Race is not just skin color

“The southern Indians resemble the Ethiopians a good deal, and, are black of countenance, and their hair black also, only they are not as snub-nosed or so woolly-haired as the Ethiopians; but the northern Indians are most like the Egyptians in appearance.”

– Arrian

I might almost say that the same animals are to be found in India as in Aethiopia and Egypt, and that the Indian rivers have all the other river animals except the hippopotamus, although Onesicritus says that the hippopotamus is also to be found in India. As for the people of India, those in the south are like the Aethiopians in colour, although they are like the rest in respect to countenance and hair (for on account of the humidity of the air their hair does not curl), whereas those in the north are like the Egyptians.

-Strabo

The plot above is from Genetic Evidence for the Convergent Evolution of Light Skin in Europeans and East Asians. It’s a 2007 paper. For those of you not versed in genetics, 10 years is like the difference between the First Age and Third Age on Middle Earth. For those of you not versed in Tolkien, 10 years is like the difference between Gupta India and Maratha India? I think?

Basically, the authors looked around the regions of the genome of loci known to be implicated in pigmentation variation in 2007, which mostly started from differences between Europeans and Africans. In the plot above you see pairwise genetic distances visualized in a neighbor-joining tree. The populations are:

SA = Asians, IM = Island Melanesians, WA = West Africans, EU = Europeans, EA = East Asians, and NA = Native Americans

What you see is that pigmentation loci are not phylogenetically very informative. Because of ascertainment bias in discovery Europeans are an out-group on many of the genes. But overall you see that the trees generated by a relationship on pigmentation genes do not conform to what we’d expect, where Africans are an outgroup to non-Africans. This is not surprising, as any given locus is not too phylogenetically informative. Additionally, pigmentation is a trait where selection has likely changed allele frequencies a lot, so it’s not a very good trait to look at to determine evolutionary relationships.

A white actress?

I bring this up because The New York Times and other publications are reporting on a new paper in Science, Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations, with headlines like Genes for Skin Color Rebut Dated Notions of Race, Researchers Say.

The Science paper is very interesting because it helps to make up for the long-term ascertainment bias in the literature, whereby European differences from other groups helped to discover pigmentation loci of interest. The big topline result is that there’s a lot of extant variation within Africans, and much of it is very old, pre-dating modern humans by hundreds of thousands of years, implying long-term balancing selection to maintain polymorphism.

Here’s a quote from The New York Times piece:

For centuries, skin color has held powerful social meaning — a defining characteristic of race, and a starting point for racism.

“If you ask somebody on the street, ‘What are the main differences between races?,’ they’re going to say skin color,” said Sarah A. Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

The widespread distribution of these genes and their persistence over millenniums show that the old color lines are essentially meaningless, the scientists said. The research “dispels a biological concept of race,” Dr. Tishkoff said.

I can go along with all the sentences more or less except the last. Skin is the largest organ we have, and it’s pretty salient. West Asian Muslims regularly referred to Indians as “black” (early Islamic Arabs referred to the people of Sindh as “black crows”). They defined themselves as white (though contrasted their own olive complexion with ruddy Europeans). The Chinese referred to themselves as white, and Southeast Asians, such as the inhabitants of the ancient Cambodian kingdom of Funan, as black. Among South Asians, skin color is also very salient. During the period when Pakistan included a western and eastern half the West Pakistanis were known to refer to the Bengalis as blacks, while East Pakistanis who went to study in the West, like my father, were surprised that not all Pakistanis were white like Ayub Khan.

Sharon Muthu, Indian American actress

But racial perception and categorization are not identical with skin color. The ancients knew this intuitively, as the quotes from Arrian and Strabo above suggest. They were aware that South Asians were dark-skinned, but those in the north were lighter than those in the south, and that those in the south resembled Africans in the range of their complexion. But, they also knew that it was not difficult to distinguish a South Asian from an African in most cases, because South Asians have different hair forms and to some extent facial features, from Africans.

I know this myself personally. Living in almost white areas of the United States for most of my childhood I encountered some racism. My skin tone is within the range of African Americans. But when it came to racial slurs I was usually called “sand nigger”, or more sometimes “camel jockey.” Please note that the modifier sand. Even racists understood to distinguish people of similar hues who were clearly physically distinctive.

Conversely, African Americans did not usually recognize me as African American. Living in the Pacific Northwest there aren’t many non-whites. It’s also very rainy. Sometimes when I was wearing my Columbia jacket with hood black men walking from the other direction on the sidewalk would start to nod at me, assuming I was black. But mid-way through the nod as they approached me they recognized that despite my brown color I was not African American and would stop the motion and switch to a manner of distanced politeness as opposed to informal warmth.*

Finally, I also had East Asian friends who were very light-skinned. As light-skinned as any white person of Southern European heritage. That did not prevent racists from calling them “chinks” or (more rarely) “gooks.” These racists were seeing beyond the skin color.

If ancient authors from 2,000 years ago understood that race is more than skin color, and if genuine bigots understand race is more than skin color, I fail to understand why so often the public discourse in the United States acts as if race is just skin color. We know it’s not so.

The reason I’m posting this on Brown Pundits is that the focus on skin color made sense to me growing up in the United States, but as someone of South Asian ancestry I also knew it was not sufficient as a classifier. I knew when I was probably around five. Many South Asians see a huge range in skin color within their immediate families. That is, empirically the fact that there were large effect QTLs segregating within South Asians is obvious to any South Asian who grew up around South Asians.**

My mother is of light brown complexion. My father is of dark brown complexion. My mother’s complexion is fair enough that she is usually assumed to be Latina if she doesn’t speak (her accent is clearly South Asian), and in cases has been misjudged to be Southern European. My father, like his mother, is in contrast on the darker side. Their Bengali friends would joke that they were an interracial relationship.

My father’s father was very light skinned, and his mother was very dark skinned. Some of his siblings were dark, some of them were light, and some of them were between. One of my father’s brothers is basically a doppelganger of my father, except he is lighter skinned.

And yet there was never a question that both my parents were ethnically Bengali. They were both people with deep roots in Comilla in eastern Bengal. Now that I have their genotypes I can tell you that my parents are genetically clearly from the same region of Bengal; they cluster together even compared to other Bangladeshis. In fact, my father is more Indo-Aryan (every so slightly) shifted than my mother. I suspect it is through his mother, whose father was born into a family of recently converted Brahmins. It is clear that skin color is not predicting phylogeny in this case, and I am sure many South Asians intuitively grasp this because of the variation in complexion they see across their families, who are usually from the same sub-ethnic group in any case.***

A multiracial United States is going to be more complex world than the situation before 1965, when America’s racial consciousness was partitioned between black and white (notwithstanding Native Americans, Hispanos and other Latinos in the Southwest, and a residual of Asian Americans). But sometimes I feel the intellectual and cultural elite of this nation is stuck in the paradigm of 1964.

* I have a friend from Kerala in South India who has talked about being mistaken for being Ethiopian.

** I am the only South Asian my daughter has grown up around, and her complexion is far closer to her mother’s than my own. She did have a difficult time distinguishing me from black males in her early years because to her my dark-skin is very salient. When her mother asked her to give reasons why African American males might look different from her father, she immediately clued in on the hair and facial features.

*** Black Americans and Middle Easterners, and a whole host of other groups where pigmentation loci segregation in appreciable frequencies, can all see that differences in skin color do not necessarily denote differences in race, since there is so much intra-familial variation.

40 thoughts on “Race is not just skin color”

  1. I get confused by Chinese-American actresses who refer to themselves as “people of colour”, when they are visibly pale skinned. I have come to understand that POC is more of a code for “not of European ancestry”, rather than strictly just skin tone.

    In Australia (which prides itself on being “the world’s most successful multi-cultural country”, which is a really sick joke to anyone not of 100% Anglo-Irish ancestry living in the country), my half-Chinese daughter is universally identified by the dominant white Anglo large majority as “Asian”, when she is more pale skinned than most of them, and does not really have *very* Asian facial features – she looks more Uygur or Turkish than anything else (and has been claimed as Turkish by Turkish people living there, humorously enough), but a very pale skinned one. The context is that in Australia, “Asian” specifically means East or South-East Asian (most Anglos can’t differentiate). People from the Indian sub-continent all get put in a separate basket labelled “Indian” regardless of country of origin (i.e. not the same labelling that happens in the UK, where “Asian” means Indian sub-continent).

    So Anglo-Australians are making the same racial distinctions that Chinese-Americans make in reference to themselves – “colour” is not just about skin tone, it is about other identifiers as well (hair, facial features, etc.)

    There is a slightly different dynamic going on with Chinese people – on appearance, they all identify my daughter as “European” until she opens her mouth and a stream of fluent Cantonese or Mandarin comes out, at which point the aural cues seem to instantly override the visual ones, and they immediately cease to regard her as “foreign”. Mainland Chinese border guards always regard her Chinese nationality papers with grave suspicion until she answers them in Mandarin, upon which they totally lose interest and wave her through.

  2. // In Australia (which prides itself on being “the world’s most successful multi-cultural country” //

    I have never heard Australians (and part of my wider family is Australian) describe Australia like that. Probably just self-congratulation prevalent in some “liberal” white-Australian circles.

  3. // Many South Asians see a huge range in skin color within their immediate families. //

    That is a very strong statement, and a little hard to believe to be honest. Maybe you are right. Anecdotally I haven’t seen it, unless you’re talking about intermarriage across states in India, e.g. a Tamil marrying a Punjabi or an Assamese marrying a Gujarati etc.

    Instances of the above are rising (esp. in urban middle classes), but no where near the genetic mixing one sees in, say, the EU for example.

    1. @Slapstik He is right about that statement. Im also a Bengali from Homna,Comilla and the same is with my family.
      My Dad is olive skinned and my mom is medium brown skinned, my grandfathers from both side are very dark skinned, but my grandmothers are olive skinned.
      My Dad occasionaly been mistaken as south Italian even by Italians, only his sister has similar skin tone as him, but his other siblings have typical brown skin tone to very dark brown skin tone.
      My mom despite being medium brown skinned, has sharp features probably got from her mother( she looks almost persian), even two of my uncles from mom’s side has those Persian type facial features.
      I got very similar facial features and skintone from my mom, in comparison with some of my cousins from mom’s side that have very fair skin tone for south Asian standard,but my cousins from Dad’s side are on the darker side.
      Another thing i noticed that the skin tone in south asians can vary with age, when I was born i had the same olive skin tone as my father, but when i was 1 years old my skin tone started to become darker until i reached my puberty, after that it started to become lighter again.
      Its really interesting to see such diversity in Bengalis.

      1. I find in general Kashmiris to look more homogeneous than Mediterraneans. That is, Kashmiris look more like each other than Mediterraneans look like each other.

        Meds look either like “wogs” or Western Europeans. I’ve met sufficient number of blonde Greeks who could pass for English or West German. So they seem to exhibit phenotypic “diversity” that I don’t find representative of Kashmiris. Since I’m assuming the “Kashmiris” I’ve met are actually quite diverse in origins, I think that’s pretty telling.

        So it’s not strange to say “wogs look like us”, if by that you mean that certain Italians and Greeks etc. look like the “average” Kashmiri. Certain types of African-Americans [the heavily “mixed” ones] could pass for Bangladeshi if they shaved their heads. I think it makes more sense to say they [in particular] look like the average[d] Bangladeshi than vice-versa.

        Also, it depends on why the Italians/Greeks show so much variation in their looks.

        1. “”I find in general Kashmiris to look more homogeneous than Mediterraneans. “”

          Very true. I live in Italy, and there are some visible diversity among italians, after all Italy was a melting pot of many people. The Kashmiri Pandits look more homogenous, but Pakistani Kashmiris looks more diverse and brown.

          “”Certain types of African-Americans [the heavily “mixed” ones] could pass for Bangladeshi if they shaved their heads.””

          I guess by heavily mixed you meant someone like Rihanna or Beyonce. But only their skin tone looks Bangladeshi, their overall phenotype(even with straightened hair) is definitely not Bangladeshi. Some Mexicans or some south American Mestizo’s and Castizo’s overlap with Bangladeshis.Maybe some heavily mixed African American with part Native American ancestry can pass as Bangladeshi.

          1. No, I meant someone like Maximillan Tapper [Google]. He was on an episode of The Wire, and he looks utterly identical to one of my cousins. So much so, that I had to ring him up and ask if he had a small bit part on TW that he didn’t tell us about [my cousin that is, not the actor obviously].

            African-Americans are diverse looking, so there really isn’t a single “phenotype” that fits them perfectly. Even “redbones” are quite distinguished from the more “Bantu-looking” ones. But yes, I wasn’t thinking of your typical light-skinned African-American, who still look noticeably “African”. Only certain ones.

            In any case, I don’t see much point in saying that we would look like “African Americans” [as opposed to some African Americans looking like us in certain ways], in this particular instance. Hence it makes sense to me that Kashmiris would say “wogs look like us”, as opposed to the other way around.

            Some Mestizo’s may look like Bangladeshis, but I wouldn’t really use the word “overlap”. Too many of them have this strong Native American [“Brown Oriental”] look. It would be fairly easy for me to distinguish them from Bangladeshis.

        2. “No, I meant someone like Maximillan Tapper [Google]. ”

          Yeah, he has an ambiguous look,not the typical afro-American.A bit like Dwayne Johnson(half Afro-American and half Samoan).

          “Some Mestizo’s may look like Bangladeshis, but I wouldn’t really use the word “overlap”. Too many of them have this strong Native American [“Brown Oriental”] look. It would be fairly easy for me to distinguish them from Bangladeshis.”

          Thats why i said “some”. For example most of these Bolivian Mestizo women can easily pass as Bangladeshi, if they wear Saree or Salwar Kameez:
          https://byhisgrace52.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/bolivia-2008-2-036.jpg
          In comparison with these Mestizo women from Belize, who clearly look “Brown Oriental” and can’t pass as Bangladeshi :
          https://www.belizehub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Mestizo-Culture-of-Belize.jpg

    2. Seems totally true in my extended family. Several cases of nearly White to very Brown siblings, who all look alike otherwise and are instantly recognizable as their parent’s kids..

    3. Razib is right. I see wide variations in skin color in my Tamil Brahmin family, all of whom hail from a small corner of TN state.

  4. That is a very strong statement

    well perhaps you should look around? i’ve looked at pop-gen data and on skin color genes i can tell you south asians segregate (genes vary within families).

    anyway ask your tam-brahm friends. if you look within that population you see plenty of cases of dark skinned vs. light skinned siblings (i know cases with two close friends in two families where their siblings are totally different color).

    1. Perhaps.I don’t claim otherwise, just surprised. It is just that I have not seen it within my own family or further cousins etc. I can literally pick a kashmiri (pandit) from a crowd just by looking at their faces – won many wagers on this 🙂

      To be honest I have seen skin tone variations among, say, Tamil Brahmins – but never thought siblings or close family could have visibly different skin tone.

      1. I can literally pick a kashmiri (pandit) from a crowd just by looking at their faces – won many wagers on this 🙂

        facial features are due to many genes and don’t tend to vary as much due to large effect QTLs in some indian groups. lots of indian castes have typical faces because u guys are generally pretty endogamous and mildly inbred. really obv for iyers for example.

        but never thought siblings or close family could have visibly different skin tone.

        do you know their families? like i said i have two close friends where there is a huge skin tone difference btwn siblings.

        1. // do you know their families? //

          Yes. I was taught by Tam Brahms. Know few families (in one case related families). I have seen no significant variation in skin tone. Their features and complexion look similar to the lady you’ve added a photo of.

          I also know unrelated Tamils (from Uni) who are much lighter skinned, but never saw their siblings/parents to comment. India has significant diversity for me to conclude anything meaningful from my anecdotal sampling, so I’m happy to believe that there’s credible genetic basis for intra-family variation of skin colour.

          1. Their features and complexion look similar to the lady you’ve added a photo of.

            her family is pulliyar. not brahmin.

            a lot of tam-brahms are quite light-skinned.

          2. If that Indo-American actress is from pulliyar community, she has ~25% ANI(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769933/bin/mmc1.pdf) in contrast to Tam Brahms who probably have the double.
            But i dont think the percentage determines the outcome, at least not directly.

            @Razib Khan
            I dont know how the DNA influences the morphology of a person or a community. In my case it seems the east Asian percentage i scored didnt affected me or my family members, even none of my nearest relatives have any east Asian influence.
            The most surprising fact is the Genotype-Phenotype relation in Afghan Pashtuns and Afghan Tajiks.The former cluster with NW south Asians(upper caste) and the latter dont, yet morphologically they are indistinguishable.
            Pashtuns have significant ASI DNA(~30%) in this paper:
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769933/bin/mmc1.pdf
            Probably the same as Punjabis, yet on average Pashtuns are fair skinned and Punjabis are brown skinned.
            Btw,Im surprised to not see Bengali percentages in that paper.

          3. “I dont know how the DNA influences the morphology of a person or a community. In my case it seems the east Asian percentage i scored didnt affected me or my family members, even none of my nearest relatives have any east Asian influence.
            The most surprising fact is the Genotype-Phenotype relation in Afghan Pashtuns and Afghan Tajiks.The former cluster with NW south Asians(upper caste) and the latter dont, yet morphologically they are indistinguishable.”

            It does influence, but its more subtle and sometimes barely noticeable. Tajiks have higher NE Euro and higher NE Asian/Mongoloid influence. Pashtuns have lower NE Euro higher ASI higher ANI (Iran_neolithic), higher SW Asian (Arab influence) higher Caucasian. What does this translate to? Pashtuns overall look more Iranian than Tajiks, who probably look more like the original Indo-Europeans. Also Pashtuns have bigger features and more facial hair in general.

            “Pashtuns are fair skinned and Punjabis are brown skinned.” Pashtuns are a mixed lot, look at Pakistani cricketer Fakhar Zaman, who is darker than many Sikh/Hindu Punjabis I have met.

            Overall though Pashtuns have 1/3 or more less ASI ancestry than Punjabis on average even if it still is at 20%, and this will make a huge phenotypic difference as the ASI are a very distinct population from everyone else in South and Central Asia.

      2. Kashmiri Pandits are a mixed looking bunch, you’ve got your stereotypical looking Kashmiris like Nehru, Kashkari etc. But having hung out with a group of them at uni, last names Shawl, Tiku etc, they are much more Indian/ASI looking than Sikh or Hindu Punjabis on average. Some also have clear Ladakh Mongoloid admixture with very straight hair, lack of facial hair and almost epicanthic eyefolds

        Also re Tamil Brahmins, yes there is variation as Razib mentioned but the lightest Tam Brahm would not be the lightest Kashmiri, and some of the lower status Tam Brahm (non-Iyengar) could have the same skin colour as a low caste Tamil

        1. “@Razib Khan
          I dont know how the DNA influences the morphology of a person or a community. In my case it seems the east Asian percentage i scored didnt affected me or my family members, even none of my nearest relatives have any east Asian influence.”

          Bengalis do have east Asian admixture- compare an average Bengali with an average middle-caste South Indian (both would have similar ANI proportions). The main difference will be that the Bengali will have a lighter complexion, less facial hair, straighter hair and more East Asian influence around the eyes, all associated with East Asians

          1. @Bmoney
            Thanks for your comment.
            “”The main difference will be that the Bengali will have a lighter complexion, less facial hair, straighter hair and more East Asian influence around the eyes, all associated with East Asians””

            I agree Bengalis on average have straighter hairs, but there are many bengalis with heavy facial hairs and non east asian influenced eyes, few bengalis can have curly hairs as well. The average bengali being east Asian influenced is a stereotype, because bengalis are diverse.

            “”compare an average Bengali with an average middle-caste South Indian (both would have similar ANI proportions). “”
            I dont know about the exact amount of ANI in Bengalis, that can be around half of our DNA. Bengalis ANI has atleast two origin, Neolithic Farmer and Indo Aryan, both of them brought varieties of Phenotype.
            As I said, i scored the same amount of east Asian of bengali average, but that didnt influenced mine and my relatives phenotype.
            Maybe caste system had an effect on this? Bengalis(from Bangladesh) never had caste restriction, that beacuse we converted from Buddhism.
            What about comparison between average Gujratis and average South Indian mid-caste, the only difference is the former has a small amount of Indo aryan ANI(surprisingly lesser than Bengalis), but they have different facial features. Again that could be result of caste endogamy.

          2. @Zahid

            Gujaratis have less ASI (depends on caste) but definitely 2-3x more Steppe ancestry than south Indian middle castes even if Neolithic Iran ancestry which you have alluded to is around the same levels, which would explain phenotypical difference. Also endogamy as you said.

            Your particular family might not look obvious stereotypical East Asian as such, but the East Asian admixture levels would be several levels higher than a West India Gujarati for example (for which it is about 0%), and this combination would bring about the Bengali ‘look’ distinct compared to other south Asians. For example I grew up with a lot of Bangladeshis, and they can tell other Bangladeshis from looking at them. The only person who was routinely confused for a Bengali was a Nepali girl we knew, who I assume would have similar levels of NE Asian admixture

            Also regarding caste system – as you mentioned i don’t think caste based endogamy existed in Bengal outside the West Bengal Brahmins. People from Bangladesh have no history of caste and are largely homogenous, which is unique in South Asia. Though Bengalis have told me people from Sylhet have a distinct look, perhaps more NE Asian ancestry

            Also see what Razib has said below

          3. @Bmoney
            “Tajiks have higher NE Euro and higher NE Asian/Mongoloid influence. Pashtuns have lower NE Euro higher ASI higher ANI (Iran_neolithic), higher SW Asian (Arab influence) higher Caucasian. What does this translate to? Pashtuns overall look more Iranian than Tajiks, who probably look more like the original Indo-Europeans. Also Pashtuns have bigger features and more facial hair in general.”

            Maybe you are right. Pashtuns are more diverse., but in this paper their ASI is 30% : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769933/bin/mmc1.pdf
            Thats why i said same as Punjabis(for example Jatts).
            Another case is Haryana Jatts with their 20% NE Euro(same as Tajiks) and lesser ASI than Punjabis,but they look more Indian than Punjabis.

            “Gujaratis have less ASI (depends on caste) but definitely 2-3x more Steppe ancestry than south Indian middle castes even if Neolithic Iran ancestry which you have alluded to is around the same levels, which would explain phenotypical difference. Also endogamy as you said.”

            By Gujrati averagei I meant GujratiA in Harappadna spreadsheet or Patel Gujratis, the upper caste are equivalent to Brahmins, so they form a different cluster. GujratiA scores only 1-2% NE euro/Caucasian and the rest is same as south Indian mid-caste.

            “Your particular family might not look obvious stereotypical East Asian as such, but the East Asian admixture levels would be several levels higher than a West India Gujarati for example (for which it is about 0%), and this combination would bring about the Bengali ‘look’ distinct compared to other south Asians. For example I grew up with a lot of Bangladeshis, and they can tell other Bangladeshis from looking at them. The only person who was routinely confused for a Bengali was a Nepali girl we knew, who I assume would have similar levels of NE Asian admixture
            Also regarding caste system – as you mentioned i don’t think caste based endogamy existed in Bengal outside the West Bengal Brahmins. People from Bangladesh have no history of caste and are largely homogenous, which is unique in South Asia. Though Bengalis have told me people from Sylhet have a distinct look, perhaps more NE Asian ancestry

            Yes, i scored same East Asian as Bengali average, ~12%(or 14-15% including siberian).
            There are few samples that scored up to 19% IIRC.
            I’ve seen some sylhetis results, they scored same east Asian as bengali average.
            The only bengalis with significant difference i’ve seen were 1000genome BEB Bengalis, who score lower east Asian, higher Indian and 0% to very minor steppe/caucasus.
            My question was why my family members have no east Asian influence, but some of them look almost west Asian,thats true for bengalis in general, who dont have any east Asian features.I already got the answer from Razib Khan.

  5. i checked rs1426654 which explains 27% of the variation in pigmentation in south asians in the 1000 genomes. it is segregating in hardy-weinberg within the south indians, and the frequences are high enough for alternative alleles that it has be to varying a lot in families.

    if you anecdata doesn’t support this variation i assume you just don’t know many south and east indians?

  6. Slapstik – Successive Australian Prime Ministers have stated it publicly, e.g. I know that Julia Gillard (liberal) and Malcolm Turnbull (conservative) have both said it, for a certainty. I don’t recall reading whether Kevin Rudd actually said it, but it’s probable – that or something close to it.

    1. My point was whether this a commonly held notion among Australians – as opposed to political spin. I’m sure I can find many British PMs saying EU is a godsend. Does not follow that this is the common British perception on the ground.

  7. A tangential question: what is the favored explanation for the widespread Eurasian preference for White skin (WITHIN races)? (as in the Chinese Bai Fu Mei: White, rich, beautiful), what is its background and significance?

  8. Slapstik – Hard to know. I think a majority of people probably repeat it like a mantra and delude themselves into thinking it; whether they actually internalise/believe or endorse it is less clear. It is something that people are expected to say they support publicly, and it is a consistent line peddled in the mainstream media. It is a consistent ‘policy’ statement across the two major and most minor political parties (with the exception of oddballs like One Nation), as if you can decree ‘success’ by stating it as a matter of policy, like Julia Gillard when Prime Minister stating “Australia is not a racist country”, when the experience of my own mixed-race nuclear family is that it very much is a racist country, in the sense that it is always there, on a daily basis, although not coming from every single person. There is a reason why my daughter’s university friends were Singaporeans, Malaysians, an Assamese, a subSaharan African, a Papuan, Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese – ‘native-born’ white Australians were not interested in being friendly to an ‘Asian’ (actually half-Chinese, with a native-born Australian phenotypically European father), and a few were actually openly hostile, although there were a couple of odd exceptions who were sort of luke-warm friendly. One mildly humorous one was a white Russian woman from Moscow, who commented that having my daughter around made her feel “like home” (she was referring to the Central Asian presence in Moscow – not a dumb comment; my daughter looks like she could be Central Asian). A brilliant Greek female post-doc, who went out of her way to be helpful to her during her research year. University staff were pretty neutral, but then they have a strong motivation to be friendly to overseas students for financial reasons.

    But first you have to figure out what it actually means. Immigrants are expected/required to speak good enough English and espouse ‘Australian values’ (whatever they are – I have never seen any clear definition of what ‘Australian values’ are, although most people no doubt have their own vague idea of what they are – they are things/stuff that ‘we native-born Australians’ do). So, I don’t think ‘multi-cultural’ actually means that (except on some very superficial level) – it is a euphemism for something else which can’t be stated publicly. Possible alternatives are ‘multi-racial’ (as a consequence of the official dismantling of the White Australia Policy) and ‘we tolerate Muslims’. There could be others.

    1. ‘‘native-born’ white Australians were not interested in being friendly to an ‘Asian’ (actually half-Chinese, with a native-born Australian phenotypically European father), and a few were actually openly hostile’

      I’m an Indian-Australian from Sydney, this is true. White Australians tend to congregate in white suburbs, but then so do East Asians, South Asians etc. It’s 21st century tribalism. Having grown up in a white area as an immigrant from India there was a lot less racism than you would expect, and to this day I have to say explicit racism is rare in Sydney. Australia and Canada have taken the multicultural concept the furthest without breaking it for now.

  9. A multiracial United States is going to be more complex world than the situation before 1965, when America’s racial consciousness was partitioned between black and white (notwithstanding Native Americans, Hispanos and other Latinos in the Southwest, and a residual of Asian Americans).

    I’m not convinced that we aren’t already at close to peak complexity in our understanding our nation’s racial and ethnic makeup in the United States.

    A pretty likely alternative is that pretty much everyone who is not African-American comes to be seen as part of the same “macro-ethnicity” with a Mestizo or one of the various forms of Asian-American biological ancestry coming to be seen as no more culturally meaningful than the distinctions between someone with Scots-Irish, Italian and Finnish ancestries are today within a “white” macro-ethnicity. The lion’s share of people in the U.S. with predominant genetic ancestry from a part of the world other than Europe or Africa have immigration histories within the last 60 years or so (a mere two generations) and are following patterns of assimilation very similar to those of European immigrants from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who are mostly now considered “white”. The “Anglo-Saxon Protestant” part of the historic WASP identity has become increasingly less socially and culturally relevant.

    Notably, the racial categories of the U.S. census bureau have changed almost every ten or twenty years since its inception. For example, before the “Asian-American” category was established, there was a period of time when one of the census categories for race was “Hindu” which was understood at the time to mean “South Asian” rather than being a question of religious affiliation.

    In most Latino populations in the U.S., many Asian-American subpopulations in the U.S., and almost all Native American populations in the U.S. (even some immigrant mixed race African, and immigrant entirely African populations in the U.S. are also heading in that direction), women have exogamy rates at or near 50% in the second generation and beyond. Similarly, marriage outside the religion of one’s parents at birth is about as common among more than one of the main subpopulations of Jews in the U.S. (both an ethnicity and a religion) and among Catholics of all races.

    It is only a matter of time before some new macro-ethnic identifier (perhaps “Eurasian”?) starts to replace “white”. Exogamy rates are not as great among African-Americans due to mutual social norms of African-Americans and non-African-Americans. But, among whites existing rather high levels of endogamy mostly simply reflect their supermajority status that flows from the fact that they are the largest macro-ethnicity in the U.S. – the fairly high endogamy rate for whites in much of the U.S. would be present even if mate choice were entirely random apart from modest geographic constraints.

    So, I would not be at all surprised if my grandchildren grew up in a world that is less complex and more binary than the one we live in today.

    Now, this isn’t the only possible future for the U.S.

    Another pretty likely scenario given the experiences of other countries (e.g. South Africa and most of South America) is that most of the main racial identities in the U.S. remain more or less intact (or even simpler with categories like Hispanic black and Hispanic white folded into a single Hispanic ethnicity), supplemented by a new “brown” or “mutt” category that includes pretty much everyone with any form mixed race ancestry who, despite their disparate physical appearances are, just as South Asians are, seen as part of a single overarching race-ethnicity, rather than as belonging to a lot of distinct hybrid sub-categories.

    Extrapolating the growth of interracial marriage rates which is at about 18% and growing fast (and a rate which is probably lower than the percentage of children born out of wedlock who are mixed race), it isn’t hard to imagine this ethnic category making up 30%-40% of American children in 20-30 years, while historic single race categories, particularly non-white, non-black single race categories see their “market share” of U.S. children shrink considerably (with those who continue to practice racial endogamy in those categories doing so, on average, with a much more conscious and intentional desire to find a mate of the same race).

    This alternative too, would really be no more complex, and arguably would be even a bit less complex, than today’s status quo.

  10. “. In my case it seems the east Asian percentage i scored didnt affected me or my family members, even none of my nearest relatives have any east Asian influence.”

    traits may be influenced by small # of genes so sampling variance is a major issue.

    plenty of my family members (cousins, etc.) look very east asian. one of my 2nd cousins works in malaysia, and malays assume she is one of them, and not an indian (who are mostly tamil).

    1. “plenty of my family members (cousins, etc.) look very east asian. one of my 2nd cousins works in malaysia, and malays assume she is one of them, and not an indian (who are mostly tamil).”

      When I didnt know nothing about Bengali’s genetic, I had thought bengalis “genetically” would be very diverse, the reason was the diversity we have, not many homogenous ethnic group has such diversity within people that can look almost West Asian to almost Tribal to almost east Asian.I was very surprised when i saw how homogenous(in term of consistent amount of ANI,ASI & east Asian) we bengalis are.

      “traits may be influenced by small # of genes so sampling variance is a major issue.”

      Make sense, I suppose in future these issues will be more clear with further samples and researches.

      1. I was very surprised when i saw how homogenous(in term of consistent amount of ANI,ASI & east Asian) we bengalis are.

        in the 1000 genomes there are a small # of people who look like south indian dalits in the BEB samples. by their sample IDs they also look like they were collected at the same location and probably time. i don’t know who these people would be, but thought i’d put that out there

        (also, i think one of the BEB samples is half bengali-brahmin genetically)

        1. “in the 1000 genomes there are a small # of people who look like south indian dalits in the BEB samples. by their sample IDs they also look like they were collected at the same location and probably time. i don’t know who these people would be, but thought i’d put that out there”

          IIRC in some gedmatch calculator(precisely MDLP) they used 1000genome BEB bengali as Bengali reference, but BEB bengalis scored lower east Asian, higher Indian and almost none Steppe/Caucasus, but the bengalis i know scored lower Indian, higher east Asian and significant steppe/Caucasus compared to them.
          Even though there is not any caste endogamy in Bangladesh, there still exist social classes. During marriage time parents look for the family background and their prestige.
          Also there are certain facial features typical in middle or upper classes but rare in lower classes.
          These factors could be due to social class endogamy?

          1. These factors could be due to social class endogamy?

            i think they are people who came from somewhere else during british india period. only explanation for why they have ~0 east asian, which is present among west bengalis too (albeit lower fractions)

      2. and yes i was surprised too. i had assumed that the gene flow from east asia was continuous and ppl would have a high range of values. but as it is it looks like geography is the only thing that predicts….

        1. “i think they are people who came from somewhere else during british india period. only explanation for why they have ~0 east asian, which is present among west bengalis too (albeit lower fractions)”

          Did you mean those few BEB sampls that clustered with south Indian Dalits? Yeah, they probably came from somewhere else or could be some local group that followed a strict endogamy.

          Btw I didnt referred only them for 1000genome BEB, in MDLP project K16 modern calculator’s spreadsheet there are two types of bengalis, one labelled as Bengali(they are 1000genome BEB IIRC) the other is labelled as Dhaka.The former scored ~70% Indian, ~16% east Asian and only 0-1% Steppe/Caucasus/NEEuro compared to Dhaka average that scored ~56% Indian, 19% east Asian and ~10% Steppe/Caucasus/NEEuro.I clustered with Dhaka average in that calculator.
          Both scored east Asian so they are bengalis, but there are significant differences in Steppe/Caucasus/NEEuro and in Indian percentage.

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