Census usage/racial terms

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 22 16:09:09 UTC 2010

"Race," in reference to the traditionally recognized "Races of Mankind," is
clearly a real phenomenon, even if, like many real phenomena, it is
ragged around the edges. Thinking about such races goes off track, and moves
into "social cinstructs," when it ignores the fact that much of the world's
population is *visibly* of mixed race. It goes further off track when it
makes inferences about the races' supposed "inner natures."

Also a social and neurotic construct is the desire to classify
individuals according to arbitrary notions of what race they "ought" to
belong to and then to treat them as if it mattered.

Classic examples are the American habit of classifying anyone with any
African ancestry (however invisible) as "Negro" or "black,"  anyone with any
Asian ancestry (usually visible) as Asian, and the Nazi theory that three (I
think) Jewish grandparents made a racial "Jew" (fewer, a "Half-Jew").

Nazi "racial" theory also confuses genetic with cultural "ethnicity" (a
common blunder and rhetorical device in the 19th C.; cf., e.g., "the
Anglo-Saxon race"). Current American political theory does the same thing
for less sinister reasons with "Hispanic."

Probably a simplistic analysis, and off topic too.  (A degree in English is
a license to blab.)


On Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 10:14 PM, <ronbutters at aol.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ronbutters at AOL.COM
> Subject:      Census usage/racial terms
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In a message dated 1/21/10 8:26:08 PM, hwgray at GMAIL.COM writes:
> > @Ron: Surely, you jest! You can't really believe that _race_ is
> > well-defined WRT humanity.
> >
> Of course I don't. I didn't say that race was well-defined biologically. I
> said only that the phsyiological features that people use to judge race are
> genetically determined.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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