Nicholas Wade Responds to David Reich's "Who We Are ..."
April 02, 2018, 07:49 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

From the New York Times, a special letters section regarding ancient DNA geneticist David Reich:

LETTERS

Race, Genetics and a Controversy

April 2, 2018

… To the Editor:

from NICHOLAS WADE, MONTCLAIR, N.J.

Wade is the veteran New York Times genetics reporter whose 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” was denounced in an open letter signed by, among others, David Reich.

At last! A Harvard geneticist, David Reich, admits that there are genetic differences between human races, even though he puts the word race in quotation marks.

Obvious as this may seem, American academics for decades have insisted that race is a social construct, and have vilified as a racist anyone who says otherwise.

After covering the human genome project for this newspaper for many years, I wrote a book, “A Troublesome Inheritance,” which explained that there is indeed a biological basis to race, a fact that Mr. Reich has now echoed, though without acknowledgment.

He even tries to portray my book as racist, which it is not.

Acknowledging that race has a biological basis is a salutary advance. Opposition to racism should rest not on the lie that races don’t exist but on principle, allowing science to proceed without hindrance.

It is those who believe that free scientific inquiry will turn up something terrible who should check their consciences. The human genome’s forceful message is one of unity: All races are but variations on a single theme.

Here’s another one of the half-dozen letters:

… To the Editor:

from MARY T. BASSETT, NEW YORK

The writer is New York City’s health commissioner.

David Reich aspires to fearless engagement with the idea that genes underlie variation in outcomes of racially defined groups. But while deriding the notion of the “social construct” of race as “orthodoxy,” he overlooks how social ideas enter the imagination even of an eminent geneticist.

No one objects to use of geography or ancestry as an explanation for population variation in gene distribution. But Africa is a continent. West Africa is a region. Neither is a “race.”

Only the bloodstained history and legacy of African enslavement led Professor Reich to this dangerous racial thinking.

Okay, here is the U.S. Census Bureau’s webpage on how to answer the Race question on your Census form:

The U.S. Census Bureau must adhere to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity which guide the Census Bureau in classifying written responses to the race question:

White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Black or African American – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa.

So, when read together with the White definition, which includes North Africa, blacks are descendants of “Black racial groups” from Africa south of North Africa.

This leaves a few peoples ambiguous: are the yellow-brown San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert one of the “Black racial groups”? What if your ancestors come from an oasis in the Sahara? Is that North Africa or part of Black Africa?

More commonly, how much “Black racial groups” ancestry is enough? That’s where self-identification comes in. You can self-identify as whatever your want, although the Census Bureau would strongly prefer you not identify as something you clearly aren’t.

For example, President Obama was 50% white and 50% black. The Census Bureau would very much not like him to identify himself on the racial checkbox as, say, Asian, but is agnostic on whether he self-identifies as

White?

Black?

Both White and Black?

As it turned out, Obama chose Black and only Black on his 2010 Census form (take that, Mom, and your 1,047 page dissertation on Indonesian peasant blacksmiths).

As shown in 23 and Me data, there really aren’t that many non-Hispanic American citizens who are slightly but noticeably black. Most people who self-identify as black are about 50% or more black by DNA/ancestry, while most people in America who self-identify as white (among non-Hispanics) are pure white or are overwhelmingly white, such as being 127/128th white. This is due to the workings of America’s traditional one drop system, which socially constructed genetic diversity into two quite different groups, unlike in the Latin American world.

In the future, however, there will likely be more Americans who are marginally black.

American Indian or Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.

In other words, Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Harvard Law School should not have asserted that she was diverse due to a possible genetic tie because she does not maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. In other words, American Indian tribes get to decide their own rules for who is part of their community, and everybody else is supposed to respect that. (But how can we expect Harvard Law School professors to understand complicated legal mumbo-jumbo like that?)

Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia,China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The most anti-scientific of the federal government’s race categories is “Asian,” but you almost never hear the conventional wisdom complaining about that. Lumping South Asians in not with West Asians but with East Asians is contradicted by genetic research. South Asians are a big enough group that they could well have their own category. But the reason they are lumped in with East Asians is because in the 1970s, South Asian immigrant businessmen noticed that East Asian immigrant businessmen were getting preferences as minorities on government contracts and low interest small business loans, but they were not because Indians were back then classified as white/Caucasian. You hear a lot today about White Privilege, but South Asians in the 1970s wanted the Nonwhite Privilege that East Asians were getting in cash form.

A better solution would be to restrict affirmative action to the descendants of American slaves and American Indian tribes. Immigrant groups, in contrast, should be grateful just for being let in and not expect racial preferences as well.

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

The 1997 OMB standards permit the reporting of more than one race. An individual’s response to the race question is based upon self-identification.

The above list isn’t some radical Trumpian innovation. It traces back to the Clinton Administration and was maintained through the ultra-enlightened Obama Administration. And yet all of these people claiming race is just a racist myth, etc., didn’t do much of anything at all to get the sympatico Obama Administration to do anything about this over eight years.

Personally, I believe that the Census Bureau’s race categories are kind of stupid in places, but, overall, are good enough for government work.

By the way, Obama himself tried to insert the assertion that race is a social construct in to his 1994 NPR review of The Bell Curve, according to David Garrow’s exhaustive biography, but the NPR editor at the time thought it tendentious. (How times change!) But in recent years, Obama has become a human biodiversity enthusiast (sports division), apparently following his purchase of sportswriter David Epstein’s HBD-influenced book The Sports Gene, frequently regaling audiences in 2016 with how genetic diversity is good for the U.S. winning gold medals at the Olympics.

By the way, the notion that admitting the existence of racial differences would make the world more strifeful is common. But is it true? For example, the NFL goes to great lengths to make innate differences among its teams as negligible as possible. Players are drafted from all over, with very little correlation between hometown, high school, and college and which NFL franchise the players wind up at. The NFL does much too boost last year’s weak teams and depress last years strong teams by rigging the draft and scheduling.

And yet, despite or because of the NFL’s commitment to socially engineering away almost all innate differences among franchises, the NFL is America’s Favorite War Game.

[Comment at Unz.com]