“I’ve always known that I’m multiracial”
October 20, 2018 12:04 PM   Subscribe

 
“I’m a certified black man,” he told The Post. “I’m certified black in all 50 states. But the federal government doesn’t recognize me.”
Launch him into the sun.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2018 [96 favorites]


He's trying to break the system: "Ideally, he says, he would like to see the minority-business certification process scrapped and replaced with a program that would be based on socioeconomic status, not race."

I second schadenfrau's suggestion: Launch him into the sun.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2018 [39 favorites]


So, was it the Koch Brothers funding him? Who put him up to this?
posted by gusandrews at 12:25 PM on October 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


*...replaced with a program that would be based on socioeconomic status, not race...*

Okay, well, there's a shred of a decent idea in there, though it's probably accidental.

Economic inequality is definitely a huge and growing problem, so that much is legit... I guess?
posted by rokusan at 12:30 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh look it's Byron T Lebockwith!
posted by symbioid at 12:35 PM on October 20, 2018


[One deleted. This is very close to issues raised by the Warren DNA thing which we had solid days of discussion in the catchall and then a dedicated thread about Warren's DNA test and related. If we're going to have a separate thread about this trolling duder, it needs to be separate from Warren stuff; if it's gonna be a proxy discussion of Warren then it should just go in that thread instead.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


This guy does seem like kind of an asshole, but realistically, and this is an honest question because I just don't know, would his suggested "program [...] based on socioeconomic status, not race" be significantly worse for the minority people who benefit from the current program?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:43 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


~...replaced with a program that would be based on socioeconomic status, not race...*
~Okay, well, there's a shred of a decent idea in there, though it's probably accidental.
Economic inequality is definitely a huge and growing problem, so that much is legit... I guess?


Kind of depends on which end of the socioeconomic chart he thinks should be helped. The right seems to excel at throwing economic bennies at the people who definitely don’t need them, by any measure you care to use.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


A man did a thing. Now he wants attention.
posted by gwint at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


I honestly do think he's asking some legitimate questions even if I don't really agree with his approach. There has been a recent uptick in the need to change how we approach race, what with what's happening at Harvard University. And there has been an issue with privacy concerns regarding DNA testing, but many, many programs in the US are based on race so that's another unintended consequence. There is a lot to chew on here.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


significantly worse for the minority people who benefit from the current program?

We'd soon discover that citizens who are more than 4% African American are often inexplicably ineligible for the new program.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:49 PM on October 20, 2018 [40 favorites]


Nothing gets white folks talking about how the divisions are REALLY based on class like people talking about racism.

I remember reading that in the 19th century there were people fraudulently claiming Cherokee heritage to get in on a land grant. Seems a similar sort of thing.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


Ideally, he says, he would like to see the minority-business certification process scrapped and replaced with a program that would be based on socioeconomic status, not race."

The minority-business rules are widely abused at the small scale by people putting businesses in a family members name, usually the wife or grandmother (all the better if the wife is female AND non-white). I know literally dozens of businesses set up this way, my good friends 80 year old 4'11" immigrant mother who doesn't own a pair of shoes that aren't heels is a general contractor! At a larger scale minority owned corporations win a lot of federal bids but often (not always but very often ime) most of the money goes to the subs or the highly paid corporate employees who are not minorities.

This guy may be a lunatic or he may be a cynic who has calculated the amount of bids he's lost over the years to pseudo-minority owned businesses and said fuck it, I'm going to make a point because I want a piece of that pie. Greed- it makes the world go round.

tl;dr: I don't really think this is a question about race and DNA as much as about good intentions gone wrong and people openly playing the system and getting away with it. A program set up to benefit minorities should benefit minorities.
posted by fshgrl at 12:52 PM on October 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


Our institutions are not robust to opportunistic bad-faith actors. That much has been reinforced in the past two years.

There can be no rigorously scientific standard for race in these programs, since race is not itself scientific. It does no one any good for the government to act otherwise. Race and socioeconomic status may both pose hurdles. If you do some magic arithmetic, you may even find that indeed some poor white person is at present at greater disadvantage than some middle class black person. But that arithmetic isn't useful. We attempt to disaggregate vectors of disadvantage, because they work in different ways. This can appear unfair, because we see ourselves as whole when social policy does not.

If Mr. Taylor desires a society committed to multidimensional equality of capabilities, I hope he votes accordingly.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 12:54 PM on October 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


why is SYSTEMIC such a hard concept for people to grasp jfc
posted by Grandysaur at 12:55 PM on October 20, 2018 [51 favorites]


Would common sense dictate that you need to be majority minority to qualify for such things or should I just not go there?
posted by BigBrooklyn at 12:58 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


To clarify: I'm in favor of the government providing opportunities for minority owned businesses, I think that is needed and I've seen amazing successes. But the current system has been around long enough people have found too many ways to play it and this kind of angry response pops up periodically as a result. Plus it's not benefiting the people it's designed to benefit a high enough percentage of the time.

I also find the idea of someone deciding that you are "visually" a minority for government purposes pretty awful and I'm amazed that even happens in this day and age.
posted by fshgrl at 1:02 PM on October 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


I sold software to government contracting firms for 5 years. If I had a dollar for every time I presented to the executive committee of a certified minority or woman owned firm, and the executive committee was 100% 50+year old white dudes, I'd have a lot of dollars.
This guy might be an asshole but the system is completely broken.
posted by COD at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2018 [30 favorites]


*cough*

*looks around*

Wow, no-one? Okay…

*clears throat, deep breath*

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:09 PM on October 20, 2018 [46 favorites]


The minority-business rules are widely abused at the small scale by people putting businesses in a family members name, usually the wife or grandmother (all the better if the wife is female AND non-white).

This is my aunt and her family businesses. They've won huge contracts with utility companies like PGE because they prioritize minority- and women-owned businesses.

(She really IS a general contractor though.)
posted by elsietheeel at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, if she really works and runs the business then it's legit and that was the purpose of the program- to give ownership to women and minorities. I know lots of legit woman owned businesses too! Just also lots of men who convince a relative to put it in their name and they don't work there and, more annoyingly, they don't even give them any money. Or they just say, well we are family, what is mine is hers. My friends Mom has nothing after technically being a GC for 20 years, but she has carried all the liability of being sued etc while her son reaped the benefits. That's what really chaps my hide.
posted by fshgrl at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


Yeah, the 500-year caste system we inherited has no scientific basis and lots of edge cases. But it's still a thing that exists as a social, economic, and political reality. I feel like quibbling over exactly how to draw those boundaries when racist politicians only care about those nuances when it benefits them delays any real action. They just don't care about quantifying genetic blackness when they're gerrymandering, shutting down voting services, redlining communities, or zoning their toxic waste. It's a system that will gladly throw to the machine white people who live on the "wrong side" of the street if it harms non-whites.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


*screams in anthropologist*
posted by ChuraChura at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2018 [57 favorites]


I took a design thinking course a few years ago that focused on universal design that would focus on accessibility for individuals with disabilities. One thing that struck me about design solutions for individuals with disabilities is that able-bodied individuals will pretty much always take advantage of these deign decisions. Most of the time, this harms no one, but if I (as an able-bodied person) walk on a ramp and impede someone in a wheelchair or use a wheelchair accessible stall while other stalls are readily available and hold up someone in a wheelchair, I'm unnecessarily taking a limited resource that I did not need in the first place to the detriment of someone else.

If you expand this concept beyond disabilities to look at individuals who have historically faced discriminatory systems and thus face multi-generational financial disadvantages, you see this same concept playing out in other areas. Low-cost loans meant to bolster communities that are historically minority owned/inhabited get snapped up by upwardly mobile white people. Individuals, such as the man profiled who never was assumed to be Black by the larger community, attempt to twist the guidelines of a program to gain an advantage.

This is probably a rambling comment, but my point is I hate to see how people will utilize benefits that were meant to level a playingfield when they already had advantage in the first place.
posted by piratebowling at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2018 [23 favorites]


In different timeline where our society was run by competent, kind, well-meaning people who genuinely wanted to solve problems, "how do DNA tests fit in with race tests for affirmative action" might be an interesting question. But since we're getting the rise of fascism instead, yeah, shoot him into the sun.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:48 PM on October 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


This guy does seem like kind of an asshole, but realistically, and this is an honest question because I just don't know, would his suggested "program [...] based on socioeconomic status, not race" be significantly worse for the minority people who benefit from the current program?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:43 PM on October 20 [+] [!]


It's naive to think that anyone with any power in the united states would help out non-white people unless it specifically says they have to. Yes, we've gotten that far
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:48 PM on October 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


Would common sense dictate that you need to be majority minority to qualify for such things or should I just not go there?

You can imagine a problematic counterexample, right?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:52 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Wow. Every time I think that article has hit bottom, I read the next paragraph. First,

Still, the results were enough for Taylor to update his birth certificate last November: It now says that he is black, Native American and Caucasian.

Methinks that the people in the birth certificate updating office need to learn to reject spurious claims from individuals arguing from dubious science.

And then he goes on about how disadvantaged his ancestors were before the article points out that this poor downtrodden soul has been able to self-fund a $300,000 lawsuit.

It makes me wonder, if he had just reinvested that $300k in his company instead of doing what he is doing...

Lord have mercy, this is just awful.
posted by 4ster at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2018 [15 favorites]


I'm reminded of the book title, "Everything but the burden"
posted by rmd1023 at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


This annoys the hell out of me and the people saying he has a point annoy me just as much. In the reverse, the majority of black people in the US descended from slavery routinely have percentages white ancestry higher than this but no one is clamoring for us to claim white privilege and all of its perks. If the average AA said they were multiracial people would look at then like they sprouted five heads.
posted by Freeze Peach at 2:49 PM on October 20, 2018 [50 favorites]


Individuals, such as the man profiled who never was assumed to be Black by the larger community, attempt to twist the guidelines of a program to gain an advantage.

I think he's just trying to make a point, albeit in a very abrasive way. If he wanted to twist the guidelines he'd just put the company in a female relative or "partner" with a friend or employee who is a minority. He can still own 49% of the company and qualify for most all programs. SO MANY people do this.

The SBA uses the terms "socially and economically disadvantaged". That is defined in a.... convoluted manner: read here! That's just the socially disadvantaged page btw.

I think the Feds did try really hard to set this up well, the purpose being to allow small local and minority owned companies to compete for federal contracts in their communities and not have big corporations come in from somewhere else and win all the bids. Which worked well! Too well! Regular corporations wanted some of that action. At this point the screening and monitoring must be out of control. And the various non-fed certification organizations they refer out to use all kinds of random criteria. One of the main ones uses "25% minority". To quote a friend in the construction trade "whatever the hell that means".
posted by fshgrl at 2:50 PM on October 20, 2018


re this guy: "you're not wrong, walter ralph, you're just an asshole."
posted by zippy at 2:53 PM on October 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


[One deleted; bleak jokes about racism probably not a great idea in this context; go ahead and make your point more directly instead.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:59 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


The debates about whether Obama was really American reveal that the one drop principle survives culturally long after Plessy.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:10 PM on October 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is very much a reminder back to some stuff that happened in a loved beach town. I'll let you read the articles if you want the whole story but it's basically one of those rare, or not I wouldn't know cuz I'm jaded as hell these days, cases where small town (generally red even) town circles about an individual that deserves it in the face of this sort of legal bullshitery. The nutshell version is this:

City has law against sidewalk peddlers. Person from elsewhere moves here and wants to sell hotdogs. City says no, obviously. Person in question says (not verbatim but essentially) "What about that lifelong-resident, elderly black guy with cerebral palsy that rides around [very, very slowly] on a tricycle playing the harmonica and selling things*?" The city's hand is forced to investigate the issue because, well, laws are laws. The town goes nuts. People literally march on town hall and mobs form shouting support and to leave Felix alone. City, eventually, is able to say fuck off, Felix is all good. Fin.

Some people are garbage. The guy who did this and the guy in OPs story are garbage. Plain and simple.


*Things may range from newspapers, grapes, bananas, mangos, or his mom's cookies.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:13 PM on October 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


1. As we should all know, "race" is a social construct. It has no real scientific basis.

2. Companies doing genetic testing observe that a certain genetic sequence appears X% of the time in their sample data for population 1 and Y% of the time in their sample data for population 2. They then use statistics to ascribe a likelihood that you have some "population 2" ancestry if you have that particular sequence. But the result is often that the customer interprets this as "Z% of my genetic makeup comes from population 2", when the methodology doesn't generally support that kind of statement.
posted by Slothrup at 3:25 PM on October 20, 2018 [20 favorites]


As we should all know, "race" is a social construct. It has no real scientific basis.

Thank you. Getting pretty squicked out by seeing ostensibly liberal people talking racial science lately and this guy in the OP needs to be trebucheted across medieval Europe.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:46 PM on October 20, 2018 [24 favorites]


> This annoys the hell out of me and the people saying he has a point annoy me just as much.

I'd like to see how you - or anyone for that matter - would define "minority for the purposes of minority business ownership" then. It looks like an intractable rats nest to me.
posted by Leon at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


1. As we should all know, "race" is a social construct. It has no real scientific basis.

I totally agree with you. But there are numerous organizations in the US right now who determine people's race for legal reasons. Most of them reserve the right to interview you see documentation of ancestry, all kinds of stuff like that. And sometimes there are very significant financial benefits at stake so they have cut-offs and guidelines and % of ancestry and stuff like that.

There are three separate things going on here
1. The rampant abuse of the minority and women-owned preference system.
2. How people are determined to be a minority. This appears to be the focus of the article but not the focus of the guy in the article, he is focused on No 1. and is using the most attention getting method he can to challenge it. He could have done the exact same thing if he had a family geneology / birth and death records and not DNA.
3. People on metfilter not liking the way other people use language and trying to enforce a set of rules based on their preferred usage and definition.

So before implying or straight up calling people in this thread racists, understand that you may not even be discussing the actual situation. Race and gender may not be absolutes or very meaningful in your world but they sure as shit are in the state and federal contracting worlds. Which the original article is about.
posted by fshgrl at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'd like to see how you - or anyone for that matter - would define "minority for the purposes of minority business ownership" then.

I mean? I would be fine having a rotating board of minorities or women or whatever is appropriate for the program auditing companies that get reported and deciding who’s full of shit and who isn’t.

I feel like the discomfort with this is half white progressives recoiling at having to discuss things that make them uncomfortable, and half an instinctual understanding that white people / the majority or power-advantaged group in question are uniquely incompetent to adjudicate this kind of offense. and so they just raise their hands up, like welp yeah this idiot with a 23andme kit has clearly outsmarted the best we had to offer, it’s just an impossible problem. Only no, it’s really not.

And the penalties for this kind of fraud should fuck people UP.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:40 PM on October 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


...that bit of fantasy civics might be partially motivated by the idea of a bunch of women or POC showing up and being like “congratulations, gasbag, you’re getting audited” and then shutting their shit down a month later by putting up red crime tape that says “ASSHOLES” across their office door.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:45 PM on October 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


As someone who really loves the sun, can we launch him into a star in a different solar system instead? Sorry to be so picky.
posted by cashman at 4:48 PM on October 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


> I mean? I would be fine having a rotating board of minorities or women or whatever is appropriate for the program auditing companies that get reported and deciding who’s full of shit and who isn’t.

Better than what's suggested in the article, but boils down to "you're a minority if someone else says you are". Don't you think that's going to lead to a lot of lawsuits?

(Not following up on this again - not my country. Just think that wherever you draw the line, someone's gonna be on the wrong side of it, and someone's gonna game it).
posted by Leon at 4:49 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


This was front page news a few days ago in LA.:
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's brother in law, William Wages under scrutiny for earning federal contracts based on Native American identity claim
According to the Times, the Small Business Administration accepted a claim from Wages that he is a Cherokee, allowing the company to receive the contracts.

Wages reportedly claims he is one-eighth Cherokee, and told the Times that he would be “very surprised” to learn he is not of Cherokee descent.

The group that Wages is a member of, the Northern Cherokee Nation, is not recognized as a legitimate tribe by either the state or the federal government and is considered fraudulent by leaders of recognized tribes, according to the Times.
The original LA Times article included a bit about how Wages described being discriminated against because the loan officer could tell he was Native American? (I forget exactly what the scenario was)
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:57 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


> I mean? I would be fine having a rotating board of minorities or women or whatever is appropriate for the program auditing companies that get reported and deciding who’s full of shit and who isn’t.

That IS how it's done guys.
posted by fshgrl at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Even if you assume that DNA tests tell you something meaningful about ethnicity (ancestry and ethnicity are not the same) and just consider population genetics, this is STILL very stupid because as it happens, almost nobody with 4 percent or less African admixture identifies as Black. If anything this test result is, speaking purely empirically, evidence in support of a white identity. (Pulling this kind of entitled stunt is, of course, evidence in its own way for a white identity... but I digress.)

Any simple genetic "cutoff" is going to have a risk of false negatives and positives (and is an estimate anyway), and percent admixture is actually not a good proxy at all for the physical features that influence how someone is "read" by our culture. I just wanted to point out that in effect what this test actually says is, "this guy is probably white."
posted by en forme de poire at 5:04 PM on October 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'm glad no white folks have the nerve to walk in here and say how things should be done.. it's refreshing for them to take a back seat for once.
posted by some loser at 5:05 PM on October 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


As usual, OTM has a thoughtful piece on some of these issues. Mainly they go to smart people who are actually involved not just commentators and they give it enough time. Worth the hour.

Bloodlines: They have to cover the news of Kashoggi's murder, but in an OTM way, then on with the genetics, race, and kinship. You can go direct to each segment.

2. Kim TallBear, [@KimTallBear] professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta and author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science, on the way "blood" has been used to undermine tribal sovereignty.

3. Alondra Nelson, [@alondra] president of the Social Science Research Council, professor of sociology at Columbia University and author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome, on why DNA testing has been so valuable to African-American communities.

4. Nancy Segal, [@nlsegal] director of the Twin Studies center at California State University at Fullerton and author of Accidental Brothers: The Story of Twins Exchanged at Birth and the Power of Nature and Nurture, on what we've learned about human nature from the study of twins.

posted by Gotanda at 5:10 PM on October 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


That IS how it's done guys.

Wait what? I was responding to the comments saying that bogus DNA tests were used to “authenticate” claims?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2018


My understanding is that the tests themselves are not bogus, it is the interpretation thereof which strains credulity? Or is it because race is a social construct that you can't actually test for it? i'm genuniely confused and I may have to stop identifying as any race at all on government forms if I don't get a coherent, detailed answer to this question. My whole identity is now in limbo. Thanks folks, thanks a lot.
posted by some loser at 5:27 PM on October 20, 2018


I'd like to see how you - or anyone for that matter - would define "minority for the purposes of minority business ownership" then. It looks like an intractable rats nest to me.

Great! I'm planning on going to law school AND pursuing a dual masters, most likely in public policy, JUST so I can tackle things like this on a board or organization. I'd actually like to do this; I'm not saying I'd be amazing at it, but this is literally the kind of stuff that motivates me to be a lawyer or policy maker in governments, non profits or public institutions. White people in the U.S. have spent literally hundreds of years defining minority status, especially when it comes to the two groups that make up my particular race and identity, thanks to redlining, the one drop rule, voting rights, school choice, and other policies.

Yes, race is a social construct -- I know. I also have a different perspective here than a lot of you, and to be honest it's kind of difficult and uncomfortable for me to find a way to express it that makes sense. I'm not a scientist, and I'm trying to get more education so I can better inform my experiences and give them nuance, not touch off another derail about race and DNA. I'm actually worried my initial comment was too snarky.
posted by Freeze Peach at 5:32 PM on October 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


Now I'm curious: which, if any, country/society/rules making group does the process recognizing inequality and forumulating programs/laws/whatever to combat that well? Is there a good model out there?
posted by maxwelton at 5:56 PM on October 20, 2018


Wait what? I was responding to the comments saying that bogus DNA tests were used to “authenticate” claims?

It sounded like you were talking about the businesses who claim S&ED, minority or woman owned status and shouldn't. Particularly when you added this. Sorry for any confusion.
...that bit of fantasy civics might be partially motivated by the idea of a bunch of women or POC showing up and being like “congratulations, gasbag, you’re getting audited” and then shutting their shit down a month later by putting up red crime tape that says “ASSHOLES” across their office door.

And I was replying that pretty much is how those businesses do earn many of the preferred certs. For example this is the (terribly named) National Minority Supplier Development Council, a much used certification, and that's pretty much how they determine what you "are". It's how tribes do it too. SBA follows the Fed Code I posted above so it's presumably a mix of people making then decisions about who is in and who is out.

The way to improve it, as any system, is to sit down with the people who use it and ask them how it can be improved. Both the business owners and the people trying to do the certifications. I mean DNA exists and people are gonna keep suing them because this is America. They have to figure something out. Good luck Freeze Peach- the legal, social and emotional aspects are way outside the scope of what science can tell you I think.

In the meantime it is good to see some of the more blatant abusers getting in trouble like in that LA Times article. Because anyone in the construction business could tell you a hundred similar stories. It's very annoying.

The company is co-owned by McCarthy's mother-in-law

51% I bet.
posted by fshgrl at 5:56 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yes, racial hierarchy and prejudice - it’s a social construct. I wish the imbalance of “worth” as a human will someday stop, but the celebration of ethnic and ancestral culture, etc., needs to be celebrated - separate issue.

To me, (not a scientist) race is like blood type, people who live in a concentrated region have sued with each other and people look more alike - “everyone gets Grandma’s nose,” simplistically.

It’s sickening to use physical traits to hinder and harm.

My dad was a Colville Conf tribal member... I’m way more than 4% Native American, but the “blood” cut off ended with him. My kids and I would have several opportunities unavailable to us now based on this guy’s argument. Despite the horrific poverty and lack of resources of all kinds. Tribal members qualify for things because they’ve been systematically harmed and it’s supposed to help but no. Still, I could classify my work differently, many breadcrumb type things tribal members have that would help me. Federal money - not taking from the needest folks. I’m not doing that - I would like the work classification though. Wouldn’t cost a thing and would mean a lot to me. But that’s never going to happen. That’s fine.

I’ve done a lot of research in my family, my dad transcribed oral histories... I have census records... guess what? Everyone LIED back then because, who wants to be a savage? Made to go to Mission schools to teach things that would lead to servant work. My dad registered at the minimum - it was something to be ashamed of... he received thousands of tax free money every year, though among other things.


Wow, what messy issue. Minorities don’t get a head start and these ‘benefits’ don’t come close to evening things out but it’s necessary until we get over this nonsense, someday.
posted by misondre at 6:13 PM on October 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Oh, so this is how white supremacy will strike back. Damn. Race is not biological, but these racialized DNA tests are the newest form of supremacist rhetoric.
posted by eustatic at 7:52 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


White male small business owner here. A few years ago I went to a disadvantaged business networking seminar and the keynote speech was by our esteemed senator, by all accounts a good man, a little to the right but a Democrat. After the speech they passed around a mic for people to ask questions or make comments, and I had something to say, which I paraphrase from memory:
I have a construction business and sometimes it happens that I lose a contract or a subcontract to another company with a slightly higher price due to disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) set-asides ...
At this point I realize there are several dozen black men looking straight at this white man talking about affirmative action, but hang on:
... and that's okay. America made the decision to pay a little more on public projects to improve equality and I support that. I want equality. What I have a problem with is losing a contract to a company with one minority owner who employees 50 white guys. Those white guys are reaping a benefit intended for minorities, so America isn't getting the equality it's paying for.
The faces around me are now noticeably more relaxed.
I would like to see the rules changed so that DBE certification requires that a certain percentage of a DBE company's employees must be people who, if they owned businesses, would qualify as DBE owners.
At this point the senator asked why that should matter. Doesn't the government have to draw the line somewhere? I replied:
A few years back an African-American former [local sports team athlete] got in trouble for being a pass through for the structural steel for our new stadium from a white-owned business. That is against the law. I'm saying the same principle that applies to materials should also apply for the labor that a company provides.
In my later fantasies, at this point I say Can I have an Amen? and a loud murmur of approval ripples through the room. But I did get some nice approving eye contact from people around me. Later I shared the elevator down with said senator and he appreciated my comment and I made a good point. As far as I know, nothing came of it.

I think of inequality as a chasm that separates two halves of the people and affirmative action is like a bridge that we build across the chasm so that people and goods and money will flow, improving the lives of the people on the poor side of the chasm. Over time, houses and businesses are built on both ends of the bridge and lives of people who live and work there are centered around it. Then the businesses get consolidated, as businesses will, and they become gatekeepers that everyone else has to go through, and start charging tolls. They collect the equality money and disburse it. So the effect of the intended equality program is blunted by the natural inertia of human behavior.

I believe the reason this doesn't get changed is because these gatekeeper owners are a single point of contact for donation bundlers. Why ask for donations at retail when you can ask wholesale? Politicians have to spend too much time as it is asking for donations, so the natural management decision is to move up to bigger asks from a smaller base. Less time asking is more time governing I suppose. These are our Democrats, so let's not be too harsh on them until after the election. Or is it the next one, or the one after that?
posted by M-x shell at 9:11 PM on October 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


To me, (not a scientist) race is like blood type

I'm not a scientist either but I'm pretty sure this is a faulty analogy. There are a variety of different blood typing systems as I understand it but I believe they're based on specific behaviors and properties you can demonstrate in a laboratory experimentally when blood interacts with other biological things.

In contrast, a system of racial classification doesn't have the same sort of empirical predictive capabilities. And historically, as far as I know, attempts to scientifically systematize race have failed miserably to even develop coherent and consistent descriptive capabilities.
posted by XMLicious at 9:17 PM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Race is a social constructs.

Social constructs are real things. For instance, days of the week are social constructs.

Luckily, we can define days of the week by consensus.

For example, if a substantial number of Americans perceive you as black, you face certain disadvantages. If a substantial number of Americans perceived your parents as black, they faced certain disadvantages, the effects of which may have been passed on to you (e.g. a lack of generational wealth, property ownership, etc.). You can iterate this back through history.

What we're concerned about is not genetic, but social inheritance, and what has been historically denied. That, combined with an attempt to offset the effects of prejudice based on appearance.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:41 PM on October 20, 2018 [15 favorites]


Not on the race issue, but on the gender equality side of the fence. One of our local brewery owners, Ting Su, who owns Eagle Rock Brewery with her husband and father in law, had to settle out of court with one of these shit bird professional plaintiff types. He claimed discrimination here in California because Ting had started a monthly "Women's Beer Forum" to do craft beer education directed to those who identify as women in a comfortable environment. Aka - hey Craft Beer is way overly white dude, how do we expand the appreciative audience.

Initial employee said "oh sorry, the event is only open to women." Dude threatened a law suit. Brewery reached out and said "let's talk and figure out how we make this work and still honor the intent". Ballboy said "no" and engaged CA's legal authority for this stuff. Super frustrating because the state had to take the case up. So, asswipe, gets his 10k to go away by virtue of his bad father

As a white cisdude, this guy (and his ilk like the dude in the OP's article or the guy who sued the Padres for a "Mother's Day" promotion) give us all a bad name.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:53 PM on October 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


To me, (not a scientist) race is like blood type

I'm not a scientist either but I'm pretty sure this is a faulty analogy


XMlicious: you’re right. It is a really faulty analogy. Hopefully the larger idea is clear. Man this is difficult. So many forces are at play. My head hurts.

I think my point came across anyway... hope so!

What humans have done and do is so cruel and disgusting and immoral and evil - it’s hard to see it seeming to be getting worse. Nauseating. We judge and limit based on skin color, the presence of certain glands, and things like ovaries. It’s insane.

Maybe this guy’s bad-faith attempt to be clever (fail) will backfire in a positive way so that people can learn a little from it. That would be awesome...

...but, good call. Thank you!
posted by misondre at 11:09 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


when will white people Stop
posted by poffin boffin at 12:27 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can anybody more familiar with the blaxploitation canon confirm whether or not "I’m certified black in all 50 states." is something this guy lifted from, say, Super Fly?
posted by LiteOpera at 6:12 AM on October 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


There is no biological basis for race. There is no biological basis for race. There is no biological basis for race.

Race is something that white people made up in order to justify their oppression of black people and indigenous Americans. That's all it is! That's not to say it's not real, clearly it's real because it has a massive effect on society, but it has nothing to do with DNA or any other biological concept because there is no biological basis for race. It's just an idea, a concept, a heuristic for looking at the world and dividing people up and then oppressing them.

It exists, but only within our minds. If we persist in believing that there is any kind of scientific backing for the concept of race whatsoever, we will never be able to free our society from its oppressive effects. There is no such backing; read ChuraChura's link above if you feel like you're having trouble wrapping your head around this.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:52 AM on October 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


To expand slightly on my comment above, a DNA test for race is exactly as scientific as a brown paper bag test. Which is to say, not scientific.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:17 PM on October 21, 2018


For people who may be confused about why we can learn about human ancestry through population genetics even though race is not a biological category, I'd recommend this piece by Fujimura et al (PDF) which I think does a really good job of parsing out the difference.

(Disclaimer: I'm not an anthropologist or sociologist; I do have some basic knowledge about human population genetics.)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:53 PM on October 21, 2018


I had this contentious conversation with someone a couple of months back about the popular science journalism announcements in the last several years concerning the presence of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in modern humans (again, not a scientist or anything myself) which I realized—in the post mortem of the discussion in my head—was actually a proxy discussion about race.

Something which caused problems was my interlocutor's fixed and simplistic understanding of the concept of “species”... according to that Wikipedia article and other things I've read, there isn't a single definition of species which works for all purposes in science. Hence a different definition or systematization is used depending on the purpose or the question being asked.

So it seems that down underneath all of the layers of social phenomena and racism and conflation of those things with scientific or otherwise seemingly-objective ideas are more, even deeper, layers of confusion about how biology and heredity even work anyways, in the counterfactual situation people imagine that race has anything to do with that stuff.

(Confusion about those things, and intentional propagandizing of scientific and academic concepts in service of white supremacy and Herrenvolk fantasies as well, of course. Sometimes by scientists. And by marketing people for companies selling bargain-basement-DNA-test-slash-surveillance-database services.)
posted by XMLicious at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2018


Also, I want to acknowledge quickly that when I said upthread that this test result translated to "probably white," that was sloppy of me. I want to clarify that I was talking purely in terms of a statistical prediction, in the same way that you could do a decent job guessing someone's race using totally non-biological factors like their street address. I didn't mean to give the impression that race somehow naturally emerges from genetics, or that authentically Black people who would have small percentages of predicted African admixture don't exist -- of course there are authentically Black people with predicted African ancestry ranging anywhere from <1 to 100 percent. Studies have found that the physical features that people use as one aspect of racial classification, for instance, are actually remarkably poor proxies for the proportion of ancestry from African or Native populations. I just wanted to point out the irony that even if you took the absurd, harmful position taken by this particular bad actor at face value, i.e., that ancestry estimated by DNA sequencing is some kind of "ultimate test" of someone's racial identity, that even then his interpretation of his test results is still totally wrong and transparently self-serving.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:25 PM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


There is no biological basis for race. It's just an idea, a concept, a heuristic for looking at the world and dividing people up and then oppressing them.It exists, but only within our minds

Melanin and farmer's tan disagree.
posted by Damienmce at 5:33 AM on October 22, 2018


Melanin and farmer's tan disagree.

Many of the key markers of "race" that are cited, especially skin tone, developed independently in genetically distinct populations. The majority of those populations are still found in Africa, which has more human diversity than the rest of the world combined. The fact that two individuals have a superficially similar phenotype doesn't mean they inherited that from a common ancestor. For that matter, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have the same genotype either.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:22 AM on October 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


"race" as we socially construct it is about SO MUCH MORE than melanin and to argue otherwise is disingenuous and willfully obtuse.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:25 AM on October 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


Melanin and farmer's tan disagree.

Melanin expression is one of many traits used to determine race (facial features, hair texture, etc.) that has a genetic basis. But these traits vary independently, not together, people with high melanin levels do not form a coherent phylogenetic group (i.e. they descend from many different unrelated populations - many people of Micronesian descent have dark skin and curly hair without having any significant African ancestry, and even within Africa populations from different regions are at least as different genetically as Europeans are from Black Americans), and as I said above these traits do not correspond very well to the degree of African ancestry a person has: for a dramatic example see the case of Sandra Laing. This is what people mean when they say race is not a "natural" biological/genetic grouping. It's a human heuristic that was designed to divide people into a ruling class and a subservient class. Biological rationalizations are post hoc.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:35 AM on October 22, 2018 [12 favorites]


Melanin and farmer's tan disagree.

Doesn't it seem awfully odd to you that an extremely externally visible inherited trait, out of all inherited traits, would end up being the salient and defining characteristic in some broader hypothetical biologically-based “race” phenomenon, rather than, say, earwax texture, or which finger is on top when you clasp your hands, or something like that?

Anyway, you picked wrong. It's actually the cleft chin characteristic which is truly biologically definitive of race and one day I and my sisters and brothers of all skin tones will rule over our chinferiors. Also we will have special preferential parking spots like executives and a distinctive edition of the iPhone which can only be owned by the cleft-chinned.
posted by XMLicious at 10:20 AM on October 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Plessy v. Furgeson--a decision that is considered obsolete but has not been directly nullified--demonstrated that the legal and cultural construction of race in America is about power. The only thing that marked Homer Plessy as having a black grandmother was his honesty as an act of protest against segregation.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:41 PM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


So I take it he'll be on the front lines of the next Black Lives Matter rally, right?
posted by gtrwolf at 8:08 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


(/sarcasm)
posted by gtrwolf at 9:07 PM on October 22, 2018


MIT Technology Review
DNA databases are too white. This man aims to fix that.
Carlos D. Bustamante’s hunt for genetic variations between populations should help us better understand and treat disease.
How good are we at making sure that the genomic data we’re collecting is inclusive?

I’m optimistic, but it’s not there yet.

In our 2011 paper, the statistic we had was that more than 96% of participants in genome-wide association studies were of European descent. In the follow-up in 2016, the number went from 96% to around 80%. So that’s getting better. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, a lot of that is due to the entry of China into genetics. A lot of that was due to large-scale studies in Chinese and East Asian populations. Hispanics, for example, make up less than 1% of genome-wide association studies. So we need to do better. Ultimately, we want precision medicine to benefit everybody.

[...]

Many genetic researchers have long argued that race has no basis in science. But the debate doesn’t seem to go away.

In a global context there is no model of three, or five, or even 10 human races. There is a broad continuum of genetic variation that is structured, and there are pockets of isolated populations. Three, five, or 10 human races is just not an accurate model; it is far more of a continuum model.

Humans are a beautifully diverse species both phenotypically and genetically. This is very classic population genetics. If I walk from Cape Horn all the way to the top of Finland, every village looks like the village next to it, but at the extremes people are different.

But as a population geneticist?

I don’t find race a meaningful way to characterize people.
posted by XMLicious at 1:38 AM on October 24, 2018


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