Race was not a biological construct but a social one.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-08-10 20:13Z by Steven

One of [Richard] Lewontin’s pathbreaking works was to find out how much genetic diversity exists within species. This was at a time when we did not know how many genes humans had. Lewontin’s inspired guess was 20,000, far smaller than what most biologists thought then and remarkably close to what is known today. Most biologists then also believed that races had significant biological differences, which was one of the reasons why they thought that there was a much larger number of genes carrying different traits. Lewontin and geneticist John Hubby used a technique, protein gel electrophoresis, developed by Hubby, to quantify the genetic diversity in fruit flies. At that time, fruit flies were the favorite target for testing genetic theories in the laboratory. This pathbreaking exercise traced evolution at the species level to changes at the molecular level—a foundation for the field of molecular evolution—using statistical methods. The result was startling. Contrary to what most biologists believed, the exercise showed a surprising amount of genetic diversity within a given population and further revealed that evolution led to stable and diverse populations within a species. Later on, Lewontin used this method on human blood groups, to show that the result of stable genetic diversity held true for humans as well. The other result of the human blood group study was that it showed that 85.4 percent of the genetic diversity in humans was found within a population, and only 6.3 percent between ‘races.’ Race was not a biological construct but a social one.

Prabir Purkayastha/Globetrotter, “The great scientific crusader who debunked the biological myths about race,” AlterNet, August 5, 2021. https://www.alternet.org/2021/08/richard-lewontin/.

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The great scientific crusader who debunked the biological myths about race

Posted in Articles, Biography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2021-08-10 18:54Z by Steven

The great scientific crusader who debunked the biological myths about race


Prabir Purkayastha/Globetrotter

On July 4, Richard Lewontin, the dialectical biologist, Marxist and activist, died at the age of 92, just three days after the death of his wife of more than 70 years, Mary Jane. He was one of the founders of modern biology who brought together three different disciplines—statistics, molecular biology and evolutionary biology—that mark the discipline today. In doing so, he not only battled crude racism masquerading as science, but also helped shed light on what science really is. In this sense, he belongs to the rare group of scientists who are equally at home in the laboratory and while talking about science and ideology at a philosophical level. Lewontin is a popular exponent of what science is, and more pertinently, what it is not.

Lewontin always harked back to what being radical means: going back to fundamentals in deriving a viewpoint. This method is important, as it makes radical inquiry a powerful tool in science, compared to lazier ways of relating positions to certain class viewpoints. What is the relation between genes and race, class, or gender? Does social superiority spring from superior genes, or from biological differences between the sexes? As a Marxist and activist, Lewontin believed that we need to fight at both levels: to expose class, race and gender stereotypes as a reflection of power within society, and also at the level of radical science, meaning from the fundamentals of scientific theory and data…

Read the entire article here.

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Is NYPD’s War on Mayor Bill de Blasio Partly War on His Black Family?

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-01-01 02:09Z by Steven

Is NYPD’s War on Mayor Bill de Blasio Partly War on His Black Family?


Terrell Jermaine Starr, Senior Editor

The cops’ fight with the city’s progressive mayor smacks of white supremacy.

In September 1992, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association organized thousands of New York City cops to storm City Hall to protest then-mayor David Dinkins’ proposal for an independent civilian agency to investigate police misconduct. The officers trampled on cars, jumped barricades and took over Brooklyn Bridge. Among their grievances was Dinkins’ refusal to give them semiautomatic weapons.

One of their slogans was “The Mayor’s on Crack.” The former mayor has also said many rank and file officers called him “nigger.” He blamed Rudy Giuliani for being in the middle of the rowdy cops and for nearly causing them to riot.

“Would the cops have acted in this manner toward a white mayor?” he asked in his 2013 memoir, A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic. “No way in hell. If they’d done it to Ed Koch, he would have had them all locked up.”

Ironically, the NYPD has come close to similarly disrespecting our current mayor, Bill de Blasio, who is white. While police have not quite reached the same level of violent rage toward de Blasio, their fight against him is no less vitriolic. Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, NYPD union president Patrick Lynch and many of the white power elite in the New York Police Department see in de Blasio what they saw in Dinkins: a non-white politician who dares to challenge its good ol’ boy system of policing with impunity.

While de Blasio is not black, his family is. His wife, Chirlane McCray, their daughter, Chiara, and son, Dante, reflect the same population the NYPD has brutalized for decades. De Blasio campaigned on police reform and featured Dante in a campaign ad where the teen declared that his dad would end stop-and-frisk, if elected. Once he became mayor, de Blasio ended the city’s defense of the policing tactic. The rank and file of the NYPD took that personally. He was NYPD Public Enemy #1 from that point on…

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International Blackness vs. Homegrown Negroes: Lupita, Chimamanda, Thandie and me

Posted in Africa, Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-05 01:33Z by Steven

International Blackness vs. Homegrown Negroes: Lupita, Chimamanda, Thandie and me


Esther Armah

“She is very white!” Revered Swedish film critic Jannike Åhlund watches a clip of actress Thandie Newton playing Olanna, one of the Nigerian twin sisters in the film adaptation of the award-winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In January, the Goteborg International Film Festival and International Writers’ Stage Gothenburg co-hosted a conversation between Jannike and Chimamanda in Sweden. The audience laughed awkwardly at Jannike’s assertion. Chimamanda frowned at the description. Critiques of Thandie Newton in this leading role gathered force. Chimamanda was called upon to respond to them.

Half of a Yellow Sun is one of Chimamanda Adichie’s three novels. Chimamanda’s name exploded in popular circles recently when Beyoncé included a quote from her TEDx talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” on the track “Flaweless” from her latest album. Half of a Yellow Sun also stars award-winning Nigerian-British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave fame and African American actress Anika Noni Rose. Rose stars as Olanna’s fraternal twin, Kainene.

Chimamanda seized the opportunity that Jannike’s comment provided to talk about the complexity of shades within blackness and specific issues of international blackness. The criticism internationally has been that Thandie Newton is not Nigerian and is therefore a problematic choice for the lead role…

Igbo is a tribe in Nigeria, as is Yoruba, Hausa and Ogoni. The term “Igbo yellow” identified you as the “enemy” during the bloody and brutal Biafran War (the subject of the book and film). Thandie’s light skin as Olanna does not equate to the privilege rooted in the history of shadism and colorism in America. Thandie is not Nigerian – and for some Nigerians her authenticity – and that of the film – wanes precisely because of her “foreign blackness.”

Debates and discussions around colorism and shade in America are often cyclical and absolute — light skinned equals privilege, light is Hollywood leading lady, light is the chosen one; dark equals rejected, ugly, undesirable, unimportant. That is indeed a truth, but it is one of many truths. That is the framing of complexion narratives, and that of the legacy of untreated trauma of America’s history where enslaved Africans had babies by slave masters beginning the panorama of complexion on these shores. Historically, the closer to white you were, the better the treatment you received. Time travel though history and in today’s America that legacy persists, manifesting in celebrity, beauty magazines, and leading lady selection. It continues to be the cause of pain and hurt within and among African American communities, and diasporan black folk due to Western standards of beauty. A recent hour long Oprah’s Life Class on Colorism with New York Times best-selling author and teacher Iyanla Vanzant explored the issue with an audience full of black women running the gamut from deepest chocolate to the lightest of light skinned blacks. Actor and director Bill Duke in his documentary Dark Girls also explored the issue of complexion…

…There is work that contributes to expanding narratives around blackness. Scholar and producer Dr. Yaba Blay’s pivotal projects–(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race and “Pretty.Period,” open up the conversations about the two extremes of color – light and dark skinned – contextualizing, clarifying, honoring and celebrating what has often been divisive, contentious, difficult space. On Dr. Blay’s site, she explains her reasoning for Pretty.Period. a visually delicious website that features darker skinned black women. For Dr. Blay, ‘Pretty. Period’ pushes back against the privileging of a single story in relation to complexion. Blay writes, “We focus primarily on the sociopolitical disadvantages that come with being dark-skinned in a society that continues to privilege and prioritize White/Western standards of beauty…

Read the entire article here.

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