RACE AND TOWN: Bowing to (sociological) "race!"


How "race" is discussed in Our Town: Right at the end of the segment, the very notion that "race" exists was convincingly shown to the door.

Rather, the notion of biological race had been dismissed in that manner.

The TV show was Democracy Now. The bouncer in question was Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative.

We were surprised by what we heard that day. As we showed you yesterday, here's what Crear-Perry said:

CREAR-PERRY (12/30/20): If I was taught in medical school, as I was—I was taught that there were three biological races—that’s racism. 

Racism was not created by God. Racism was not created by medicine. Those things have been—racism was created by people who wanted to hold power and wealth. And so, our job is to fight for equality and justice and joy, and to say, “How do we undo all these places inside of medicine where we say that Black people have different lungs or different kidney capacity or different pelvis shapes?” 

All this talk that we have a different shape of our pelvis, how could that possibly be, when it’s just melanin production that makes us different? That’s the only one difference. Our pelvis and our melanin have nothing to do with each other. So, really undoing those racist ideas that we were all taught inside of medicine  so that we can have antiracism.

This came at the end of a longer discussion, one we'll discuss tomorrow. But in this, her final statement, Crear-Perry seemed to say that there's no such thing as (biological) race. Crear-Perry seemed to say this:

She seemed to say that we the people just aren't all that (biologically) "different." 

Concerning our own  nation's dominant picture of race—that picture is part of "the world the slaveholders made"—she seemed to say that those of us who are said to be "black" and those of us who are said to be "white" differ only in one small way—in the realm of melanin production.

Our lungs and our kidneys are all the same. Except in that one insignificant way, we're all (biologically) alike, Crear-Perry seemed to say. We aren't (biologically) different!

Dr. Crear-Perry knows a thousand times more biology than we do. Our ignorance stretches back a long way—we refused to take high school biology because we weren't willing to cut up the frog!

In part for that reason, we don't know how accurate Crear-Perry's various biological statements may have been that day. But she was making a type of statement which was once very common in liberal / progressive towns:

She seemed to be saying that (biological) race is just "a social construct." There's no such thing as (biological) race! That's what she seemed to say.

There's no such thing as (biological) race, Crear-Perry seemed to have declared. That said, leave it to a trained physician to slip that key word in! 

Why had Crear-Perry shown the door to biological race? Why had she been so specific?

We're willing to take a guess:

To appearances, Crear-Perry wasn't denying the existence of a second type of "race." We'll call it "sociological" race. It dominates American life, and it always has. 

In part, sociological race is simply the widespread belief that different "races" exist. Beyond that, sociological race is the web of cultural differences which inevitably enter the world when different groups of people are forced to live apart.

In prehistory, there were no buses, and even no airplanes. Different groups of people lived apart by the simple force of geography. 

In American history, groups were forced to live apart by the power of law. And when groups of people live apart, they develop different languages, different cultures, different customs. 

Their kidneys may be alike, but their customs and cultures no longer are. These become actual differences between these different groups of people. These cultural / sociological differences may come to define them as two separate groups—may make them seem like two different "races," whatever that historically loaded term is understood to mean.

According to Dr. Crear-Perry, our kidneys and our pelvis shapes are all the same arounf here. That means that there are no "biological" races. 

It doesn't mean that our various people aren't different in major ways. Wherever groups are forced to live apart, differences are going to form.

As we listened to Crear-Perry's statement, we heard the general outlines of a statement we don't hear  much today:

There's no such thing as (biological) race! We humans are all just the same!

There was a time, five or six decades ago, when liberals were strongly inclined to stress that key point. We would tend to stress the accurate scientific point which says that we're all just the same.

Today, that point has largely been shown to the door. In the clamor heard in the streets of Our Town, we're much more likely to defer to the role of difference—to the notion that everyone belongs to some sociological race.

Our kidneys may be the same. But as groups of people, we aren't. 

Today, we liberals tend to default to the concept of difference. Indeed, we were surprised by Crear-Perry's comment on (biological) race because of what she'd already said that night, in the deeply familiar, unhelpful discussion which had already occurred.

Tomorrow: Concerning the late Dr. Moore; how "race" is discussed in Our Town


  1. Tsk. You, dear Bob, should be thankful to your liberal-hitlerian cult for its endless race-mongering and incitement of hatred among 'races'. This gives you something to rant about.

    1. Meh.
      Trump tried to gaslight a viral pandemic, like it was some simple-minded Republican voter.
      It's no wonder his Father thought he was a loser.

  2. The U.S. is nearing 4,000 deaths a day from Covid-19. This is according to Jake Tapper and a poster here in the comments. It's a scary situation. And it only makes sense. After all, out of the 300 days of the pandemic, 10 of them have had deaths over 4,000 (3%). And we went over 4,000 deaths every day last week! (With the exception of yesterday, Monday, last Sunday, Saturday, Friday and Thursday.)

    In another note, a study has shown half of medical students think black Covid-19 patients experience less pain when they die. Who wouldn't believe that to be an accurate reflection of a true phenomenon?

    1. You would think it would be a good thing if deaths are lower than predicted, but @10:37 sounds disappointed. Or maybe, it is not about the deaths at all but about being righter than Tapper?

      Deaths today, with about 7% vaccination and a declining caseload were 3408.

      If people had not gone out and celebrated over the holidays we might have had NO days over 4000. Wouldn't that have been better?

    2. Tapper and the commenter were wrong. That was always obvious. That was the point. They were stupidly making an overstatement. It would have been better if they had just stuck to the facts.

    3. No, it wasn't obvious at all. Both Tapper (and the commenter) and you are talking about a changing situation. Those days above 4000 and the unwillingness of people to wear masks, coupled with the steepness of the curve, made Tapper's prediction reasonable. But it was a prediction -- about the future, not a description of the current deaths. Predictions fail a lot because they are made under conditions of uncertainty in which things can change.

      You sound foolish arguing that truth is part of prediction. Facts are only established once those deaths have happened and become part of the past.

    4. It was a statement not a prediction. It was a statement about the present that was always totally overblown and stupid, ie made for T.V. and gullible rubes.

    5. "made Tapper's prediction reasonable."

      not to anyone watching the moving averages.

    6. A moving average isn't even a real count of people. It is a number derived by applying arithmetic to a set of other numbers. None of those moving averages are facts about any single day of covid experience.

      A statement about the future is, by definition, a prediction.

    7. Well, regardless of anything you say there, anyone looking at the moving averages would know Tapper's statement about the present was unreasonable. (It was a statement about the present made in the present tense.)

    8. Prove it. Go back and look it up and then quote what Tapper said so we can all see it.

    9. "The U.S. now nearing a daily average of 4,000 dead Americans every day."

    10. This is obvious stuff. "prediction" HAHAHA

    11. If that is what he said, it doesn't even say we have 4000 deaths per day. It leaves you quibbling over what the word "nearing" means. The idea that it will reach 4000 in the future is implicit in that word, and yes, it is a prediction.

      If you cannot see that then you cannot read and that is sad, not something you should laugh about. But it is your problem. I think you should quit while you think you are ahead.

    12. Tapper's prediction was dead wrong if it was one. Never made sense as a statement or prediction.

    13. Except that there were several days over 4000. I don't see him saying that every day was going to be that.

      Do you think the phrase "dead wrong" is cute? I find it kind of tactless and unfeeling.

    14. @4:35 -- why is it so important to you that Tapper be wrong? Is he your dad?

    15. Tapper should stick to the news. That's his job, not making fanciful "predictions". There's enough news in the world to keep Tapper busy instead of turning his show into the Amazing World of Kreskin every night.

    16. It's not important at all.

    17. 4:37 PM He says "every day" in his quote.

    18. "The U.S. now nearing a daily average of 4,000 dead Americans every day."

      That was always a stupid thing to say. Especially a month ago.

    19. I wanna say it does seem like a strange thing for someone in a position of authority to say. Someone who is supposed to understand the topics about which they are speaking.

      But I do agree his prediction was wrong even though he shouldn't really be making predictions at all.

    20. Tapper is a reporter, not an expert on pandemic deaths. Let's not get carried away.

      Since there were several days with over 4000 deaths, his statement is not as wrong as you seem to think. Did it confuse you in some way?

    21. I feel like the statement was totally wrong. I always thought it was stupid and now it has turned out to be totally wrong. Having several days with 4,000+ doesn't make it less wrong or stupid.

      There's no shame in feeling like it was an accurate statement when it was made at the time. Don't feel bad.

      Now we all know your thinking was wayward though and the prediction did turn out in fact to be 100% wrong. We were never remotely close, early last month, to averaging 4,000 dead Americans every day.

      No shame in being wrong though. You're merely doing the best you can with what you have been given, intellectually.

    22. If I were Tapper, I would try to stick to the facts and not continue to play Barbara Eden in a Bottle on national TV.

      Look how it fools the rubes. Look how it fooled you. He led you down the wrong path about important news of the day.

    23. My thinking wasn't wayward because I didn't make the statement. But I think Tapper had some justification for saying what he did. That was borne out by the several days that exceeded 4000 deaths.

      Now that you have spent all day addressing Tapper's now obsolete statement, how are you going to fix all the other mistakes you think people have made on the internet?

    24. That's says a lot about you. Interesting.

  3. Dr. Crear-Perry is making a simplistic argument to combat pernicious stereotypes that have arisen to justify mistreatment of black people in our society. She is incorrect that melanin is the only difference, but trying to teach white people that the things they believe about blacks are incorrect doesn't admit of any nuances.

    For example, African Americans are more likely to get sickle cell anemia, although white people get it too. They are much less likely to get Tay-Sachs disease. They are more likely to have O-positive blood type, less likely to be A-positive and more likely to be B-positive and half as likely to have one of the rare blood types. But those blood types occur among all groups of people, white and black. Dr. Crear-Perry seems to be talking in generalities and not about prevalence of physical characteristics or diseases within and across groups.

    So why has she made such an absolute statement about melanin? She wants to combat antiquated false beliefs about such things as pain tolerance among black people. Somerby is ready to dismiss race-based medicine as an exaggeration, but it wasn't that long ago (within Somerby's lifetime) that it was believed that newborns didn't feel pain either (hint: they do, but do not have the means of expressing it). The point of the Tuskegee syphilis study was that it was believed that black people didn't suffer the same negative effects of end-stage syphilis (hint: they do), so doctors routinely didn't try to treat it. Dr. Crear-Perry is combatting mistreatment of pregnant black women arising from false beliefs about their health. Such false beliefs are still prevalent and are part of the reason why statistics for black women are worse than for white women. It is, of course, not the only reason.

    Somerby's misuse of Dr. Crear-Perry's remarks to further his own racial agenda is ugly. To do this, he not only ignores her purposes in trying to help black women, but uses her words to assert something she would perhaps not agree with at all.

    Somerby boils it down to:

    "There's no such thing as (biological) race! We humans are all just the same!"

    This is manifestly not true. Compare yourself to any of your friends and you will find differences. Asserting that there are none can be easily falsified. It makes more sense to say that whatever differences exist are individual differences, not group differences, or that the entire variety of differences can be found across all groups of people. But individuals are not alike except in the most trivial ways, and some differ even in those ways. People are born with extra fingers or toes, with their heart on the right side, not left, left-handed, blind, conjoined to a twin, sexually anomalous, extra tall or short, and so on. Diversity is not solely cultural, as Somerby wishes to make it, but also physical, which is why medicine and others need to treat each person as an individual and deal with them as they are, not imposing group-based stereotypes, even one that includes the entire of humanity. One group consisting of similar people is still a stereotype and Somerby just can't seem to let go of it.

  4. People do not all think alike either. There is a personality variable that causes some people to emphasize similarity among items, whereas others focus on differences among items. The ones who focus on similarity are synthetic thinkers, focusing on the whole and searching for commonality. They have trouble in school because they cannot recognize how metaphors and analogies work. They might say that a cow and a dog are the same because they are both animals with four legs, ignoring the huge differences between them. The people who focus on differences pay attention to details and are analytic thinkers. They do better in school because so much of education is focused on those processes. Analytic thinking arises later in cognitive development than synthetic thinking, especially the ability to cross-classify based on multiple characteristics.

    The people who think about the whole and similarities during a categorization task are called "lumpers" because they form a few large categories based on similarity, whereas the ones who focus on differences are called "splitters" because they form more categories based on differences among items.

    The concept of different races is essentially categorization of people based on characteristics. Somerby wants to form one single large category comprised of all people, ignoring all differences and treating them as if they were all the same. This is not categorization at all (unless you were to throw in other living beings and force a distinction between people and other animals, for example).

    Somerby's unwillingness to consider any differences among people is a refusal to engage in any kind of analysis of humanity. Society cannot function that way because it must distinguish groups for various purposes. Citizens versus non-citizens, under-age (children) versus adults, taxpayers versus those exempt, drivers and pedestrians. Further, part of human development is to define and distinguish categories of people: self versus others, family versus non-family, extended friends and family versus strangers, our town versus outsiders, with same/different consequences in how groups are treated (customs). Hospitality and duty toward others/strangers/foreigners is found in all cultures on a personal level.

    So, my point is that Somerby's tendency to lump everyone together may be part of his thought processes, but so are the tendencies to categorize and split into groups. Taken to the extreme he proposes here, one large group is untenable functionally and kind of ridiculous. It is how a baby thinks and unhelpful as a proposal to solve racism. A focus on the consequences of categorization makes more sense, in my opinion. Treatment isn't dictated by similarity or difference, but by society's rules for interacting with each other. That's where attention needs to be focused.

  5. Somerby is pretending that if race is "sociological," that means it isn't real.

    Somerby is pretending that liberals invented the concept of race, so we are the racists.

    Who else thinks this? Conservatives. More and more, Somerby is sounding like a conservative.

    Next he'll be arguing that there is no such thing as conservatives and liberals except in a political sense, so that classification isn't real either. Actually we all believe the same thing...it is just those nasty liberals who are convincing us there are differences of opinion, values, voting patterns.

    No need to look behind the curtain, there's no one there. These are not the droids you are seeking.

  6. Somerby is such a bullshitter. He continues to try, as he has done for years, to provide some pseudo-intellectual faux-progressive veneer to what is intellectually empty conservative gaslighting, which conservatives express much more simply: “Liberals are the real racists.”

    Liberals know that race is a “construct.” But they also know that many people view it as real, and it leads them to racism. If Somerby gave a shit about his readers, perhaps he would care to respond to this: does he or does he not acknowledge that racial disparities exist in the US? If so, why? (He does not care.)

    Liberals fight against racism, a very real phenomenon, not “for” the idea of race.

  7. Guess who said this:

    “Implicit bias is absolutely real. “

    “Over the last few decades, most large corporations and other institutions have begun racial diversity programs to combat the bias and racism pervasive in organizational life.”

    “The superficial way to change minds and behavior doesn’t seem to work, to bridge either racial, partisan or class lines. Real change seems to involve putting bodies from different groups in the same room, on the same team and in the same neighborhood. That’s national service programs. That’s residential integration programs across all lines of difference. That’s workplace diversity, equity and inclusion — permanent physical integration, not training.”

    Was it
    a) Charles Blow
    b) Ta-Nehisi Coates
    c) Elizabeth Warren
    d) David Brooks

    If you said it was conservative David Brooks, you win the prize!

    It was in the NYT:

    As brought to you by TDH:

    What kind of worldview must Somerby have if he goes more conservative than David Brooks?

  8. The single best documentary in 3 episodes detailing what i call "The Myth of Race But the Reality of Racism' which I used every year in my classroom.


    1. Thank you for this suggestion.

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