In 2006, author Alon Ziv published the first edition of Breeding Between the Lines, a haphazard exploration of the idea that mixed-race people are inherently “healthier and more attractive” than people of non-mixed backgrounds.“The biology of race is a sensitive topic with an ugly history, butBreeding Between the Lines approaches it responsibly,” the book’s website reads. “Ziv presents evidence from academic journals, world history, census counts, and pop culture to explain why interracial individuals have measurable physical and mental advantages.”
Traditionally, when we think about eugenics, we’re thinking about the problematic theories that were once used to justify anti-miscegenation laws, segregation, and the forced sterilization of minorities. For decades here in the U.S., social norms and policies rooted in eugenic ideology played a major role in the disenfranchisement of and discrimination against people of color who were considered genetically inferior to white people.
Though the book’s a decade old, it recently went into its second edition with a brand new cover photo and a vastly different social media landscape full of people who couldn’t understand why Barricade, the book’s publisher, would deign to put the book out again. Author Daniel José Older took to Twitter (which wasn’t really a thing back in 2006) in disbelief.
View image on TwitterOlder wasn’t alone in his criticism of Ziv’s newly-republished book. Others felt that while feigning to be in favor of the well-being of people of color, Breeding Between the Lines was, in fact, inexorably tied to racist ideology.
Breeding Between the Lines‘s thesis stands on the other end of the traditional eugenic spectrum with its assertion that multiracial people are inherently superior. From his perspective, the fact that mixed race people are also people of color means that there’s nothing wrong with saying that someone of mixed race is “better” than their peers. What Ziv seemingly fails to recognize, though, is that that the ideas he’s advocating have a lot to do with the long history of valuing minorities with genetic connections to white people over those who don’t.
In many cases, fawning over a mixed person’s “good hair” or theirpretty blue eyes, can be interpreted as saying those physical traits somehow make them a more acceptable (or superior) version of other people from their ethnic backgrounds.
This book hides behind cherry-picked studies to substantiate arguments. One of Ziv’s points about multiracial people being more attractive is built upon the idea that humans objectively find symmetry to be aesthetically pleasing.
A 2002 study conducted by UCLA Assistant Adjunct Professor of Biology Jay Phelan attempted to scientifically “prove” that biracial people were more prone to being symmetrical and, subsequently, more attractive. After splitting a group of 99 students into groups according to whether or not they were biracial or “uniracial,” 30 people rated their attractiveness .
While the experiment proved his hypothesis, it failed to account for a number of important factors influencing the study’s findings. The idea of a “uniracial” person is absurd. Though people may identify as black, white, latino, or Asian, each of those racial groups are comprised of people with genetic connections to multiple ethnic groups from various regions. The experiment treated subjects as racial monoliths that could all be grouped together by particular physical traits.
What’s more, unless the study’s participants were explicitly told to gauge a person’s attractiveness based solely on the symmetry of their faces (and given the tools to measure said symmetry), there’s no way to account for the many other things that influenced how participants judged the photos.
“Right wing, left wing—everyone’s going to hate my idea,” Phelan toldElle in 2003. “But I think the movie Bulworth put it best: ‘Everybody’s just got to keep f—ing everybody ’til they’re all the same color.”
This glibness says a lot about how to interpret this type of pop science. More than anything else, Breeding Between the Lines is meant to be provocative and get people riled up over its not-so-subtextual racism. In an attempt to legitimize his opinions, Ziv takes a jab at Rachel Dolezal, saying that claiming black identity “did not work out well for her.”
Here’s to hoping that clinging to eugenics doesn’t work out too well for him.
The Pew Research Center is the premier group that gathers and analyzes data in America. Many of us trust Pew. They have been good to the multiracial community. For example, they came out recently with a big report called “Multiracial in America.” Good times. We gave them big thumbs up.
Last week Pew came out with a report called “Who is Multiracial? Depends on How you Ask: A Comparison of Six Survey Methods to Capture Racial Identity.”
So far so good; but then they go into their six methods.
Method 1: Standard two-question Measure. Per the Census Bureau, Pew asks respondent to select one or more races, with a separate question measuring Hispanic identity. Nothing new there and the response was “3.7% of Americans are mixed race.” What happened to the wording “Multiracial”? OK, so they were establishing a baseline of sorts. Result was 3.7% of American adults were “mixed race.”
Method 2: Census Alternative Measure. Pew tested a question being considered for the 2020 census in which the Hispanic origin response is included with the racial categories in a “mark one or more” format. Not good. It lends itself to the Census Bureau calling us “MOOMs” (Mark One Or More). Result 4.8%
Method 3: Census Measure with Parents’ Races. Oh come on, Pewsters!?! This was brought up in the ‘90s. Multiracial identity is complex. The answer does not lie in the race of the parents because parents may differ from their parents in their identities completely. This is why self-identification is so important. Get it? Result 10.8%
Method 4: Census Measure with Parents’ and Grandparents’ races. See Method 3 plus what about people who were adopted and know nothing of their grandparents’ races. Result 16.6%.
Method 5: Point Allocation Measure. Multiracial adults were given 10 “identity points” to allocate themselves across racial or ethnic categories. What? Are we back to octoroons and quadroons of past slavery days? Let’s not forget that a fraction by any other name is still a fraction. I would call this an ineffective method that is an affront to the multiracial community despite the resulting 12%.
Method 6: Attitudinal Measure. They asked people directly “do you consider yourself to be mixed race: that is, belonging to more than one racial group?” We would change “mixed race” to multiracial,” because it is a more acceptable and respectable terminology. Results: 12%
We like Method 6 best, with our slight alteration, even though it doesn’t result in the highest number of multiracial responses it’s clear, simple, and probably the most accurate.
This is very interesting, considering that the Governor of ALABAMA has joined us by issuing a proclamation for the state to celebrate Multiracial Heritage Week! -Susan
Census shows Alabama growing older, producing fewer babies
Alabama is growing slightly more diverse, while also producing fewer babies, according to a U.S. Census report released this week.
The new figures on age and race within states and counties show that half of Alabamians were older than 37.9 years of age in 2010. That median — or middle mark — is now up to 38.6-years-old as of 2014.
That’s because Alabama saw about 10,000 fewer young children from 2010 to 2014. The Census shows 305,000 children under the age of 5 in 2010. That was down to 295,000 in 2014.
The new report is broken down by race, and the decline can be seen across racial and ethnic groups. White and black, Hispanic and Native American, all saw fewer young children in Alabama in 2014.
There was a slight increase in recent births among the state’s small Asian population. But the only category to see any sizable growth among the youngest members were those reporting as “two or more races.”
That was the fastest growing category for race or ethnicity from 2010 to 2014, climbing from 64,000 Alabamians in 2010 to 75,000 in 2014. Nationwide, about 2.5 percent of Americans now answer as “two or more races.”
Meanwhile, Alabama has seen a steady year-over-year rise in the number of residents over the age of 65. For instance, Alabama had about 77,700 residents over the age of 85 in 2010. That had climbed each year to reach 83,600 residents over 85 in 2014.
The Census report this week shows Maine with the highest median age at 44.2 and Utah as the most youthful state with a median age of 30.5.
Within Alabama, the new numbers on race and ethnicity show that Pickens County saw the largest jump in Hispanic population, climbing 170 percent since 2010. But that’s still fewer than 1,000 residents in the small county. Most counties saw more modest gains.
Only Barbour, Tallapoosa, Montgomery, Jefferson and Chilton saw a drop in the Hispanic population since 2010. Jefferson County, home to the state’s largest Hispanic population, dropped about 3 percent from about 25,500 Hispanic residents to just under 24,900 in 2014.
Mobile County has the largest Native American population at about 4,000 residents. Jefferson has the state’s largest Asian population at 10,500 residents, followed by Madison County at 9,000.
There were slight changes in terms of white and black demographics.
Macon and Greene counties continue to have the highest percentage of black residents at just over 80 percent, while Winston and Cullman in north Alabama continue to have the highest percentage of white residents at just over 96 percent.
However, all four counties had grown slightly more diverse in the last four years. For instance, Macon County went from 83 to 81 percent black as the county shrank. Winston went from 97 to 96 percent white as the small black population doubled.
The Census released overall population estimates for states, counties, metro areas and cities earlier this year.
Alabama in 2014 had 4.85 million residents. The new report shows about 70 percent are white, 27 percent are black, nearly 2 percent are “two or more” races and 1 percent are Asian. Here’s the racial breakdown and median age for the state’s four most populous counties.
Two or more
Updated at 9:45 a.m. on June 28, 2015: Readers have requested data for Hispanic residents. The Census separates race and Hispanic origin. Residents are asked to identify as white and Hispanic, or white and non-Hispanic, black and Hispanic, black and non-Hispanic, etc.
Overall 4.1 percent of Alabamians in 2014 identified as Hispanic, up from 3.8 percent in 2010. Here are the five counties with the largest Hispanic population. Each sits in North Alabama and each is home to the state’s massive chicken industry.
Census considers new approach to asking about race – by not using the term at all
The Census Bureau is experimenting with new ways to ask Americans about their race or origin in the 2020 census – including not using the words “race” or “origin” at all. Instead, the questionnaire may tell people to check the “categories” that describe them.
Census officials say they want the questions they ask to be clear and easy, in order to encourage Americans to answer them, so the officials can better collect race and Hispanic data as required by law. But many people are confused by the current wording, or find it misleading orinsufficient to describe their identity.
Census forms now have two questions about race and Hispanic origin. The first asks people whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, and states that “Hispanic origins are not races.” A second question asks, “What is this person’s race?” and includes a list of options with checkboxes and write-in spaces. The U.S. government defines Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race.
The problem with using the word “race” is that many Americans say they don’t know what it means, and how it is different from “origin.” The agency’s focus group research found that some people think the words mean the same thing, while others see race as meaning skin color, ancestry or culture, while origin is the nation or place where they or their parents were born.
The Census Bureau’s owndefinitions of raceandHispanic origin, which follow government-wide rules from the Office of Management and Budget, sometimes appear to overlap. A white person, for example, is defined as someone “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.” Hispanic is defined as a person of “Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”
The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a fluid product of many influences. “We recognize that race and ethnicity are not quantifiable values,” the Census Bureau saidin a 2013 report. “Rather, identity is a complex mix of one’s family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, personal experience, context, and many other immeasurable factors.”
In test-census forms to be sent to 1.2 million respondent households later this fall, the bureau will test the impact of alternative question wording that drops all mention of “race” or “origin” and asks: “Which categories describe person 1?” People then can choose from the list of races and origins. TheNational Content Testalso will testcombining the Hispanic and race questionsinto one, in part because many Latinos believe that Hispanicity is a race and do not identify themselves as white, black or another standard racial group.
“I’m very happy that they are going to test a question which gets away from the language of race and ethnicity because frankly that is just a quagmire, that language,”said Ann Morning, an advisory committee member and New York University race scholar. “No two people seem to be able to agree on what those terms mean.”
In follow-up comments in an email, Morning said she believes “the beauty of simply referring to ‘categories’ is that it avoids that problem of people getting hung up on the terminology. So I would expect this term will allow people to answer the question more quickly, and to feel more free to check more than one box if they wish, and to lead to a lower non-response rate on that question.”
If adopted, the changes would add to the long list of revisions over time inthe way the decennial census has asked about race, which has been included in every count since the firstone in 1790. Until 1960, Americans did not choose their own race on census forms; enumerators did it for them. Racial categories have changed extensively through the decades, and question wording also has been revised.
The word “color,” not “race,” was used in census-taker instructions and some census forms in the 1800s. The word “race” appeared for the first time in 1880 enumerator instructions that talked about “color or race,” and the use of both terms continued on census forms or instructions through 1940. The term “color” was dropped from the 1950 census form, but returned on the 1970 census form.
The word “race” was not included in the 1960 census or 1980 census. Instead, the forms asked, “Is this person –” and listed the racial categories.
CDC: Cancer Incidence and Survival Improve; Racial Disparities Persist
Numerous states have achieved Healthy People 2020 goals for colorectal and cervical cancer incidence, and the proportion of persons with cancer who survive at least 5 years after diagnosis has reached 65%, but racial disparities in survival persist, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
An analysis of data from the U.S. Cancer Statistics for 2011 – the most recent data available – showed that a total of 1,532,066 invasive cancers were reported to cancer registries in the United States that year (annual incidence rate, 451 per 100,000 persons). Invasive cancers were considered all cancers except in situ cancers (excluding situ cancers in the urinary bladder) and basal and squamous cell cancers.
Incidence rates were higher for men than for women (508 vs. 410 per 100,000), and were highest among blacks (458 per 100,000). The 5-year survival rate, calculated for cases diagnosed between 2003 and 2010, was similar among men and women at 65%, but lower among blacks (60%) for every cancer site, S. Jane Henley of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, Atlanta and her colleagues reported in the March 13 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Survival was highest among those diagnosed before age 45 years (81%) and decreased with increasing age.
The most common cancer reported was prostate cancer (128 per 100,000 men), followed by female breast cancer (122 per 100,000 women), lung and bronchus cancer (61 per 100,000 persons), and colon and rectum cancer (40 per 100,000 persons). Together these cancers accounted for half of those diagnosed in 2011, and 5-year relative survival in patients diagnosed with these cancers was highest for prostate cancer (97%) and breast cancer (88%), the investigators said (MMWR 2015;63:237-42).
Survival was intermediate for colorectal cancer (63%) and lowest for lung cancer (18%).
The cervical cancer incidence rate was 7.5 per 100,000 the authors noted.
A geographic breakdown shows that incidence ranged from 374 per 100,000 persons in New Mexico to 509 per 100,000 persons in Washington, D.C.
“Healthy People 2020 targets were reached in 37 states for incidence of colorectal cancer and in 28 states for incidence of cervical cancer,” they wrote, noting that this report is the first to include incidence rates in Puerto Rico; those rates were lower for all cancer sites, compared with the states and the District of Columbia (339 per 100,000 persons) – a finding that reflects screening practices and risk factors that may differ from in the states.
The inclusion of survival data is also a first and provides a basis for tracking progress.
“Cancer incidence and survival data can guide the planning and evaluation of cancer prevention and control programs,” the authors said, adding that such data can also assist in long-term planning for cancer diagnostic and treatment services, and help public health officials set priorities for allocating health resources.
Though limited by potential systematic misclassification of race and ethnicity, by the possibility that cancer reporting was delayed thus leading to underestimation of certain cancers, and by the fact that relative survival rates were calculated only for white and black racial groups due to lack of accurate life tables for other racial/ethnic groups, the findings are nonetheless important for helping public health officials to monitor cancer incidence, mortality, and survival and to identify populations that might benefit most from targeted prevention and control efforts, they said.
The findings can also help guide the planning of health care allocation and support services and track progress toward Healthy People 2020 goals, they added.
Dr. Lisa Richardson, the director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control further stressed the value of monitoring cancer incidence and survival rates in a statement.
“These data are an important reminder that a key to surviving with cancer is making sure everyone has access to care from early diagnosis to treatment. We know, for example, that early detection of colorectal cancer has had the largest impact on long-term survival rates,” she said.
Already genetic sleuths can determine a suspect’s eye and hair color fairly accurately. It is also possible, or might soon be, to predict skin color, freckling, baldness, hair curliness, tooth shape and age.
Racial Disparities in Outcomes of Adult Heart Transplantation
Racial disparities in center performances were evaluated among patients who received orthotopic heart transplant (OHT). Blacks had elevated risk-adjusted mortality rates at centers that performed poorly and were more likely to be treated at centers with elevated mortality rates. A positive correlation was found between the observed-to-expected mortality ratios and the percentage of blacks.
Blacks were more likely to receive OHT at centers that performed poorly, although a center effect did not explain the racial disparities in mortality. OHT outcomes in minorities are unlikely to improve with referrals to better-performing centers alone.
I spoke with Michele Norris of NPR’s Race Card Project several months ago. I asked her why she never features POSITIVE stories about multiracial people or interracial families. She thought about it, got very defensive and gave me some lame answer that meant don’t bother her again. So I completely agree with Joel Pollak’s article below. I hate to see my public radio pledge dollars going to the Race Card Project and in the paycheck of Michele Norris. –Susan Graham
NPR’s Race-Conscious Project: Are We Still Funding This?
National Public Radio has released the latest of its “race card” stories based on “six-word essays.” This one comes from Marc Quarles, a hospital technical who, NPR relates, “is African-American, with a German wife and two biracial children–a son, 15, and daughter, 13. The family lives in Pacific Grove, a predominantly white, affluent area on California’s Monterey Peninsula.” His six-word entry: “‘With Kids, I’m Dad. Alone, Thug’.”
Quarles’s observation–really, a complaint–is about his neighbors, whom he says treat him differently when his wife and children are away for the summer. One incident from his time living in the area stands out: when, in his first week in the neighborhood, the man across the street called the police on suspicion that Quarles had stolen his mother-in-law’s purse. That sense of unpleasantness, Quarles implies, has lingered on for him.
And yet that incident–regrettable and race-charged as it seems to have been–has nothing to do with Quarles’s fundamental claim: that to his neighbors (his “counterparts,” he calls them), he is just a black face when his wife is not around. It seems odd that Quarles might not, during the nine or ten months between summer holidays, attempt to get to know his neighbors. Odd, too, that he would extrapolate from one bad apple to all of them.
In a subsequent conversation with the neighbor who called the police, Quarles said, the man–who apologized–seemed surprised that Quarles owned a second home. Yet if the subtext to the story is that race is something about which Americans must remain conscious, with a sense of obligation owed by whites to everyone else, why should Quarles be surprised when the default (and, yes, unfair) assumption is that he might not be well-off?
The sad part of the way NPR and Quarles chose to tell the story is that Quarles seems to have grappled with the difficulties of race quite successfully. Not only does he have a multi-racial family, but he has not let racism hold back his own success, noting: “You can live in this world with that double standard and be successful and have a wonderful life.” Yet he brings the story back to Ferguson–as if he wants race to matter to him more than it does.
More regrettable is the fact that NPR is running this series at all. Not that we shouldn’t talk about race–when it is relevant–but the question here is: to what purpose? National taxpayer dollars, and prime radio air time, are being invested in stories whose purpose seems to be to reinforce race consciousness, in spite of–almost against, really–the progress of 60-plus years of the civil rights movement. Not the best use of public funds.
From Ancient DNA, a Clearer Picture of Europeans Today
About 50,000 years ago, humans from Africa first set foot in Europe. They hunted woolly mammoths and other big game — sometimes to extinction. Eventually, they began grazing livestock and raising crops.
They chopped down forests and drained swamps, turning villages into towns, then cities and capitals of empires. But even as they altered the Continent, Europeans changed, too.
Their skin and hair grew lighter. They gained genetic traits particular to the regions in which they lived: Northern Europeans, for example, grew taller than Southern Europeans.
Up till now, scientists have learned about evolution on the Continent mostly by looking at living Europeans. But advances in biotechnology have made it possible to begin extracting entire DNA from the bones of ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. Their genomes are like time machines, allowing scientists to see bits of European history playing out over thousands of years.
Recently David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues analyzed the genomes of nine ancient Europeans. Eight belonged to hunter-gatherers who lived about 8,000 years ago, seven in what is now Sweden and one in Luxembourg. The ninth came from a farmer who lived 7,000 years ago in present-day Germany.
The scientists compared these genomes with those of living Europeans. As they reported last month in Nature, the study revealed something scientists never knew: Europeans today have genes from three very different populations.
The oldest of these populations were the first Europeans, who appear to have lived as hunter-gatherers. The second were farmers who expanded into Europe about 8,500 years ago from the Near East.
But most living Europeans also carry genes from a third population, which appears to have arrived more recently. Dr. Reich and his colleagues found the closest match in DNA taken from a 24,000-year-old individual in Siberia, suggesting that the third wave of immigrants hailed from north Eurasia. The ancient Europeans that the scientists studied did not share this North Eurasian DNA. They concluded that this third wave must have moved into Europe after 7,000 years ago.
Last week, another team of scientists reported data from an even bigger haul of ancient European genomes — 13, all told. While Dr. Reich and his colleagues studied ancient Europeans separated by hundreds of miles, these scientists focused on just one region in Central Europe called the Great Hungarian Plain.
The people whose genomes the scientists retrieved lived on the plain at various times between 7,700 years ago and 2,800 years ago.
“What’s really exciting here is to have a transect through time,” said Johannes Krause, a co-director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany, who was not involved in the study. “It’s the first time that’s been done.”
Archaeological digs have revealed evidence of farming on the plain as long as 8,000 years ago. People there raised crops like barley, and raised cattle and other livestock. Shards of pottery show that they consumed milk.
The oldest genomes retrieved from human remains in the area — one from a man and one from a woman — date back to the dawn of agriculture on the plain. The woman’s DNA showed that she belonged to the ancient farming population documented by Dr. Reich and his colleagues.
The man, however, did not have the genes of a farmer. He belonged to the oldest population of hunter-gatherers.
“The archaeological information isn’t enough to say whether he was married to a local farmer,” said Ron Pinhasi, an archaeologist at University College Dublin and a co-author of the new study. It may even be that the man’s skull was a trophy of some sort, Dr. Pinhasi added.
Archaeologists have found that early farming culture didn’t change drastically for the next 3,700 years. But about 4,000 years ago, the Bronze Age arrived. People started using bronze tools, trading over longer networks and moving into fortified towns.
Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues found that the era also brought a sudden shift in human DNA. A new population arrived on the Great Hungarian Plain, and Dr. Reich believes he knows who they were: the northern Eurasians.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It documents that by this time in Central Europe, this Eastern influence had already arrived.”
At the start of the Bronze Age, life settled down on the plain for a thousand years. But then came the Iron Age, bringing another shift in culture — and genes.
People began traveling across the plain by horse-drawn chariots and wagons, and the genomes from 2,800 years ago show that the people of the Bronze Age had begun to be supplanted by a new Iron Age population. These are the people most closely related to living Hungarians.
In the new study, Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues also surveyed individual genes known to have changed over the course of European history.
Today, for example, people in Hungary tend to have light skin and light brown hair, and half of them carry a mutation that lets them digest milk as adults. It took thousands of years for the genes for these traits to appear on the Great Hungarian Plain, the scientists found.
The hunter-gatherer that lived 7,700 years ago, for example, probably had black hair and dark skin, along with blue eyes. His genes suggest that he also probably couldn’t digest milk — not surprising, since he came from a population that didn’t raise livestock.
The ancient farmer woman, on the other hand, probably had dark brown hair and brown eyes. But like the hunter-gatherers, she lacked the genetic mutation for digesting milk.
It is not until 6,400 years ago that the scientists find the first genetic evidence on the Great Hungarian Plain for light brown hair. And the milk mutation appeared even later, just 3,100 years ago.
It is possible that these new genes and others were brought to the plain by successive waves of immigrants. But natural selection probably played a role in making these genes pervasive.
Genetic mutations that enable people to drink milk as adults, for example, could have helped them survive famines. In cow-herding cultures, scientists have found, the milk-drinking mutation led to a 10 percent increase in the number of children.
If that’s true, then for 4,600 years people on the Great Hungarian Plain were milking cows but lacked the ability to digest milk. Dr. Pinhasi suggested that they only used milk at first to make cheese and yogurt, which would have been easier to digest.
Daniel G. Bradley, a geneticist at Trinity College Dublin and co-author of the new study, predicted more unexpected results would emerge as scientists gather more ancient DNA in Europe.
“The past is going to be a different country,” he said, “and it’s going to surprise us.”