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Race doesn’t matter much anymore

I’ve been reading a few items on genetics recently and have also run across some assorted blog articles on the topic at Gene Expression. I must admit it’s caused much thoughtful daydreaming on my part: enough, perhaps, for several articles. For now I’ll settle on one item.

Race simply doesn’t matter much any more and is becoming less and less of an issue as each generation goes by. The US Census showed interracial marriage accelerated drastically in the last decade in America; and I have it on the best of anecdotal data from fellow editor Perry de Havilland the same is true in London.

I think I know why.

Let’s look at the generations of the last century. In a personal sense I can “reach back” to 1910 when my grandparents were born. From there I can follow the evolution of attitudes over 20 year generational intervals.

1910-1930: This generation grew up with racism as a philosophically backed reality of every day life. The underpinnings of the Nazi Aryan hypothesis were everywhere and were not just a Nazi invention. Adolph the Paper-Hanger didn’t really invent much. He just dipped into the turn of the century philosophy and ripped the arse out of it. This is not to say the Western World was Nazi or that my grandparents were; only that all existed within the same philosophical milieu.

1930-1950.: This generation was taught racism from the cradle, but grew up with World War II. They saw the horrors of the previous generation’s ideas taken to their most utterly extreme conclusion and had no choice but to reject them. Thereafter they were like church goers who have no faith but attend because mommy and daddy did, and continue to live the values they were taught because it is what they know. Ideas in motion tend to stay in motion.

1950-1970: The generation of Woodstock. They were given a very watered down version of racism from their parents and easily rejected it because there was nothing behind it. Their parents racism was a hollow sham. Even their parents were losing faith as they grew older. The only thing holding back interracial marriage was an unwillingness to face the family nightmare that would ensue from grandparents and parents. This shows up in songs: Janis Ian’s hit “Society’s Child” and the later song by the Stories, “Brother Louie” come easily to mind.

1970-1990: Their parents had lusted after members of other races but didn’t do anything much about it. What little racism they recieved from mom and dad was a pass through of deference to the grandparents. When they came of age in the 90′s they started miscenegating like rabbits – thus the Census results.

We can expect this trend to simply accelerate until there are no “races” in the US, UK, Canada and many other Western nations.

I accept that my generation limits are arbitrary, but almost any cohort blocking you chose will still grow up with the above period-piece home environments. Some regions will be time-shifted one way or the other, so not everyone will “be here now”. I’m discussing trends, not particulars.

Race as a basis for pretty much anything is a dead issue in 2002. The Tranzis’ just won’t let us bury the corpse.

9 comments to Race doesn’t matter much anymore

  • responses from the Gene Expression Collective at:

    Razib

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  • Lime

    Couldn’t agree more with your idea of regions being “time-shifted”. I also like the concept of “people” actually being time-shifted, that is, having a mind set of decades (maybe centuries) past. The Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung mentioned this, if I correctly recall. As about race, I am of the opinion that in the Americas (not only in the US but all over the American continent) being of European ancestry is socially always better accepted “by everybody” than otherwise (in spite of what ads on tv and in magazines would lead one to believe, with all those blacks, whites, browns, hugging and smiling at each other, etc). The reason might be that Europeans were the ones who brought modern civilization to these shores; Europe formed the Americas and for the foreseeable future will remain a “certifying” kind of instance in our societies. In Latin America, for instance, the “whiter” one is, the more civilized one is expected to be. That is what most people believe in their hearts, and the political correctness of the times won’t let them admit (sometimes even to themselves). So race in the Americas does matter, with no changing trend in sight.

  • There have been periods in which the anti-racist
    side of the debate was clearly winning. In a British
    context, the period from the 1770s through the 1830s — from (say) the publication of the Wealth of Nations through the Act of Emancipation — was totally pleasing. But the period from from 1850 (Carlyle-Mill) until World War II was pretty ghastly. It took Bright/Mill/Martineau to fight off recognition of the “Slave Power,” Eyre walked, etc.

    Now in British circles one finds eugenics publically defended.

  • David Levy (see above) is quite correct on all counts but never the less, I do think race relation in Britain at the moment are actually considerably better than those in the USA or (particularly) continental Europe.

    However for some comments on a ghastly example of contemporary support for Eugenics in the mainstream press as David mentioned, see an article I wrote here on Samizdata.net… it is not about racial eugenics however.

  • It is hard to compare with US with its demography
    with the UK. When I gave a lecture in Liverpool in May, the place seemed oppressively white to me!

    Perry’s take on the AN Wilson article is just fine but
    notice how Wilson describing the “kindly” Francis
    Galton — we don’t do titles this side of the pond –
    somehow neglected to mention that the great success of his ex ante eugenics identification program — the composite photo –came in only one case. Nope … couldn’t identify criminals nor people with TB nor … But he could identify Jews! Yup. Photo News 1885. Sandy Peart and I gave a paper at the Joint Statistical Meeting last month on this. [The jugment is from both Galton and Pearson.]

    The first article in the first issue of the Annals of Eugenics was by Pearson and Moul on — surprise? — Jews immigration. It is really cute how Pearson/Moul “proved” that Jews were inferior.

    I can send copies of the Levy-Peart paper “Eugenics and the Jews” to anyone who writes. If you want to see what the composite photos of the Jews look like, I better burn you a CD. I had the Library of Congress make transparencies, the transparencies became Tifs. Even a PDF gets too big for comfortable email.

  • Eugenics is not genetic engineering. And genetic engineering proponents are not crypto-Nazis.

    As Instapundit said:

    “What was bad about eugenics was that it involved overriding people’s reproductive choices, typically by sterilizing them so that they wouldn’t pass on genes deemed defective. Conflating forced sterilization with voluntary use of reproductive technologies — a common move among opponents of genetic science — is either ignorant, or dishonest.”

  • Debating the essence of eugenics by reading a subset of its modern advocates is to miss the logic of the enterprise. Eugenics has a long history of selecting favored “races” which by the most remarkable coincidence is pretty close to that of the theorist.

    When Darwin in Descent of Man quoted Greg the comparsion was between the thrifty Scots and the profligate Irish. Galton’s composite photos [1885] isolated the materialism in the Jewish heart. Pearson/Moul [1925] documented Jewish inferiority by methods of moments.

    We can argue of course that we’re smarter than Darwin, Galton & Pearson or that Scots/Irish distinction makes no real racial sense or that Jews aren’t a real race but I suspect that since the advocates of eugenics don’t want to talk about such episodes what is going on is the old lie — gives us power and we’ll do the right thing.

    The eugenics point was in service to a larger point about racism in America and Britain. I think that Brits don’t see racism very clearly. I’ve recently slogged through various editions of the Victorian classics Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies and Alton Locke.
    In Water Babies for instance there is stuff which was cut out of America editions in 1910 or so which still found in respectable British editions. And modern British editions of Alton Locke pass over Kingsley test for exploitative owners of sweat shops — they have names like Aaron and Levi. Much too subtle for scholars from Oxford.

    Americans are really sensitive to things like that. The recent elections replaced two Congressional reps who were playing with this sort of fire.

  • “Eugenics is not genetic engineering.”

    Obviously.

    “And genetic engineering proponents are not crypto-Nazis.”

    Well I certainly hope not as I am one of said proponents!

  • Lime

    Summing up, if the point is that “race doesn’t matter much anymore”, my comment is that it
    depends on where you are. I am not familiar
    with the situation in England, and for that matter,
    with the other lands that make up the UK, but here
    in the Americas I tend to disagree with your
    title. In Latin America, for instance, where I live,
    race does matter a lot. The “whiter” one is, that
    much higher are the good expectations surrounding that person. Now I am not alluding here to “race
    relations” per si (which vary tremendously from
    country to country in the Americas), but am solely focusing on your title about the wanning importance (according to you) of race.