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February 14, 2002
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·Why do black folks seem to always order red or orange soft drinks?
·Why do men have nipples?
·Why do Indian woman have a red dot on their forehead?
·In Jewish dietary laws...can fish and milk be mixed, i.e. cod in cheese sauce?
The Y?Forum, the National Forum on People's Differences. The Y?Forum "gives you a way to ask people from other ethnic or cultural backgrounds the questions you've always been too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask them." Some of the topics discussed: Differences between people of different age, class, gender, geography, occupation, race, religion, sexual orientation.
posted by jpoulos (78 comments total)

 
Why do black folks seem to always order red or orange soft drinks?

Once, at work, I made the observation that (in my experience) I noticed that African-Americans tend to prefer the green apple flavored Jolly Ranchers. A coworker complained about my "cultural generalization." So, the next day, she and I took a random survey of students that came to our counter.

While non-African Americans had a variety of favorite flavors, EVERY African American (who had a preference) chose green apple flavor.

Why? I don't know. Just an observation.
posted by ColdChef at 8:13 AM on February 14, 2002


Thanks for the link, jpoulos. While I was skimming through the site, I kept catching myself thinking "bigoted claptrap", but then many of the questions had thoughtful answers posted to them, which probably will actually work better than shouting people down. As someone who generally believes in education over legislation, I was surprised by how difficult I found this whole concept, at first. I think it's because it's easy to mark someone up as prejudiced and just forget about them, but it's harder to painstakingly show them the way to the truth.
posted by walrus at 8:24 AM on February 14, 2002


This is great. Thanks, jpoulos. It's so easy to give offense just by being ignorant. The nice thing is that people actually react very well when you ask if something's OK. Gestures and table manners are a minefield. But the best thing about this project is that differences are so damn interesting. Every time you learn about people who do something differently you kinda realize how relative the habits you take for granted are.

It's great fun to subvert your own rules - like eating noodles or soup with the bowl held up to your choppers in Japanese restaurants - with the excuse of being polite yo your hosts. Though certain things - like slurping, burping and farting - are more difficult.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:25 AM on February 14, 2002


First I'd like to say that I find it hard to believe everyone doesn't prefer green apple Jolly Ranchers. That being said, have you ever seen a bald mexican?
posted by Doug at 8:45 AM on February 14, 2002


That being said, have you ever seen a bald mexican?
Yes.
posted by thirteen at 8:48 AM on February 14, 2002


I used to like Green Apple Jolly Ranchers, but mostly 'cause they smell so strongly it would irritate my mother. "Get outta here with that stinky candy!" she would say, causing me to giggle with delight...
Now I can't stand 'em for the same reason.
posted by black8 at 8:51 AM on February 14, 2002


Great find, Jpoulos. I hope the boards don't degenerate into something ugly, though.
posted by ColdChef at 8:55 AM on February 14, 2002


Why do designers still persist in using pointless JavaScript navigation when links will work just as well?
posted by kerplunk at 9:00 AM on February 14, 2002


Why do black folks seem to always order red or orange soft drinks?

I've wondered this ever since I met my wife and her family. I've never thought to ask. Perhaps for her there are memories from the Carribean and the types of drinks they had there when she was very young (Ting comes to mind). Perhaps crush-like drinks had a higher market penetration. Or perhaps it was a British thing? (Antigua was a British island before independance)

I know when I was young I *LOVED* red soft drinks, but never since.
posted by jkaczor at 9:03 AM on February 14, 2002


That being said, have you ever seen a bald mexican?

Umm... A recent president of Mexico

That said, that particular gene is rare among us mexicans. I can think of nobody in my extended family with thinning hair (and I have about 30 first cousins alone!)
posted by vacapinta at 9:08 AM on February 14, 2002


ColdChef: It may be a genetic trait involving taste.

F'rinstance, Sodium Benzoate has no taste for some people, but can be tasted by others (sweet, bitter, or salty). That's a common enough food ingrediant, and perhaps blacks have a gene that causes it to taste sweet, while whites have a gene that causes it to taste bitter. Or vice-versa.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 AM on February 14, 2002


See, I don't think the "reasons" are nearly as concrete as people believe. And I certainly don't think they're genetic. I happen to like grape soda a lot. I do find myself, however, pausing a second, almost instinctively, before buying it. I think that, in the corner of the American culture that I inhabit, there's a sort of stigma attached to fruity soda. It's seen as a kids' drink. I'm not going around worrying what people will think of all my food purchases, but I certainly wouldn't order a grape soda while on a date, for instance.

It's a bit of an arbitrary distinction, I think--fruity soda versus cola-flavored beverages--but I think it does exist in my particular subculture. It's not something we're necessarily conscious of, but I think if I took a poll in my white, middle-class community, most would agree that it's real. Perhaps such a stigma against Orange soda doesn't exist in some black communities.

My point is that, while there are obviously genetic differences between people of different races or ethnicities, I don't think it permeates as deeply as many believe. I think what this Y?forum would show, if it worked (which, I don't think it really does, due to its limited size), would be that there are no huge implications of why such distinctions exist.
posted by jpoulos at 9:59 AM on February 14, 2002


Why do black folks seem to always order red or orange soft drinks?

It's pretty well-documented among food marketers, too. Mountain Dew Code Red is an example -- it's a product extension specifically targeted at urban African-Americans.

Why the taste preference exists, I dunno.
posted by me3dia at 10:04 AM on February 14, 2002


·Why do men have nipples?

I don't think an open forum on cultural differences is going to provide an answer to this one.
posted by mdn at 10:05 AM on February 14, 2002


·Why do men have nipples?
I don't think an open forum on cultural differences is going to provide an answer to this one.
They're for sucking on, people. Geez...
posted by Su at 10:17 AM on February 14, 2002


It because nipples develop before the shot of testosterone turns the fetus into a male.
posted by zeoslap at 10:18 AM on February 14, 2002


Does anyone remember the In Living Color sketch where Damon Wayans is the "Homeboy" and is being observed by a scientist or someone who notes his ever-changing slang, sideways baseball hat, and yes, his penchant for green apple Jolly Ranchers. And that sketch was presumably written by the Wayans family, so it's not as if they pulled out of the clear blue sky. It's interesting, but obviously kind of an innocuous detail.

By the way, it's encouraging that so far no one in this thread has screeched, "Racist!" or "Hate Crime!" at any of the above comments. *crosses fingers*
posted by Karl at 10:32 AM on February 14, 2002


ColdChef: It may be a genetic trait involving taste.

Except that there is as much genetic difference within light-skinned populations and within darker-skinned populations than there are between the two groups. There aren't many genes that are common in most dark-skinned people but uncommon in most light-skinned people.

There might be a sub-group of people who both have genes for dark skin and for liking green apple candy, but if the preference is widespread among African Americans, it is almost certainly a cultural thing.

Race is much more of a social construct than a genetic one.
posted by straight at 11:09 AM on February 14, 2002


I hope the boards don't degenerate into something ugly, though.

It doesn't seem likely. I came across YForum for the first time in 1997, and they still seem to be going strong today. I still remember reading about why white people smell funny. Until then, I had no idea I might smell funny at all.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:18 AM on February 14, 2002


I coulda sworn it was Tommy Davidson who was the homeboy on Kelly Coffield's lap. For whatever that's worth.
posted by poseur at 11:37 AM on February 14, 2002


Race is much more of a social construct than a genetic one.

Exactly what I meant to say, only much clearer and more concise than I could have.
posted by jpoulos at 11:59 AM on February 14, 2002


Poseur: You're probably right. My memory of the show is (apparently) a little fuzzy.
posted by Karl at 12:01 PM on February 14, 2002


Why do designers still persist in using pointless JavaScript navigation when links will work just as well?

Depends. What race was the designer?

::duckflee!::


posted by aaron at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2002


Why do Indian woman have a red dot on their forehead?

For target practice.



Actually, it indicates whether the woman is married or not, though, now it's become a fashion accessory for a lot of modern indian women, married or not. The varieties are fairly astounding too.
posted by bittennails at 12:19 PM on February 14, 2002


bittennails: Dot's way over the line, you!

Pass me the Windex, my monitor's a little messy all of a sudden. And a paper towel, if you can spare one or two.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 12:32 PM on February 14, 2002


*thinks hard* Most folks I know seem to gravitate toward grape-flavored sodas. I know I used to have a thing for root beer. Ach, my soda tastes aren't black enough!

black8: Don't bogart those Jolly Ranchers, bro.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 12:35 PM on February 14, 2002


That's an urban legend, bittennails. Some pictures of Gandhi show him with one.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:32 PM on February 14, 2002


For my college paper, I asked a several on-campus experts the question, "why do men have nipples?"

The only answer that suprised me was when a Rabbi who I called said, that they're for a time in Heaven with the Messiah when men will use their nipples like women do here on Earth.

Yes, it was very hard not to giggle.

p.s. I am a Black man who loves orange and red sodas and have tried Mountain Dew Code Red and it is good, but the generic fruit punch sodas are just as good and half the price.
posted by tsarfan at 2:40 PM on February 14, 2002


I don't like grape soda, or grape-flavored anything for that matter. As with most things labeled "black", I am contrarian...
posted by owillis at 2:41 PM on February 14, 2002


Race is much more of a social construct than a genetic one.

Sigh. Of course, in these politically-correct times, it's seen as heresy to claim that genetics may be racially influenced.

Which ignores, of course, the blatantly obvious... like I'm a pasty-face because of the racial influence of my genes, just as OJ is black 'cause of his.

There are plenty of race-based genetic differences. Blacks are nearly twice as likely to be diabetic as whites. Tay-Sachs disease shows far greater incidence in Jews, while WASPs have greater incidence of cystic fibrosis. Asthma is racially-influenced. And there are even some prescription drugs that are more poisonous (more allergenic) to some racial groups than others.

When it comes to taste, race is an influencing factor. There is a statistically significant difference in the proportion of Asians vs Caucasians who taste 6-n-propylthiouracil. (Asians are far more likely to be "tasters.")

There's no reason to nay-say the idea that African-Americans taste food differently than Asian-Americans and ... er, I guess to keep this silly naming theme going, I'll call them "European-Americans."

And unless someone here is going to argue that it's an ethnic trait, I don't see that there's a whole lot of argument to be had here.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:47 PM on February 14, 2002


Race is much more of a social construct than a genetic one.

Really? So if I'm born and brought up in predominantly black area, but I'm genetically caucasian, I'll be black? Fascinating, prof. straight.

Having said that, it is important to be sure of what influences are behind a specific trait. I say that because I'm reminded of an article I read about the different ways in which people feel pain. A midwife noted that latino women were more vocal about their pain than others, and she put it down to a culture that was more tolerant of expression, but tests showed that it was actually due to high amounts of peppers in their diets! Isn't that interesting?
Don't answer that.
posted by stuporJIX at 2:48 PM on February 14, 2002


they're for a time in Heaven with the Messiah when men will use their nipples like women do here on Earth.

some already do...

waitress friends have told me black people are much more likely to order super sweet drinks & soda. Alize (sp?) is one liquor that white people apparently rarely order, e.g. Seems likely to be a cultural/ class difference more than anything, but pretty entrenched. I wasn't brought up with kool aid type drinks, and regular coke is too sweet for me to have more than once in a while. Can;t say if that's environmental or genetic though.
posted by mdn at 2:48 PM on February 14, 2002


Great minds, five fresh fish, great minds. You bastard.
posted by stuporJIX at 2:49 PM on February 14, 2002


There are two kinds of red dots (also called bindi or tika). The one women wear is the modern version of the practice whereby married women wore kukum (a pinkish-red powder) on their foreheads. It's got some religious aspects to it. Although I know even unmarried girls can wear a tika. I am not too sure what the difference is, I'll have to ask my mom :)

The other kind of dot, like the one Gandhi wore, is actually a sort of a good luck charm. Okay bear with me this may sound a bit weird, but I think the reason is really interesting, and it sometimes amazes me how much we Indians thought about the little things in the past.
After a pooja (prayer), the person praying gets a tika on their forehead. This tika is made out of kukum (not sure if there is an English word for it), and water. The dot is made with the 3rd finger of the right hand. When the dot is applied, it's in a paste like form. Once applied it starts to dry up, as it dries up, it creates a cooling effect, which is supposed to be good for the brain.

Hope this kinda helps explain it a bit.
posted by riffola at 3:03 PM on February 14, 2002


MrMoonPie: Well snopes is wrong...

When men wear it, it is a Tilak, or tikka now used interchangeably, with men it is for religious trditions, festivals and such like, where even I have had them on, visit a temple, prayer etc and it is applied, but is largely in a U shape and is a mixture of turmeric. and red color and rice, this varies too. By and large the traditional Round Red Bindi is an indicator of marriage and is considered as such by the majority, and having lived in india till I was 22 with a mom & 2 sisters I feel a bit qualified on this subject. The perception is as I mentioned, but I did check and well the internet is not a good source for all info, this is what I found:
From Hinduwomen.org and from Bhoombindi

I think I lean and so does the majority of opinion in india now, that that blood thing might be where it started, there is also the other custom of Sindoor, where a woman put the same red color in the "part" of her hair to signify marriage, and when widowed, she wipes it and her tikka off while screeching loudly and smashing her bangles to bits, this from the countless melodramitic hindi movies I have seen. I feel if movies and popular culture view things a certain way, that is how they are percieved and passed on.

Sorry for the thread hijack all. Back to race relations;)
posted by bittennails at 3:11 PM on February 14, 2002


Race is much more of a social construct than a genetic one.

Really? So if I'm born and brought up in predominantly black area, but I'm genetically caucasian, I'll be black?


~Yes, that's exactly what he said.~ Race != color, prof. stupor.
posted by jpoulos at 3:15 PM on February 14, 2002


I feel if movies and popular culture view things a certain way, that is how they are percieved and passed on.

I meant by largely uneducated swaths of the country for whom most entertainment is movies or sex. (thats the population problem in a nutshell too)
posted by bittennails at 3:16 PM on February 14, 2002


Bittennails: Please do not explain things about India from what you have seen in Bollywood flicks.
posted by riffola at 4:10 PM on February 14, 2002


riffola: Why not? Stop being so judgemental and supercilious, they do represent a lot of modern India, maybe you should see a few.
posted by bittennails at 4:19 PM on February 14, 2002


you sure am smart.
posted by jpoulos at 4:26 PM on February 14, 2002


[completely off-topic; apologies]:

Bollywood flicks

I keep dreaming much-missed tamim is preparing another wonderful monster post for us. I also feel guilty that brilliant Bollywood post wasn't sufficiently appreciated.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:30 PM on February 14, 2002


you sure am smart. Huh?
posted by bittennails at 4:39 PM on February 14, 2002


So far as my knowledge goes, there are actually three different kinds of dot/red dots among us.

The round red bindi on the forehead / the Sindoor on the parting of the hair, signifies marriage among Hindus in large parts of India. In some other parts of Northern India, married women wear a 'Mangalsutra' around their necks as a signature of marriage. In yet other areas, notably South India, there is no need for such distinguishing marks.

Dots (red, black or otherwise) are also commonly used for beutification through out India across race, religion, geography.

The 'Tilak' that one wears after doing a 'Puja' (worshipping a deity, to put it simply) looks completely different. Usually, most Indians would know the difference betwee the different kinds of dots/tikkas/tilaks when they see it. I am not surprised that it confuses people from elsewhere. The explanation in 'Snopes' is overly simplistic.

I am told that the custom for the red dot/Sindoor dates back to the middle ages when Muslim invaders would drag away unmarried women from Hindu households and forcibly marry them. The sindoor was supposed to be a protection against such a fate. (Apparently, the sickening custom of a wife's 'voluntarily' burning at the pyre of the husband also stemmed from those days. It was assumed, life in those uncertain times was deemed terrifying a prospect for widows in some parts) Later on, the social structures became more and more ossified and those practices got absorbed into the religion.

However, this story could be an urban myth for all I know. I am not very well read on this subject. But Hinduism - as it is practiced - is highly ritualistic. Rituals may vary widely from region to region.

Yforum looks like an interesting place.....lot of stuff one would feel uncomfortable about asking, but would love to know more about.
posted by justlooking at 5:09 PM on February 14, 2002


I've seen enough Hindi flicks.
posted by riffola at 5:21 PM on February 14, 2002


I think that taste differences in food and drink are as much a product of economic class as they are of race. For instance, can you imagine Vernon Jordan, say, drinking Code Red or snarfing down a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips?
However, I do know plenty of working-class whitefolk who love these same things.
For the record,though, I'm a (very) white guy who hates cola, loves fruity sodas, pork rinds, Jamaican Beef Patties and other stereotypically "black" food and a Gentile(so much so that my Jewish girlfreind calls me the "Goy Wonder') who loves Gefilte Fish and Chopped Liver.
Which goes to prove the old adage that there's no accounting for taste.
posted by jonmc at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2002


I've seen enough Hindi flicks.

er...riffola...and?
posted by bittennails at 7:22 PM on February 14, 2002


... and I don't think explaining a few rituals as they appear in movies is accurate. It's a movie it's loosely based on how things really are, things don't happen the way it happens in movies. Sorry that's just my opinion, but then again I'm so judgemental and supercilious. :)
posted by riffola at 7:34 PM on February 14, 2002


Damn! Long thread, but mdn got Alizé in before I did. My longtime close friend, who is black, introduced me to this stuff, and I could never get any of my white friends into it. We call it black peeps seduction liqueur whenever I do bring it around.

And I honestly didn't think I'd like Code Red until the first 20 times I'd tried it. After the next 20 I warmed up. Perhaps after another 100 or so I'll decide that I really do like it. Dunno why that is. My soda preferences are off-mainstream in most ways -- Dr Pepper over colas, grape soda pretty far up the list too. And I can't eat enough salt-and-vinegar chips. None of this jibes with the rest of my family.

I think I must be adopted.
posted by dhartung at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2002


Wow, I was really hoping that we were going to make it through this thread without an arguement... too bad about the dot thing.

MetaFilter
you're wrong (about the dot). no, you're wrong (about the dot)!
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2002


I could use a rootbeer...
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2002


I guess some traditions are not meant to be broken. (Sorry)
posted by riffola at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2002


Yeah sorry riffola, did not mean to go at you, it's, well I feel a lot of people in bollywood try to honestly portray reality, but usual things like the money it will make etc requires the slapstick element of the song & dance for the mass appeal.

But the impetus to change that seems to exist...for example, the classic line from "Bhaji on the Beach" : Kala kaluta baingan loota, which I find completely offensive, but I liked the fact it was called out by the director, the expose of color racism in india which for so long has been called class racism.

Give them time, we are a young nation...
posted by bittennails at 7:47 PM on February 14, 2002


Blacks are nearly twice as likely to be diabetic as whites. Tay-Sachs disease shows far greater incidence in Jews, while WASPs have greater incidence of cystic fibrosis. Asthma is racially-influenced. And there are even some prescription drugs that are more poisonous (more allergenic) to some racial groups than others.

This is just sloppy (racist!) science. There are genetic populations which have some (inexact) correlation with our visual racial groupings. Assuming it's genetic, it's not Blacks who are twice as likely to be diabetic, it's members of a certain genetic population. If that genetic population consists largely of people with dark skin, then it's convenient for medical schools to tell medical students that blackness is a risk factor for diabetes. Though it's not true in any imaginable sense, it may still assist in identifying diabetics.

To step from loose genetic/racial correlation to a so-called science of race-based differences in individuals is... well. Enough said?
posted by sudama at 8:46 PM on February 14, 2002 [1 favorite]


Good call, sudama. As I said up there ^ color does not equal race. There are "black" people all over the world, from Australia to the Carribean. To look at all those groups of people as one--not only socially but genetically (!) -- is, well, ignorant. Even to look at American "black people" as a single social or genetic group is ridiculous. A few hundred years in one place does not create an identifiable genetic identity.

Color is skin-deep, people.
posted by jpoulos at 9:01 PM on February 14, 2002


Blacks are nearly twice as likely to be diabetic as whites

could this be because they're culturally encouraged toward high-sugar foods? I mean, what's the rate when it's corrected for economic class?
posted by mdn at 10:03 PM on February 14, 2002


bittennails:

I didn't know Bhaji on the Beach was a Bollywood movie. And wasn't that set here in England? If anything I thought that was about traditions and customs of British Asians.

As for being a young nation, India is hardly that.
posted by Saima at 4:20 AM on February 15, 2002


Saima: Bhaji is better than most films made in Canada in the last five years. Quebec films don't even come close, and of course, Quebec lives in mortal fear of black actors, artists, intellectuals and directors and therefore
does not encourage them. Director Gurinder Chadha is lucky to have generous film funders who take her so very seriously.

Imagine the National Film Board or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation putting bucks into such a film without getting utterly terrorized by the racegender questions. Forget it. Canada will not catch-up, not even by thetime Hong Kong slips into Beijing control.

A warning: there are hectares of songs and dances:
You can take the Asian out of Asia but you can't take the Bollywood out of the Asian.


The character who spoke that line was the old grandmother and was very much in the character of an indian from india, and yes the other asian characters are british asians.

By "young nation" I meant since we gained independance and adopted a formal constitution. That was '47-'48, which in my book makes us a young nation.
posted by bittennails at 5:16 AM on February 15, 2002


If that genetic population consists largely of people with dark skin... [it's not Blacks who are twice as likely to be diabetic, it's members of a certain genetic population.]

Oh, get off it already. You're being outright silly: you're saying it's a "certain genetic population of people with dark skin" who tend to it. How the hell is that any different than saying that blacks have a higher incidence of diabetes?

You want to take skin colour out of it? Fine: those people who tend toward diabetes most have cross-links between chromosomes 20, 03, 14, and 08. That's the *specific* genetic population that tend towards it. Nevermind that the latter three cross-links are directly tied to skin colour, because it's *bad* to identify people by skin colour.

Gahd. This puritanical political correctness seems to have no limits. You can have an identifiable population of people who are significantly different from other identifiable populations, but lord forbid that you actually be so uncouth as to identify them.

Of course no one would have gotten their shorts in a knot if I'd said "redheads tend to get sunburns."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:11 AM on February 15, 2002


five fresh fish - Of course no one would have gotten their shorts in a knot if I'd said "redheads tend to get sunburns."

Hah, I'm not really going to argue your point, but it does remind me of a college professor's insistence that all human development ultimately depended upon environment, with genes never being the deciding factor. His favorite case study was the fact that when malnourished, African blacks grow red hair.
posted by NortonDC at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2002


But having red hair doesn't put you at risk of getting a sunburn. Having a fair complexion does. You often see both traits in the same individual, but there's no causal relationship (or even a direct correlation).

Similarly, being black doesn't put you at higher risk for diabetes. That's why people react so strongly to claims of "it's in their genes". And using the word "blacks" to try to define such an immense and diverse group of people, and especially trying to assign something so specific as a genetic predisposition to fruit-flavored soda (something you completely pulled out of your ass) is ludicrous. You can call that PC if you like--if that makes it easier for you to ignore--but I think it's "SC". Scientifically Correct.
posted by jpoulos at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2002


bittennails:

I still wouldn't class it as a Bollywood movie. Don't you need at least 5 songs and 13 costume changes to even qualify as one? ;)
posted by Saima at 11:26 AM on February 15, 2002


Similarly, being black doesn't put you at higher risk for diabetes.

Well, there may be a statistical correlation between having darker skin and having genes that put one at higher risk for diabetes. The wrong idea is that its because all "blacks" have similar genes.

There's a wide variety of genes within both light-skinned and dark-skinned groups. It may be that there are more people with the genes for diabetes among darker-skinned populations, so that statistically it's more likely that an African American will also be in a high risk group for diabetes. But there are also various genetic groups among people you would cann White who are at higher genetic risk than many groups of people you would call African American.

Saying African Americans have genes that raise their risk of diabetes is like saying African Americans are poor. Some African Americans have those genes. And some white people have those genes.
posted by straight at 1:37 PM on February 15, 2002


Tay-Sachs is caused by a *single* one-letter mutation in the genome. And that mutation is *one hundred times more common* in Ashkenazi Jews -- a group that doesn't typically marry outside the Jewish community -- than in the general population.

If that isn't a race-based disease, what you you call it? What term are you going to use, if not "race" --- "breed"?!

Other race... er, I mean, breed-based diseases can be viewed at the following link. Read it and weep: University of Chicago calls these race-based genetic disorders.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2002


There are two issues here about "race-based diseases". The first is, the color of skin is only one feature of genetic make-up and does not automatically outline a genetic group. You could not determine the population of Ashkenazi Jews simply by examining shades of people's skin. Black americans may be more likely to share genetic traits with other black americans than with white americans, but there is a wide range within the black population, especially when including the european and african black populations.

Which brings up issue #2 - some of these things may well be affected by environmental factors, not simply genetics. Diabetes seems to me to be very likely related to higher sugar intake among lower classes (cheaper foods often have simple carbs, msg, corn syrup, etc), rather than a strict genetic predisposition.
posted by mdn at 9:38 PM on February 15, 2002


What do the Ashkenazi Jews have to do with it? My main objection, FFF (if I may call you that), has to do with your categorizing "blacks" as a single genetic group. The term "race" gets in the way, because we do refer to African-Americans, and other people with dark skin as being of a single race. Genetically, that's far from the truth.

Just because "black" people tend to marry other "black" people doesn't equate that group to the very select, non-diverse gene pool that carries the gene for Tay-Sachs.

Of course I believe that some diseases have a genetic component, and that component may well be concentrated in specific gene pools, as with the Ashkenazi Jews. But I object to the categorization of "black people" as a single genetic group.

Your original assertion that there may be a genetic component to the black people's apparent partiality to fruit soda mischaracterizes and oversimplifies things. It is born of the assumption that there are vast genetic differences between "black" people and "white" people. When the fact is that there are just as many differences between West Africans and Australian Aboriginies as there are between West Africans and, well, West Virginians.

Sure, there may be a particular West Indian population, for example, that is sensitive to particular chemicals in their food. But to suggest that all people (or many, or most) people who resemble that population, might share that genetic trait is ridiculous. To do so attributes more weight to skin color than it deserves. Just because skin color is very apparent, visually, doesn't mean it defines a person's genetic makeup.
posted by jpoulos at 9:51 PM on February 15, 2002


Oh, pshaw. You've got a legit beef re: my casual use of the term "black."

But aside from that, there are genetic differences between population groups that do lead to a difference in taste. The research is abundant and available to you through Google.

At no time have I suggested that *everyone* from a given genetic group shares a sensitivity to this or that.

The only suggestion here is that of the complex genes that provide us with our stereotypical "race" characteristics there are a few genes which serve a second duty -- as so many genes do -- to express other characteristics; and that some of the genes that dictate whether we're tasters (for this or that) are intertwined with all that.

What blows me away is that if I were to say "German Shepards are predisposed to hip dysplasia," no one would bat an eye. Not a single person would ever make ludicrous strawman arguments along the line of "But to suggest that all dogs that resemble that population might share that genetic trait is ridiculous."

And, BTW, it's not the skin colour that defines the genetic makeup: it's the genetic makeup that defines the skin colour. Just as it defines taste sensitivities.

Deny it all you want, but there is a ton of research that indicates that taste and "race" are intertwined.

As a footnote, my belief is that those people who protest most loudly that there are no racial differences, are people who are racist.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on February 15, 2002


my belief is that those people who protest most loudly that there are no racial differences, are people who are racist

Even though I agree with some of the other stuff you said, this seems ridiculous and incendiary. Over-cautious, perhaps. Politically correct, even, but not racist by a long mile.

To argue that different racial populations don't share different groupings of certain genes is a nonsense, but I don't believe you can build a prejudice out of it, either. We're different, so what? I think we're all adult enough to admit that the vast majority of our behaviour and taste is socially programmed, anyway. Otherwise I'd still be eating meat which I had hunted and killed myself, rather than being vegetarian and ordering food online from supermarkets.
posted by walrus at 2:35 AM on February 16, 2002


Hmm. root beer--having been told by my broither who's lived in Japan, that Japanese hate root beer, I've conducted an ongoing survey with any native Japanese I've met. No one's answered that he or she likes root beer. Cheese gets a similar response. And then there is miso--one man or woman's rotting food is another's cuisine is my conclusion. As for fruity sodas, I think this is a preference derived from the South and emigrants therefrom. After all, that's the point of origin for most pop flavors in general.

This whole deal with cultural taste preferences is interesting. I've read that Thunderbird wine was developed after Gallo execs noticed black winos in 40s LA were cutting port wine with lemon juice, for instance. And the whole thing with malt liquor--malt liquor is just nasty tasting to me--is a mystery to me but then I'm a lagerist--Bohemia beer, for example, tastes like the first beer I've sipped.

The Y?forum depresses and encourages me at the same time: the lameness and stupidity of some of the queries and the often well reasoned and patient responses. Nice post, jpoulos and--yawn--genetic debate aside, nice comments, too.

Ordering food online is a bit far from hunting and gathering but do you mean, walrus, you let someone else pick your fresh fruits and vegetables? This is the obvious weakest link in online food shopping to me. Plus the rudeness and misanthropy due to lack of human contact I see in online conversations, where people commonly make statements that would lead to lethal results in the real world, is another argument for in-person grocery shopping. But then I ride the bus, where you see the best and worst of oh, the humanity! There's something to be said for the social utility of public transit.
posted by y2karl at 5:27 AM on February 16, 2002


one man or woman's rotting food is another's cuisine in my conclusion

I've never yet met a taste I couldn't acquire, given patience. Most of the initially unpleasant ones end up being the most worthwhile in the long run. This might be just my subjective experience, but it's one of the reasons I personally attribute a lot of tastes to social conditioning rather than anything else. I don't rule out genetic differences (eg I read something about brussels sprouts once), but I believe they're largely overridden by experiential behaviour.

do you mean, walrus, you let someone else pick your fresh fruits and vegetables?

I should qualify: my online shopping experience has taught me to pick the fresh stuff myself from local shops. It's a great option for any bulky, dry goods though, and even bags of potatoes and bottles of things.
posted by walrus at 5:53 AM on February 16, 2002


Walrus: those who are protesting are afraid of the idea that "races" can be different. They want to deny that subtle physiological differences may have a genetic foundation.

Sounds to me a whole lot like racism: fear of difference.

The usual racists express their racism by prejudice against people with racial differences. Our racists here express their racism by prejudice against the idea of racial difference. It amounts to the same thing: wanting to eliminate or deny the differences between people.

I prefer to celebrate differences in race. I think it is so damn cool that different groups have different sensitivity to certain flavours.

BTW, are you an Edmontonian Walrus?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 AM on February 16, 2002


I prefer to celebrate differences in race.

I have absolutely no disagreement with this at all. Sorry about the misunderstanding earlier.

are you an Edmontonian Walrus?

A British one. I always liked the Alice books. And the Beatles.
posted by walrus at 9:02 AM on February 16, 2002


From A Conversation / With Joseph Graves

Q. What prompted your interest in race and genetics?

A. The catalyst was the success of the book "The Bell Curve," which claimed that there was a genetic basis for differences in I.Q. scores between blacks and whites. Most disagreeable was the way it characterized individuals into discrete racial categories they identified as "black" and "white."


This simplistic categorization was not defensible by what we know about human genetic diversity and the amount of shared genes between people of European and African descent in the United States.

Q. You're questioning the existence of racial categories like black and white?

A. Biologically, yes. Only an incredibly small percentage of genes in human beings are involved in skin color. Possibly only six genes determine the color of a person's skin out of between 30,000 and 40,000.

Q. There may be only six genes involved in skin color, but don't they still separate people by race?

A. You have to understand that what biologists mean when they say race is different from what the common person or even society means. There are two parts to the biological definition: first, a race is a population that has significant genetic differences from other populations such that it can be considered a subspecies. A subspecies is a group that is on the way to becoming a new species. Second, a race is a population whose lineage can be considered sufficiently distinct from other lineages.

Q. Aren't the different groups of humans that most people think of as races different subspecies, and therefore different races?

A. Even though we are anatomically different from each other, there is no subspecies in our group. In fact, there are far more genetic differences within a population of humans than between them. For example, there is only about 3 to 7 percent genetic divergence between groups, compared to 20 percent in subspecies of drosophila fruit flies. It doesn't compare.

As far as distinct lineages, throughout history, we have had too much gene flow between so-called races. If sub-Saharan Africans only mated with sub-Saharan Africans and Europeans only mated with Europeans, then there might be unique lineages. But that hasn't occurred, particularly in America. Here, because of our history of chattel slavery, individuals are still classified as black by means of the "rule of hypodescent," whereby one drop of black blood makes one black. However, there is no biological rationale for this rule.


And again:

Q. Doesn't race, in the social and cultural definition, have an impact on health? For instance, isn't sickle cell disease much more common in blacks than whites?

A. Contrary to popular belief, sickle cell anemia is not a black disease nor did it originate in West Africa. The gene responsible for sickle cell provides protection against malaria, so it is present wherever we find malaria. That includes Greece, Yemen, India, East and West Africa and the Middle East, where it originated. The only reason we think of it as a black disease in America is because the slaves came from West Africa. If the slaves who worked the cotton fields of America had come from Yemen or Greece, then we would have seen it as a Yemeni or a Greek disease.

posted by y2karl at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2002


[rolls eyes] Fine. Please replace every use of "race" in my posts with "breed," then. Or offer a better word, because in my neck fo the woods, "race" doesn't seem to have the same terrible emotional impact that it appears to have for you.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:56 PM on February 16, 2002


It's not so much the terrible emotional impact as your--troll (rolls eyes)--pejorative assumptions and statements:

As a footnote, my belief is that those people who protest most loudly that there are no racial differences, are people who are racist.

You:

F'rinstance, Sodium Benzoate has no taste for some people, but can be tasted by others (sweet, bitter, or salty). That's a common enough food ingrediant, and perhaps blacks have a gene that causes it to taste sweet, while whites have a gene that causes it to taste bitter. Or vice-versa.

Joseph Graves:

As far as distinct lineages, throughout history, we have had too much gene flow between so-called races. If sub-Saharan Africans only mated with sub-Saharan Africans and Europeans only mated with Europeans, then there might be unique lineages. But that hasn't occurred, particularly in America. Here, because of our history of chattel slavery, individuals are still classified as black by means of the "rule of hypodescent," whereby one drop of black blood makes one black. However, there is no biological rationale for this rule.

As Graves noted above, there are no pure racial types in this country. Genetically, we're mongrels rather than pedigreed purebreds: That refutes your weak race breed argument right there.

You say breed but other words that fit better are kith; kin; clan or family--groups of genetically related people.

That's a very far cry from race.

You offer a weak speculation and then get huffy and defensive and start name calling when people confuse the issue with facts. Not too impressive a way to defend a lost cause.
posted by y2karl at 4:09 PM on February 16, 2002


Unless you are stupid, you understood the gist of what I was saying. I doubt you are stupid.

If I had said "...perhaps there are black clans that have a gene that causes it to taste sweet, while whites have a gene that causes it to taste bitter," you'd have been on my ass.

If I had said "...perhaps there are families of blacks that have a gene yadda yadda," you'd still have been on my ass.

It seems the only way out is to use convolved PC language that is both a pain in the arse to read, and conveys no more useful information than my original statement. Something akin to "...perhaps the people who are genetically predisposed to having the gene that expresses itself by causing Sodium Benzoate to taste sweet also more commonly predisposed to possessing the genes that express themselves through a darker skin tone and the physiological features of Americans with an ethnic heritage that traces itself back to Africa. Or vice-versa."
posted by five fresh fish at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2002


The problem is, there are many different races of blacks. It's the imprecision that kills us. There are more differences between two categories of Africans than there are between Caucasians and Asians.

You'd get the exact same resistance from me if you tried to compare "reptiles" to mammals.
posted by Ptrin at 7:45 PM on February 16, 2002


As far as distinct lineages, throughout history, we have had too much gene flow between so-called races.

I understand the gist of what you were saying--what I was saying is it's a flawed speculation, no matter how much sodium benzoate you add to it.

You again ignore the genetic argument--small groups, such as clans and families, from which it is impossible to generalize aside--it's the mixture of genetic material in us all that refutes the dead horse off which you're flaying the flesh from the bones. There are simply too many bloodlines in the general American population, black or white, as commonly understood, to support your thesis: we aren't inbred like pedigreed dogs and cats.

You come back ad hominem--again--and ignore the science. This has to more with your own amour-propre than these telepathic "PC" assessments you are making of people. Obviously, we aren't the ones suffering the terrible emotional impact here, random insult generator pal.
posted by y2karl at 7:46 PM on February 16, 2002


Race is much more of a social construct than a genetic one.

Really? So if I'm born and brought up in predominantly black area, but I'm genetically caucasian, I'll be black?


Well, I know it "infects" spouses too. I become significantly less caucasian when I'm drivin' through the deep-south with my wife...

And we notice in restaurants and stores that she becomes ever-so-slightly less black when I'm around. It's an AMAZING phenominon.

In fact, the most amazing thing happened just last week. For some reason, my wife happened to be shopping for some haircare products for moi at a salon. As she was looking through the various items, finally making a decision based on my hair-type, she was "assisted" by a salesperson;
salesdrone: "hi, what are you looking for?"
"gel for my husband, I think I've found what I need."
salesdrone: "oh, he wouldn't want that."
"but what do you mean?" (my wife asks most innocently... grin)
salesdrone: "well, it wouldn't work for him."
"but, it says for fine hair?" (innocent (picture an internal cheshire cat grin))
salesdrone: "he just wouldn't be able to use it."
"why?"
salesdrone: "it's not for his hair-type."
"oh, but he's german." (wicked smile, puts it down, and walks out, gotta love her)

If we didn't have a daughter playing head-games with the freaks and the morons would almost be fun, they're slightly less lethal up here in Canada without the guns.
posted by jkaczor at 11:54 PM on February 16, 2002


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