22 min.)
  • Public participation and the Legacy Fund (11:23-12:48 min.)
  • The Genographic Project’s sample size (12:49-13:53 min.)
  • Examples of Legacy Fund projects: Tajikistan and the Andes Mountains (13:53-15:40 min.)
  • Collecting data from the public, and the power of large sample size (15:41-18:26 min.)
  • Climate change as a theme to analyze data (18:27-20:41 min.)
  • The Neolithic Revolution: using samples from western Eurasia to analyze the past (20:42-23:55 min.)

Spencer Wells – The Journey of Man (Part 2 of 13) – A Genetic Odyssey (9:54)

[Pt I is the overview of the rewriting of history by genetic mapping, and his having followed in the footsteps of his mentor Luca Cavalli-Sforza (25 January 1922 – 31 August 2018), then Wells hopping a plane to Africa to meet with the human ancestral Y-chromosome ‘Adam’ in the Kalahari desert.]

Recently some white-hooded KKK showed up at a police-state protest in Nevada; would they even care if they learned that all of us around the globe originated in Africa?  No, they’d not even believe it, of course, as it’s been enshrined in #TheRacistBrain that ‘Blacks’ are not only stupid, but inferior in every way to ‘Whites’, thus were only deserving of being slaves…to the ‘White race’.

As a side note, after I’d watched this series back in the day, I wrote it up for the local paper, sure that it would change racist and racialist perspectives, including locally  toward FirstAmerican and Latinx; not so much.

(cross-posted at

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