Friday, September 21, 2012

More anthropological confusion

In last night's debate between Massachusetts Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, Brown told the audience "The professor said she is a Native American, a person of color, and you can see she's not."

You can "see" that she has no Native American ancestry? Really? I guess Brown has some kind of special vision that allows him to see into people's DNA. Or something. I don't know if Warren has Native American ancestry or not, but I do know that you can't just look at someone and tell. As anthropologists have demonstrated, there is no reliable way to place people into the imaginary categories that we call "races."

And...  Given what we know about gene flow in the United States, there's a better than one in ten chance that Brown himself is African-American.  This is because placement in the culturally constructed category of "African-American" in the US is determined by what anthropologist Marvin Harris called the Hypodescent Rule: any [known] African ancestry makes you African-American.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, when I trace my ancestry back a mere 100 to 200 millennia I too have African roots!


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