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The Concepts of Racialist Race and Socialrace

2500 words

I have chronicled Hardimon’s minimalist and populationist race concepts in a few different articles. They show that race is a biological reality. The arguments that show that race exists are sound. Hardimon, unlike Spencer, distinguishes social from biological concepts of race. For Spencer, race is both a social and biological concept. For Hardimon, race is either a biological or social concept which is why he delineates the social concept from the biological concepts. The two concepts—racialist race and socialrace—are similar, and because they are similar they will both be discussed in the same article.

The racialist concept of race

The racialist concept of race is the first concept of race that Hardimon (2017) defines. He sets out six things that need to be true of human genetics, in his eyes, for the racialist concept of race to be true:

(a) The fraction of human genetic diversity between populations must exceed the fraction of diversity between them.

(b) The fraction of human genetic diversity within populations must be small.

(c) The fraction of diversity between populations must be large.

(d) Most genes must be highly differentiated by race.

(e) The variation in genes that underlie obvious physical differences must be typical of the genome in general.

(f) There must be several important genetic differences between races apart from the genetic differences that underlie obvious physical differences.

Note: (b) says that racialist races are genetically racially homogeneous groups; (c)-(f) say that racialist races are distinguised by major biological differences.

Call (a)-(f) the racialist concept of race’s genetic profile. (Hardimon, 2017: 21)

The racialist race concept, as opposed to the populationist and minimalist race concepts, propose to rank races on traits such as intelligence, morals, and cultural characters to different races. Though, he does strawman the racialist concept (which would be the HBD concept of race, I’d say) because he says things like “To be a member of a particular race would be to be a particular person who is disposed to behave in certain ways. Because of this, if racialist races existed, race would constitute a very significant kind.” This statement aside, though, race does not constitute a very significant kind, it constitutes a modest biological kind.

If one condition for the racialist concept of race is said to be that of an essence of different races, then the racialist concept of race is surely false. This is due to population thinking. Population thinking is a type of thinking that maintains that there is no single way in which genotypes are expressed by genotypes. Thus, there is no phenotypic or genotypic property that could play the role of racial essence. “Since there are no biological essences, there are no racialist race essences, and since there are no racialist race essences, there are no racialist races. The existence of racialist races is incompatible with a broad structural principle of biology” (Hardimon, 2017: 20).

Hardimon has many arguments against the existence of racialist races, including:

The corresponding argument against the truth of the racialist concept of race is that science has not found it to be the case that members of the groups thought to be racialist races share a very large number of important properties by virtue of which they count as members of such groups. Nor does it seem likely that science will find that members of groups thought to be racialist races share a very large number of such properties. The results of Lewontin’s 1972 study and Rosenberh and colleague’s 2002 study strongly suggest that it is extremely unlikely that there are many important genetic differences between races apart from the genetic differences that underlie the obvious physical differences. (pg 24)

Another argument he puts for is that if racialist races exist, then the races would be sharply distinguished between phenotypic and genotypic characteristics. Though, since most of the variation between human races are clinal, he argues, “human populations are not sharply distinguished from one another along a broad range of phenotypic and genotypic dimensions. It follows from this that there are no racialist races” (pg 25).

Hardimon also says that, if racialist races did indeed exist, human populations would be sharply divided by skin color, yet they aren’t. These differences between races are continuous and vary between populations, thus racialist races do not exist. He also says since genetic variation in Homo sapiens is nonconcordant “there are no racialist races” (pg 25).

The likelihood that racialist races exist is especially low relative to the available alternative hypotheses, which indlude the hypothesis that there are no races, period, and the hypothesis that, whereas racialist races do not exist, minimalist races do exist. It is safe to conclude that there are no racialist races, period. (pg 25)

The racialist race concept lacks scientific respectability, it does not represent any “facts of the matter“, and it “supports and legalizes domination” (Hardimon, 2017: 62). It is therefore, socially constructed in a pernicious sense. Racialist races are both ideological and social constructions which then purport to pick out biological kinds.

The concept of socialrace

Socialrace is simply defined as the nonracialist concept of social groups that are taken to be racialist races. Socialraces refer to:

(1) a social group that is taken to be a racialist race,
(2) the social position is occupied by a particular social group that is a socialrace, or
(3) the system of social positions that are socialraces. (Hardimon, 2017: 131)

Socialraces are social groups that are taken or thought to be racialist races. Thus, they are wrongly taken to be racialist races. The two concepts socialrace and racialist race are similar—they both are hierarchical. Since socialrace is a social reality, then it must play a role in our everyday social lives.

Hardimon discusses many things regarding socialrace that many readers—myself included, on some of the things—would disagree with. For instance, he states that “institutional racism”. Hardimon claims that institutional racism “obtains when and where socialrace obtains” (pg 133).

He argues that socialrace is “inter alia a relation of power“, and so the institution is also characterized “by the unequal distribution of social goods such as liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect. Socialrace is a system of advantages (purportedly) based on racialist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 133).

He then argues that differences in socialrace are associated with differences in life outcomes of the socialraces. Thus, “the belief that people are members of a biological race . . . is essential to the social construction of races” (Bernard Boxill, quoted in Hardimon, 2017: 133). Of course, the belief that people are members of a biological race is essential to the social construction of races, because the biological correlate of these socially constructed racial groups is the minimalist concept of race.

Socialrace, of course, has a biological correlate. That biological correlate is minimalist races. Minimalist races can be understood through the populationist race concept. Of course, saying that socialrace has a biological correlate in minimalist race does not necessarily mean that there are corresponding minimalist races for every socialrace. For example, “Hispanics/Latinos” can be said to be a socialrace, but they do not have a corresponding minimalist race because they do not genetically transmit distinct phenotypic characters which correspond to geographic ancestry. Using this terminology, the Irish were, at one point, a socialrace, whereas the Jews are treated as a socialrace today, when they are a subrace of the Caucasian race (they are not their own separate race, that’s like saying the British or Germans are a separate race). Minimalist race then appears to be a necessary condition for socialraces because they pick out real patterns of distinct physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry.

Socialraces, though, do not need to exhibit patterns of visible physical features; even if no such differences existed, groups could still be socialraces, for instance, social classes and other groups can be constructed to be socialraces. The concept of socialrace is a distinctive “race” concept (Hardimon, 2017: 139). Thus, the concept of socialrace is a distinctive concept and it is needed (because it discusses social realities). The idea of a social system based on the racialist concept of race can, therefore, said to be the idea of socialrace (Hardimon, 2017: 140).

Socialrace is clearly separate from the term ‘race’, and so, it is not a ‘race’ concept like the other three concepts, it is distinct with the “socialrace” moniker. This is how we show that, when talking about races in a social sense, there are differences between this concept and the scientific minimalist and populationist race concepts. One can think of it this way: the socialrace concept of race can be of use for sociologists and others whereas the minimalist and populationist concepts of race can be useful for biologists and population geneticists.

Whether or not a group is counted as a socialrace is contingent on whether or not the group in question is treated as a socialrace by the larger society. So, in this sense, “Hispanics/Latinos” can be said to be a socialrace, but, remember, they do not have a corresponding minimalist (populationist) race.

One is “properly” counted a member of a socialrace SR if one in fact satisfies the socially accepted criteria in the correlative putative racialist race. Thus, for example, a person belongs to the socialrace black (in the United States) if he or she has any identifiable sub-Saharan African ancestry because he or she satisfies accepted US criteria for bring a member of the racialist race black.

To “pass” (for example, for white) in a system of socialrace is to be taken to be white (to satisfy the socially accepted criteria for whiteness) despite the dact that one does not satisfy those criteria (for example, by virtue of possesion of “one drop” of “black blood”). The possibility of “passing” (in a given society) points to an important variable in the practical significance of socialrace membership. An individual counts as a member of a socialrace cimply by virtue of satisfying the socially accepted criteria for membership in the corresponding racialist race. Socialrace membership is itself a real social status with real social consequences. In the case of the socialrace black, subjection to antiblack racism is a standing possibility. But the actial practical signifigance of membership in a socialrace will vary with the degree to which the individual is subject to the norms associated with the racialist race to which the individual is taken to belong. (Hardimon, 2017: 144)

Socialraces are a real, social reality. They have a biological correlate in minimalist races and are taken to be racialist races, but racialist races do not exist therefore socialraces are social, not biological, in nature, even though the minimalist race concept can be said to be its biological correlate.

My contention is that the concept I have reflectively uncovered is aleeady in general circulation without being fully recognized as the concept that it is. I have endeavered to make it possible to get a proper hold on the concept and to secure an adequate reflective understanding of its content. If the reader thinks that my account of the concept SOCIALRACE captures a notion she or he has already been using, so much the better. I hope to have clarified that concept. As for the word ‘socialrace’, my hope is that it catches on, that its dissemenation promotes understanding of the phenomenon of socialrace, and that this in turn contribubtes to the dismantling of the latter’s existence.

Hardimon says that the concept of SOCIALRACE can help us better grasp the phenomenon of socialrace. Socialrace is real and illusory, it has “real causal powers (for example, causing people’s death) and that is illusory insofar that it appears to be racialist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 172). Socialraces exist and are a significant social reality, especially since socially determined categories can make biological realities (Kaplan, 2010).

When discussing socialraces, we can say that Jews are sometimes taken to be a socialrace (although they are a part of the Caucasian race) as are Arabs (who are also Caucasian, and thusly not a separate race from Europeans or Jews). However, the US Census Bureau categories take these groups to be “white”; that is the socialgroup “white” in the United States.

Regarding the black socialrace, they comprise numerous “Hispanic/Latino” populations (such as many Dominicans, some Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans and other Latin American countries with high African admixture). Australian Aborigines and Pacific Islanders can be said to be part of the black socialrace in America, too. The fact of the matter is, socialrace in America just pretty much chooses features that people “think” go with race A, and if they see similar-looking people from two different continents, they will assume that they are part of the same race (as is the case with Aborigines and Pacific Islanders being black, even though they are a distinct group; McEvoy et al, 2010Spencer, 2014).

Lastly, are Asians. In America, “Asians” are taken to be just East Asians (though in the UK when they talk about “Asians” in their police statistics or in the news, they most probably mean Pakistanis. They are not wrong, they are on the Asian continent. However, that is to mislead the people into thinking that what people term Asian (East Asians) are committing the crimes or whatnot, when it’s Pakistanis. The socialrace of Asian in America comprises East and South Asians (some would include Indians, too but they are Caucasian). The socialraces closely mirror Rushton’s three main races, but they are arbitrary, putting populations into groups where they do not belong.

Conclusion

As can be seen, the concepts of socialrace and racalist race are similar. These two concepts are needed to understand each other. Most people, when talking about race, discuss the socialrace concept so it would do them some good to read up more on the concept itself. The racialist concept of race purports to pick out biological kinds and then rank them on a hierarchy in a slew of different traits (which are not physical). Racialist races also purport that racial essences exist, but since essences as a whole do not exist, then racial essences do not exist either. Further, since genetic variation in Homo sapiens is nonconcordant, racialist races do not exist.

Socialrace is simple. Most likely, however you’ve thought about race throughout your life is the socialrace concept. It has a biological correlate in minimalist races. For socialraces to exist, there must be distinctive visible patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry. Thus, minimalist race is a necessary condition for socialrace. Socialrace is a social reality. And if socialrace is a social reality, then it must play a role in our everyday lives.

When these two concepts are looked at together, we can see how and why both of the concepts have been around for as long as they have: they purport to pick out a biological kind, a distinct biological kind. Racialist races do not exist, but just because racialist races do not exist does not mean that socialraces do not exist, because even if, say, minimalist or populationist races did not exist, the concept of socialrace would still be important because socially determined categories can make biological realities (Kaplan, 2010).

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