I’m Excited to Announce the First Annual Racialicious Pseudo-Science Round-up!

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

And I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’s our last.

Upon provocation, most race theorists will break down and admit that they would be completely out of a job if people knew the real truth about race: that it’s a figment of our overly active imaginations.

As a result of centuries of trying to wrap our heads around the concept of difference as it asserts itself in its many varied forms of phenotype (physical assertion of genetic characteristics, or in other words, what you look like), behavior (nature or nurture?), and especially intelligence, one of the easiest ways for researchers to condense their work was (clearly) via categories. While the creation of these categories may have begun innocently, an acting out of human curiosity and our need to understand the world around us, we, unfortunately, found ourselves unable to deny our biases, some of which were steeped in our own vanity in conjunction with a need to assert power and superiority (i.e. if you look like me or come from where I’m from, you’re probably better). The complete high-jacking of Darwinism is a perfect example of the manipulation of scientific research for the sake of social gain and, ultimately, oppression, yet some forms of “science” began with the very purpose of studying why certain groups were “better” than others and how to eradicate the “inferior peoples” by way of breeding out characteristics associated with said groups.

Unfortunately for the indigenous peoples of Asia, Australia, Africa, and many parts of Europe at the turn of just about each century (even as early as the Greek “golden age,”), the mental filing cabinets of the people in power were continuously replenished with new information by way of incredibly divisive pseudo-sciences like phrenology (the study of skulls and brain size as a means of predicting intelligence in humans), the frighteningly oppressive eugenics movement, and, of course, philosophy. I remember literally shuddering when I read the sections about slavery in Aristotle’s Politics. This Harvard study guide sums it up quite nicely:

Aristotle argues that slavery should be limited to those who by nature are slaves . . . Aristotle is drawing on the notion (drawn from Plato) that reason must rule over the appetites, that higher faculties must rule over lower faculties, to have a well-ordered soul or a human being capable of governing him or herself. Human beings who are not capable of being governed by their own reason in this way are fit to be slaves. . . [Yet] that capacity to recognize reason means that the natural slave can recognize the justice and appropriateness of being ruled over by a master. . .

It’s pretty easy to see how one could read whatever they wanted into this and apply it to society. The Christian Bible was also a favorite of oppressors in their successful attempts to subjugate American indigenous groups, Africans, Asians, the Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans forced to work in the Americas in deplorable conditions, be it enslavement or indentured servitude, and, much like the Bible, the Koran has been used similarly as a means to relegate women to the position of subservience to men and to justify crimes against humanity. Almost every other holy book has been used in the same way.

So what am I getting at here? Long story short, everything is open to interpretation, and has been since the inception of art, science, and literature. Despite what history has shown us about the dangers of social manipulation of religion, science, and philosophy, we have continued this trend in the present. I am, quite frankly, disappointed in how gullible our society continues to be when it comes to this report or that experiment or something that someone with a upper-echelon university said one day on a whim. Most of these so-called “discoveries” are little more than arm chair psychology with a few pop references to appease those of us who are too ignorant to see through what’s basically trash in the scientific world and who are easily impressed by a few big words and colorful charts. What’s worse, however, is that while many of these studies may have a relatively high social importance or even lead to additional research, the reporting surrounding them not only simplifies the results, but distorts them to the point that the potential knowledge society could gain is lost for the sake of sensationalism.

Here are a few of my most recent “favorites.” These are perfect examples of how the press either poorly reports, neglecting to mention variables, or how the people leading the studies themselves do the same:

Interracial Couples = Better Parents
I am sure you all remember this one. The study basically equated involving one’s children in more extra-curricular activities to be correlative with good parenting. Makes sense, right? Except that factors like class, parent’s age and/or when they chose to have their child(ren) in relation to their financial and emotional stability were missing from the media coverage. They also noted that black father/white mother pairings invested less in their children, but remembered to account for certain factors like class, unemployment, and discrimination that may be linked to the results. But then lost credibility (with me, at least) again when they considered “Latino” a race, calling Latino/Latino pairings mono-racial and Latino/white pairings interracial, when, in fact, this may not be the case (because as a Latino/a, you can technically be of African, Asian, indigenous, or European descent, or a mixture of any or all of the above). For more of what I thought on this, go here.

Asians and People with Down Syndrome Are Not That Different
[Hat tip to Carmen!] Wow. Two Italian doctors link epithanic fold, aka what creates almond shapes eyes in Asian descendants (including indigenous peoples throughout the Americas) and people with Down Syndrome, to behavioral characteristics and personal preferences:

The tendencies of Down subjects to carry out recreative-rehabilitative activities, such as embroidery, wicker-working, ceramics, book-binding, etc., that is renowned, remind [us of] the Chinese hand-crafts, which need a notable ability, such as Chinese vases, or the use of chopsticks employed for eating by Asiatic populations.

As the author of the article on this “junk science” questions, are we experiencing “evolutionary regression”? A similar study was launched on “mongoloids” by a man named John Langdon Down called “Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots.” Guess what year is was? 1866.

‘Nuff said.

Pink Is for Girls, Blue Is for Boys
[Hat tip to Feministing!] Researchers find that people of the female sex gravitate toward reddish colors while people of the male sex gravitate toward blue-ish colors. Mind you, the subjects in the study were adults, meaning that somewhere in their lifetime, social conditioning most likely played a huge role in their preferences.

Ok, really, how is this helping us? Can someone please find a cure for AIDS, already? Thanks.

Strong Black Women Never Get Depressed
[Hat tip to Latoya!] Of all ethnic minority groups, black women are the least likely to commit suicide. Good news for black women, right? But check out the completely ridiculous hypothesis as to why:

Black women are less likely to attempt suicide because “of protective factors that work to safeguard them, such as an inner sense of music that is typified by gospel and blues, the natural toughening process African-American women are forced to endure, the development and maintenance of support networks and the belief that suicide is a ‘white thing,'” as stated on the Web site [for the Organization of People of Color Against Suicide].

God forbid an atheist black women with no rhythm gets sad. She doesn’t stand a chance.

While the strong black woman stereotype could be considered a “positive” stereotype, we at Racialicious know that there is no such thing, mainly because it means that anyone who is experiencing adversity that makes their behavior appear counter to the stereotype is out of luck.

Muslims Are Suicide Bombers Because They’re Not Getting Enough A**
From Psychology Today:

The surprising answer from the evolutionary psychological perspective is that Muslim suicide bombing may have nothing to do with Islam or the Koran (except for two lines in it). It may have nothing to do with the religion, politics, the culture, the race, the ethnicity, the language, or the region. As with everything else from this perspective, it may have a lot to do with sex, or, in this case, the absence of sex.

Hmm. Interesting. I wonder where that leaves people who bomb abortion clinics, many of whom happen to be Christian and risking their lives in the process. . .

And lastly, my personal favorite:

Blue-Eyed People Are Smarter
I should clearly leave my job and start a career in maybe basketball or hockey, or so this study (featured on, you guessed it, Fox News as well as quite a few white supremacy sites) seems to advise:

Scientists who conducted the tests said brown-eyed people performed better at reaction time, but those with lighter eyes appeared to be better strategic thinkers, the Daily Mail reported.

Brown-eyed people succeeded in activities such as football and hockey, but lighter-eyed participants proved to be more succesful in activities that required skills in time structuring and planning such as golf, cross-country running and studying for exams, the scientists said.

Maybe a brown-eyed person wrote the article, as there is a typographical (spelling) error in paragraph two. I’ll let the blue-eyed folks find it.

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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