The Perception of “Racial” Traits

Essays on the Color Line and the One-Drop Rule
by Frank W Sweet
July 17, 2004

A

few years ago, Eugene Robinson, a Black writer for the Washington Post, visited Brazil. An outgoing, likeable young man, he soon made friends with English-speaking Brazilians his own age. A particularly attractive young woman invited him to join her and her friends in a relaxing day on the incomparable beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Despite minor, often humorous language confusion, the day started well. Eugene was fascinated with Brazilian culture and customs and, while satisfying his curiosity about their world, his Brazilian friends asked him about life in the United States.1The problem started when he asked them what is was like to be Black in Brazil. They tried to answer, but it soon became clear that they had no idea; their answers were based on their impressions of U.S. popular culture. Eugene explained that he already knew what it was like to be Black in the United States. He was American and Black, after all. He wanted to know about Black life in Brazil. Startled, his new friends explained that they did not personally know any Black people. Shocked, he bluntly told them that they were Black and should not deny the fact. Concerned bystanders glanced at the little group as voices were raised in mutual frustration. Finally, in desperation, Eugene extended his forearm, placed it alongside that of the gorgeous young woman who had invited him to the beach, and scolded, “Stop denying that you are Black! I am Black and you are darker than me!” As one, the Brazilians rose to their feet, collected their belongings, and left Eugene sitting all alone on one of the most beautiful beaches on earth.

The problem was more than mere language. Brazilians think of “Blacks” as the urban underclass, responsible for more crime than their numbers would predict and who have suffered White domination for so long that many are suspicious of well-meaning Whites. To some extent, this is also true in the United States. But Robinson used “Black” to mean membership in an endogamous group—a phenomenon that does not exist in Brazil. Each saw the other through a cultural filter. In Eugene’s eyes, his Brazilian friends displayed some African ancestry, just like him. Since Robinson is a member of the U.S. Black endogamous group, he incorrectly thought that his friends were also members of a Black endogamous group. From the other side, Robinson showed unmistakable middle-class education and status, just like them. Since this made them White by the Brazilian definition, they insisted that Robinson was also White.

To a historian, the interesting point is that neither side was willing to budge from its culturally learned preconceptions. To this day, the intelligent, educated journalist insists in his writings that Brazilians are in denial. We shall never know how Brazilians feel about the crazy White American who, to their minds, claimed that he was a slum-dweller, since only Robinson wrote about the event. But we can guess. As one scientist points out, “Most people believe they know ‘racial’ appearance when they see it, but arrive at nothing short of confusion when pressed to define it.”2

* * * * *

This essay reviews what is known about the culturally dependent perception of “racial” traits in four topics. Harry Hoetink’s Somatic Norm Image considers whether predictable differences in colonial histories determine how people see “racial” group membership. How U.S. Children Learn to See Two Endogamous Groups examines the stages through which children learn to identify and to articulate what their culture sees as “racial” traits. The Instinctive Need to See “Otherness” identifies the cognitive system, selected by adaptation to hunter-gatherer life over 200 millennia ago, that has been co-opted to identify someone as having “racially” different looks—an encounter that no Paleolithic hominid could ever have experienced. Finally, The Decline of the Bio-Race Concept offers a brief explanation of why the biological concept of “race” as applied to humans has been abandoned by the hard sciences.

Harry Hoetink’s Somatic Norm Image

That different cultures can assign the same individual to opposite “races” may be hard to grasp. And yet Barbadian South Carolina, Hispano-Florida, Anglo-Alabama, and Franco-Louisiana all had cultural beliefs and attitudes about “race” that differed from today’s U.S. customs. Colonial Floridians held public celebrations when the Spanish governor ruled that children of well-liked biracial families had become legally White. English-speaking Alabamians routinely allowed men of the Colored designation to marry women of the White group and accepted their mixed offspring as Whites. And Creole Louisianans fought to retain a three-layer system resembling that of apartheid South Africa a century later.

To Brazilians (and other Latin American continuum societies), skin-tone designations are descriptors of appearance. The terms are analogous to the designations that cosmetologists use to select the best foundation for a client. Some Americans think that the range of terms means that Brazilians (and other Latin American continuum societies) believe in dozens of “races.” But this is no more the case than that Americans believe in dozens of “races” based on cosmetic skin tone. Latin American continuum societies lack an endogamous color line. Nevertheless, as the anecdote shows, Brazilians agree that Blacks (a class, not an endogamous group) are a crime-ridden impoverished minority. Why does social status correlate with appearance even in continuum societies, which lack endogamous color lines?

Because most Africans came as slaves, the relative preponderance of African versus European features (skin tone, hair texture, etc.) in individuals, still correlates with socioeconomic class throughout the hemisphere. Consequently, almost everyone in the New World today is confident of being able to observe whether someone is Black or White. In reality, as Robinson learned, different cultures disagree dramatically on just who is what. This is because Latin Americans use the terms to denote appearance or class, whereas English-speaking Americans (of both endogamous groups) use them to denote endogamous group membership.3

Except for subjects at the extremes of Nordic or Bantu appearance, New World cultures differ in who gets sorted into which category. This makes one wonder if different peoples have systematically different criteria. Can one predict how Jamaicans, say, differ from Puerto Ricans in how they identify “racial” membership, or how both differ from South Carolinians based on their colonial histories? Harry Hoetink believes that the answer is “yes.”4 Although originally from Holland, Hoetink spent most of his career as historian and teacher throughout the Caribbean. He had the opportunity to live and work on West Indian islands of British, French, Dutch, and Spanish traditions. He devised the hypothesis of the somatic norm image.

Hoetink suggests that three similar socioeconomic classes formed in most settlements during the New World colonial period. Once the importation of African labor became widespread, Western Hemisphere colonies that lacked significant numbers of Native Americans tended to fall into a three-tiered social structure. The top layer comprised a small number of European landowning planters who produced agricultural products for export using large numbers of African slaves. The slaves themselves made up the bottom layer. Finally, in most European colonies (Barbados being the exception), an intermediate group arose, composed of free subsistence farmers, who were allowed to opt out of the plantation economy in return for serving as militia in the event of slave insurrection.

In each colony, the color line came to be defined by the appearance of typical members of the intermediate class. Anyone more European-looking was seen as White; anyone darker was considered Black. Historical contingency decreed that this intermediate group would have a large admixture of African appearance in Santo Domingo, less so in Puerto Rico and Brazil, even less in Jamaica and Trinidad, and be completely European-looking in Virginia and South Carolina. According to Hoetink, where different New World peoples locate the color line (along the Norway-to-Nigeria continuum) is the legacy of a somatic norm image formed in colonial times. Hoetink’s central thesis is that:

One and the same person may be considered white in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, and “coloured” in Jamaica, Martinique, or Curaçao; this
difference must be explained in terms of socially determined somatic norms. The
same person may be called a “Negro” in Georgia; this must be explained by the
historical evolution of social structure in the Southern United States.
5

Hoetink’s somatic norm image hypothesis stumbles a bit in conflating endogamous group membership designations (prevalent in former British, and French colonies) with skin-tone designations (prevalent in former Spanish and Portuguese colonies). But his central thesis seems valid. It is easily demonstrated that people see only what they want to see, and what they want to see is learned from their culture in early childhood.

How U.S. Children Learn to See Two Endogamous Groups

Eugene Robinson’s experience in Rio de Janeiro illustrates that, although members of different cultures differ in how they perceive the meanings of “White” and “Black,” everyone is convinced that his or her perception is the only valid one. Furthermore, people find great difficulty in articulating the criteria on which their own perception is based. Skin tone is often cited as the most important “racial” trait, but it is easy to demonstrate that in the middle range of skin tones, darkness is less important to “racial” perception than hair kinkiness and facial features. This suggests that the ability to distinguish “racial” traits is learned early and deeply. It is learned early in that the process seems to start shortly after an infant learns to talk—long before formal schooling. It is learned deeply in that it employs cognitive skills that are only dimly accessible to the conscious mind.

What are the stages through which children learn to perceive and later to articulate what their culture sees as “racial” traits?6 “Racial” perception develops similarly to most of the cognitive abilities identified by Piaget and others in five major respects. First, like the ability to recognize that one jar can hold more liquid than another, some form of “racial” feature recognition appears in every culture. Second, contrary to folk belief, the ability begins to emerge in very early childhood. Third, it forms gradually in stages. Fourth, with maturity it becomes so entrenched and cognitively automatic that the individual can no longer introspect how it is done. Fifth, it eventually becomes rationalized into a theory-like knowledge structure that sustains inferences about category members that go beyond direct experience.

On the other hand, the perception of “racial” traits differs in two important ways from other cognitive abilities that emerge in early childhood. First, although the pattern of development is stable across diverse cultures, the content of “racial” perception varies dramatically (as Eugene Robinson learned). Second, although “racial” perception first appears in infancy, it becomes theory-like relatively late in childhood. Naive theories of biology (dogs beget puppies, cats beget kittens, etc.), of physics (big jars hold more than small jars), and of mind (mothers cannot really read thoughts), in contrast, develop years earlier than those of “racial” group membership.7

Experiments with 3-, 4- and 7-year-olds from the U.S. Midwest show that even toddlers believe that “racial” traits are more firmly fixed for life than are occupation or body type. This is important because it shows that counterfactual belief starts early in life. In the children’s own experiences (attending an integrated school) skin color and hair texture do in fact change over a person’s life (most kids darken at puberty) whereas body type (which correlates with the global latitude of ancestry) does not change. Nevertheless, belief in the permanence of “racial” traits starts by age 3 and grows stronger with age. This demonstrates that, although cognition of “racial” traits may use some of the mechanisms of naive biology, the former does not depend on the latter, nor does it spring merely from observation of the world.8

Other experiments show a strong social membership component (as opposed to a presumed biological component) of “racial” perception. Thirty-six 3-, 4-, and 6-year-olds were presented only with speaking voices. They were then asked to tell whether each unseen speaker resembled previously depicted individuals with preponderantly European traits or those with preponderantly African features. Although all of the voices were unintelligible, some used muffled English syllables and others used Portuguese sounds. Midwestern U.S. children (members of both the Black and the White endogamous groups) associated Portuguese-sounding speech with African appearance.9

The most revealing experiments focus on hypodescent (the idea that if you are partly Black, you are all Black).10 Seventeen second-graders, fifteen sixth-graders, and forty-three undergraduate adults were presented with pictures of interracial parents (one African-looking, one European-looking) pushing a stroller containing a baby that was so bundled up as to be utterly concealed. After their memories had faded, the subjects were asked which parent the (actually unseen) infant had most closely resembled. Second-graders chose randomly. Half recalled that the (unseen) baby had resembled the European-looking parent and half said that it had resembled the African-looking parent. Sixth graders overwhelmingly said that the infant had resembled the African-looking parent. But when asked why the hidden baby had come out looking Black, the sixth-graders simply shrugged. Adult subjects also overwhelmingly said that the concealed baby had looked Black. But, when asked why this was so, American adults confabulated tales of genetic dominance in order to rationalize their culture’s counterfactual folklore of hypodescent.11 Again, in no experiment was there any correlation with the subject’s own endogamous group membership.12

The Instinctive Need to See “Otherness”

It is evident that children of every culture can “correctly” (for their own society) categorize strangers by age three. They can reliably match each “racial” category with its social term or word by about age five.13 American children internalize the counterfactual hypodescent rule by about age ten. And they can confabulate an intellectual rationalization for hypodescent by early adulthood. The most astonishing finding is the first. As Hoetink demonstrated and Robinson experienced, the number and meaning of “racial” categories and of the traits that delineate them vary dramatically among cultures. Nevertheless, children learn their own culture’s rules and categories shortly after learning to walk. Clearly, the cognitive system employed is as adaptable to culture, and yet is as hard-wired in the brain, as is language itself. Logically, it must have been as powerfully selected for as was language itself. And yet, “racial” traits vary geographically so imperceptibly on the scale of a few hundred miles, that until just a few millennia ago, when most humans stopped making a living as hunter-gatherers, no one could ever have seen someone of a different “race” How can the cognitive ability to perceive “racial” categories be so strongly adaptive if the occasion to use it never actually arose?

The answer is revealed in a series of experiments conducted by Robert Kurzban, subsequently confirmed by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides. Sex, age, and “otherness” are the three fundamental attributes that the mind encodes in an automatic and mandatory manner. For example, long after all memory has been lost of the occupation, name, clothing, or hair of a stranger to which one was briefly exposed, one can recall that the individual was “a White woman” or a “Black male child.” But age and sex seem to be independent of culture. “Otherness” is not.

Kurzban and later investigators demonstrated that the ability to recall a stranger’s “otherness” actually detects a culture’s social coalitions or alliances. Over the past hundred millennia or so, humans have become adept at detecting competing social groups. The discrimination of facial features enables a child to identify whether a stranger is genetically related (a member of the child’s extended family). This ability is strongly selected because one is less likely to be killed and devoured by a relative than by a member of an opposing group.14 Recall that we (genus Homo) evolved as hunting apes for two million years before our brains expanded five-fold in the past 120 millennia (species sapiens). You must take the long view when studying adaptive cognition.

Skin tone, hair kinkiness, and the like are the clues used to identify a stranger’s “otherness” in the culture of the United States. Other cultures use clues that are unrelated to the U.S. endogamous color line: height, hair-length, clothing, facial features (such as hooked nose versus straight nose or the shape of the eye), even a person’s smell (which relates to diet). Interestingly, although the need to remember a stranger’s “otherness” is apparently inborn, each culture’s particular recognition template is easily changed. In about half an hour, a researcher can alter your template, from whatever it was that your culture imprinted upon you at your mother’s knee, to something as silly as the color of a basketball player’s jersey. The need is
hard-wired but your particular recognition template is easily changed.

This point is easily misunderstood and has even been reported as suggesting that humans are hard-wired to recognize “race.”15 The fact is that in no culture does the need/ability to recall a stranger’s “otherness” correlate with Americans’ unique perception of “race,” unless you stretch the meaning of “race” to denote simply “otherness.” In the United States, for example, where the term “race” is applied to differentiate those of Asian ancestry, subjects quickly forget whether the stranger was Japanese, Native American, Hindu, Irish, Italian, or Pakistani. But Americans (only) do not forget on which side of the U.S. endogamous color line the stranger seemed to be. In short, it is easily demonstrated within minutes that human subjects notice and subconsciously remember even the most apparently insignificant differences in facial features if they happen to correlate with “otherness.” On the other hand, even glaring facial differences, such as skin tone, are quickly forgotten if they are irrelevant to “otherness.” And only in the United States does “otherness” correlate with the endogamous color line.16

The Decline of the Bio-Race Concept

Pull up a live ocean sponge (phylum Porifera), grind it in a blender, and pour the purée back onto the reef. The creature will reconstitute itself none the worse for the experience. A sponge is merely a loose association—a colony of independent one-celled organisms. To a biologist, the division between single- and multi-celled organisms is just a convenient pedagogical fiction. As the sponge shows, nature herself has few sharp boundaries. The issue is not whether single-celled or multi-celled organisms exist. It is whether such a classification scheme is intellectually useful. After all, classification schemes exist only inside our heads. Regarding the example, it turns out that virtually all biologists agree that, except for the sponges, the paradigm dividing single- from multi-celled organisms is very useful indeed.17

Bio-race, on the other hand, has lost support among physical anthropologists as a useful paradigm for classifying human variation. In fact, most physical anthropologists today reject bio-race (the biological “race” concept) as useless.18 According to Matt Cartmill:

[If “races” are defined as] geographically delimited populations characterized by regionally distinctive phenotypes that do not occur elsewhere in significant numbers, then races no longer exist and have probably not existed for centuries, if ever. And if races are not geographically delimited, then “racial” classificatory categories are merely labels for polymorphisms that vary in frequency from one part of the world to another, like redheadedness or Type A blood. If “Negroid” and “Caucasoid” people occur on every continent, it makes no more sense to describe these groupings as geographical subspecies than it would to describe redheads or people with Type A blood as human subspecies.19

The abandonment of bio-race is not unanimous. Some forensic anthropologists make a living providing “racially” framed answers to the peculiar demands of the U.S. justice system. As craniofacial anthropometrist George W. Gill puts it, “I have been able to prove to myself over the years, in actual legal cases, that I am more accurate at assessing race from [bone measurements] than from looking at living people standing before me.”20 Nevertheless, even these professionals admit when pressed that, “If the police want race, I give them race. Maybe afterward, when we’re having a beer, we can have a discussion about what race really means.”21 The point is that although the bio-race paradigm has been found useless or worse by biologists, geneticists, and physical anthropologists as a classification scheme for human variation, a few continue to rely on it.

Loss of support for bio-race among physical anthropologists is not new. Its gradual abandonment by science began around the turn of the twentieth century, and may have had an unexpected side effect. It may have been one of the triggers of the 1890s’ shift in Americans’ conceptualization of “race” (especially in the lower South), from a basis in looks or blood-fraction to one of invisible ancestry. In any event, scientific support for bio-race has fallen steadily over the past century. Where 78 percent of the articles in the 1931 Journal of Physical Anthropology employed the bio-race paradigm, only 36 percent did so in 1965, and just 28 percent did in 1996.22 In February, 2001, the editors of the medical journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine asked authors to no longer use “race” as explanatory variable. Others prestigious peer-reviewed journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Public Health have done the same.23 Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health recently issued a program announcement for grant applications through February 1, 2006, specifically seeking researchers who can investigate and publicize among primary care physicians the detrimental effects on the nation’s health of the practice of medical racial profiling. The program announcement quoted the editors of one journal as saying that, “analysis by race and ethnicity has become an analytical knee-jerk reflex.”24

* * * * *

This essay described the culturally dependent perception of “racial” traits. It showed that different cultures, nations, and even different regions of the United States can perceive “racial” traits differently, assigning the same person to different “races.” It showed the stages through which U.S. children learn to see “race.” It explained that the “race” notion co-opts an ancient adaptive cognitive function—that of recognizing “otherness.” It explained why bio-race is no longer a useful way of biologically categorizing humans.

Click here for an animated cartoon version of this topic, part 1.
Click here for an animated cartoon version of this topic, part 2.


1 Eugene Robinson, Coal to Cream (New York: The Free Press, 1999), 9-13.

2 Francis Collins, “The Human Genome Project And Beyond,” [Lecture Transcript Web Site] (National Human Genome Research Institute (NIH), 8/7/2001, 2001).

3 This is not to say that some Latin Americans societies are not ruled by light-complexioned people who oppress dark ones. It says only that no endogamous color lines exist in Latin America.

4 Harry Hoetink, Caribbean Race Relations: A Study of Two Variants (London: Oxford University, 1971), xii.

5 Hoetink, xii.

6 The scientific literature on the formation of “racial” perception in childhood is vast. For anthropological surveys of the field, see: Mary Ellen Goodman, The Culture of Childhood: Child’s-Eye Views of Society and Culture (New York: Columbia University, 1970) and Robyn M. Holmes, How Young Children Perceive Race (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage, 1995). For psychological surveys, see Judith D. R. Porter, Black Child, White Child: The Development of Racial Attitudes (Cambridge MA: Harvard University, 1971); Phyllis A. Katz, Development of Children’s Racial Awareness and Intergroup Attitudes (Washington: National Institute of Education, 1981); Jean S. Phinney and Mary Jane Rotheram, Children’s Ethnic Socialization: Pluralism and Development (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1987); Frances E. Aboud, Children and Prejudice (New York: Blackwell, 1988); or William E. Cross, Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American Identity (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1991).

7 Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture, and the Child’s Construction of Human Kinds (London: MIT Press, 1996), 83.

8 Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, “Do children have a theory of race?,” Cognition 54, no. 2 (1995): 209-52.

9 Hirschfeld (1996), 121-57.

10 Coined in Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas (Westport CT: Greenwood, 1964), “hypodescent” means that, to the extent that blood fraction influences endogamous group membership, the dividing line is not 50-50. Even a slight fraction of known Black ancestry usually consigns an English-speaking American to the Black group. This contrasts with other New World countries where one is categorized by preponderance of appearance. If you look mostly White, you are White.

11 Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, “The Inheritability of Identity: Children’s Understanding of the Cultural Biology of Race,” Child Development 66, no. 5 (1995): 1418-37.

12 The specific numbers cited in the text refer only to the original breakthrough experiments. Their findings have since been replicated many times. The baby-stroller experiment, for instance, has been adopted into many college-level introductory psychology laboratory assignments. The findings have become part of the cognitive-science consensus. The reader should not be misled by the fact that the seminal breakthrough experiments, discussed in the text, employed only a few subjects in a few locations. The sum of subsequent confirming replications has yielded far greater numbers and no corroborative failures yet.

13 Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin, The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

14 The most accessible explanation of methodology and results is to be found in Robert Kurzban, John Tooby, and Leda Cosmides, “Can Race be Erased? Coalitional Computation and Social Categorization,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98, no. 26 (2001): 15387-15392. For completeness, see also Robert Owen Kurzban, “The Social Psychophysics of Cooperation in Groups” (Ph.D., University of California, 1998) and Lola Cosmides, John Tooby, and Robert Kurzban, “Perceptions of Race,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7, no. 4 (2003): 173-79.

15 See for example, Sharon Begley, “The Roots of Hatred: Our brains are Programmed to Distrust Outsiders But are We Hard-Wired to Hate?,” AARP, May-June 2004.

16 For studies suggesting that the development of the ability among social primates to identify kin via facial features actually caused brain development through natural selection, see Robert A. Barton, “Neocortex Size and Behavioural Ecology in Primates,” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences 263, no. 1367 (1996): 173-77. For a study measuring the neurological cost of trying to overcome such perceptions learned in infancy, see BBC, “Hidden Race Bias ‘Drains Brain’,” [BBC Web Site] (BBC News, Nov. 17, 2003).

17 The experiment was first reported nearly a century ago by E.V. Wilson of the University of North Carolina in the article “On Some Phenomena of Coalescence and Regeneration in Sponges,” Journal of Experimental Zoology (1907) 5: 245-58. It has become a traditional demonstration in marine biology labs. Oddly enough, Wilson considered his experiment a failure because he had blended together two sponges of different species in a effort to create a hybrid sponge. The cells simply sorted themselves out before reconstituting their respective sponges. An entertaining account of Wilson’s experiment can be found in Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution (Boston, 2004), 486-87. The term “paradigm,” as employed here, is used in the strict sense defined by Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1962) as a conceptual framework for experimental observations.

18 See the results of a survey of 365 physical anthropologists reported in Matt Cartmill, “The Status of the Race Concept in Physical Anthropology,” American
Anthropologist
100, no. 3 (1998): 651-60.

19 Idem. For similar rejections of the bio-race paradigm as useless, see: Michael L. Blakey, “Scientific Racism and the Biological Concept of Race,” Literature and Psychology 1999, no. 1/2 (1999): 29; C. Loring Brace, “Does Race Exist?: An Antagonist’s Perspective,” [web page] (Nova, 2000), available from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/first/brace.html; Steve Olson, Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002); and Stephen Molnar, Human Variation: Races, Types, and Ethnic Groups, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002). Also, see the American Anthropological Association’s rejection of “race” as useful paradigm at http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm and their dissociation of “race” from “intelligence” at http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/race.htm.

20 George W. Gill, “Does Race Exist?: An Proponent’s Perspective,” [web page] (Nova, 2000), available from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/first/gill.html.

21 James Shreeve, “Terms of Estrangement,” Discover, November 1994, 56, 61.

22 Leonard Lieberman, Rodney C. Kirk, and Alice Littlefield, “Perishing Paradigm: Race—1931-99,” American Anthropologist 105, no. 1 (2003): 110-13. A following article in the same issue, by Mat Cartmill and Kaye Brown, questions the precise rate of decline, but agrees that the bio-race paradigm has fallen into near-total disfavor. A third article in the same issue shows that the decline in the paradigm’s usefulness has been slower in Poland than in the United States but admits that in Europe the semantic usage of “race” includes the French race, the German race, the Italian race, and so forth.

23 Frederick P. Rivara and Laurence Finberg, “Use of the Terms Race and Ethnicity,” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 155, no. 2 (2001): 119. For similar author’s guidelines, see Robert S. Schwartz, “Racial Profiling in Medical Research,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 344 (no, 18, May 3, 2001); M.T. Fullilove, “Abandoning ‘Race’ as a Variable in Public Health Research: An Idea Whose Time has Come,” American Journal of Public Health, 88 (1998), 1297-1298; and R. Bhopal and L. Donaldson, “White, European, Western, Caucasian, or What? Inappropriate Labeling in Research on Race, Ethnicity, and Health.” American Journal of Public Health, 88 (1998), 1303-1307.

24 See program announcement and requests for grant applications at the NIH
website, at URL: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-03-057.html.

If you liked this essay, leave a tip using bitcoins.
Deposit to address: 1GDGfpdvoP5xw5bCJzazCyJoCKbQdJd6jh

Frank W. Sweet is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), an analysis of the nearly 300 appealed cases that determined Americans’ “racial” identity over the centuries. It is the most thorough study of the legal history of this topic yet published. He was accepted to Ph.D. candidacy in history with a minor in molecular anthropology at the University of Florida in 2003 and has completed all but his dissertation defense. He earned an M.A. in History from American Military University in 2001. He is also the author of several state park historical booklets and published historical essays. He was a member of the editorial board of the magazine Interracial Voice, and is a regular lecturer and panelist at historical and genealogical conferences. To send email, click here.


Other Frank W Sweet sites: Essays on the U.S. Color Line Armed Citizens and the Law
Backintyme Performances YouTube Channel --

Comments are closed.