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Should ‘Race’ Be a Factor in Dating? On Racial Preferences and Dating

2350 words

On Twitter, user @rasmansa wrote thatOne of the places race is least important is in deciding who you should be in love with.” On this view, I strongly disagree, as romantic relationships that lead to love often begin with physical attraction between both parties.

When one thinks of sexual relationships, one thinks of physical attraction. Physical attraction is what, in the first place, draws two people together more often than not. It is then after the two get to know each other that the other’s personality then makes them more or less attractive. But they originally began talking due to the fact that they found each other physically attractive. So, “should” race not matter in decide who you should or should not fall in love with?

If most people talk to a new person of the opposite sex with the intent of becoming romantic partners on the basis of looks first and personality later, then race should matter to one’s dating prospects. Race would then matter in these prospects as certain racial groups (whether social or minimal) look differently from each other. When we think of racial groups, we think of outward appearance.

So take Joe. Joe is attracted to white skin, red hair, freckles etc. The woman that Joe is attracted to seems to be Irish, so Joe would then reject those women who do not meet his physical criteria. I am not saying that a woman can have the three aforementioned physical traits and not be Irish, since it is possible that a woman of a different ethnic group may have similar features, the Irish signifier, too, would be a factor in Joe’s choice of who he dates.

When we think of different races, we think of different clusters of traits that go with certain races, on average. So if we then imagine that Joe is not attracted to typically “black traits”—like tightly curled hair, big lips, and light brown to dark skin (as the phenotype ranges in skin color between almost-white looking but-not-quite to dark), then Joe would not want to date those with typically “black” features. This would then include Melanesians/Papuans/Australian Aborigines since they, too, have a similar phenotype (although they are not of the same race).

So take a white person that does not have typically “white” features and they trend to look more “black” as they have tightly curled hair, big lips, and darker skin (relative to how one perceives the average white), then they will not date them. This shows that ancestry is not (fully) in the conversation here, as even though the person in question may not be of race R, they have certain features that Rs have, and so Joe would not date them. But if one is of a certain (social)race then one is more likely to look a certain way, which means that if Joe likes a certain phenotype over another, then Joe would not be attracted to certain races and he would be attracted to others.

Now we can make the argument:

If one isn’t attracted to a particular phenotype, and R (a race) is more likely to have a particular phenotype compared to another R, then race is important who you fall in love with, as races have different phenotypes and phenotype dictates attraction first-and-foremost—before one has the chance to learn their personality and learn if they are compatible.

But what about mismatches? Take Britain and their classification of Pakistanis as ‘Asian.’ While technically true (they are on the Asian continent), they are not what one in America would think of when they hear the term ‘Asian.’ Now let’s say that Joe is American and when Joe hears “Asian” he does not think of brown-skinned Pakistanis he thinks of ‘East Asians.’ Let’s say that Joe is not attracted to Asians as he thinks of them (‘East Asians’) and then hears of the British ‘Asian’ category which features Pakistanis. Let’s say that Joe does not like Asians since, to him, they do not have brown skin and he finds brown skin attractive. When he learns of what the British term ‘Asian’ includes brown-skinned Pakistanis, he then learns that he is not attracted to the American usage of ‘Asian’ but is attracted to the British designation of ‘Asian’ since they have a phenotype that he finds attractive.

So the argument would be

If Joe isn’t attracted to what he thinks is ‘Asian’ and he then sees what Britain refers to as ‘Asian’ (brown-skinned Pakistanis), then Joe would be attracted to what are termed ‘Asians’ in one society and not in another.

Let’s now say that Joe likes short women, light. In America, Asian- and ‘Hispanic‘-American women are the same height (at 5 ft 1.5 in’) but he is attracted to light skin and not dark skin. Since they have the same hair color (dark brown/black) and the same height in America, the tie-breaker would be skin color. Since Joe in this instance likes short light women, he would then like the Asian women since they have light skin compared to the ‘Hispanic’ (in this case, Mexican with high indigenous ancestry).

Now, these considerations are in a way social, as if we did not live in multiracial societies then we would not have such notions different races. Yes there is variation within ethnic groups, and our friend Joe who likes certain phenotypes over others would trend toward one side over the other in the case of having no other races/ethnic groups in his area. So there is, of course, a social element at work here. Even then, one could have certain conceptions of how certain races/ethnic groups behave and they would then not want to date on that basis, leaving physical differences out of the picture. In this way, we can make a distinction between phenotypic and cultural differences when it comes to dating. And this is the case with many ethnic groups in America.

Some old-fashioned people in America may want their children to only date people of their own ethnic groups—say Italians would want their children to only date other Italians while blacks would want their children to only date other blacks. It is out of the question to allow their children to date outside of their ethnic group, for, in some cases, reasons due to culture and not physical differences (though in the case of old-school Italians it is probably both).

Now we have this argument:

If one is attracted to certain particular features that are more common in certain races over others, then race does matter in dating.

This would not mean that Joe would never date anyone of a different racial/ethnic group. Although cultural differences may sway Joe to not date someone of his same race, those same cultural differences may push Joe to dating someone of a different race, on the premise that he enjoys certain aspects of the culture.

Since we don’t need genes to delineate race and can delineate them on the basis of physical features, and if one is not attracted to certain features, then one will not be attracted to certain races on the basis of having those features. This could be construed as ‘racist’ if the individual in question has other thoughts about why they are not attracted to the phenotype in question (like if they think they are better than another group due to their skin color/ancestry). But some people—for non-nefarious reasons—are not attracted to certain phenotypes.

A black person may not be attracted to light skin, freckles, and red hair so would he be discriminating against the Irish girl if he does not want to date here? Is his idea of attractiveness culturally-instilled? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that different individuals have different preferences and these preferences may match onto racial/ethnic groups, thereby eliminating certain individuals from their dating pool. Whether or not that is a good idea, since, unbeknownst to Joe, the woman may be a perfect match personality-wise and not phenotypically, is up for debate. But Joe would not want to date the woman on the basis of her outward features, and so he may not ever be attracted to her, even if they do become friends and ‘click’, they may turn out to be best friends and never become romantic partners.

So these different clusters of traits may or may not be attractive to any one individual and then their preferences will dictate their racial/ethnic preferences—whether or not they date certain racial/ethnic groups rests on whether or not they are attracted to certain phenotypes.

It may be claimed that those who will not date certain individuals due to their race-based traits are racist even though they are not thinking of a hierarchy between groups of people. But their thoughts would be racist on the basis of prejudging a person on the basis of their looks even if the person in question may be a perfect match, other than the fact that their looks don’t match the individual’s ideal of what his partner should look like.

Race is instilled in American thought, so therefore race will be a factor in American social life—which includes dating preferences. Strully (2014) found that when blacks and whites had the same (social) chance for interracial dating, they were more likely to date their own race, and when ‘Hispanics’ had similar chances for interracial dating, they dated outside of ‘their race’ more often than blacks and whites. So ‘Hispanics’ are more likely to date outside their group compared to whites and blacks.

But to Luke and Oser (2015) it’s not so much phenotypic differences between races but social distance between races that matters for dating outcomes:

…the social distance (particularly between African Americans and whites) may be shrinking and it is possible that the male marriageable pools for African American women may be broadening to include men of other races/ethnicities. Additionally, the social distance maintained between racial groups, as indicated by rates of interracial relationships, appears to be primarily related to the preferences of men to not date African American women. While the interracial relationship intentions of African American women were relatively high, there may be a bias against economically disadvantaged African American women by white and Hispanic men in the dating pool.

Further, when it comes to Asian men—although not Filipino men—they were more likely to not be in a relationship compared to white men, even after controlling for an array of different variables (Balisteri, Joyner, and Kao, 2015). Asian men, it seems, are less desirable than other races of men. (Rushton thought that this was due to lower levels of testosterone which means they were more feminine so they skewed more K in his now-debunked r/K selection theory).

Of course, social—hierarchical—aspects play a large role here. Balisteri, Joyner, and Kao (2015) state that notions of (social)racial hierarchies may explain part of the reason why Asians are less likely to have a partner than whites. They write:

Critical race perspectives focus on how certain race and gender groups are favored or marginalized in the mate market. In other words, the ability of an individual to enter into a romantic relationship may be hampered by set of perceived or ascribed differences attributed to their racial or ethnic group (Burton et al. 2010). Studies have suggested that unflattering stereotypical media depictions of nonwhites have contributed to a racial hierarchy in many aspects of society, including mate preferences (Bonilla-Silva 2010Larson 2006). For example, media studies continue to document the racialized portrayals of Asian men’s masculinity as desexualized or effeminate (Feng 2002Eng 2001) and black women’s femininity as less than desirable (Larsen 2006; Collins 2004Wallace 1990). Scholars suggest that a preference for white standards of beauty reduces black women’s opportunities to date or intermarry outside of their race (Collins 2004Bany, Robnett and Feliciano 2014). Other research, however, highlights the preferences of black women, noting they hold the least favorable attitudes toward selecting a partner of a different race (Davis and Smith 1991Todd, McKinney, Harris, Chadderton and Small 1992) and are the least likely to intermarry or date across race because of cultural influences and lack of trust toward non-Hispanic whites (Childs 2005).

Research on dating preferences provides additional evidence of this racial hierarchy. A recent study of internet daters finds that among those who expressed a racial preference, less than 10% of Asian men would not consider dating Asian women, yet approximately 40% of Asian women would rule out dating Asian men. It also reveals that more than 90% of women of all different racial groups who expressed a racial preference excluded Asian American men. In addition, men of all different racial groups are most likely to exclude black women than any other women (Feliciano, Robnett and Komaie 2009).

So, to answer the question “‘Should’ race be a factor in dating?“, being that ‘should’ statements are normative statements, and normative statements are about what is desirable/undesirable, and what the current discussion on desirability is about (race preferences in dating), then the answer clearly is ‘Yes‘, since people are attracted to different phenotypes and certain groups are more likely to have certain phenotypes over other groups. If phenotype is a factor in dating then it follows that race will be a factor in dating—whether it ‘should’ or not—since different races have different phenotypes. Differences in dating those of different races/ethnies may come down to not just phenotypic differences but also class/social differences/expectations, too. In this way, class and race combine to make a partner more or less desirable to an individual on the basis of his desires for a partner’s particular look and class position. It doesn’t matter if race ‘should’ be a factor in dating, as we live in a racialized world (whatever your view on the social or biological existence of race)—it then follows that race is an aspect of life we cannot escape and that it does influence dating life, whether it ‘should’ or not. A racial hierarchy in dating exists (at least in America), and this will then dictate how one views other races. In this way, the choice is both personal and cultural.


The Social Construction of the ‘Hispanic/Latino/Spanish’ Race

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In daily social discourse, you may have heard people referred to as ‘Hispanic/Latino/Spanish” (HLS) What does this mean? Are they referents of biological races or are they social only social terms? When we think of HLSs, we think of things that group HLSs together and most people, in the American context, think of HLSs as a race. In this article, I will discuss the social construction of the HLS race and what it means for race discourse in America.

Imagine you hear two people speaking Spanish. When you hear this and you are then asked a question about the two interlocutors, you may refer to them as “those Spanish people.” You are only referring to them as “Spanish people” since they are Speaking Spanish. Now, thinking of it in this way, the referent “Spanish”, like, say, “Italian” may refer to a particular ethnic group or it may not (depending on whether or not an individual has migrated to that country, had children and then raised them in the country they migrated to). However, when we—in our daily social discourse—refer to “Spanish people” are referring to many different countries and the people that inhabit them.

For example, we may refer to Dominicans as HLS, on the basis that they speak Spanish. Would they, then, be racially similar to Chileans or Argentinians despite the radically different histories of the countries in question? No. That they share a language does not indicate that the three countries in question are a part of this HLS—it does not mean that they are a biological race. However, these people from these countries that do speak Spanish—if they, say emigrate to America—may receive the same treatment as each other on the basis of the language they speak.

Take the identity group La Raza. La Raza means “the race” in English, and it refers to the countries that the Spanish invaded and then intermixed with the indigenous inhabitants of said country (and even African slaves they brought when the indigenous population began to dwindle). In this way, La Raza becomes a socially constructed race and what unites those people is the fact that they speak the same language and have similar cultural histories (having Spaniards invade their land and forcing their customs on them). They may say a phrase like “Viva La Raza” which translates to “Long live the race.”

If we are talking about “race” in the American sense, then we are talking about how the OMB uses the term “race” and what it means to Americans in American discourse. That we speak of certain social groups as “races” does not entail that we treat them as biological races. One may be of the same racial group and, a country or area where they are the minority they may then be treated differently on the basis of their customs/language.

Take Argentina. An Argentinean may have most of their ancestry derive from Southern Italy, since Argentina saw a large number of Southern Italian immigrants begin to emigrate in 1857, right as The Kingdom of Two Sicilies became Italy. In any case, if this Argentinian had all of their ancestry from Southern Italy, and, say, their parents emigrated from Argentina to America, then they would speak Spanish. On this basis alone, if this family were in, say, New York or New Jersey (two states with a high Italian population) and they spoke Spanish, the Italian population would discriminate against them on the basis of their language and culture and how it is not like their own. So even though they are of the same ethnic group, just the simple fact that their families emigrated to different countries before/after Italy’s ‘creation’ would mean that one group would discriminate against the other on the basis of cultural differences.

So take a La Raza proponent. On the basis of the phrase “Viva La Raza“, since “La Raza” refers to countries with historically Spaniard influence, they would then be referring to those countries that Spain had invaded in the 1500s. So, a Mexican La Raza proponent may be referring to, and even attempt to give special privilieges to, an Argentnian even if they are not of the same (biological) race. The Mexican La Raza proponent may, for example, owe most of his ancestry to the Aztecs while the Argentinean may of most of his ancestry to South Italians. Although they are of different racial groups, the Mexcian La Raza proponent may see the Argentinian as part of their race, and therefore would treat them differently than a Southern Italian-descended person who spoke English/Italian—meaning that even though the phenotype would (theoretically) be the same, on the basis of culture (i.e., language), the Mexican La Raza proponent would treat the Argentenian different from the American differently, even though they trace their ancestry back to the same place. So what matters for the La Raza proponent is shared language and certain shared aspects of what we term “Hispanic culture.”

In any case, the term “Spanish” refers to Spaniards—people from Spain. “Latino” refers to Latin America. “Hispanic” refers to people who speak Spanish. In this way, we see how all three terms coalesce into a socially constructed race. We can see this with the way certain HLS groups treat each other even though they are not the same race.

In the book White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, edited by Rothenberg (2008), Foley (2008) argues in his article Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and Whiteness that Mexican Americans fought for the ‘Hispanic’ term, and so, wanted it to be an ethnic and not racial term. Mexican Americans wanted to be seen as ‘white’ in order to get over de jure segregation and so, from the 30s-50s, Mexicans argued that they were “white” and even supported the segregation of blacks and whites, on the basis of the claim that they too were white and would not have to be treated like blacks. Foley (2008: 56) cites some concerns of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and what they thought their race should be in America:

In a 1932 article in the LULAC news titled “Are Texas-Mexicans ‘Americans’?” the author asserted that Mexican Americans were “the first white race to inhabit this vast empire of ours. Another member of LULAC boasted that Mexican Americans were “not only a part and parcel but as well as the sum of substance of the white race.” As self-constituted Whites, LULAC members considered it “an insult” to be associated with Blacks and other “colored” races. In 1936 a LULAC official deplored the practice of hiring “Negro musicians” to play at Mexican bailes (dances) because it led to “illicit relations” between Black men and “ill-informed Mexican girls.” He urged fellow LULAC members to “tell these Negroes that we are not going to permit our manhood and womanhood to mingle with them on an equal social basis.”

It was then in the 60s, however, when Mexican Americans began referring to themselves as ‘Chiacanos/Chicanas” and speaking of their skin color (brown), not trying to integrate into ‘whites.’ So, argues Foley (2008), Mexican Americans wanted “Hispanic” to be an ethnic and not racial category as they wanted to “keep their whiteness” but still be classified on the basis of language, too. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Mexican Americans began referring to “Aztlan” and “La Raza” and started referring to their browness while not trying to integrate with whites. So although Mexican Americans were de facto ‘white’ in America leading up to the Civil Rights Act (CRA) and were seen as ‘white’ in court cases/the census, they were rarely treated like ‘whites’ (Martinez, 1997; Foley, 2008; Ortiz and Telles, 2013).

Spencer (2019: 241) says “…the OMB is very clear … Hispanics are not a race.” Spencer (2019: 241) continues:

So, even if there are contexts in current American life where … Hispanics are treated as races by ordinary people, there are also contexts in current American life where … Hispanics are not treated as races by ordinary people, namely, when ordinary people use OMB race talk.

In agreeing with whites in the years leading up to the Civil Rights Act—that whites and blacks should be segregated—they wanted to then be seen as ‘white’ and so argued that the term ‘Hispanic’ should be an ethnic and not racial category. Funny how today, Mexican Americans are seen as the social term “people of color” (PoC) and are grouped in with black Americans.

But if we really think about what the HLS distinction really means, it refers to a sociolinguistic group. In this way, certain aspects of Central and South American culture may mirror what may be referred to as the ‘mother culture’ in Spain, as those country’s histories are strongly influenced by the Spaniard invasion post-1519. Though, the term ‘Hispanic’ arose in the 20th century as an ethnonym (a term given to an ethnic group), the terms ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’ and even ‘Spanish’—in ordinary American race talk—refer to the same things. They are used as synonyms. Although the self-described ‘Hispanic’ may be a mixture of, say, three races, they attempt to not classify themselves with any of those races and racially mixed groups even though they themselves may be racially mixed.

This is put well by Quiros (2009: 14) who writes:

…women from Puerto Rican and Dominican ancestry with racially mixed backgrounds are often ascribed a single identity of Hispanic, Latina or even “Spanish,” thereby reducing them to a single ethnic category and silencing their complexities. Yet heterogeneity is also found within the Latino culture. Although Latinos may share some cultural similarities, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, and Cubans, for example, have unique characteristics and histories that set them apart from one another.

These “unique characteristics” come from the ethnic groups the Spaniards brought to the countries in question, along with the types of customs and cultures that came to dominate in those countries. One may even say that the way a Latin American country ‘looks’ is a direct result of how long the Spaniards were there and what peoples (cultural groups) they brought to replace the dwindling indigenous peoples.

For instance, some Puerto Ricans and even Dominicans may speak of “Taino” heritage even though they may have little to no actual Taino heritage. The Taino are an indigenous people to the Carribean. They are what an American may term a ‘Native American’. Now, no matter how the Puerto Rican or Dominican looks, (say the Puerto Rican looks white and the Dominican looks black) they both may talk about this Taino heritage. For the Carribean Latin countries, this amount of ancestry may seem to bring them together and, along with speaking the same language they may believe that they are the same “people.” But, even though PR and DR are close together, they have radically different histories and phenotypes.

Wikipedia, for example, states this about Dominicans:

According to a 2015 genealogical DNA study of 27 Dominican individuals, their genetic makeup was estimated to be 52.15% European, 39.57% Sub-Saharan African, and 8.28% Native American and East Asian overall.[17]

In a 2014 population survey, 70.4% self-identified as mixed (mestizo/indio[a] 58%, mulatto 12.4%), 15.8% as black, 13.5% as white, and 0.3% as “other”.[18][19] A different survey in 2006 reported 67.6% mulatto and indio, 18.3% black, and 13.6% white.[20] However, according to the electoral roll completed in 1996, 82.5% of the adult population were indio, 7.55% white, 4.13% black, and 2.3% mulatto.[21] Historically there has been a reluctance to expressly identify African ancestry, with most identifying or being identified as mestizo or indio rather than mulatto or black.[21][22]

Regarding Puerto Rico, Wikipedia says:

One genetic study on the racial makeup of Puerto Ricans (including all races) found them to be roughly around 61% West Eurasian/North African (overwhelmingly of Spanish provenance), 27% Sub-Saharan African and 11% Native American.[211] Another genetic study from 2007, claimed that “the average genomewide individual (ie. Puerto Rican) ancestry proportions have been estimated as 66%, 18%, and 16%, for European, West African, and Native American, respectively.”[212] Another study estimates 63.7% European, 21.2% (Sub-Saharan) African, and 15.2% Native American; European ancestry is more prevalent in the West and in Central Puerto Rico, African in Eastern Puerto Rico, and Native American in Northern Puerto Rico.[213]

Although in the 2010 census about 61.4 percent of Puerto Ricans reported they were ‘white’. Meanwhile, only 13.5 percent of Dominicans reported they were ‘white’ while 70.4 percent claimed to be racially mixed (58 percent mestizo/indian and 12.4 percent mullato—which is mixed white and black; per Wikipedia).

So what the examples of Mexican Americans and whites and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans show is that although certain aspects of culture may be shared, the demographics of the countries in question are radically different—even the regions of the countries in question have radically different admixtures based on the history they have with Spain and even recent migrations into that area.


I have shown how HLS terms refer to social distinctions and not biological ones. The examples given with Mexican Americans and white Americans and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans show that, although these groups are held to be the same race, important distinctions exist between the two groups. So great, in both cases, that they cannot be the same “race” logically speaking, but they are the same socialrace. Using Hardimon’s socialrace terminology, HLSs are a socialrace and not a biological one. Although socialraces do have mirrored biological races, in this case, HLSs do not have one, as they are racially/ethnically distinct (as argued above). Hardimon (2017: 39) writes:

To deny that Latinos constitute a race is not to deny that individual Latinos or Latinos as a group can be the targets of racism (for example, owing to skin color). Nor is it to deny that Latinos are often regarded as “racially other” (as differing in some essential humanly important way corresponding to skin color) by members of other racialized groups (for example, Anglos). … Nor is it to deny that they constitute a socialrace in my sense of the term. Still less does it imply that Latinos ought not to aspire to a degree of solidarity connoted by the Spanish word raza.

Although in some studies “Hispanics” do cluster together (depending on where the dataset comes from), this does not mean that these clusters are races (a line of thought that Charles Murray would be married to on the basis of his assumption that clusters = races) (eg Tang et al, 2005). Though Risch et al (2002) write that “Hispanics, who represent a recently admixed group between Native American, Caucasian and African, did not form a distinct subgroup, but clustered variously with the other groups.”

The social construction of racial groups is a pretty complicated topic, and you will get different answers depending on who you are having the discussion with. So the answer to the question “Are HLSs a racial or ethnic group?” is “It depends.” If one is operating on the socialrace definition, then they are a racial group. If they are operating on a biological definition, then they are not a racial group, as they would cluster differently based on the majority admixture of that country (which has to do with the Spanish relationship with that country post-1519).

These groups are a good look into how we socially construct certain racial categories. What you see them as depends on what your previous leanings are. There is of course a social element to this, and this social element dictates what race a certain ethny/nationality would call themselves. Although people who speak the same language are socially the same ‘race’ since in American causal conversation they are referred to as one of the three synonyms (HLS), that does not mean that they are the same race, as evidenced with my Puerto Rican and Dominican examples. Thus, the “HLS” race is a social, not biological, construct as it refers to social, not biological, kinds.

Social Constructivists about Race are Realists about Race

1750 words

“Race is just a social construct!” is a claim that one who ventures on this side of the internet is likely to hear. People who believe that race is a biological—and social—reality would then say that they are denying the reality of race—that they are saying that race does not exist. But think about the phrase “Race is just a social construct.” In the phrase, we should not assume that there is anything in it which states that the one who is using it is saying that “Race does not exist.” On the contrary: they ARE being realists about race, but in a social, not biological, manner.

Even those who drafted the new AAPA Statement on Race and Racism state that ““race” as a social reality — as a way of structuring societies and experiencing the world — is very real.” They further state that (my emphasis):

… race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world. In this regard, race is real, as is racism, and both have real biological consequences.

What people do not understand is that just by saying that something is “socially constructed” it does not mean that something “is not real.” For, if social constructivists about race did not believe in the reality of race, what would they have to talk about if what they were talking about did not exist?

Taking a social constructivist approach to race does not mean that one denies its reality. In fact, one of the most impactful arguments for the existence of race identifies race as a social construct of a biological reality (Spencer, 2014). We socially construct races based on what we see—what we see correlates to geographic locales. However, note the socially construct part of the previous phrase. Just that one part can denote so much when it comes to race and its reality.

Social constructivists about race deny that race exists as a biological reality but admit that it exists as a social reality. This then allows them to argue that “racial inequality becomes embodied—literally—in the biological well-being of racialized groups and individuals” (Gravlee, 2009). Gravlee (2009) explains how race becomes biologicized through people’s social expectations of certain races. So, as Gravlee argues, there are biological consequences of racializing social groups.

This is just as Kaplan (2010) argues: although the concept of folk races is false (I disagree), the fact that this concept is still deployed in American thought implies that this is part of what drives social inequalities between social groups that are racialized to be races (what Hardimon, 2017 terms “socialraces“). So, these socially/historically constructed races can and do mean big things when it comes to biology. We can biologicize social groups that we take to be racial groups (i.e., make them socialraces), and this can then drive health disparities between the now-racialized groups.

Now, when people state that “Race is a social construct without biological backing”, they are not denying that what we call “races” captures a portion of genetic diversity—it does, capturing about 4.3 percent of genetic variation between humans is accounted for by folk races (Rosenberg et al, 2002).

Spencer (2011) even identifies social constructivisits about race as realists about race in his Table 1.:


Kaplan and Winther (2014) even identify social constructivists as racial realists, writing:

Social racial realism defends the existence of distinct human groups in our ordinary discourse and social interactions. Such groups are often identified and stabilized by “surface” factors such as skin color or facial features.

(I would be the first of their racial realists, the biogenomic cluster/race, while Jensen, Lynn, and Rushton would be what they term biological racial realists. I would then put Kaplan (2010) and Gravlee (2009) into the social racial realist category.) Kaplan and Winther (2014) are antirealists about biological race. When racialists hear people denying that race exists, that’s what they mean—they are antirealists about biological race.

So, race can exist as a social and political reality, but not exist as the biological racial realists would claim. That is because what we—as a society—impute onto racialized groups, i.e., social races, does have make a difference in regard to the type of health outcomes, for example, that constructivists about race care about. So while they are antirealist about biological races, they hold that those who uphold the existence of biological races do, in part, drive negative health disparities between racialized groups.

Social constructivists about race talk about race in a social manner. When it comes to Hardimon’s (2017) concept of socialrace, it picks out three different but related social kinds: a kind of social group, a social position, and a social system. To Hardimon (2017: 131):

The concept SOCIALRACE refers to

(1) a social group that is taken to be a racialist tace,
(2) the social position occupied by a particular social group that is a socialrace, or
(3) the system of social psoitions that are socialraces.

Socialraces are social groups because they are developed by social relations and defined by social properties. In this way, socialraces are not biological at all because they are not developed by biological relations and defined by biological properties. In this way, the concept of socialrace is distinct from all of Hardimon’s (2017) other race concepts—it, and it alone, constitutes the social dimension of race (this is the difference between Hardimon’s and Spencer’s (2014) concept of race—Hardimon separates the social and biological, Spencer combines both). And so, a socialrace is a social group that is taken to be a racialist race

Hardimon (2017: 132) writes:

Socialrace (the phenomenon) is social in something like the sense in which money and marital status are. Without the requisite social practices, there would be no money, no marriage, no socialrace. Spcoa;race differs straightforwardly social instutions, however, in that its sociality is disguised. The concept SOCIALRACE represents socialraces as social groups whose sociality is hidden—not from the critical theorist already in possession of the concept SOCIALRACE, of course, but from the ordinary individual in society. Socialraces are social groups that appear to be biological. The fact that they are social races goes unseen.

So socialraces are hierarchical in nature—some socialraces, such as whites, are dominant whereas other socialraces, such as blacks, are subordinate. So members of one dominant socialrace can oppress members of another subordinate socialrace. The fact that socialraces are taken to be racialist races—that the belief that people are members of biological races is necessary for the existence of socialraces is true.

Hardimon (2017: 132) writes

SOCIALRACE is strongly nonbiological. It is logically possible tht socialreaces could be found in a world in which the apparent differences in human skin color were actually the result of the nocturnal activity of race fairies, spray-painting hues of black, brown, yellow, red, and pink on the skin of sleeping souls in the dead of night. What makes a person a member of a socialrace are social practices (which include the local application of specific criteria for individual racial classifications), not the possession of biological features. The concept SOCIALRACE is free of any implication that there are even partially biological races. It does not represent socialrace as a “social-natural” kind, representing it instead as a social kinf that falsely purports to be a biological kind.

So we can see that, in Hardimon’s view, socialraces are groups taken to be racialist races—they are falsely thought of as being biologicized, and so, the “social” aspect of these groups is hidden, and only the “apparent” biological nature of these groups is seen. Though do note how SOCIALRACE cannot be both biological and social—it can only be one and it is, of course, social.

Further, minimalist race is a correlate of socialrace. However, just because minimalist race is a correlate of socialrace does not mean that there is a corresponding minimalist race for every socialrace. The best example is “Latinos/Hispanics.” They are a group that are racialized and can be said to be a socialrace, but they have no minimalist race correlate since they are an amalgamation of different races/ethnic groups. No minimalist race functions as the correlate of “Latinos/Hispanics.” “The Irish were a socialrace at one point bu are probably not a minimalist race. We can say that Jews have been a socialrace without committing to ourselves to the claim that they are a minimalist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 136).

So Hardimon’s socialrace concept is a distinctive race concept and satisfies a genuine representational need. Hardimon’s concept puts forth a way of thinking about social groups which are then racialized as biological racial groups, the way that these socialraces occupy social positions, and the system of social structures of which those positions are parts (of which those parts are socialraces). Hardimon’s concept, indeed, does not show that race “does not exist” or “is not real”, since he even says that “‘Constructivisim’ is often used in such a way that to say X is socially constructed is to say that X is unreal. As I use the term, ‘constructivism’ carries no such implication” (Hardimon, 2017: 136). Of course, there could carry that very implication, that whatever is socially constructed does not exist outside of what is doing the socially constructing.

In sum, social constructivists about race are realists about race. Indeed, they need to be realists about race in order for their proposed solutions to work. For if they were not realists about race, what are they fighting for? When people say “Those who say ‘race is a social construct’ deny the existence of race”, they mean to bring up antirealists about biological race, not social constructivists about race. Race, whether you take the biological or social/political view, clearly exists. And accepting one concept over the other dictates what you think about the so-called racial groups in question.

While Spencer’s (2014) race concept already has the social and biological parts inherent in them, Hardimon (2017) separates them—from racialist races, to minimalist race, to populationist race and finally socialrace. Socialraces have a minimalist race correlate—though not all of them do. In any case, socialraces have certain institutions that they are more likely to inhabit. The way that these socialraces occupy social positions, and the system of social structures of which those positions are part are what the concept of socialrace elaborates on.

Therefore, social constructivists about race are realists about race—and there can be no other way for them to be about race. They may be antirealists about biological race, but they are not antirealists about race all the way—they have to believe that race exists, or else what they are doing holds no weight in the world.

“Race is a Social Construct”: Part 1

3200 words

“Race is a social construct”. You may hear that a lot from uneducated people. They may say that since the definition of race is ‘ever-changing’, that race doesn’t exist and that it only exists in our minds. They obviously have no understanding of genetics and how we came to be today. If you want to get technical, everything is a social construct. The Universe is a social construct. We’re only giving definitions to what we perceive something to be, so with the logic of ‘race being a social construct’, then everything is a social construct. With that logic, the Universe doesn’t exist because it’s a social construct.

I will look at 3 articles in the first of many articles on this subject. One from Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Bill Nye and Ta-Nehisi Coates. All 3 have extremely wrong views on the biological reality of race, and I will prove that here. I will quote from each article and show how they are wrong with scientific studies as well as point out their bad logic.

I will begin with Angela Onwuachi-Willig. In her article for The New York TimesRace and Racial Identities Are Social Constructs, she says that because of the ever-changing definition of the term race, that it is a social construct and not a biological one.

Race is not biological. It is a social construct. There is no gene or cluster of genes common to all blacks or all whites. Were race “real” in the genetic sense, racial classifications for individuals would remain constant across boundaries. Yet, a person who could be categorized as black in the United States might be considered white in Brazil or colored in South Africa.

Race is not biological, it is a construct. There are no clusters of genes or one gene that is common in blacks or whites. That is correct, but her statement about race being social and not a biological construct is clearly ignorant as I will show below.


You can see in the picture above that races clearly do cluster in different clusters from other races. She is right about the changing definitions, especially Brazil, but Brazil is a special case. So much mixing has gone on in Brazil that there is evidence of skin color becoming independent of ancestry. One outlier example doesn’t make race a ‘social construct’. South Africa is also another one. They classify race in South Africa with four categories: black, colored, Indian/Asian or white. Obama would have been called ‘colored’ in South Africa today. But, again, just because there are changing definitions of race throughout the globe, doesn’t mean that race doesn’t exist.

Like race, racial identity can be fluid. How one perceives her racial identity can shift with experience and time, and not simply for those who are multiracial. These shifts in racial identity can end in categories that our society, which insists on the rigidity of race, has not even yet defined.

Is she making an argument for being ‘trans-racial’? I bet Rachel Dolezal would be happy.

In a society where being white (regardless of one’s socioeconomic class background or other disadvantages) means living a life with white skin privileges — such as being presumed safe, competent and noncriminal — whites who begin to experience discrimination because of their intimate connection with someone of another race, or who regularly see their loved ones fall prey to racial discrimination, may begin to no longer feel white. After all, their lived reality does not align with the social meaning of their whiteness.

I always hear about ‘white privilege’ but never get an actual definition of what it means. People complain about ‘white privilege’ because they, of course, don’t understand the biological reality of race. Anything that may prove innate differences between individuals or races they just can’t imagine exists because of what they’ve been taught their whole lives. She is talking about those whites who are in the BLM movement. The false ideals of egalitarianism are the cause of this.

More than 50 years ago, Congress enacted the most comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation in history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Half a century later in 2015, the same gaps in racial inequality remain or have grown deeper. Today, the unemployment rate for African-Americans remains more than double that for whites, public schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1950s and young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than their white male peers. Even a white fourth-grade teacher in Texas, Karen Fitzgibbons, openly advocated for the racial segregation of the 1950s and 1960s on her Facebook page.

Right. IQ is the cause of the unemployment rate of African Americans. Not any imaginary forces such as ‘white privilege’. Public schools are more segregated today due to people wanting to be with others genetically similar to themselves. Blacks cause themselves to get shot and killed by police due to their actions during altercations with police officers. Oh no, someone has not politically correct opinions!! She should lose her job and never work a good job again!

That’s what the Left does. They attempt to shout you down with buzzwords so you can’t calmly and intellectually prove your case.

She is clearly wrong. Good thing this is called an ‘opinion piece’, there were few actual facts in it.

Now to touch on Bill Nye’s views on race. It’s funny. I loved his show when I was a kid. Now, knowing the truth about racial differences, hearing him say that made me lose all respect for him. He’s a mechanical engineer with a Bs from Cornell University. People only take what he says because he is ‘The Science Guy’ when he has no training in what he is talking about.

“We obsess about whether our dog is a pug-Jack Russell terrier mix with corgi overtones and an oaky finish. ‘An approachable little dog,’ whatever. They’re all dogs, okay? And so the idea of a purebred is just a human construct. There’s no such thing – in a sense there’s no such thing as a purebred dog.”

That right there is a fallacy. As with the woman’s article above, they both use the ‘continuum fallacy‘. The continuum fallacy is when someone rejects a vague claim because it’s not as precise as they want it to be. ‘There are no pure races’ or ‘there are no pure breeds of dog’, that doesn’t mean that genes don’t cluster differently, showing genetic differentiation.

“If a Papua New Guinean hooks up with a Swedish person all you get is a human.  There’s no new thing you’re going to get. You just get a human. Japanese woman jumping the African guy, all you get is a human. They’re all humans. So this is a lesson to be learned. There really is, for humankind there’s really no such thing as race. There’s different tribes but not different races. We’re all one species.”

Right. That doesn’t mean there is no such thing as race. Grizzly bears and polar bears can mate to create a prizzly bear. Does that mean species doesn’t exist? (I will touch on speciation at the end of this article.) Once again, that statement doesn’t deny the biological reality of race, as you can see from the picture above.


Researchers have proven, scientifically, that humans are all one people. The color of our ancestors’ skin is a consequence of ultra-violet light, of latitude and climate.

We all belong to the same genus, Homo, but again, that doesn’t disprove race. He’s correct in saying that our ancestors’ skin is a consequence of UV light of latitude and climate, and right there he proves us correct in stating that sunlight differences depending on where your ancestors evolved in the world are the cause of racial differences.

Despite our recent sad conflicts here in the U.S., there really is no such thing, scientifically, as race. We are all one species. Each one of us more alike than different.

In this statement, he is saying the first sentence because of recent racial relations in the U.S. A clear politically-motivated statement.

“Each one of us more alike than different.’ That is correct, but, yet again, doesn’t disprove the reality of race. Geneticists estimate that humans will differ, on average, at 3 million base pairs in their DNA. That’s more than enough for distinct racial classification, as well as enough to differentiate us.

Is that supposed to mean anything? Cats have 90 percent homologous genes with humans, 82% with dogs, 80% with cows, 79% with chimpanzees, 69% with rats and 67% with mice.

90% of the mouse genome could be lined up with a region on the human genome.

99% of mouse genes turn out to have analogues in humans.

As you can see from the links above, we are all extremely genetically related to animals that are clearly extremely physically different from us humans. This shows, that the differences in humans are down to not how genetically distant we are from other animals in the animal kingdom, but how the differing genes we have are expressed.

We all came from Africa. We’re all made from the same star dust. We’re all going to live and die on the same planet – a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together!

And finally, you can see his way of saying that racial differences mean nothing because ‘we all come from Africa’ and ‘ we’re all made from star dust’. That may be true, but that doesn’t do anything to acknowledge, or even show that racial differences are meaningless.

Bill Nye has absolutely no authority to speak on this matter. Liberals then eat this up and cite Bill Nye as proof that race doesn’t exist, which is clearly untrue as I have shown.

Finally, I will get to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Social Construction of Race‘. He cites my favorite blogger/geneticist Razib Khan, so this should be good.

Ancestry — where my great-great-great-great grandparents are from — is a fact. What you call people with that particular ancestry is not. It changes depending on where you are in the world, when you are there, and who has power.

Right with the first sentence, and with the second. It seems he’s attempting to use what the first article I cited says: that due to ever-changing racial definitions that race doesn’t exist as we believe it to be. He says that ancestry is a fact, well wouldn’t that same ancestry be your racial classification? I am not following his logic. Just because there are differing views on the definition of race throughout the globe, doesn’t mean that there is no biological reality of race.

He cites someone else who states:

“Race” as a term is very nebulous. But human subgroups with similar ancestries can have group differences in DNA — and intelligence is highly unlikely to have no genetic basis at all (although most now believe its impact is greatly qualified by cultural and developmental differences).

Cultural and developmental differences. The cultural differences are thrown out. According to the editorial ‘Mainstream Science on Intelligence’, which came out shortly after The Bell Curve was published, one of their points is that IQ tests are not culturally biased if the individual speaks English. If they are not English speakers, they will either get a test in their native language or get Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which is a ‘culture free’ IQ test as it’s based on pattern recognition and has no writing involved. Developmental differences, yes. White mothers have a better prenatal environment then do black mothers, which is biological. Developmental differences are innate within the two populations.

I do not know. Andrew is more inclined to believe that there is some group-wide genetic explanation for the IQ difference. I am more inclined to believe that the difference lies in how those groups have been treated. One thing that I am not convinced by is controlling for income and education.

Oh, the old ‘Stereotype Threat‘ canard. The paper, which was cited more than 5000 times, states that African-Americans do worse on tests in which they are told that they are being judged on their race. Well, a meta-analysis of 55 published and unpublished studies came out and what was found that the it shows clear publication bias. Either due to people not knowing how to read scientific papers or more insidious tactics. The effect varies across studies and is small. Though elite university undergrads may underperform on tests of cognitive tests due to Stereotype Threat, this effect doesn’t generalize to non-adapted standardized tests, high-stakes settings and less academically gifted test takers. Stereotype Threat cannot explain the difference in mean cognitive test performance between African Americans and European Americans. (pg 68)

In the mid-20th century, as we have been documenting, it was the policy of this country to deny African-Americans access to the same methods of wealth-building, that it was making available to whites.
African-Americans can’t build the same type of wealth due to mean genetic differences in IQ.
This is not merely a problem for your local  diversity and sensitivity workshop. It is a problem of wealth and power. When you create a situation in which a community has a disproportionate number of poor people, and then you hyper-segregate that community, you multiply the problems of poverty for the entire community–poor or not. That is to say that black individuals are not simply poorer and less wealthier than white individuals.  Because of segregation, black individuals and white individuals of the same income and same wealth, do not live in communities of equal wealth.
Wealth and power are directly related to IQ. Communities have a disproportionate amount of poor people due to them being low-IQ, blacks, whites or Asians, you can’t get away from low-IQ being the cause of poverty. People hyper-segregate themselves, see my Genetic Similarity article. Again, segregation is due to GST, not any insidious plot to hold anyone down. I’ve spoken multiple time on how oxytocin is responsible for ‘racism’ (ethnocentrism), and everything he is saying is just proving my point.
What bearing does segregation have on IQ differential? I don’t know. My skepticism of genetics is rooted in the fact that arguments for genetic inferiority among people of African ancestry are old, and generally have not fared well. My skepticism is also rooted in the belief that power generally seeks to justify itself. The prospect of actual equality among the races is frightening. If black and white people truly are equal on a bone-deep level, then the game might really be rigged, and we might actually have to do something about it. I think there’s much more evidence of that rigging, then there is evidence of cognitive deficiency .
There is no evidence for racial/ethnic equality. Any ‘evidence’ is shoddy and has NOT and NEVER WILL BE replicated because any studies that show racial equality are either badly administered or they never do a follow-up study at adulthood.  Blacks and whites are not equal ‘on a bone-deep level’. What kind of statement is that? There is WAY MORE evidence for cognitive deficiency than for ‘rigging’ of the game to hold blacks down in America.
I must add that I can not pretend to be a dispassionate, nor impartial observer. I come from a particular place. I’ve now been out in the world, and seen how other people in other places live. They don’t strike me as more intelligent. They strike me as better armed. There’s nothing scientific about that. But I think we all have core faiths. These are mine. You’ve been warned.
“My personal anecdotal experiences mean more to scientific studies on race and intelligence.” Where have we all heard that before? Too bad your ‘core faiths’ are just that Mr. Coates: FAITH.

Regardless of the method used in the analyses, all researchers reached estimated very close to that obtained by Lewontin: The differences observed by the subdivisions (populations, groups of populations, races) represented 10 to 15 percent of the total genetic variation found within the human species. Formally, these findings demonstrate, first, that the species is indeed subdivided into genetically definable groups of individuals and, second, that atleast some of these groups correspond to those defined by anthropologists as races on the basis of physical characters. They do not however, settle the arguments regarding the methods of racial classification. Unfortunately, Lewontin did not specify before initiating his analysis how large the difference has to be in order to call the groups “races”.

Consequently, the results of the studies have led population geneticists to two diametrically opposite conclusions. Lewontin called the observed differences trivial, and proclaimed that “racial classification is now seen to be of no genetic or taxonomic significance” so that “no justification can be offered for its continuance.” This view is echoed by authors of similar studies, who seem to be surprised that genetic variation within populations is greater than that between them. By contrast, Sewell Wright who can hardly be taken for a dilettante in questions of population genetics, has stated emphatically that if differences of this magnitude were observed in any other species, the groups they distinguish would be called subspecies.

One can extend Wright’s argument even further. The more than 200 species of haplochromine fishes in Lake Victoria differ from each other much less than the human races in their neural genes, although they are presumably distinguished by genes that control differences in their external appearances. The same can be said about atleast some of the currently recognized species of Darwin’s finches and other examples of recent adaptive radiations. In all these cases, reproductively isolated groups are impossible to tell apart by the methods used to measure differences in human races. Obviously, human races are not reproductively isolated (interracial marriages are common and the progenies of such marriages are fully fertile) but the external differences between them are comparable to cichlid fishes and Darwin’s finches. Under these circumstances, to claim that the genetic differences between the human races are trivial is a more political statement than a scientific argument. Trivial by what criterion? How much difference would Lewontin and those who side with him consider non-trivial?

By mixing science with politics, geneticists and anthropologists are committing the same infraction of which they are accusing other scientists, who they themselves label as racist. Even worse, by labelling the genetic differences as insignificant, they play into the hand of genuine racists who can demolish this claim and so further their own agenda. It is intellectually more honest to acknowledge and then point out that by no means imply supremacy of one race over others. This can be done by demonstrating that the differences are in genes that cannot be linked to any features that would be required for the preeminence of a particular race.

It’s clear that racial classification does exist. The creator of Fst, Sewall Wright, says that a Fst distance of .15 is more than enough for speciation (differing racial classifications). It directly refutes Lewontin, who put his political ideology of Marxism over science. Those cichlids in Lake Victoria are a perfect example that though the definition of ‘species’ does change depending on which researcher you speak to, it doesn’t discount that there are real and physical genetic differences between races and ethnicities.

In conclusion, the term “race is a social construct” is a deliberately intellectually dishonest statement, or a statement used to hide the truth for more insidious things to happen due to the non-acknowledgement of race.