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In his [ New Yorker ] article Philip Gourevitch modified one of my statements by having me say, “What do I have to do to not be racist? Marry a black woman? With AIDS, if possible?” However, as my recording of our interview shows, I said marry “a black person” (“ un noir “), and not a black woman” (“ une noire “). My expression, on this side of the Atlantic, has an obvious ironic meaning that Mr. Gourevitch did not pick up. I am sure your readers will catch all of its humor.

Jean-Marie Le Pen 1

Le Pen’s translation, as an effort at setting the record straight, is quite odd. The reference to “un noir,” a black—as in “a black person and not a black woman”—can mean only that Le Pen is speculating about marrying a black man (a person-not-a-woman). Also, he thinks it important to clarify that talk about marrying a black woman with AIDS is something we might take seriously, whereas we will catch the humor in his marrying a black man. Why? What is it about marriage to un noir that Le Pen finds so amusing? The “joke” is supposed to be funny because marriage is the kind of contract we just know that Le Pen in particular would only have with a White, French woman sans AIDS. That is because marriage is thought to suggest love and intimacy, which is why Le Pen thinks mocking this projection of political correctness is especially amusing. What Le Pen presumably does not realize is that the reason marriage is the punchline is that the institution does not just passively accommodate the racist prejudices of people such as Le Pen, but actively constitutes “un noir” and “une noire” in the first place.

When faced with the crudely stupid and harmful rhetoric of someone such as Le Pen it may seem off-point to focus on the sloppiness of his word choices. If the point of attacking Le Pen is to achieve inclusive, egalitarian norms and practices of the sort he so clearly despises, then the pursuit of precision in racial terminology is not the obvious strategy for accomplishing this. It would be easy to observe the unfounded bases of his disciminatory ideology and to respond with boilerplate liberal precepts that would highlight the logical and political inadequacies of policies that harm people based on crude measures of racial background. And yet, it is precisely because figures such as Le Pen, and organizations in the United States such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation, are the exceptional manifestations of more humdrum mechanisms of race that inquiry into the long-standing structures of race are important. That race may so often seem to be a harmless sort of difference, especially in liberal ideologies, distracts us from the governmental institutions and state forms that always inform racial taxonomies. That race-s are constituted and sustained by government agencies, and even more importantly, that races are reproduced through political territories of origin experienced as intransigent and immutable, means that there are no cases in which race is apolitical and no possibility for one’s race to be a form of being with emancipatory possibilities. While the practices associated with racial affiliations may vary quite widely, membership in a race depends on reiterations of exclusions and hierarchies that are epitomized in political societies. As opposed to some who argue that racism creates race, the contention here is that race always entails race-ism, just as much as gender differences always entail sexed forms of domination and that class entails exploitation. To see the character of the power particular to racial domination is to note its coincidence with, rather than its independence from, those expressions of power particular to the state form.

By virtue of functioning as the sine qua non of group differences, race is the culmination of political society, family, nation and ethnicity. To point this out is not to claim that racism is more virulent or pervasive than any other form of discrimination, nor is it to claim racial taxonomies have a privileged telos, that race had to happen because of families and political societies. The suggestion here is simply that race is the anchor and the raison d’etre for certain governmental forms of affiliation to appear determinate and fixed, a starting point and a conclusion that is both separate and attached to the very form of political society itself. This occurs quite transparently, as governments constitute certain forms of being by virtue of appearing only to document them, and also, more significantly, through the idioms of cartography that appear to represent the very earth itself as the bases for significant differences among its inhabitants. In the first form of racialization, internal juridical rules of political society—especially conventions of birth and marriage—create certain intergenerational classifications of race. In the second, familial nations are the implicit underlying building blocks for the consitution of racialized territories of origin. The continents and other spaces of earthly origin are graphed such as to yield the possibility of racial difference that dialectically grounds certain modern political societies as naturally different—differences based on laws (of nature) the state creates. 2 Taxonomies of race, which is to say, race itself, are produced by the apparently fixed dimensions of land and body. The “African” must be a real racial type, it is intuited, because Africa is a real place. While nations might be imagined communities, with ideologies and political borders subject to dispute, Africa, as a continent, simply exists.

A state, which is to say the “modern state” that frequently epitomizes the meaning of the concept, is often rendered as at once more artificial and more sturdy than the apparently tribal structures that allegedly preceded it. From Hobbes to Weber, the story of the state’s development is one of the triumph of rules and force over passions and faith. While at times the state can seem a fragile, technological chimera, akin to machinations of the Wizard of Oz, the state is also indelibly inscribed with traces of its putative origins in the fertile, swampy goo of its biological prehistory. When the state allies itself with species reproduction, which it does variously and insistently, then the rules that constitute a family also constitute the state as a “nation,” the latter of which is perceived as natural, given. 3

Although affiliations of nationality and ethnicity frequently are discussed as though, like race, they too are primordial, nationality and ethnicity manifest largely as “practices” rather than as “physical characteristics.” The ancestral differences that give rise to the possibility of a national or ethnic background are not thought to be revealed by the body, but by effects of family name, language, or style of dress. If someone claims “You look French” and by this means that the person’s body is a specifically French body, then France has become racialized. This convention of racializing what people in the United States idiomatically describe as ‘national origins’ was extremely common up until the early twentieth century. John Stuart Mill, for instance, in discussing the cultural characteristics assigned to French, Italians, Irish, English, Swiss, Romans, Teutonics, and Spartans, interchangeably refers to their ‘race’ and ‘national character’. 4 In the United States up through the turn of the century it was common to refer to new immigrants from Europe, such as the Irish and Italians, as members of different ‘races’ as well as different ‘nationalities’. Underlying the collapse of the two terms was the notion that there were distinct bloodlines that were asociated with sovereign political societies, such that physical appearance and nationality were coterminous. The eventual differentiation between ‘race’ and ‘nationality’ corresponds with the development of a global economy in which people were as likely as commodities to cross borders. This new mobility may have undermined assumptions about a physiological relation that one might have to a nation. Second and third generation emigrants lose obvious traces of their countries of origin, by changing their names and losing their accents. Obviously this is not the case for many. But it is easy to adopt these conventions of assimilation, such that over time the view that nationality was akin to a birthmark could not be sustained. So old caricatures of physical, visible differences between national groups also lost much, though not all, of their salience. This is not just a story about the fabled United States’ “melting pot,” but holds for Jews assimilating throughout Europe, the Irish in England, and Russians in Latvia as well.

For race, contrariwise, the display of ancestral difference is for the most part indexed by physiognomy, where degrees of the “Blackness,” “Whiteness,” or, for Mill, “Frenchness” of one’s ancestors are inferred from one’s physical appearance. The contrast between ideas about race and those about nationality does not mean that there are genuine differences among subpopulations’ physiogamies that make it easier to imagine undermining the effects of national, compared to racial, differences. Rather, because the form of race is one that exists vis-a-vis discourses of observed physical differences, racial taxonomies seem more permanent than those of nation or ethnicity. So, although one may be aTaiwanese national because one’s parents are Taiwanese, and one may be considered to be a member of the Asian race because one’s parents are Asian, the marks of the Taiwanese ancestry are matters of language, dress, and citizenship, whereas the indication that one is Asian lies primarily in the appearance of certain physiological traits.

Numerous scholars have pointed out the infelicities of such inferences: people may have certain physiological signs thought “Black,” but no Black ancestors, and vice- versa. The category is not simply a matter of self-identification, either. Virginia Domnguez’s work on the history of Louisiana Creole communities 5 and Anthony Marx’s comparison of race in the United States, South Africa and Brazil show how the state intervenes to continually (re)organize taxonomic schemes that would otherwise disintegrate due to the centrifugal pressures of “mixed” births, ambiguous appearances, and personal efforts to control who one is.

The rules of kinship generated by the state not only militate against this disintegration of race, but also constitute the category’s chief characteristic, which is that it is intergenerational. The certificates naming racial identities at birth, marriage, and death have been used to establish racialized rules for who can reproduce (legitimate) children and inherit, so that who one is is always tied to the particular terms by which one is interpellated by the state. As is the case for affiliations of family and nation, marriage and inheritance rules also overdetermine the nexus of race and property ownership. In 1993 the median income of White families was 39,300 dollars. The median income for Black families that year was 21,542. 6 This is a dramatic difference, but even more dramatic are the differences in family wealth . In 1993, the median net worth for White households was 45,740 dollars. For Black households, the median net worth was 4,418 dollars. 7 This difference in wealth accounts for the difference between owning a home and having money saved up for college, and not having these. Wealth flows largely through families, and hence the juridical conventions that form families will also contribute to the formation of wealth. Important to the racial character of these disparities is that the state does not just passively allow pre-political wealthy Whites to pass wealth on to their White children, but itself has constituted “Whites” and reproduced their wealth as Whites by precluding interracial marriages.

Still, simply observing state interventions into the constitution of a certain group does not tell us much about race. The state constitutes numerous terms of affiliation for groups whose economic activities are regulated through these interventions, and yet most of these do not bear on the concept of race. The certificate to cut hair renders one a “state certified barber.” Without that certificate certain property relations are precluded, but that does not mean the state has constituted a “race” of barbers. Barbers, however, are not thought to be distinguishable by their appearances. Unlike the belief that one can ascertain who is the “White” person in a crowd of “Asians” one would have less confidence in one’s ability to identify the state-certified barber in a crowd of other state certified workers.

One response to these questions about the state’s role in constituting race might be that there really are underlying attributes of race, and the government simply names these attributes, albeit sometimes incorrectly. For the government to shuffle around certain labels in a manner that may seem arbitrary and incoherent is just one more sign of a bureaucracy’s failures, and does not mean that race is something the state invents. For instance, if I mistakenly refer to an object that is really red as “bright orange” no one will propose that we abandon the concept of color. Phenomenologically, colors exist. Bright orange is real, this line of thinking might continue. I just erred in saying that something really red was “bright orange.” Insofar as race is phenotypical, it might be thought to reveal (or not reveal) a genetic trait, and hence race would differ from, say, that of a French nationality or of state-certified barbers, if for both of these there is no notion that one can confidently distinguish among the forms of nationality or occupations with state certification simply on the basis of observed bodily differences. The intuition here is that differences inscribed on the body must speak to genuine, biological distinctions, not artifacts of the state. Racialization has political implications because of a prior assumption, which is that bodily differences are essential whereas differences of speech, dress, and cuisine are accidental. The body’s appearance seems necessary, while our practices are thought to be contingent. 8

Toward a Phenomenology of Race

Most discussions of relations between White Americans and Black Americans among social scientists focus on the dynamic of racism, and not race. 9 These studies assume race differences as constitutive of groups, and then provide evidence for how these differences result in certain “racial” or “racist” conditions or attitudes. This work assumes three dominant forms. One view among Whites has been that social differences reflect important genetic differences between races, differences that have been “scientifically” shown to render Whites more suited for positions of high social status than Blacks. 10 A second account is that physical differences just happen to provide the site for deeply felt psychological needs people have to be part of a group that oppresses other groups . The difference in physical appearance provides a convenient site for people to invent stories about their differences. Whether the differences are genetic or imagined is irrelevant. American slavery and contemporary racial discrimination both, in this model, are represented as products of an innate need to experience one’s identity— through being in a group that excludes and stigmatizes others. A third explanation of racism is that people are not born with any innate desires to be close to some people and distant from others, but that pressing economic circumstances induce people to favor their group over others. 11 Although all of these explanations capture something about the dynamics of racial group differences, none of them address the question of how one comes to be taxonomized into specifically racial groups.

The account of innate differences that favor Whites has been widely, though not completely, discredited by and among scientists between World Wars One and Two. 12 One of the symptoms of the concept of race-s fraility can be seen in the ceaseless battles over how to perform racial classifications. Some scientists maintained that there were three races, others, that there were over 300. 13 Also, scientists were challenged by children of so-called mixed marriages, and could not agree on how to classify them. In the absence of an obvious classificatory scheme, the assertion of racial group differences foundered on the absence of identifiable racial groups. Still, many continue to consider physical differences to be both genetically determined and determinate of social differences. IQ controversies occasionally flare in the United States, 14 and there are occasional Ku Klux Klan marches and Aryan Nation terrorist scares. But now there is the notion that such activities may constitute ‘racism’, which was not a word before 1930. 15

Dominant scholarship in the United States now represents the different status of Whites and Blacks in this country as rooted in differences of socio-economic backgrounds, such that income and class background are shown to correlate with race so as to render some groups systematically less able to “fit in” with the dominant culture of late capitalist America. 16 The belief has been that some set of vaguely defined cultural differences correlate with race. Not genetic inferiority, but social policies and dominant group prejudices have denied Blacks equal access with Whites to the American dream. The corollary was a prescription to change the environmental factors so that opportunities available to Whites would be open to Blacks as well. This social-scientific response to nineteenth century prejudices is really an answer to a question about racism, not race. It provides a non-essential explanation of a dynamic whereby one group does not “fit” and therefore is held in low regard by members of a dominant group. This approach addresses the dynamic of racism, but reveals little about the meanings of “race.” Implicit in this view is a belief that biological differences such as skin color manifest in natural group differences. These differences are not problems unless groups organize according to these biological attributes and, as in the slave trade, one group exploits another for no reason other than these differences.

The flaw in this account, as in all accounts that treat racial groups as given entities, is that the subtle physiological and genetic differences that exist among individuals are in fact fine-grained ‘clinal’ differences that are continuous, not categorical. Gene clusters vary in small degrees. “Race” imputes categorical breaks along what is really a continuum of gene clusters. These researchers maintain “race” is not real, but a folk concept. 17 (This critique of race has so permeated the field of anthropology that a survey of over 700 anthropology textbooks in the late 1980s found that most either define “race” as a folk category or do not bother to mention it at all. 18 ) Yet even absent categorically obvious genetic differences among people, distinct “racial” groups still seem to be recognizable, a fact with which the anthropologists’ dismissal of the concept seems to trivialize.

The next account of race—people have a deep psychological need to distinguish themselves from each other—is also incomplete, although it certainly dominates the academic and even popular literature, in which prejudice is accepted as an irrational, emotional impulse. In a chapter heading, Ruth Benedict asks “Why Then Race Prejudice?” Her answer? “Racist dogma is modern,” but it expresses the “old human obsession” which is that “my group is uniquely valuable and, if it is weakened, all valuable things will perish.” 19 The problem with this assertion is that history undermines its largely functionalist assumptions, which leaves the theory no place on which to stand. In the absence of any “racist gene,” or babies whose first words are “I am White,” the main evidence that people have deep-seated racist fantasies is that people behave in a racist fashion. This observation does not account for the historically specific emergence of the modern concept of race, which arises at the same time that ‘race’ becomes a word—at the time of the Inquisition and the beginning of the slave trade. (Nor does such a story about the “old human obsession” account for the frequent cosmopolitan, anti-racist movements that are possibly as prevalent as their reactionary counterparts.)


The Oxford English Dictionary ‘s first overarching definition of ‘race’ is: “A group of persons, animals, or plants connected by common descent or origin.” In small print, a further explanation follows: “In the widest sense the term includes all descendants from the original stock, but may also be limited to a single line of descent or to the group as it exists in a particular period.” Three refinements of this definition ensue, referring to lines of ancestry. The fourth definition is: “One of the great divisions of mankind, having certain physical peculiarities in common.” Then, in small print, the following caveat is offered: “The term is often used imprecisely; even among anthropologists there is no generally adopted classification or terminology.” As evidence for this, the following example is used: “1971 R.M. and F. M. Keeling, New Perspectives in Cultural Anthropology 51: ‘It is at this point that ‘race’ becomes relevant. Though in popular usage it is emotionally charged and imprecise, it has a straightforward and important meaning in evolutionary biology. A race is a geographically separated, hence genetically somewhat distinctive, population within a species.’” 20

This popular imprecision in the use of ‘race’ does not seem to trouble most of those who use the word, according to the experts who document confusing uses of words. Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage “examines and evaluates common problems of confused or disputed English usage.” 21 ‘Race’ does not appear in this text. ‘Mankind,’ ‘native,’ ‘human,’ and ‘man’ do appear, as instances of words fraught with political troubles that become expressed in language. About the word ‘man’ English Usage states: “Man in its generic sense ‘a human being’ has come under considerable attack in recent years by people who feel that because it is so widely understood in its somewhat more recent sense of ‘a male person’ its generic sense slights women.” 22 The Dictionary of Changes in Meaning includes ‘race’, but only the definition that applies to “running a race or moving rapidly.” It contains no mention of the other word ‘race’. 23 Despite the scientific uncertainty as to the meaning of ‘race’, we English-speakers apparently continue to use it as though we know what we mean.

‘Race’ itself was coined relatively recently. There had been a long history of European contact with Africans, but not until around the fifteenth century did some Europeans speak of Africans as an inferior ‘race’. 24 And even then, that judgment was not universally in effect. For instance, Black and White indentured servants initially received the same treatments in the British colonies, until the period between 1680 and 1710. 25 Winthrop Jordan writes that “until the emergence of nation-states in Europe, by far the most important category of strangers was the non-Christian.” 26 This seems to suggest that even if people have an inherent propensity to hate “others,” they did not always select these others on the basis of differences understood as racial

‘Race’ in (Translations of) Antiquity

Clearly kinship networks and nations existed before the seventeenth century; and group-based exploitative economic and political relations certainly were widespread before then as well. Accounts from around the globe tell of tribes that would capture and enslave members of other tribes, as well as attempt to conquer territory. For centuries Christian “just wars” legitimated the enslavement of one’s enemy throughout Europe and Asia. But physiological differences were not at the root of how these group differences were represented. 27 In ancient Greece conflict was between different ethnoi, characterized by their geographical territories of origin and the language they spoke, though modern English translations may anachronistically call them ‘races.’ One translation of Herodotus’ Histories includes the following: “The Ionians are an indigenous race...” and “Of the Pelasgian language I cannot speak with certainty, but that it was not Greek may be inferred from the language of those of the Pelasgian race now living in Creston...” And “...these are a fair sample of the Pelasgian race.” 28 In all of these examples ‘race’ is either simply added—“the Pelasgian race” instead of “the Pelasgian”—or is offered as a translation of ethnoi. In other phrases, however, the same word is translated as ‘nation’ or ‘people.’ The “language of the Pelasgian peoples” and the “Greek peoples,” for instance, are both renderings of ethnoi.

When Rome settled the province of what the Romans called ‘Africa’ in 146 BC (and ‘New Africa’ in 46 BC as they colonized further South and West) there was no difference in the treatment of the indigenous populations of these areas and those in other regions being conquered in Europe:

The legal distinction between the inhabitants of the metropolitan country and those of the provinces was progressively obscured under the empire, both by the settlement of Roman citizens in the provinces and by the granting of Roman citizenship to subject peoples and individuals. This process was consummated in AD 212, when citizenship was granted to nearly all freeborn inhabitants of the Roman empire. By that time, there had already been many emperors of non-Italian origin, and the current dynasty, the Severi (AD 193–235), hailed from northern Africa. 29

The encounters of “Blacks” and “Whites” described by Martin Bernal and Frank Snowden indicate that there was mutual interest in differences in skin color, but there are no specific cultural, caste, or political associations that flow from this attention. The exception to this view is that of Michael Banton, who says that “discrimination against strangers and particularly dark-skinned people” occurred in “antiquity.” But his only evidence for this assertion is a quotation from Aristotle, in which Aristotle has observed that some men are naturally slaves. There is no reason to consider this a claim about “race,” and Aristotle does not mention differences in appearance. Banton’s Aristotle holds racial beliefs only because Banton has projected modern ideas about racial slavery onto the Greeks. He offers no further evidence of ancient “racial” discrimination. 30

In the third century one’s skin color had no role in assigning one a place in an empire, even when the metropole was populated by those with a different appearance than those initially populating the periphery. Snowden believes the peaceful relations between Rome’s center and Africa “undoubtedly owed not a little to Augustus’ foresight and to the diplomatic negotiations of Ethiopian and Roman ambassadors, some of whose names appear in inscriptions dating from 13 BC and later.” 31 Romans did have Black slaves, but only as prisoners of war, a relation that was reciprocal. Indeed there were at least several hundred years during which dark-skinned people were conquering or enslaving lighter-skinned Europeans. The Moors occupied parts of Spain and Portugal in the tenth and eleventh centuries. They remained politically dominant in some regions until 1492, about fifty years after Portugal sent ships to the regions of south Africa, new to Europeans, in response to the Church’s edict that banned the use of Christians as slaves, even if they were captured in just wars. The close contact with the northern Africans had meant that many had converted to Christianity, or shown the propensity to do so. To adhere to the ban on Christian slaves required ventures with people with whom the Spanish and Portuguese had no previous relations. 32

Hannah Arendt, Oliver Cox, and Frank Snowden all date the current understanding of race as one that is recognizable no earlier than the fifteenth century. 33 The most minimal acquaintance with European politics belies two dominant explanations of racism. The fifteenth century is long before Darwin would provide a natural scientific shroud for the concept, and yet long after Europeans during the Roman empire had colonized parts of Africa. Hence race is not an outgrowth of ideas about natural selection, nor is race an age-old expression of innate differences that result in slavery. Neither the demands of science nor those of conquest account for the concept’s emergence in the fifteenth century.

Further, if racism were a natural sentiment, rooted in an inherent need for sectarianism, then we cannot explain the fact that for thousands of years large numbers of people have held racism in contempt, out of strong cosmopolitan sentiments. The notion that people have psychologically rooted drives to distinguish themselves from others on the basis of physiological difference 34 does not account for the many people who oppose inequalities based on physical difference, nor the fact that this opposition has been institutionalized in many countries. Of Portugal, Europe’s first country to embark on the slave trade, A.C. de C.M. Sanders writes:

In 1444, for instance, the first slave auction at Lagos was interrupted by the common folk who were enraged at seeing the separation of families of slaves, and even Zurana, the royal chronicler, declared his sympathy for these unfortunates. 35

What really should prompt us to think about race, instead of racism, is that so many people are actually strongly opposed to racism, even as the concept of race continues to have resonance in these cultures. If a psychological desire like that depicted by Joel Kovel is so deeply rooted that it inspires people to enslave others simply by virtue of physical appearance, then why was there a period when these physical differences did not result in institutionalized slavery, and why have so many people and countries resisted such an impulse? 36

What Race Is (Not)—I

Not only have linguists and historians been unable to determine a consistent meaning of the word ‘race,’ but contemporary scientists cannot agree on its meaning. There are no definitions of race that are uniformly accepted by the natural scientific community. 37 Social scientific studies that refer to race are interested in ‘race relations’ and do not bother to define ‘race,’ or define it superficially, usually by tautology. Even those who believe racial hierarchies are inherent to the human condition do not offer a clear definition of what race is. One would think that the definition of race would be especially important to those pursuing racist public policies, but that is not the case. For instance, psychologist Arthur Jensen states:

Socially we usually have little trouble recognizing a person’s race, based on overall physical appearance. If a group of persons were asked to classify racially the various people they observe on the streets of any large city in the United States, there would undoubtedly be very much agreement among their classifications. And if the persons so classified were asked to state their racial background, there would be high agreement with the observers’ classifications. This is the social meaning of race used by the proverbial ‘man in the street.’ It is also the form of racial classification used in the vast majority of studies of racial differences in IQ. 38

Jensen himself notes that about 20% to 25% of “Black” Americans have “White” genes, so clearly genes alone cannot determine race. 39 Hence part of the literature begs the question of defining race, and part defines race, but does so tautologically. Threshold criteria of “51% of a particular gene” or a “plurality of genes from a particular race” are useless, in that the denominator remains unknown. The definition “A White is someone who is 51% White” does not further inform us about what counts as “White.”

Here are some alternatives proposed by prominent investigators of this concept.

1) [Race is a] classification based on traits which are hereditary. Therefore when we talk about race we talk about (1) heredity and (2) traits transmitted by heredity which characterize all the members of a related group. 40

The first part of the definition is over-inclusive, and the second part is tautological, since what characterizes the “related group” as such is precisely what is being defined. The definition is too broad because a lot of traits are inherited but not “racial.” For instance, we do not have ‘race’-s of people with Type O blood, even though this is an inherited “trait” and everyone who has it could be taxonomized as related by virtue of having this trait (or having in common parents who pass this on).

2) [Race relations are] behavior which develops among peoples who are aware of each other’s actual or imputed physical differences. 41

Here the distinguishing racial taxonomy, which is physical, is also over-inclusive. We do not behave in a specifically racist manner, though we may exhibit shock or prejudice, when we are aware of the “actual or imputed physical difference” of someone we imagine might be blind or near death, or a man wearing a skirt, or a gang of teenagers with pierced body parts and mohawks.

3) [Racism is a] form of status consciousness that arises when one group justifies its dominance of another group on grounds of real or alleged differences in ancestry and/or physical characteristics. 42

Encountering individuals with especially large ears, or bushy eyebrows, or small hands, all of which may suggest a “real or alleged difference in ancestry and/or physical characteristics” does not lead to a specifically “racial dominance,” but possibly ridicule and more likely disinterest.

4) [Racialization is the] systematic accentuation of certain physical attributes that allocate persons to races that are projected as real and thereby become the basis for examining all social relations. 43

This definition is partly right, it seems, but far too vague. If the purpose is simply to attend to the fact that invocations of race refers to physical difference, then, like the preceding definitions, it may not be wrong, but it is unhelpful, since it begs the problem of distinguishing between contexts that render some physical characteristics racial. Not all physical characteristics prompt these invocations, and those that do may or may not lead to a specifically racial observation in all contexts. For instance, a big nose might be mocked as “Jewish” or it might be ridiculed for being a big nose.

5) Race : The folk category of the English language refers to discrete groups of human beings who are categorically separated from one another on the basis of arbitrarily selected phenotypic traits. 44

This phenomenological definition recognizes the constructed character of racial difference, but it is still over-inclusive. Fat people and thin people have different “phenotypic traits,” but this does not lead to “weight” as a racial category, folk or otherwise. And clearly the same thing goes for “males” and “females,” who also display some systematic differences in phenotypic traits—and in their genes—that do not, however, constitute them as different “race”-s.

6) To be distinguished reliably requires that races differ from others in the incidence of alleles of some genes influencing observable attributes. This criterion can be met with regard to the major subgroups of humanity. 45

This definition is circular with regard to the “race”-s (the “major subgroups”) which are assumed to already exist. Such a genetic definition is unhelpful. We do not have races of Downs Syndrome-prone people, or races of people who transmit fat genes, or thin genes, or bald genes, or races of men and women, 46 even though these groups have differences in the “incidence of alleles of some genes influencing observable attributes.” We do not see a race of fat people dispersed throughout the world, who sometimes intermarry and produce more children with fat genes (and who sometimes marry thin people, in which case the fat gene will occasional be recessive, just as skin pigmentation may be).

Numerous scholars from several disciplines have long recognized problems with the racial classificatory schemes and justifications outlined above. And yet they too do not tell us what race is. The most sophisticated books on race tell us only what race is not. For instance, Yehudi Webster shows how biological, historical, cultural and economic explanations all fall short. His plea is for social scientists to stop studying “race,” since it does not really exist. Webster believes that social scientific discussions of race are in fact the main culprits of the concept’s original and continued salience:

The realist or social constructionist characterization [as opposed to the biological one] simply allows social scientists to continue to operate with a flawed racial classification....To claim that the expansion of public policies on race relations, and the development of race relations research are unrelated to popular racial thinking is to absolve these institutions of any social responsibility. A radical and philosophically sensitive sociology would investigate the collaboration between government and social scientists in the racialization of society. The reference to ‘social meaning’ may turn out to be a self-serving legitimization of racial studies. 47

Webster believes that since race does not really exist, scientists and policy makers should stop talking about it as though it did. 48 They should stop asking questions about one’s “race” on surveys, government forms, and even the census, he believes. That way our social categories will more ac curately reflect reality. The salutary social benefit is that racism will go away once race does.

The State of Race

Another way to think about race is not to accept what one group of experts asserts race is, nor to develop a definition so broad as to allow for, alternatively, fat people, thin people, the bald and hirsute, or the near-sighted and far-sighted, homosexuals and heterosexuals, men and women, to be considered “race”-s. These other classifications have been used as the basis for invidious (as well as benign) forms of discrimination and they may prompt allegations of correspondences between phenotype and genotype: a bald man may have children who are at greater risk of baldness than children of someone with lots of hair—even as the classifications of what counts as “lots of hair” and “bald” may be up subject to dispute. For instance, baldness at death may be regarded as normal, so at what age does it count as a genetic trait? 20? 30? But why not 29? Or 31? The same “problem” of indeterminacy applies to sexuality and gender classifications. If a woman usually has sex with women, but also intercourse with men on occasion, is she a “lesbian”? Foucault’s study of hermaphrodites raises questions about gender classifications. 49 There might be sound logical reasons to stop using these categories altogether. One could think (and people have said as much): we have done without the “homosexual” in the past and ought to do so in the future. But in the end we do not eliminate these signs from our language. Just as the atheist’s denial of God’s existence does not eliminate the reality of that presence for others, the philosophical rejection of race only impedes our understanding of the concept’s meaning, without eliminating it from our discourse, our reality. When God really is dead no one will know about it.

Race has no more tenuous a relation to reality than any other identitarian concept, although it is unique in certain ways. Turning to work by W.E.B. Du Bois, whose writings betray a tremendous influence of Hegel, we see the intertwining of ancestry and geography in stories of race and racial origins. Ultimately, what makes someone Black, at least in the United States, is that we imagine that at some point she had ancestors in Africa; what makes someone White is that we imagine that at some point she had ancestors in Europe. This also accounts for how it is that someone may “look” White and yet “be” Black (and vice-versa), depending on the story one wants to tell. So, out of the tensions in the meanings of ‘race’ as a folk concept, supplemented by a recognition of the importance of geography to regulating our ideas about phenotypical differences as specifically racial, a definition of race can emerge: a subpopulation of human beings with imagined or observed bodily characteristics believed to correspond with a geographical territory of origins. Presently the geographical territory of racial origins is imagined as a continent. At times the equally artificial boundaries of the nation-state are also imagined as outlining territories of “origin”al differences in bodily appearance. This definition acknowledges imputed observed differences as well as the narrative of origins involving a geographical territory that are both embodied in representations of racial difference.

The phrase “geographical territory of origins” captures the concern with origins that underlies stories of ancestry. To be “originally” from a place implies that one has ancestors who lived in a particular place. At the same time, the emphasis on geography denotes the fixed and contingent character of representations of race better than more vague representations of familial ancestry or genes alone. This story of race seems quite essentialist. From Africa: Black. From Europe: White.

According to the Dictionary of Human Geography “Caucasoid” refers to “one of the primary races of people, found in Europe, N. America, and from the Middle East to northern India. It is the most variable in physical appearance of all the great races.” The entry then goes on to describe skin color, eye color and hair colors and textures of the Caucasoid. 50 “Mongoloid” is defined as the “peoples of Southeast, East and Central Asia and the American Indians.” A physical description follows. 51 Finally, “Negroid” is defined first by physical characteristics, and then by place of origins: “The majority of Negroids have their origins in Africa.” 52 From these entries it seems that “race” refers to a set of physical characteristics attached to one’s ties to ancestors from places like Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Africa, Europe, and Asia are geographical places that are naturalized by their correspondence with geologically formed regions of the earth. Insofar as Asia seems natural, it is only natural, given variations in climate and terrain, that groups of people from different geographical regions will differ amongst themselves, supposedly making them racially distinct. But if the story were that simple, then the fetishisms associated specifically with race would be random. With no further explanation it is indeed nonsensical for us to assign arbitrary phenotype and genotype configurations to adaptations made to “geography”—constructing the rubric of race—and not to mutations and adaptations of flat-footedness. What makes Asians? The answer—whatever made Asia—does not lead in the essentialist direction one might imagine. The notion that geographical differences lead to differences among people is not the same as saying that “race” is the outcome of geological difference.

Clinal differences among selected pairings of genotype and phenotype are clustered into races by the contingency of national borders and by geography—the manmade graphics of the earth—not geology, or what we see when we understand that the earth does not change all that much, relative to the individual human life span, and all that quickly. 53 The geographical determination underlying the use of ‘race’ rests on another category of invention that is actually far more naturalized (and with far less reason) than race. What is Africa? A continent. What is a continent? According to the Dictionary of Geography a “continent” is “one of the earth’s major constituent land masses,” “Africa,” “North America,” “Central and South America,” “Asia,” “Europe,” “Australia,” or “Antarctica,” each of which occupy so many millions of square miles, depending on whether or not one includes the former USSR. 54 From the Dictionary of Geography we have learned that Africa is a continent. A continent is Africa.

“Another thing that puzzles me is why three distinct women’s names should have been given to what is really a single landmass.” 55 Herodotus recognized the political character of these places, the historical contingency of “Africa,” “Asia,” and “Europe.” He does not mistake the apparent givenness of the continents for any essential quality of “Asia”ness or “Africa”ness. They are simply “women’s names that... have been given.” Herodotus next sees fit to investigate the origins of these names and hence these locations, although his speculations do not lead to any answers. After pondering the question for a paragraph, without once referring to differences in the appearances of populations, he writes: “Nor have I been able to learn who it was that first marked the boundaries, or where they got the names from.” 56 He concludes, “I shall continue to use the names which custom has made familiar.” 57

Custom, not nature, makes continents. According to an 1835 speech by Rep. Trimble, a staunch believer in Manifest Destiny, although God had given the world “natural boundaries,” societies had not accepted them:

Man, in his made career of glory, his thirst for dominion, had rejected as useless the great and permanent boundaries of nature, and sought out ideal, perishable limits of his own condition. 58

Historian Albert Weinberg, considering this speech, states: “The principle of the natural barrier is thus concerned not with the unifying territorial features, but with those which clearly and securely separate peoples.” 59 Rivers and mountains do not separate peoples. Governments do. People do not gain their identity from the land. Rather, the land gains its identity from the people who occupy it. “Germany” exists because that is the place where “Germans” originate and live. Borders do not arise from the land, but from the identities of the occupying nations. When Rep. Ingersoll, another believer in Manifest Destiny, referred to political sovereignty as recognizing the “natural boundaries between the anglo-Saxon and Mauritanian races” 60 he was making the point that the Anglo-Saxons and Mauritanians make geography (according to where they live), and not the other way around.

Herodotus, in his many descriptions of parts of the world, defines a territory according to the group of people that occupy it. He writes, “I cannot help but laughing at the absurdity of all the map-makers—there are plenty of them—who show Ocean running like a river round a perfectly circular earth with Asia and Europe of the same size.” 61 He then offers to straighten out the misconceptions as to what the earth looks like:

Let me spend a few words in giving a proper notion of the size and shape of these two continents. Persian territory extends southward to the Red Sea, as it is called; north of them are the Medes, and then the Saspires, then the Colchians, who go as far as the northern sea, where the mouth of the Phasis is. These four nations [ ethnoi ] fill the area between the Black sea and the Persian Gulf. Thence run westward two great continental promontories, one of which stretches from the Phasis on the north along the Black Sea and the Hellespont to the Mediterranean at Sigeum in the Troad, and again, in the south, along the Mediterranean coast from the Myriandic gulf, near Phoenicia, to Cape Triopium. This branch of the continent contains thirty nations... 62

A continent is what has nations. A specific continent is such by virtue of the nations there. Asia looks different, depending on what we think about the former Soviet Union, not certain rivers and mountains. A continent is also literally named by nation-states. Antarctica exists by an agreement not among the scientists who work there, but the nation-states in which they have citizenship. (A committee of representatives of nation-states designated “Antarctica” a place and stipulated the terms of research and commerce possible there.) 63 Political societies rely, in part, on the permanence of the earth to grant their groups a particularity that extends between and beyond the lifespan its population at any given moment. Similarly, the particularity of a people relies on the apparently long-standing, given, natural intergerational ties of ancestry created by kinship rules.

Marriage and Race

Just as the identities of continents are determined by the countries of which they are composed, within countries racial identity is likewise determined by the state form, in particular, through its devices that guarantee intergenerational continuity in the so-called identity of its people. One of the major sites where the state has intervened to define the meaning of race as well as specific racial identities has been marriage law. Current racial classifications all follow from the legal history of racial classifications. The state does not treat racial identity as amenable to synchronic reassessments. Rather, one’s race is the race of one’s ancestors, which is always what the state announces was the race of one’s ancestors.

The very form of political societies is a key to understanding the aggregation of a geographical space associated with race, and it is not surprising to note that internal rules also evoke racial classifications, particular when the state constitutes racially specific marriage forms. In the United States Courts have construed the correct and hence legal marriage form as simultaneously “Christian” and “European.” This collapsed racial/religious rubric articulates the marital relation specific to the United States. One of the most famous marriage cases, Reynolds v. United States (1878), upholds penalties for polygamous marriage against Mormon assertions of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause: “Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people.” 64 In this opinion, Europe is conflated with northern and western Europe, as a racialized experience in contrast with those of “Asiatic and of African people.” Obviously the category is confused. Of interest are not the details or logic of the classification, but the formal articulation of a specifically national marriage structure within a framework of a racialized religion. The state’s association of marriage with nationality, race, and religion binds the last three in a manner constitutive of a particular kinship form. The form for the right kind of marriage follows from an overdetermined nexus of principles imputed to affiliations of a specific religion (Christianity) and a specific race (European), not utilitarian principles of good child-rearing practices, or deontological arguments about the single most rational marriage form.

The twentieth century anxiety over illegitimacy in the United States is a consequence of marriage law that has racial overtones. Patriarchal monogamy is perceived as European, while anything else is regarded by the state as Asian or African. Why is the state so invested in marriage? If the state is formally committed to sex equality and has no interest in favoring one inheritance practice over another, one would expect the state to recede from legislating in this area. What is it to the state whether a father is married to the mother of his child, or whether, relatedly, kinship is matrilocal or even matriarchal? In his still influential Report on the Negro Family (1967) Patrick Moynihan admitted the political motives for favoring a patriarchal, married family:

There is, presumably, no special reason why a society in which males are dominant in family relationships is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement. However, it is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one principle, while the great majority of the population, and the one with the most advantages to begin with, is operating on another. This is the present situation of the Negro. Ours [i.e., White society] is a society which presumes male leadership in private and public affairs. 65

That is, most people in this country are White; Whites have power over Blacks; Whites have patriarchal values; therefore, African-Americans should be more patriarchal as well. 66 The explanation is illuminating, especially when pragmatic arguments against the consequences of illegitimacy fail.

In Europe the countries with the lowest rates of marriage and the highest proportions of illegitimate children do better than those with high rates of marriage and low rates of illegitimacy, on a wide array of quality-of-life indicators. In the United States out-of-wedlock births were at 21 per cent in 1990. In the Sweden and in Denmark the figures are 46.4 per cent and 41.9 per cent, respectively. In Austria 21.5 per cent of children were born out-of-wedlock. These countries outperform the United States in average levels of education and income per capita. They have lower rates of infant mortality and violent crimes. Among the countries with far lower rates of out-of-wedlock births are those with largely Catholic populations, including Ireland (7.8 per cent), Italy (4.4 per cent), and Spain (3.9 per cent). These countries fare worse than the United States when it comes to levels of education, income per capita, and rates of infant mortality. They have more violent crimes than the European countries with high rates out-of-wedlock births, but not as many as in the United States. 67 The inference is not that marriage or illegitimacy have obvious economic consequences, but that they interact or do not interact with other practices in ways that stymie simplistic utilitarian inferences about the institution.

In addition to the form of marriage being specifically racialized, its rules have also relied on the state to reproduce racial identities. In an early decision allowing a railroad to have “separate but equal” seating, the Court relied on “the Creator’s” thoughts on marriage to “prove” the relevance of the state’s recognition of racial difference:

Conceding equality, with natures as perfect and rights as sacred, yet God has made them dissimilar, with those natural instincts and feelings which He always imparts to His creatures when He intends that they shall not overstep the natural boundaries He has assigned to them. The natural law which forbids their intermarriage and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to them different natures...From social amalgamation [sitting next to someone of a different race on a train] it is but a step to illicit intercourse, and but another to intermarriage. 68

Importantly, intermarriage, not illicit sex, is the furthest one might stray from a Christian God’s intention. Children of interracial parents had to be classified as having a father of the same race as the mother, or the parents would be punished. 69 That marriage was a factor in the reproduction of these affiliations was a point Tocqueville made, when he wrote that “whites and emancipated Negroes face each other like two foreign peoples on the same soil.” Tocqueville maintained that “there are only two possibilities for the future: the Negroes and whites must either mingle completely, or they must part.” Elaborating on “mingling” he explains that “it is the mulatto who forms the bridge between black and white; everywhere where there are a great number of mulattoes, the fusion of the two races are not impossible.” 70 It was, of course, the ‘mulatto’ that marriage law annihilated—a legal eradication that was reinforced in the “one drop” rule, making ‘mulattoes’ Colored or White. Current debate over the proposal of a “multiracial” category on the Census and other government documents is the legacy of Loving. Only after the legal prohibitions on interracial marriage are eliminated is it possible to see significant increases in the numbers of “inter-racial” children.

“Anti-miscegenation” laws prohibited so-called interracial marriage in this country until 1967. 71 The purpose of these laws was to regulate the “Whiteness” of the country. Marriage regulation was a proxy for physical restraints against interracial heterosexual intercourse, to wit: “Free persons and slaves are incapable of contracting marriage together; the celebration of such marriages is forbidden, and the marriage is void; it is the same with respect to the marriages contracted by free white persons with free people of color.” 72 Hence relatively few children were officially reported as being the offspring of interracial couples, even where the actual identities of the parents were known. With “miscegenation” and “fornication” both against the law, interracial children were either legal nonentities or evidence of a crime.

Another consequence of these laws was that these illegitimate children could not inherit: “Bastard, adulterous or incestuous children shall not enjoy the right of inheriting the estates of their natural father or mother, in any of the cases above mentioned, the law allowing them nothing more than a mere alimony.” 73 This law helps explain disparities in the wealth of Blacks and Whites. Legitimate Black children would be the descendants of slaves; illegitimate Black children were precluded from inheritance. States still distinguish between the claims of legitimate and illegitimate children against their parents estates. Parents currently can, of course, will their estates to whomever they please. But the state-issued classifications establish a grammar that produces “illegitimate” and “legitimate” children and hence the norms of attachment and obligation associated with these different classes of children: “Although these code articles do not openly differentiate rights to inherit by race or color, they effectively protect the estate of white families from being passed on to colored relatives.” 74 With laws regulating both miscegenation and legitimacy in effect until the 1970s, the disparity in family wealth between Whites and Blacks is completely predictable.

Race and Birth Certificates

States list one’s “race” on a birth certificate, and have sole control over the criteria for determining what counts as one’s race. The consequences of these birth certificates extend beyond the life of the individual, as subsequent generations have their race determined through ancestry, and the mark of one’s racial ancestry is indicated on the earlier birth certificates. The Federal forms used to register births require the recording of the race of both parents. The possible designations are: Other Asian or Pacific Islander, White, Black, Indian (includes Aleuts and Eskimos), Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiin (includes part Hawaiin), other non-White, Filipino. The list raises many questions. Why designations for “other Asian” and “other White” but not, “other Black”? Why so many national designations for “Asians”? Despite the idiosyncrasy of these categories, the state is adamant on their prerogative to maintain them.

In 1985 the United States Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision allowing Louisiana state officials to racially classify their citizens. 75 But even if the plaintiff had succeeded she would not be considered, from the point of view of the state, indubitably white. The mechanism for changing birth certificates is to cross out the old designation and then write the new designation in red ink. This means that the old designation is not obliterated but remains in a manner that will continue to raise questions about one’s true identity. A crossed out “Negro” might be really Negro, or so thought the plaintiffs who filed suits to have Louisiana issue them “clean” birth certificates when their racial designations had changed.

In one case a “White” family had their classification changed, unbeknownst to them:

Gerard H. Cline Sr. requested a birth certificate for his son, Gerard H. Cline, Jr., for use in enrolling him in school. At that time, he was informed that the boy’s race had been changed from white to Negro, and also that the same change was made on the birth certificates of his wife, Elaine Mary Dejean, her sister, Marguerite Estelle Dejean Rosenbohm, their brother, Sidney Dejean, Jr.,, their children, Lionel Rosenbohm, Jr., Charmain Rosenbohm, Kathleen Rosenbohm, and Sidney Dejean, III, and the birth and death certificates of the children’s grandfather, Sidney Joseph Dejean, Sr. The alterations were made by drawing lines through the word “White” which appeared on the original certificates and the word Negro was written in ink to designate their race. These alterations occurred without the knowledge of any of the plaintiffs, and the person who made the changes and the reason therefor are both unknown. 76

The family was not satisfied with the redesignation being crossed out, but desired new birth certificates be issued. This is because the alterations, by law, are seen as alterations, prompting them to be interrogated in ways that racial designations on clean birth certificates are not. The law says that “Except for delayed or altered certificates, every original certificate on file in the division of public health statistics is prima facie evidence of the facts therein state.” 77 The Court and the law acknowledge that the state wants to keep records that will call into question changed designations. Because Cline convinced them that there was no question of his family being Negro, they were issued new records.

In another case, the crossed out version of the birth certificate was upheld. The plaintiff wanted to have his birth registration changed by

showing him to white instead of colored and to change his name from Larry Lille Toledano to Larry Lille Mullet. He alleged that he was born to Idyl D Hall on March 4, 1937, seventy-eight days after his mother’s marriage to Chester J. Toledano. He alleged that he was of the white race; that his father is Edwin J. Mullet, who was married to his mother at the time of his conception; that his mother married Chester J. Toledano on January 11, 1937, and that she obtained a divorce from Edwin J. Mullet on December 16, 1953 (obviously the pleader meant 1936...) 78

In several places in the opinion the Court expressed some doubt as to the records Toledano had produced. While not accusing him of lying outright, the judge held that the designation of Toledano as colored at birth and its being crossed out was an accurate portrait of Toledano’s race: “It is our opinion that no amount of obliteration or erasure on the birth certificate will erase or change the fact that the plaintiff was registered at birth as colored...To effectively wipe out all evidence of the error, it would be necessary to expunge the records of this case...” 79 The state’s doubt will remain in the records; it cannot be otherwise.

Dominguez says that most states now rely on the parents’ reports of their children’s race. 80 But even here the state’s role in racial classifications is substantial. One cannot change one’s racial designation on the birth certificate, so that one is at the mercy of one’s parents for one’s racial identity. Further, the identification of the parents discussed above is done by hospital employees, not the parents, and may be used to question racial identities at one’s marriage or death. Finally, the classificatory possibilities are predetermined by the state—Asian, Black, Japanese—based on ideas about physical traits associated with political territories. One may engage in long debates over one’s own racial identity, but the only definition that has force is that of the state birth certificate, and its criteria have to do with national boundaries, not personal, subjective affinities.

Race and the Government

The United States federal government provides the following definitions of various races, for purposes of entitlement programs and affirmative action policies:

  1. 1. Black, Not of Hispanic Origin : A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

  2. 2. Hispanic : A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish Culture or origin, regardless of race.

  3. 3. Asian or Pacific Islander : A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, for example, China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.

  4. 4. American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having origins in any of the original people of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.

  5. 5. White, not of Hispanic Origin. A person having origins in any of the original people of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.

Additional sub-categories based on national origin or primary language spoken may be used where appropriate, on either a national or a regional basis. 81

These classifications are consistent with the use of national boundaries to mutually define continents and races. One is Asian if one has “origins” in China, Japan, or Korea for instance. What does it mean to have “origins” in a country? Normally we think of ‘origins’ as a beginning. To be a member of categories three through five requires one to have “origins” in an “original people.” What is an “original people”? How does one come to have an origin in a nation or a continent? One’s parents give one an origin, but they might give one that origin in one place or another, and they might have had their beginning in one place or another, and then just move. So it is one’s “origins” in contrast to a place of birth that determine race. That covers the immigrants from Europe who have children in Asia, ensuring their children will not be classified as “Asian.” How original must the original people be? If it is correct that the human species itself began in what we call Africa, then based on the above definition we are all African. 82 If no one has “origins” in Europe, then no person can, following government classifications, be labelled White.

The U.S. government appears to raise the question of what counts as “original” origins in its tautological first definition: A “Black” person is a person who is of a “black racial group” in Africa. This appears necessary so that one does not count Whites born in South Africa, for instance, as Black, insofar as they have their origins in Africa. 83 In this case the “Africa” qualification of who is Black is useless, irrelevant. Either everyone with origins at some point in Africa is Black (the definition does not stipulate a particular time period), which would include everyone; or “Black” refers to skin color alone, in which case the invocation of “Africa” is entirely irrelevant.

These federal classificatory schemes are also challenged by groups who want to readjust categories for purpose of aggregate data collection, as well as by individuals who feel wronged by the present system. Mustafa Hefny is bringing a lawsuit against the OMB. He believes that he was misclassified as White when he immigrated from Egypt: “Hefny says that as a Nubian, his hair is kinkier, his complexion darker and his features more African than blacks such as Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and retired Gen. Colin Powell.” 84 Hefney’s challenge relies on a political society to assign race. He simply is redefining his political society of origins. “Nubian” is not a physiological description. A Nubian is a descendant of the Nubians, “an ancient kingdom in Northeast Africa, in what is now Egypt and Sudan.” 85 The geographical designation of the ancient kingdom Nubia is one Hefny associates with certain physical characteristics (“kinky hair”) he thinks marks him Black.

These classifications have changed in the past, and they will, no doubt, change again. Reflecting the tautologies that permeate the system, one study called for “all blacks to be identified as blacks—not just those who origins are from the black racial groups of Africa.” 86 It is ironic that the discipline that gave us scientific understandings of “race,” namely that of anthropology, is now the one telling us that race does not exist, and that insofar as the concept does exist, it is primarily a matter of political organizations and boundaries. Of racial classifications in the Arctic, anthropologist Debra Schindler writes: “‘Race’ is a sociological phenomenon associated with oppression by the state, not a physiological boundary defined by specific biochemical criteria.” 87 A response states: “It would be focus research upon features for verification of polity differences in the past, beginning with polities indicated in primary Russian data and Aleut folklore.” 88 So, while political scientists are busy studying “races” based on illogical typologies that have been repudiated by the people who developed them, anthropologists are deciding that political communities might have something to do with what we call ‘race’.

What Race Is (Not)—II

The account of racial taxonomies offered in this essay is not definite as to the content of any particular race, but is very specific on the form taken by race. Such specificity challenges the notion that race is a diffuse concept, that “racism appeals either to inherent superiority or to differences. These putative differences may be strictly physical, intellectual, linguistic, or cultural.” 89 Goldberg also notes: “It should be obvious from all I have said that race cannot be a static, fixed entity, indeed is not an entity in any objective sense at all. I am tempted to say that race is whatever anyone in using that term or its cognates conceives of collective social relations.” 90 David Goldberg refers to the “complexity” of the concept of race. Sometimes it is one thing and sometimes something else, depending perhaps on the self-identification of the individual. 91 This is a highly unsatisfying theoretical proposition, no more necessary for a definition of race than for one of freedom, justice, or anything else. Goldberg attempts to demonstrate the slippery qualities of the concepts of race, religion, ethnicity, and nationality by asking “What is a Jew?” 92 But the possibility of assigning all of these designations to Jews does not mean the concepts are contingent or vague. Imagine a chair in my living room. “What’s that?” is asked, by an insurance agent, an interior decorator, and a three-year-old. The replies: 1) “It’s worth about $100”; 2) “A family heirloom that I must hold onto”; 3) “That? That’s a chair.” Goldberg asks “What is a Jew?”, notices a variety of answers, and claims this a function of the ambiguity of all of them—race, nation, ethnicity, religion, and so on. This does not follow any more than it follows that because “cost” is one among several possible responses that “cost,” “heirlooms,” and “furniture” are ambiguous concepts. They are perfectly clear concepts, relevant in different contexts.

Also, it matters that certain answers to “What’s that?” won’t do. If the response were “Oh, that’s the door to the study” the interlocutor would know she had been misunderstood, that this reply could not possibly refer to the chair, on the one hand. On the other hand the “family heirloom” response could indicate an ostensive mistake, with the respondent thinking that the decorator had been asking about an old chest of drawers directly behind the chair. ‘Chair’ and ‘chest’ have something in common that ‘chair’ and ‘door’ do not share: the possibility of being both ‘furniture.’

The same holds for uses of “race,” “nationality,” “ethnicity,” and “religion.” Races may be located either nationally or super-nationally (but not, I want to insist, extra-nationally), is that the same group may be named as a nation or a race. “Japanese” or “Asian” may be thought races. But there is no racial designation that exists independent of such a political geographical designation. This means that “Japanese” may be a national designation, depending on whether physical attributes are associated with the identity. This is what prompts Goldberg to attribute an insurmountable vagueness to what counts as a racial exclusions. 93 Returning to his example, Jews are a race when they are a people who are thought to have certain physical differences associated with a geographical territory of origins. In this case, the biblically described lands of the “Israelites” count as the place of origins. “Israelites” is the designation in the Hebrew Bible. 94 Jews are a nation when conceptualized as members of a specific political society. They are Israelites by ancestry, but not necessarily physically distinct from other groups. 95 Jews are an ethnicity when considered as a potentially national group within the borders of some place that is not Israel, not their “original” nation. 96 Finally, Jews are a religious group when described as a membership organization that distinguishes between the sacred and profane. Likewise, Blacks are a racial group when thought of in terms of physical differences associated with a territory of origins, i.e., Africa; Whites are a racial group when conceptualized as having physical differences associated with origins in Europe.

Are Blacks an ethnic group? When Jesse Jackson organized to have “Blacks” identify as “African-American” he was calling for African-Americans to be just another ethnic group. Ethnic groups designate a people associated with nation that exists elsewhere. Africa is not a nation, but an aggregation of nations. It is only because Africa has some of the political instruments associated with a nation that the label African-American is even conceivable. The numerous Pan-African conventions, organizations, and agreements 97 consolidate Africa as a political space that makes possible a sense of ancestral ties to that region and not simply one’s tribe. However it is the incommensurability of these African institutions with those of actual nation-states that makes the use of this “ethnic” label so awkward.

Conclusion: The Form of Race and Intergenerationality

So I end where Appiah begins, with his father’s house. He writes: “From him I inherited Africa.” 98 The inheritance is something protected from his mother’s side, from the Anglo political institutions that never dominated the tribal experiences of “funeral,,..., dance, and of course...the intimacy of family life.” 99 Appiah suggests that in Ghana the chieftain, not the state courts, “exercise[s] substantial power in matters of marriage, inheritance, and upbringing, and through all these, wealth.” 100 Here is the conventional wisdom that associates that which is “African” with that which is “tribal,” and both of these with the “intimacy of family life,” on the one hand. On the other hand, Appiah is connecting the “state courts” with that which is Anglo and disruptive of family life. In doing so Appiah obscures the fact that it is the very interventions of the chief that undermine the claim that what is familial is also intimate. If the contrast between Europe and Africa is itself the basis of the claim that African societies are more congenial and informal in their relations than European ones, then Appiah may be telling us little about the absence of rules in African tribes but a great deal about the role of orientalism in the generation of beliefs about the third world, including those of its inhabitants. The notion that one inherits certain rituals absent politica institutions is as untenable as the romanticization of these political rites. Appiah is proud of being African (he begins to publish under the name “Kwame” Anthony Appiah), and is therefore boasting abou t the practices that he feels gave him this sense of who he is. Appiah thinks he is teling us how he was made, but really he is pointing out the kinship rules that produce, and reproduce, Africa.

The private family that gives Appiah his personal links to Africa, whether that family is reproduced by a chieftain or government bureaucrat, functions in a manner inimical to freedom, in that both the tribal and the bourgeois family sustain political societies that produce certain roles that interpellate individuals into identities and experiences that are at best frustrating restrictions difficult to challenge, and are at their worst deadly. The ancestral nation, ethnicity, or race is harmful in itself, and not just one possible basis of harm. Any group history created by ancestry establishes political taxonomies of impermeable exclusions. Race is the culmination of an historical process that renders nature and people properties negotiated among nation-states. Recall the United States definitions of race, and this becomes more explicit. One’s race is determined by the existence of “Korea” or other state-nations that constitute Asia, Europe, or Africa, all in the name of a natural, “original” relation to the world.

The concept of race functions to affirm the determinacy of the state-nation, which might otherwise dissolve into the ideals of democracy and individuality that Kant predicted would lead to the cessation of all wars. After writing that a republican constitution is the only pure one, Kant says that it

also provides for this desirable result, namely perpetual peace, and the reason for this is as follows: If (as must inevitably be the case, given this form of constitution) the consent of the citizenry is required in order to determine whether or not there will be war, it is natural that they consider all the calamities before committing themselves to so risky a game.

The risks include doing the fighting themselves as well as paying the costs of war. 101 That Kant was wrong, that citizens of republics cheerfully rally around the flag, is not because the populace believes in “trickle down” theories of war bounty, but because, as Hegel pointed out, the members of a political society identify themselves as, and therefore exist through, the perpetuation of that political society. One’s racial form of being is a key part of this dynamic.

Nationality is a liminal space of contradiction that is as necessary as it is elusive, and is unlike other discursive objects more consistently and idiomatically “natural.” Race, in this context, helps makes nationality clear. The idea of race apparently stands above the contingency of the nation, justifying the preservation of borders in a manner resonant of Hegel’s monarchical appeals to God. When Christianity’s “just wars” no longer yielded justified slaves, the politically remote geography of southern Africa determined race, a type of people with observed physical characteristics associated with a particular geographical place.

Under Appiah’s pan-Africanism “We [Africans] share a continent and its ecological problems...” 102 In making this claim, Appiah is not inventing African particularity in an otherwise universalist world, but rather countering “Africa” to the equally particularist and kinship-based “Europe,” as both continents exist by virtue of the aggregation of state-nations that in turn are constituted by the kinship rules of their respective political societies. This topography yields kinship classifications with the same force as those given us by the geneticists whom Appiah criticizes. Are White colonists and their progeny included in Appiah’s pan-African project? Appiah’s account of difference, finally, does not abandon ancestral stories of origins that reproduce the same hardened sense of racial identities held by Le Pen, who relies on the same notions of race and marriage that Appiah make his points about racial difference. The annhilation of racisms would entail undermining of the juridical family, a project that has as little support in the writings of Appiah as in the statements and policies of Le Pen.

Jacqueline Stevens
Institution for Social and Policy Studies
Yale University
Jacqueline Stevens

Jacqueline Stevens is currently a Fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. Her book Reproducing the State will appear next year with Princeton University Press.


1. In “The Mail,” New Yorker, June 2, 1997, p. 6.

2. The only kind of political society that uses race is a state. Other political societies, such as the ancient Greek polis or the Roman empire or North American tribes, did not seem to associate observed physical differences with the contours of a group tied to a geographical territory of origin, which is the definition of race this essay develops.

3. These observations—on the associations among political society, family, and nation—are developed in Reproducing the State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999). This paper is an adaptation of Chapter 5 of that typescript.

4. “The Subjection of Women,” (Vermont and London: Everyman’s Library, 1985), pp.278–9.

5. White By Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1986).

6. Statistical Reference Index. Abstracts, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995), p. 474.

7. T.J. Eller and Wallace Fraser, Asset Ownership of Households: 1993, (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, 1993), p. 9.

8. That is why gender differences, as well, are thought natural. Of course the transgendered indicate the mutability of our bodies as well. In principle the success of these procedures might be conceived as a technological turning point, one at which societies have managed to turn gendered “bodies” into contingent “practices.” The preference for certain kinds of surgery on one’s genitalia might be thought of as continuous with choosing to have one’s nipples pierced, or a certain accent, or eating particular foods. Currently surgical interventions are onto a dichotomized body, one which continues to be perceived in rigid binaries. One is more or less male or female, as seen in ways that correspond to or diverge from “natural” males and females. Butler, Bodies that Matter.

9. The initial view of race as referring to problems of “Whites” and “Blacks” is neither arbitrary, nor strictly United States-centric, but follows from a belief Oliver Cox has defended, which is that the concept of race used to define dynamics among other groups is parasitic on the dichotomized concept of race as it emerged during the European slave trade. Caste, Class, and Race [1948] (New York and London: Monthly Review, 1959).

10. For research on how the “Protestant work ethic” is racially coded, see Donald Kinder and Lynn Sanders, Divided by Color: Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Margaret Wetherell and Jonathan Potter also show how “work” is represented as a phenotype of the genotype of “whiteness.” Mapping the Language of Racism: Discourse and the Legitimation of Exploitation (New York, London: Columbia University Press, 1992), esp. the chapter “Ideology and Political-Economy” pp.11–31. Balibar writes: “[T]he cultures supposed implicitly superior are those which appreciate and promote ‘individual’ enterprise, social and political individualism, as against those which inhibit these things,” in “Is There a Neo-Racism,” in Race, Nation, and Class: Ambiguous Identities, Ettienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, ed. (London: Verso, 1991), p.25.

11. Combining features of all three approaches, Michael Banton has developed a rational choice theory of race: 1) individuals use physical and cultural differences to create groups; 2) this results in racial and ethnic groups; 3) group interactions will change the boundaries of these groups. Racial and Ethnic Competition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p.104.

12. Though Du Bois and many others challenged scientific work on races in the late nineteenth century, the two anthropologists who most effectively discredited “scientific racism” from the early twentieth century through World War Two are Franz Boas and his student Ruth Benedict. In addition to their scholarly publications, both were extremely active in their professional societies and engaged in broader public debates about race. See Boas, Race and Democratic Society, collected papers (New York: J.J. Augustin Publisher, 1945); Benedict Race and Racism (London: Routledge and Sons, 1945), Race: Science, and Politics (New York: Modern Age Books, 1940). Elazar Barkan believes that their views would have been accepted much earlier, except that most of those arguing against scientific racism were Jewish. Their work was held to be self-interested by others in the field. The Retreat of Scientific Racism, (Cambridge, New York; Cambridge University Press, 1992), p.9.

13. Yehudi Webster, Racialization of America (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), p.34.

14. That a book in the 1990s on IQ differences even prompted controversy (and not marginalization) suggests this is still a view thought to be defensible. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, (New York: Free Press, 1994).

15. Barkan, p.3.

16. The work of sociologist Robert Park, a student of Talcott Parsons, exemplifies this. See Race and Culture (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1950). The “culture of poverty” work inaugurated among this generation and popularized in the policy recommendations of Senator Daniel Moynihan is still pervasive.

17. See for example Anthony Kroch’s entry on “racism” in the Encyclopedia of Anthropology, David Hunter and Philip Whitten (eds.)., (New York and London, 1976).

18. Audrey Smedley, Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992), p. 2, citing Alice Littlefield, Leonard Lieberman, Larry Reynolds, “Redefining Race: The Potential Demise of a Concept in Physical Anthropology,” Current Anthropology 23(6) (1982), pp.641–656. Kwame Anthony Appiah also follows this line of thinking, In My Father’sHouse (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) pp. 28–46.

19. Race: Science and Politics, p.222. For a similar description of racism as part of human nature, see Edward Shils, “Color, the Universal Intellectual Community, and the Afro-Asian Intellectual,” in Color and Race. John Franklin, (ed.) (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968); and John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town (New York: Harper, 1957). Benedict misleads here, because later the book does offer an historical account of race and racism that has nothing to do with this psychological explanation.

20. Oxford English Dictionary, prepared by J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, 2d edition (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), volume XIII, p.69. ‘Race’ as in “running a race” is under a separate heading, and has a separate etymological history.

21. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (Springfield, MA: 1989), p.4a.

22. Ibid., pp.621,651,515,620.

23. Adrian Room, Dictionary of Changes in Meaning (London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).

24. Leo Spitzer, “Race,” in Essays in Historical Semantics (New York: S.F. Vann, 1948).

25. Michael Goldfield, “The Color of Politics in the United States,” in Dominick Lacapra (ed.) The Bounds of Race: Perspectives on Hegemony and Resistance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), p.116; and George Frederickson, “Social Origins of American Racism,” Arrogance of Race (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1988).

26. White Man’s Burden (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974), p.337.

27. Ernst Renan, “What Is a Nation?” (1882), in Homi Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Narration.

28. Herodotus, p. 61.

29. R.C.C. Law, “The Roman Empire in Africa” in Cambridge History of Africa, J.D. Fage and Rolland Oliver (eds.), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), p.192.

30. Race Relations (New York: Basic Books, 1967), p.12. M.I. Findley discredits Banton’s reading of Aristotle, in Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology (New York: Viking Press, 1980).

31. Snowden, pp.30–1.

32. The above account is drawn from A.C. de C.M. Sanders, A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedman in Portugal, 1441–1551, (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982). This is also the account of the origins of race offered by Ruth Benedict and Oliver Cox.

33. Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, second edition, (New York: World Publishing Co., 1958); Bernal, Black Athena, vol. 1 (London: Free Association Books, 1987); Cox, Caste, Class, and Race ; and Snowden, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983).

34. Joel Kovel attributes “white racism” to the power of the story of Ham, exiled and made black because he looked at his father Noah when he was drunk and naked. Kovel argues that there is a specific fear of blackness in the white psyche, since blackness is a metaphor for feces and hence property—both which cause Whites anxiety: “Property in the modern Western matrix is filthified matter to be controlled and enjoyed without conscious guilt.” Black skin, according to Kovel, triggers an unconscious association among feces, control, and hence the desire for domination. Although I agree with Kovel’s repeated connections between property, nationalism, and racism, I find his causal explanation absurd. First, it is not true that property is only fetishized in the “West” and that this is necessary for slavery, since tribes in Africa cared about property and were enslaving each other long before Portugal sent ships there. Second, our own rules for property rights resemble those of Rome, yet Romans did not enslave Africans because of “race.” If “Whites” are intrinsically troubled by Blacks, then we would expect the Romans enslave Severi rather than make him the leader of the Roman Empire. White Racism: A Psychohistory (New York: Pantheon Press, 1970),pp.16,18,187,88–9,26.

35. A Social History of Black Slaves and Freedmen in Portugal, 1441–1551 (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p.35.

36. The racist post-colonial immigration rules highlight one way that during the period of Empire the Indian and English subject had equal mobility. Smith, New Right Discourse on Race and Sexuality: Britain, 1968–1990, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

37. Oxford English Dictionary, prepared by J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, vol. 13, 2d edition (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 69.

38. Webster, quoting Jensen, p.72.

39. Ibid.

40. Benedict, p.11.

41. Cox, p.320.

42. Frederickson, p.221.

43. Webster, p.3.

44. David Hunter, in Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Hunter and Phillip Whitten (eds.), (New York and London: Harper and Row, 1976), p.222.

45. Raymond Corsini, ed. Encyclopedia of Psychology (New York, Brisbane: John Wiley and Sons, 1984), p.200. It should be noted that many scientists pursuing genetic research refer to their work as “population studies,” and avoid references to “race” altogether, because about 85–90% of differences are “within population variation.” Stephen Zegura, note responding to Debra Schindler, “Anthropology in the Arctic: A Critique of Racial Typology and Normative Theory,” Current Anthropology, 26(4), (August–October, 1985), p.492.

46. Actually, the O.E.D. does record the use of ‘race’ to refer to “one of the sexes” in 1590 (p.86), but clearly that use is now obsolete.

47. Ibid., p.82. In a book charting the same intellectual history of “race” as Webster’s, Banton defines race as a “folk concept” that has changed over time. Racial Theories (London, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987). See also James Davis Who Is Black?: One Nation’s Definition (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991); and Balibar, “Is There a Neo-Racism,” p.19. Another philosophical debunking of “race” is in Jacques Barzun, Race: A Study in Superstition (1937), revised edition (New York, London: Harper and Row, 1966).

48. Marvin Zimmerman adopts a similar position, arguing that since psychologists cannot state what race is, they should abandon making “racial” comparisons. “Some Dubious Premises in Research and Theory on Racial Differences,” American Psychologist, (December, 1990), pp.1297–1303.

49. Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite, introduction, (New York: Pantheon Press, 1980).

50. Brian Goodall Dictionary of Human Geography (Middlesex and New York: Penguin, 1987), p.157.

51. Ibid., p.310.

52. Ibid., p.320. For purposes of my analysis it is irrelevant that this definition indicates a “majority” and not all “Negroids” are from Africa. Here I simply want to show the use of geographical designations in definitions of race.

53. Geological maps are also contingent. Their taxonomic devices change depending on the interests of the scientists or those who commission their work.

54. Calculations are offered for Europe and Asia with and without the USSR, which alone should prompt us to wonder about the natural status of the continents. F.J. Monkhouse, A Dictionary of Geography (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1970).

55. Herodotus, The Histories, tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt (London and New York: Penguin Books, 1974), p.285.

56. “Racial” difference is never entertained as a possibility.

57. Ibid.

58. quoted in Albert Weinberg, Manifest Destiny: A study of nationalist expansion in American history, (Gloucester: P. Smith, 1958), p.55. I use this quotation here because, as we shall see below, the doctrine of Manifest Destiny was important to the consolidation of the national identity of the United States much later in the century as well. It is relevant, then, to note the seeds of the theory as being rooted in a very statist understanding of geography. This may also recall Hegel’s anthropomorphizing claims about geography discussed in the previous chapter. For Hegel, the European nation-state is the culmination of world history, and so gets to name its borders; likewise for Trimble.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid.

61. Herodotus, p.282.

62. Ibid., pp.282–3.

63. “On Map of Antarctica, What Isn’t in a Name?” New York Times, January 12, 1997, p. A7.

64. Reynolds at 165.

65. “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” in The Moynihan Report and the Politics of Controversy, Lee Rainwater and William Yancey, (eds.) (Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1967), p. 75. emphasis added.

66. For an affirmative statement about this difference, see Karen Sacks, Sisters and Wives (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1977).

67. Source: Michael Wolff, Peter Rutte, and Albert F. Bayers, Where We Stand, (New York, Toronto, London: Bantam Books, 1992).

68. West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad Co. v. Miles Pennsylvania Supreme Court at 211 (1867).

69. Paul Lombardo writes: “Administrative enforcement by minor state bureaucracies also perpetuated the accepted mythologies, especially those involving the miscegenation taboo.” He then describes a 20 year racist correspondence between Virginia’s head of the Registrar of Vital Statistics and John Powell, founder of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America (ASCA), which begins in the early 1920s. “Miscegenation, Eugenics, and Racism: Footnotes to Loving v. Virginia, University of California Davis Law Review, 21 (Winter, 1988), p. 427. See also R. Sickels, Race, Marriage, and the Law, and “Raymond Diamond and Robert Cottrol, “Codifying Caste: Los Angeles’ Racial Classification Scheme and the Fourteenth Amendment,” Loyola Law Review, 29 (Spring, 1983), pp. 255–85.

70. Democracy in America, tr. George Lawrence, (New York: Anchor, 1969), pp. 355, 356.

71. In another telling portrait of the multiple layers of marriage politics, colonial law in Virginia prohibited “fornication” between “Negroes” and “Christians,” again suggesting that the religion, race, gender, nationality, and sexuality are always politically intertwined. Cott, “Giving Character,” p. 388, note 45.

72. Louisiana Civil Code 1808, page 24, article 8, quoted in Dominguez, p. 25.

73. Louisiana, Article 920 (revised Civil Code of 1870), quoted in Dominguez, p. 63.

74. Dominguez, p. 73.

75. La. App. 4 Cir. 1985. Doe v. State, 479 So.2d 369, write denied 485 So. 2d, appeal dismissed 107 S. Ct. 638.

76. Cline v. City of New Orleans La., 207 So. 2d 856, 858.

77. Louisiana Revised Statute 40:266, quoted in Cline, at 859.

78. Toledano v. Drake, 161 So.2d 339, 340.

79. Toldedano V. Drake, at 311.

80. Dominguez, p. 3.

81. Paragraph 42.402 Definitions, Subpart F—Coordination of Enforcement of Non- discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs, 28 CFR Ch 1 (7-1-92 edition), p.692.

82. Rebecca Cann, Mark Storekin, Allan Wilson, “Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution,” Nature 325 (1), (January, 1987). This article was popularized as the one with the story about an African woman who, between 100,000 and 140,000 years ago, supposedly was the mother of all homo sapiens. The basis of this claim is a study of the DNA from 150 placentas from around the world. The authors invoke the statistical principle of parsimony to claim that “All present-day humans are descendants of that African population,” insofar as this hypothesis minimizes the “number of intercontinental migrations needed to account for the geographical distribution of mtDNA types.” pp.35, 33.

83. This also speaks to the problem of the “African-American” appellation, rather than “Black.” Presumably a light-skinned person from a Dutch-born family who had emigrated to the United States from South Africa would count as an “African-American,” which may not be a bad thing, insofar as it causes us to understand the contingency of these supposedly natural classifications.

84. John Hughes, “Man Sues to Change Federal definitions,” Detroit Free Press, June 5, 1997, 17A.

85. Ibid.

86. Ibid.

87. “Anthropology in the Arctic,” p.483.

88. Jean Aigner, Ibid., p.484. Schindler’s essay argues against those anthropologists of the Arctic who persist in using racial typologies. But one of the more striking aspects of this article and the responses to it is the extent to which Schindler is taken to task by these specialists for constructing “straw men,” based on the fact that few archaeologists or anthropologists in her field use racial typologies in their work. Only one of the approximately dozen responses actually defends racial typologies, and his defense is a qualified one. (Kenneth Weiss, pp.490–1.)

89. David Goldberg, Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning, (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1993), p. 56.

90. Ibid., p. 81.

91. Ibid., pp. 101–3, 86.

92. Ibid., p. 101.

93. Goldberg, p. 103.

94. “Jews” are named as such by the Roman Christians, who associate a single tribe of the Israelites with the larger group and also, later, with Judas’ treachery.

95. Israelites were initially patrilineal. The transition to matrilineal descent occurs around 200 B.C.

96. It is also true that “ethnicity” is often experienced as a category of exoticism, such as when people refer to “ethnic” food or dress. I want to emphasize the importance of the fact that the underlying reference groups for all of these invocations are forms parasitic on political organizations, and not just any kind of difference. The Beatniks, for instance, inspired the formation of a sub-culture that was exotic vis-a-vis mainstream 1950s United States. But those who associated with Jack Kerouac were not considered to be part of an “ethnic” group. “Punk,” “queer,” “stock car race fans” and even “neo-Nazi” name particular sub-cultures in the United States, but they are not idiomatically called “ethnic.” Again, the taxonomy I have in mind does not require that the political society actually exist, only that it is thought to have existed in the past or aspires to exist as a political society in the future. Insofar as continents are also a function of political societies, an ‘ethnic’ invocation vis-a-vis Africa or Asia is consistent with my definition. In the latter case, it is the addition of certain nations into a continent that forms this political society.

97. And see Appiah, p. 180.

98. Father’s House, p. viii.

99. Ibid., pp. 7–8.

100. Ibid., p. 160.

101. Perpetual Peace, tr. Ted Humphrey, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), p. 113.

102. Father’s House, p. 180. For further discussions of the possibilities and limits of an African ‘philosophy,’ see essays by Lucius Outlaw, in On Race and Philosophy, (New York and London: Routledge, 1996), especially chapters 3 and 4.

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