January 27, 2016

White woman with a black husband has 2 children through the implantation of embryos that the clinic identified as a mix of "Hispanic and Caucasian."

She doesn't like having to explain this to those who aren't close to her and she's put in the position of having to identify them by race, including filling out a form that had no "mixed" or "other" category. So she identified them as black. She asks the NYT "Ethicist" if she did the right thing and gets a very long involved answer that includes:
Someone might insist that [identifying them as black] was just plain wrong unless they have some actual African ancestry, insisting on the crazy one-drop rule. But adopted children often take on the ethnicity of their parents, so if you and your husband think of his blackness as in part cultural, he is surely entitled to pass it on to his children....
And:
The fact is that our system of racial classification is based... on a mélange of falsehood and ignorance — with, no doubt, an occasional admixture of truth.
The answer is so complicated, but I think it means (should mean?): As long as there's some aspect of truth in the choice, choose what makes you feel best. 

IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of talk that strains for scientific truth, leading me to say:
The reason this woman was asked about the race of her children was cultural, not genetic, so she should feel fine giving a cultural answer.

The only serious ethical problem that arises is if by claiming one thing and not another, her kids deprive someone else of a benefit.

Choices that strengthen the bond with the father are basically good. Why should this family have to be transparent about how these children were conceived? The highest value should be placed on family love and happiness, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.

That's how I would uncomplicated this.

77 comments:

mccullough said...

Pick whatever you want, we're in a transracial/trams ethnic era anyway

gerry said...

Whatever you want to be true is true...especially since race is an artificial construct, and today more a political cudgel than anything else.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Someone might insist that [identifying them as black] was just plain wrong unless they have some actual African ancestry

And who, exactly, does not have some actual African ancestry, if you are willing to go back far enough?

tim maguire said...

The question itself is a stupid violation of privacy. But she sounds like the kind of person who makes sure such questions get asked.

All of us are African by descent. I was born in New Jersey so I am also Native American.

James Pawlak said...

Spare the rod and spoil the child.

jaed said...

Side note: what the heck does "a mix of Hispanic and Caucasian" mean? Many Hispanics are 100% Caucasian, and most have some Caucasian ancestry - along with possibly native (Asiatic) and African ancestry. Some are 100% native, a few are 100% African ancestry.

So what is this phrase supposed to mean? "Had an ancestor who spoke Spanish but wasn't born in Spain"?

LYNNDH said...

Remember, Spaniards are Caucasian. Hispanics are mostly mixed Spaniards and various New World Indians or should I say Indigenous peoples. What a holy mess everything is becoming - gender, race, feelings.

Fernandinande said...

genetically mixed Hispanic and Caucasian.

The word they wanted was 'Mestizo' or 'Amerindian', not 'Hispanic'; my "Hispanic" friends are Caucasian.

exhelodrvr1 said...

So will she tell her children the truth when they are older, so that they are aware of the potential medical implications?

Brando said...

Better answer--your kids are people, not races. Race should not matter, no matter what the race-hucksters say, so raise your kids as people and let their skin color be immaterial.

But it sounds like they're Mexicans.

damikesc said...

So, again, affirmative action is total bullshit built on a pyramid of idiocy.

Got it.

Remember, kids, it's "The Party of Science" that believes that gender and race are social constructs and you can self-identify as whatever you want.

cubanbob said...

What would she have answered if the kids were conventionally adopted? When all's said and done, this is an adoption.

fivewheels said...

"choose what makes you feel best."

Or, more accurately, cynically choose what will get your kids into Princeton. Hard not to notice that of the myriad options available to answer this difficult question, she happened to pick the one that's clearly the least true and will clearly be the most advantageous.

fivewheels said...

And note that this question is not really an ethical one on the surface, if you accept it on the value of "what race should I put down?" She's asking what is the right answer, but if you're asking an ethicist if it is "right," I think that's a tipoff that you know you did something wrong. Not incorrect wrong, but wrong.

CJinPA said...

She knows their ethnicity. She was told.

Her question, like every discussion of race today, was clearly about something else. When it comes to race, it's always about something else.

Brando said...

"Or, more accurately, cynically choose what will get your kids into Princeton. Hard not to notice that of the myriad options available to answer this difficult question, she happened to pick the one that's clearly the least true and will clearly be the most advantageous."

Here's a question I never gave much thought to--of all the affirmative action groups, which one will get you the most points in today's racial spoils system? This also includes gender of course, but if the standard is "most underrepresented therefore most in demand" I would say being a woman gives you the least benefit, and being black the most (I think Hispanics are better represented, as a lot of Spaniards and foreign students have made it into the schools by this system). One would think Native American (after all there are so few compared to blacks and Hispanics) but then again there are a very large number of white people who claim native American heritage to advance themselves, while it is probably harder to lie about being black. It's why Liz Warren is in the Senate and Rachel Dolezal is a laughingstock.

AllenS said...

And who, exactly, does not have some actual African ancestry, if you are willing to go back far enough?

I've had my DNA tested, and it only goes back so far. Meaning not that far back.

Basil said...

So, the deconstruction of reality has succeeded in the Althouse house, some time ago, it seems. Welcome to the brave new world, Professor, if you can keep it.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

AllenS said...

I've had my DNA tested...

You shouldn't need to get your DNA tested to know with 100% certainty that you are of African ancestry. ( I was going to say 100% African ancestry, but unless you are of very recent African ancestry your DNA probably contains a number of mutations that occurred after your ancestors left Africa. But you are of at least 99.999% African ancestry. )

Skipper said...

Can we dump this nonsense and just label everyone of the "human" race?

Hagar said...

No, no! I am not Cauacasian! I am Norwegian!

Gahrie said...

especially since race is an artificial construct,

False. There are genetically distinct populations of humans (at least three) with corresponding biological and physical differences. In other species we call these types of populations sub-species. In humans we call them races.

BarrySanders20 said...

"The answer is so complicated, but I think it means (should mean?): As long as there's some aspect of truth in the choice, choose what makes you feel best. "

And why, again, should UW consider race in admissions or hiring?

tim maguire said...

Gahrie said...
especially since race is an artificial construct,

False. There are genetically distinct populations of humans (at least three) with corresponding biological and physical differences. In other species we call these types of populations sub-species. In humans we call them races.


We call a lot of things "race" and most of what we call race, and all of what we mean when we use the term "race" is an artificial construct.

AllenS said...

Is that what they called it back then, Africa?

AllenS said...

Were those first "people", Negroes?

AllenS said...

From my DNA, I know for a fact that I'm <1% North African. Since my grandparents were from Sicily, I'm guessing that North African means Tunisia. That's what my Sicilian relatives say. By the way, Tunisians are white people.

Scott McGlasson said...

I'm more concerned about why the columnist felt "admixture" was the better word choice there.

Scott McGlasson said...

Better answer--your kids are people, not races. Race should not matter, no matter what the race-hucksters say, so raise your kids as people and let their skin color be immaterial.

But it sounds like they're Mexicans.


Mic drop...

Scott McGlasson said...

False. There are genetically distinct populations of humans (at least three) with corresponding biological and physical differences. In other species we call these types of populations sub-species. In humans we call them races.

Sorry, but...

"Because of the extensive evidence for genetic interchange through population movements and recurrent gene flow going back at least hundreds of thousands of years ago, there is only one evolutionary lineage of humanity and there are no subspecies or races. . . . Human evolution and population structure has been and is characterized by many locally differentiated populations coexisting at any given time, but with sufficient contact to make all of humanity a single lineage sharing a common, long-term evolutionary fate.

Thus, given current scientific data, biological races do not exist among modern humans today, and they have never existed in the past. Given such clear scientific evidence as this and the research data of so many other biologists, anthropologists, and geneticists that demonstrate the nonexistence of biological races among humans, how can the “myth” of human races still persist?"

JCC said...

Generally, if you have to ask, you already know the answer. What you;re really doing is going to a predictable source to validate what you want to choose. And I agree, the chosen response conveniently happens to be the one that confers the most benefit to the children in terms of employment, education, promotions and more.

So the real (unstated) question was "What ethnicity will allow my children to get into the free lunch program for college, jobs, etc?"

Well, Black, of course. Never mind that other stuff which might be more accurate. And since when did Hispanic mean something other than Caucasian? If Hispanic actually means slices of Amerindian or Black, then why not say that? Apparently, we're also inventing new stuff in the process of creating relative victimhood.

Roger Sweeny said...

I'm more concerned about why the columnist felt "admixture" was the better word choice there.

Because people in genetics almost never say "mixture." They say "admixture."

Roger Sweeny said...

JCC,

You are absolutely correct that there are no perfectly distinct "races." However, there are three fairly distinct "clusters" which you can call East Eurasian, West Eurasian, and African, or Oriental, Caucasian, and Negro, or Yellow, White, and Black. Until fairly recently, a resident of Ireland and a resident of Guangzhou and a resident of Zimbabwe would not have had a common ancestor for 50,000 years or so.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

What the hell do genetics have to do with anything? Has no one else been paying attention? The only important thing is what the individuals themselves FEEL. If they identify as Black or Hispanic then they're Black or Hispanic--that is, if they FEEL like they're a black person, that's what they are.
Caitlyn Jenner certainly isn't a woman because of something so trivial as biological or genetic "facts," she's a woman because she FEELS like a woman (fire up the Shania Twain).
The only interesting question, then, is why has the questioner not ascertained how the children themselves FEEL? Do you identify as an Hispanic person, little child? Mommy needs to check a box--whom do you feel like today?

Tina848 said...

The problem is the mixtures. Even most African Americans are only a percentage from Africa and a percentage European and other. Genetically, we are one race, human. The differences arise from reproducing in isolation. If this was not true, then we could not exchange blood products. The characteristic differences among bone density, color, and other traits are from concentrated intermarrying and reproducing not from actual genetic differences in which species we belong to.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

The process, repugnant as it is, would be greatly simplified if our Government would publish guidance for these categorizations. If our Government asks - or requires - that we identify by race, ethnicity, heritage, etc., should not the Government provide guidance for us in making these determinations?

If no existing Department is willing to promulgate regulations on this important subject, the Federal Government must create a new Cabinet level Department.

Phil D said...

Strange that "think of his blackness as in part cultural, he is surely entitled to pass it on to his children" is soooo acceptable, but that "think of her 'whiteness' as in part cultural, she is surely entitled to pass it on to her children" would be racist.

Whatever the answer tot the question posed is, the man and wife in question are two racist idiots. He a natural one (though perhaps he has the excuse of being married to a sicko), she an ideological one. With people like that racism wont go away anytime soon.

Walter S. said...

The correct rule is to leave those race checkboxes blank. We all know (now) that it was the correct rule before 1965. In fifty more years, everyone will know that it was the correct rule for us, too.

Actually, it is fun to leave the boxes blank. Nobody ever challenges you. It is your brief moment of autonomy in a world ruled by clerks and web forms.



HoodlumDoodlum said...

Honestly, who can argue that in 2016 it's anyone other than the Left pushing the "one drop" rule, and pushing it hard?

Gahrie said...

Thus, given current scientific data, biological races do not exist among modern humans today,

Then explain Tay-Sachs and Sickle Cell Anemia.

n.n said...

[Class] Diversity schemes are regressive.

Gahrie said...

If this was not true, then we could not exchange blood products.

Many humans can't. Getting a blood transfusion from the wrong blood type is fatal.

Gahrie said...

Someone explain why Bengal Tigers and Siberian Tigers are different sub species in a way that would not also apply to the different human populations.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

Rachedl Dokezal identified a black man as her "adopted" father, had a black husband, a black adopted brother and mixed race children. However, when the born black community found out she was born white, they were having none of her adopted black ethnicity.

Tom said...

My genetic data says I'm 0.3% Sub-Saharan African. Can I identify as black?

Nyamujal said...

@ Gahrie : http://www.psmag.com/nature-and-technology/why-your-race-isnt-genetic-82475

Fernandinande said...

Scott McGlasson said...
Sorry, but...
"Because of the extensive evidence for genetic interchange through population movements and recurrent gene flow going back at least hundreds of thousands of years ago, ..."


That's Alan Templeton. He's wrong (Lewontin's Fallacy); he probably gets grants for being wrong*. Gahrie is correct that "human race" ~ "subspecies" for other animals, where smaller genetic and phenotypic differences can define a subspecies, than the differences between human populations.

Believe it or not, race is sometimes considered when predicting how patients will respond to different medications.

Until health care becomes truly personalized, race and ethnicity will continue to be important clues guiding medical treatments.

* Perils of Incorrect Thought

Gahrie said...

@Nyamujal:

That link ignores (or was published prior) to the recent research that shows that there are at least three distinct genetic populations of humans, with genetic and physical differences similar to those in the tiger population for example.

n.n said...

Genetic, chemical discrimination where it is warranted. Merit everywhere it is not.

Anglelyne said...

Scott McGlasson:

Sorry, but...

Sorry, but A.R. Templeton and Robert Wald Sussman are hardly the final authorities on the subject. (Rule of thumb: if you want to understand a controversial subject like race, it's a good idea to expand your reading beyond the sorts of people who are likely to get to express their views on the subject in Newsweek magazine.)

Fernandinande said...

Nyamujal said...
@ Gahrie : http://www.psmag.com/nature-and-technology/why-your-race-isnt-genetic-82475


Using the logic of that article, no people are "tall" or "blond" or "fat" because some people are medium, dirty-blond or slightly chubby; e.g., where's the cut-off for "tall"? A tall pygmy is still extremely short compared to other populations.

Fernandinande said...

Anglelyne said...
...it's a good idea to expand your reading beyond the sorts of people who are likely to get to express their views on the subject in Newsweek magazine.)


Excellent point.

Gahrie said...
That link ignores (or was published prior) to the recent research that shows that there are at least three distinct genetic populations of humans,


That's true, but there are still some anomalies: "There is more genetic distance between the Bushmen and Bantu than there is between Bantu and Koreans."

Che Dolf said...

We call a lot of things "race" and most of what we call race, and all of what we mean when we use the term "race" is an artificial construct.

Blather.

"Race/ethnicity is a nearly perfect indicator of genetic background."
- link

AllenS said...

If you look at my picture, you can tell that I'm fairly dark skinned. I, and other people from the Mediterranean and those Negroid people from Africa who live north of present day Miami, FLA share the same trait. Most of us have a vitamin d deficiency.

Genetics matter.

Anglelyne said...

tim maguire: We call a lot of things "race" and most of what we call race, and all of what we mean when we use the term "race" is an artificial construct.

That may well be true of how the term is used in certain subgroups - e.g. promoters of affirmative action and hierophants of "white privilege", or anti-racists constructing straw-men about what "racists" believe. But everything they believe is artificially constructed (in the sense of being pulled out of their butts), so why would "race" be any different?

Who else calls "lots of things" "race"? It's not an "artificial construct" in the one sense that most normal people use it, no matter how much committed leftists try to goon up the discussion with straw men and evasive phrasing maneuvers.

Char Char Binks said...

Was bearing children just an experiment she devised to prove some point or other? I'm guessing yes.

Ann Kellett said...

Feels over reals

Milwaukie guy said...

Africans are the most "pure" homo sapien sapiens. Europeans have an admixture with the Neandertals. Asians have an admixture with the Denosovians. What does this all mean? I don't know.

gadfly said...

Liz Hiawatha Warren - Leading progressives to new heights of hypocrisy

David said...

I don't see the problem. Black father so the kid might identify as black when he develops an actual identity. And there won't be any free riding on race preferences because, as Justice O'Conner explained, the need for preferences will be gone by the time the little nipper gets near college age. I do love it when judges decide cases by predicting the future. So much more reliable than when the future is a mystery.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

If she is white and the kids have some white ancestry, why doesn't she identify them as such, if she feels she needs to identify them in any way at all?

I don't answer those questions, ever. What's the point? Besides, I have no idea. I recently learned that my dad is not my biological father, but rather that I was conceived through sperm donation. I look completely northern European, in fact whiter than my half Portuguese mother, but who the hell knows for real?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

My adopted son has a birth father who is mostly Pacific Islander with some white, and a birth mother who is mostly native American with some white. I have no idea how to categorize him, other than freaking gorgeous with the prettiest bone structure, loveliest cappuccino skin, biggest brown eyes and longest eyelashes you've ever seen. :)

Mark said...

The guy the kids call "Daddy" is black. Do we really want to marginalize that? Oh, yeah, let's alienate the kids from their daddy to appease the New Improved Apartheid crowd.

I'm starting to really hate the racial bean counter crowd.

Phil D said...

"Africans are the most "pure" homo sapien sapiens. Europeans have an admixture with the Neandertals. Asians have an admixture with the Denosovians. What does this all mean? I don't know."

That Europeans and Asians are diverse and therefore "good", and Africans are "racists". Fight the African racist privilege! (/s)

Ann Althouse said...

The reason this woman was asked about the race of her children was cultural, not genetic, so she should feel fine giving a cultural answer.

The only serious ethical problem that arises is if by claiming one thing and not another, her kids deprive someone else of a benefit.

Choices that strengthen the bond with the father are basically good. Why should this family have to be transparent about how these children were conceived? The highest value should be placed on family love and happiness, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.

That's how I would uncomplicated this.

sparrow said...

I agree, her choice is innocuous unless its used to gain benefits via affirmative action or employment.

Roger Sweeny said...

Races are not Platonic essences. You can't pick a person from the "black" box and a person from the "white" box and say the black person will have A, B, and C characteristics while the white person will have D, E, and F characteristics. However, if you do an analysis of their genomes, you can easily separate them into a white and a black box. If a person had a "pure" white mother and a "pure" black father, the analysis would say half and half.

With less certainty, it can even say things like 12% German, 30% Greek, 50% Apache, and 8% African. That's what noted white racist Henry Lewis Gates does on his PBS show Finding Your Roots.

Rick said...

The only serious ethical problem that arises is if by claiming one thing and not another, her kids deprive someone else of a benefit.

Why would this be a dilemma? If the positions are reversed the alternative kids are depriving someone else of a benefit.

AllenS said...

Roger Sweeny said...
With less certainty, it can even say things like 12% German, 30% Greek, 50% Apache, and 8% African. That's what noted white racist Henry Lewis Gates does on his PBS show Finding Your Roots.

No. It will say Native American. They cannot distinguish different tribes. It will also not say Greek. It will say Italy/Greece. The DNA of Italians (or Sicilians) and Greeks is the same. It won't say Africans. They have (iirc) 7 different tribes from Africa that they can distinguish from each other.

Fernandinande said...

Ann Althouse said...
The reason this woman was asked about the race of her children was cultural, not genetic, so she should feel fine giving a cultural answer.


In college (1970s) I was an Buddhist Eskimo, because my culture says it's OK to give phony answers to stupid invasive pointless questions.

Roger Sweeny said...

AllenS,

You are right. I spoke sloppily.

raf said...

The reason this woman was asked about the race of her children was cultural, not genetic, so she should feel fine giving a cultural answer

Elizabeth Warren endorses this approach.

Phil D said...

"The reason this woman was asked about the race of her children was cultural, not genetic, so she should feel fine giving a cultural answer."
Except that her culture stinks of racism. Would you say the same if it concerned a white supremacist father? That too is "cultural".

"Choices that strengthen the bond with the father are basically good."
That strengthening ought to be based on fatherhood, not an race-consciousness.

Phil D said...

To expand my last comment (and correct it a bit);
"Choices that strengthen the bond with the father are basically good."
That strengthening ought to be based on fatherhood, not on racism brought as "race-consciousness".

Besides that, if the children are mixed "hispanic caucasian" then all this "black race-consciousness" will mean that they will be taught to despise themselves.
I can only be an anti racist by holding on to something that surpasses race. This whole sick "race-consciousness" business is nothing but a devolution into racism, a perversion.

Rachel said...

I have a friend who is married to a South African. They are both white. When she fills out forms, should they list their children as African American?

AllenS said...

Not a problem, Roger, if I hadn't taken a DNA test, I would have said the same thing.

AllenS said...

Not a problem, Roger. If I hadn't taken a DNA test I would have said the same thing.