“Hey, where are you from?”

Me:  lots of different places.  I was a Navy Brat, we moved around a lot.

Student:  I mean, like, where were you born?

Me:  In a naval hospital in Rhode Island.

Student:  Yeah, but… what race are you?

Me:  Doesn’t exist, but I’m pale as shit, so you can call me white if you want.

(this conversation actually happened)

Leave a comment


  1. You know, I’m not sure you can get away with saying race doesn’t exist. The folks who talk about race as if we’re different species are clearly out to lunch, but race for humans is the same as “breed” for dogs and horses. There’s no way you can tell me that we’re going to sunburn less than an African (of Arab, native or Greek descent; pick one); likewise, we’re going to digest milk better than your average Oriental (I don’t say Asian because that would include all the dark-skinned Aryans in Delhi).

    To say that race doesn’t exist is tantamount to saying that our various human bloodlines all look alike, and it’s just not true. Blacks get hypertension more easily, whites get migraines more, Chinese (IIRC) are more prone to Parkinson’s, etc.

    We as humans have breeds just as much as dogs do; the only error is thinking that these are somehow immutable categories rather than concentrations of traits.

  2. That VASTLY overstates the differences. Human immune and morphological differences exist, but nowhere NEAR on the scale you see with dogs.

  3. Anna

     /  August 1, 2008

    Jim-I think what Russ is trying to say is that race as currently defined and with all of its original connotations from the Colonial era and later (let’s not start on pre- WW@ theories here, okay?) is clearly noinexistent. I don’t think he questioned genetical differences based on certain human groups developing in different climates/geographies etc.. Perhaps we should find a different term to use–this one is way too laden with its past.

  4. Mike

     /  August 1, 2008

    I’ll second that comment.

  5. There is one. It’s called phenotype.

  6. Seems like too much beating around the mulberry bush to me; I think we should just use the term for what it is and when someone’s an idiot about it, call ‘im on it.

  7. It’s hella imprecise, and loaded with ridiculous amount of baggage. Calling somebody Mexican, as if the T’ono Ootam and the Mayans have anything in common, is ridiculous on racial grounds. Cultural/political/historical… maybe. But then, “raza” doesn’t mean “race,” either.

  8. Alex

     /  August 2, 2008

    I don’t think your student was asking race, he was asking what culture you belonged to. Probably because he wanted to figure out what your angle was with what you were teaching. Specifically if you were teaching something from a cultural bias or not.

  9. It’s entirely possible. I was defending Andrew Jackson, after all. (ack, put, I despise the very air that man breathed)

  10. Alex

     /  August 2, 2008

    I’ll bite – how exactly were you “defending” Andrew Jackson? Other than winning a battle or two, I can’t think of anything good he really did.
    I’m also admitting my ignorance of early 19th century US history. I know colonial and 20th real well, but 19th I’m not real strong on. So I’m really just curious. I suppose he may have actually done something good despite all the other crap he did.

  11. “Indian Removal” was corrupt and heinous on a number of levels. However, it was *not* purely a race thing, nor did all the Cherokee go unwillingly on the Trail of Tears — it was some of Jacksons Cherokee cronies who cut the deal, thus leading to the Cherokee Civil War.

    I can’t abide Jackson, but the simple story does a disservice in this instance.

  12. Alex

     /  August 3, 2008

    Okay, thanks for enlightening.

  13. amberpoole

     /  August 3, 2008

    hmm this is strange….
    maube we can talk about it?

  14. It will start to get interesting when you can say that you came from a laboratory which built you superior to any other human being in existance. (eg. GATTACA)

    Greetings from Paris, France… the AZERTY keyboard is insanely hard to get used to.

  15. ‘allo? ‘allo from Paris? Qu’est-ce que c’est say say?

  16. Salut, ca va?

  17. convivialdingo

     /  August 4, 2008

    Hey… remember I’m “Mexican” heh. (I was born there – and I eat a lot of it.)

    I think the point is that race does exists – but it doesn’t mesh 1:1 with culture anymore. In fact in the “first world” it’s become somewhat ambiguous like the old caste system.

    I meet people with lots of ethnic names that have little to no feelings for their ethnicity either way. They’re certainly not going to die for a racial cause, in any case.

    The good part of this is true culturally ingrained racism is dead. Yes, there are racists. However – arguing that Texas is racist is by-and-large a non-starter these days. It’s untrue. I can still dig up a racist if I look though. For that matter – I get called an Iraqi for crossing the road wrong in D.C. too (happened just last year).

    [Oh, and I can’t *stand* AZERTY keyboards… having to hit shift for a number was a fubar idea.]

  18. Andrew Reyna

     /  August 4, 2008

    My ethnicity originates from Italy and Spain, they label me hispanic. I’m as white as any english guy. I really don’t see any importance in my ethnicity, half the time I forget it.

    When all of the “hispanic” kids at Allen High School were banding together by wearing white tshirts and standing around to protest the crackdown on illegal immigration in the state, I told them that they didn’t even know what they were protesting, then they claimed I was a white supremist… when in actuality I have more “hispanic” blood in me than they do.

    They asked a friend who looked Mexican (American Indian) to join when I told them, they said that they were fighting against racism…………………………………..

  19. Happycrow

     /  August 4, 2008

    Yep, it’s a whole, WHOLE lotta stupid…

  20. celogo

     /  August 4, 2008

    phenotype is interesting… complicated, but interesting

  21. Happycrow

     /  August 4, 2008

    Turns out I’d referred to Hungary, so in fact, they were asking a culture question… “white” referring to “white American,” versus “Hungarian,” meaning something very different.

  22. blackpine

     /  August 10, 2008

    Yes and no. You may not be WASP white, but by your identificcation with Hungary and the etymology of the insult, you are “Honkey.”

    There is racism and racial prejudice. Racism now has lost its objective meaning and means what communist meant in the 50’s or heretic did before that. Racial prejudice is most oftenprejudice by appearance. In that we are pack predactors with color vison, who decide in group status, health, and sexual attractiveness with our eyes, why wouldn’t we also use the same mechnism to decide who is part of the in group, and then assign traits to people by the group we’ve placed them in? It’s natural, even when counterproductive.


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