So What Determines Your “Race”?

So is skin color the key to what we are now?

So is skin color the key to what we are now?

Good Lawd.

From Gawker:

Former Democratic strategist Karen Finney, who was once the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, was revealed today to be the new host of a 4 p.m. weekend show on MSNBC. Good for her, and good for MSNBC, which adds Finney, pictured at left, to an already diverse roster of talking heads that includes Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Al Sharpton.

Don’t mention Finney’s race to Tim Graham, however. Graham, a so-called media “watchdog” for the conservative Media Research Center, doesn’t think it’s fair for MSNBC to herald Finney’s entrance as an arrival of another African-American host—y’know, considering her skin is so light and all.




Finney has a black father and a white mother so she is actually mixed. However, much like President Obama, Finney has the right to self-identify however she chooses. What is most interesting to me though in situations like this, that show once again how silly our “race” notions are, is that the key to determining if is is ok for her to be called black (or African-American) is her lighter skin and straighter hair. But Graham has no problem labeling Obama as black (also black father and white mother) presumably because he has darker skin and less straight hair.

So I guess this is kind of an admission that what your parents are has nothing to do with your “race.” Just how you look.

Just silly. I say again people, there are no different “races,” just different blendings.


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11 thoughts on “So What Determines Your “Race”?

  1. ericjbaker says:

    There is more genetic diversity within an ethnic group than between groups. As usual, people like Mr. Graham, who do not understand biology, often mistake phenotypic characteristics for genetic variety.

    You and I are more genetically similar to each other then I am to a white woman or you are to a black woman. Melanin content and hair style is a rather superficial way to “separate” people, as the Tim Grahams of the world have yearned to do throughout history.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      Well said my friend. And absolutely true.

    • To confuse matters even more, bone marrow registries say that if a donor’s race matches, their bone marrow is more likely to be a recipient match. It boggles my mind that bone marrow is so particular but blood is not.

      • Earnest Harris says:

        Indeed it is so so complicated, and not at the same time. But it sure drives home the point that people have far more in common, and far more that distinguishes them, than the color of our skin and some man-made “racial” category, that seems to change as time passes.

  2. This is a topic of nuance.
    For compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people are to be tabulated by race or ethnicity. With that in mind, (and knowing that race is amorphous anyway), people would best be served by checking the box that matches how others perceive them, instead of how they self identify. That’s why there is so much confusion and controversy over this topic. To complicate matters more, a person who looks White or Hispanic might still be racially discriminated against when they are walking with their Black parent. So which box to check is a conundrum indeed.

    • Anne says:

      Just my opinion, but it really is not that complicated. If we as a society stop demanding that people sort themselves out according to stupid, fictitious categories (race in particular) then we would be better off. It is the insistence by the few who benefit from this false division that is driving the controversy. Those people need to get over their unearned sense of superiority and let people be.

      • Earnest Harris says:

        Right on Anne. I am with you all the way on your points.

      • Anne, in France it has been illegal to collect data on race since the 1789 French revolution.

        However, data can be a double edged sword used for good or bad. In the U.S. having racial data has made it possible for civil rights lawyers such as the SPLC to prove discrimination in cases against schools like Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish.

        PS – France also has problems with discrimination, but without the clear data for lawyers to work with.

      • Anne says:

        I would imagine that the problem in France is not that they don’t have data on race but that they continued to think in terms of race while outlawing the documentation of it. What I was referring to was not the legal documentation of race but the way society validates race in its constant reliance on it to classify people. My guess is that while it may be hard to find data on discrimination against a certain race it is still possible to prove a societal prejudice against certain groups if described by physical appearance. (Which is not really race anyway) Either way my point is that the fault lies with the unwillingness of the groups that benefit from racism to change. No amount of color blind legislation will change that. People are very creative when it comes to hurting their fellow man.

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