Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

October 30, 2011

When genetics comes in handy in politics

Filed under: Culture,Ethnicity,Human Genetics — Razib Khan @ 12:21 pm

In Mother Jones Andrew Serwer has a long profile up of a Mitt Romney adviser who has associations with Lebanese Christian sectarian radicals. This section jumped out at me:

Régina Sneifer, who served in the Fifth Bureau in 1981 at the age of 18, remembers attending lectures where Phares told Christian militiamen that they were the vanguard of a war between the West and Islam. She says Phares believed that the civil war was the latest in a series of civilizational conflicts between Muslims and Christians. It was his view that because Christians were eternally the victims of Muslim persecution, the only solution was to create a national home for Christians in Lebanon modeled after Israel. Like many Maronites at that time, Phares believed that Lebanese Christians were ethnically distinct from Arabs. (This has since proven to be without scientific basis.)

The scientific issue is actually a little more complex than Serwer comprehends. It is true that Muslims and non-Muslims in any given region share a lot genetically, but non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East have gone through a long period of endogamy and demographic contraction, resulting in genetic differences (mostly obviously, they seem to have less Sub-Saharan African admixture than their Muslim neighbors). But the interesting point is how widespread genetic information is now becoming in trying to understand various issues. Serwer is broadly correct I’d say that the Maronite radicals who argue for a strong separation between the origins of their own people and the Muslim and Druze of Lebanon are not on solid basis, just as Muslim Arabs who believe that they are predominantly descended from Arabians are also not on solid ground.

When genetics comes in handy in politics

Filed under: Culture,Ethnicity,Human Genetics — Razib Khan @ 12:21 pm

In Mother Jones Andrew Serwer has a long profile up of a Mitt Romney adviser who has associations with Lebanese Christian sectarian radicals. This section jumped out at me:

Régina Sneifer, who served in the Fifth Bureau in 1981 at the age of 18, remembers attending lectures where Phares told Christian militiamen that they were the vanguard of a war between the West and Islam. She says Phares believed that the civil war was the latest in a series of civilizational conflicts between Muslims and Christians. It was his view that because Christians were eternally the victims of Muslim persecution, the only solution was to create a national home for Christians in Lebanon modeled after Israel. Like many Maronites at that time, Phares believed that Lebanese Christians were ethnically distinct from Arabs. (This has since proven to be without scientific basis.)

The scientific issue is actually a little more complex than Serwer comprehends. It is true that Muslims and non-Muslims in any given region share a lot genetically, but non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East have gone through a long period of endogamy and demographic contraction, resulting in genetic differences (mostly obviously, they seem to have less Sub-Saharan African admixture than their Muslim neighbors). But the interesting point is how widespread genetic information is now becoming in trying to understand various issues. Serwer is broadly correct I’d say that the Maronite radicals who argue for a strong separation between the origins of their own people and the Muslim and Druze of Lebanon are not on solid basis, just as Muslim Arabs who believe that they are predominantly descended from Arabians are also not on solid ground.

June 19, 2010

America in 2050 may still be majority white

Filed under: Culture,Ethnicity,race — Razib Khan @ 12:50 pm

I have expressed some skepticism at the idea that in the year 2050 the United States of America will perceive itself as a majority-minority nation; that is, non-Hispanic whites will be be a minority. This projection is repeated and asserted so often that it’s a plausible background assumption when you’re making a model of the American future. But there are other factors which make this a shakier inference from current trends. A new article in The New York Times which has nothing to do with racial identity as such is a good tell as to the other factor at work, Plea to Obama Led to an Immigrant’s Arrest:

he letter appealing to President Obama was written in frustration in January, by a woman who saw her family reflected in his. She was a white United States citizen married to an African man, and the couple — college-educated professionals in Manhattan — were stymied in their long legal battle to keep him in the country.

One of the principals is introduced as white, but later on, you learn:

“I’ve been feeling very confused and ashamed as an American citizen,” she said, evoking her family’s eclectic immigrant origins.

Her father, an emeritus professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of California, Berkeley, is the son of Scottish immigrants; her mother’s family were refugees from North Korea; her stepmother is Chinese; and her sister’s husband is Egyptian.

Vanessa HugdensIf her mother is one of the tiny minority of white European-descended Koreans, she happens to be one of those who also has a Korean first name (it isn’t too hard to find these data on the internet). In other words, The New York Times felt that it was permissible for the purposes of this article to frame one of the individuals profiled as white despite the fact that more precisely she’s Eurasian as is clear within the text of the article itself (she may also have identified herself as white to the reporter). I am not sure that she would have been defined as white if her husband was not an African immigrant, as for narrative purposes that is probably a better contrast effect. But imagine if her mother’s family were black immigrants from Jamaica: The New York Times would not define her as white I would hazard in that case.

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