The Sciences

Political correctness in 1900 and 2000

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanOct 6, 2011 11:59 AM


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In my post yesterday I made the comment that it seems that British media in particular seems to have a fascination with "different race twins." The generalization derives from the fact that people who email me these stories tend to point to British sources, but I decided to Google it. I think I'll stick by my assertion. These stories aren't exclusively British, but they're clearly driven by the British media. But in the process of looking at stories on this topic I ran into a story in The Guardian on a pair of fraternal twins of different complexions who are now adults. These two are different more than in just physical appearance. One is gay and the other is straight. This section dovetails with something else I mentioned yesterday:

Alyson got used to the comments and the stares, the sniggers about their parentage and the "stupid things people said" when her boys were babies; but then, when Daniel and James went to nursery aged three, the twins' skin colour plunged the family into controversy. "They were at this very politically correct nursery, and the staff told us that when Daniel drew a picture of himself, he had to make himself look black – because he was mixed-race," says Alyson. "And I said, that's ridiculous. Why does Daniel have to draw himself as black, when a white face looks back at him in the mirror?" After a row with the nursery staff, she gave interviews to her local paper and TV. "I kicked up a fuss, because it really bothered me," she says. "Daniel had one white parent and one black, so why couldn't he call himself white? Why does a child who is half-white and half-black have to be black? Especially when his skin colour is quite clearly white! In some ways it made me feel irrelevant – as though my colour didn't matter. There seemed to be no right for him to be like me."

It's a social convention that people of mixed black-white ancestry are black, especially in the United States. In fact in the USA black Americans themselves espouse this viewpoint, as is evident in the case of Barack Obama. But it does seem ridiculous that a mixed person whose physical appearance is more European would be forced to draw a self-portrait which was more African. Especially a child who has probably not internalized the various ideologies which adults take for granted in our societies. Madison Grant though would agree heartily with this decision:

Grant advocated restricted immigration to the United States through limiting immigration from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as well as the complete end of immigration from East Asia. He also advocated efforts to purify the American population through selective breeding. He served as the vice president of the Immigration Restriction League from 1922 to his death. Acting as an expert on world racial data, Grant also provided statistics for the Immigration Act of 1924 to set the quotas on immigrants from certain European countries...Even after passing the statute, Grant continued to be irked that even a smattering of non-Nordics were allowed to immigrate to the country each year. He also assisted in the passing and prosecution of several anti-miscegenation laws, notably the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in the state of Virginia, where he sought to codify his particular version of the "one-drop rule" into law.

From Wikipedia:

The Racial Integrity Act required that a racial description of every person be recorded at birth and divided society into only two classifications: white and colored (all other, essentially, which included numerous American Indians). It defined race by the "one-drop rule", defining as colored persons with any African or Indian ancestry.

Obviously today's high priests of political correctness do not share the aims of someone like Madison Grant. But for the purposes of maintaining racial and cultural integrity (in this case, that of non-whites!) they have perpetuated a framework which came into being at a specific period of time in the 19th century, when white superiority was taken for granted, and the division between whites and non-whites was seen to be most useful. But in a genuinely multi-polar world this mentality is very outmoded. But ideologies often outlast their utility. Ask the Confucian Mandarins in 1900.

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