The Heredity of “Racial” Traits

December 15th, 2004

This essay explains, in four topics, that much is known about the heredity of those physical features important to U.S. society in assigning someone to one side or the other of the endogamous color line. Three-to-Six Co-Dominant Skin Tone Genes discusses the genes that determine skin tone. Mendelian Inheritance explains that, on average, half of the children of admixed parents inherit a skin tone between those of their parents, one fourth come out darker than both parents, and one-fourth come out lighter than both. This means that any Afro-European admixed population will not blend homogeneously after many generations, but will continue to produce a few African-looking and European-looking individuals indefinitely. Appearance is not the Same Thing as Ancestry explains that, in admixed populations, even people who share identical ancestry may wind up with different Afro-European admixtures due to the random recombination of parental genes at each generation. This is why about five percent of the African-American population has no detectable African genetic admixture. Finally, Hardy-Weinberg Distribution shows how to compute the rate at which European-looking children are born into various Black communities in the United States, and the rate at which African-looking children are born into European-looking populations in other countries.

The Antebellum South Rejects the One-Drop Rule

November 15th, 2004

This essay suggests that between 1830 and slavery’s end in 1865 the South was in transition. Early in this period, which side of the endogamous color line you were on depended on the rule of blood fraction as modified by the rule of physical appearance and the rule of association.10 Eston Hemings, like his wife Julia Isaacs and her uncle James West, were accepted as White despite slight Black ancestry. But in the decades after 1830, after the North had accepted the notion of invisible Blackness, the idea spread southwards. Courts were at first willing to allow one-drop arguments to be made in court, but such arguments were not conclusive in reaching verdicts. Then after several years, verdicts began to be rendered based on invisible Blackness, although they were overturned. Later, appellate decisions began to uphold such verdicts. Step by step, the one-drop rule spread deeper into the slave states. By 1865, the upper South had apparently become comfortable with a one-drop rule in practice, while still paying lip service to the old blood-fraction laws in theory.

Antebellum Louisiana and Alabama: Two Color Lines, Three Endogamous Groups

October 15th, 2004

This essay introduces two out of the four societies, within what became the United States, whose color-line customs differed from the mainstream—Alabama and Louisiana. The other two were South Carolina and Florida. Alabama and Louisiana had two mildly endogamous color lines separating three groups: White, Colored, and Black. Both regions could trace their color line traditions to French colonies in general and to Haiti in particular. They are presented in three topics: English-Speaking Alabama describes an English-speaking three-caste society. French-speaking Louisiana depicts the better known Colored Creole society. An Echo of Haiti summarizes the origins of these cultures.

The Rate of Black-to-White “Passing”

September 9th, 2004

This essay discusses the annual rate of Black-to-White endogamous-group switching by Americans in four topics. The first section, The Average Yearly Rate is Between 0.10 and 0.14 Percent, uses several independent methods to compute the rate of switching. It shows that all converge to the same narrow range of numbers. The Percentage Rate Has Remained Relatively Steady over the Years, demonstrates why we know that Black-to-White group switching has been steady and continuous over the centuries. Our DNA reveals that the current African admixture in White Americans was neither the result of a one-time event before intermarriage was outlawed in 1691, nor the result of intermarriage after Loving v. Virginia 1967 ruled anti-intermarriage laws unconstitutional. How Can so Many People Falsify Their Paper Trail and Cut all Family Ties, explains that, except for a brief period in U.S. history—the Jim Crow era—there has never been a need to deceive nor to cut family ties. For most of the past 300 years, endogamous-group switching was done openly, just as it is today. Finally, The Maroon Escape Hatch suggests how, even during Jim Crow, families could pass from Black to White through a two-step process that included an in-between stage.

How the Law Decided if You Were Black or White: The Early 1800s

August 11th, 2004

This essay introduces the three legal rules that emerged in the early 1800s for deciding if you were a member of the Black endogamous group or a member of the White endogamous group: physical appearance, blood fraction, and association. It comprises three topics: Slavery Depended on Matrilineal Descent, Not on the Color Line shows that endogamous group membership neither affected nor was affected by slave status. Slave status was decided by a different rule entirely: the rule of matrilineal descent. The Color Line Became Legally Important Around 1800 explains why it became increasingly necessary for courts to decide whether someone was White or Black. At first, it was only to decide where the burden of proof fell in slavery cases, but state legislatures soon passed dozens of laws requiring distinctions across the color line. Physical Appearance, Blood Fraction, Association presents with examples, the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three rules that were applied in court.

The Perception of “Racial” Traits

July 19th, 2004

This essay reviews what is known about the culturally dependent perception of “racial” traits in four topics. Harry Hoetink’s Somatic Norm Image considers whether predictable differences in colonial histories determine how people see “racial” group membership. How U.S. Children Learn to See Two Endogamous Groups examines the stages through which children learn to identify and to articulate what their culture sees as “racial” traits. The Instinctive Need to See “Otherness” identifies the cognitive system, selected by adaptation to hunter-gatherer life over 200 millennia ago, that has been co-opted to identify someone as having “racially” different looks—an encounter that no Paleolithic hominid could ever have experienced. Finally, The Decline of the Bio-Race Concept offers a brief explanation of why the biological concept of “race” as applied to humans has been abandoned by the hard sciences.

Afro-European Genetic Admixture in the United States

June 8th, 2004

U.S. society has unwittingly applied selection pressure to the color line. The only American families accepted into the White endogamous group have been those whose African admixture just happened not to include the half-dozen alleles for dark skin (or the other physical traits associated with “race”). Since those particular alleles were sifted out of the portion of the White population that originated in biracial families, the relative percentage of the remaining, invisible, African alleles in this population cannot affect skin color. That skin-color does not vary with African genetic admixture among American Whites, despite their measureably recent African admixture, demonstrates and confirms that physical appearance has been an important endogamous group membership criterion throughout U.S. history. It has resulted in genetic selection of the White U.S. population for a European “racial” appearance, regardless of their underlying continent-of-ancestry admixture ratio.

The Paleo-Etiology of Human Skin Tone

December 15th, 2002

The growing consensus for an out-of-Africa scenario of modern human dispersal has produced a two-part puzzle of regional variation. Since the last glacial maximum, Europeans developed fairer complexions than any other group on earth, fairer even than others at the same or higher latitudes. Equatorial Native Americans, in contrast, failed to turn very dark over the same time period, despite living at the same latitudes as Africans and Melanesians. This essay suggests a two-part solution. Compared to other high-latitude dwellers, European diet was uniquely cereal-based and so deficient in vitamin D. Compared to other low-latitude dwellers, the ancestors of Native Americans had already lost the alleles necessary for dark brown skin before they crossed Beringia. This essay comprises two parts. Part 1 introduces the puzzle. Part 2 presents the solution.