A Mathematician's View

African American Is a Racist Term

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Kevin Myles the president of the Kansas chapter of the NAACP recently claimed that a government retreat on enforcement of civil rights threatened the rights of blacks. Actually the threat comes from the perpetuation of the racist belief that skin color separates us into different "races".

The best way to eliminate discrimination is to recognize that skin color is only skin deep. Skin color does not automatically make us different in any other way.

Black leaders are just as guilty of perpetuating the belief color is important as whites. The media actively support this belief by using the racist term "African-American" to describe those Americans with dark complexions. The term perpetuates the old American racist belief of "part black, all black."

The media often refer to Tiger Woods as "African American" even though his ancestry is more Asian that African. His mother was Asian (Thai and Chinese with some Dutch). Although his father had some African ancestry, he also had Chinese and American Indian ancestry.

Even President Barack Obama received less than half of his DNA from his African father. The "X" chromosome he received from his mother contains more DNA than the "Y" chromosome he received from his father. Obama also received mitochondrial DNA from his mother.

The fact that a person has dark skin doesn't mean that a majority of his ancestors came from Africa or that he received a majority of his DNA from African ancestors.

Skin color involves a relative handful of genes with the most important being SLC24A5 which produces melanin a molecule that absorbs solar radiation, particularly potentially harmful UV radiation.. There are two variations with the variation that produces the amino acid alanine being associated with a dark complexion and the variation that produces the amino acid threonine being associated with light skin. In general a pigment is black if it absorbs the entire visual light spectrum. It is white if it reflects the entire visual light spectrum.

Some of the other genes that affect the function of the melanin pigment include ASIP, MC1R, TYR, KITL, HERC2 and OCA. The most important protein responsible for variation in skin color is MC1R.

It would be possible to have a light complexion even though a majority of ancestors came from Africa. A person can have a dark complexion even though more than 75% of his ancestors came from Europe. Even a dark complexioned person with some African ancestors might have inherited most of his dark skin genes from a non-African including various North American peoples.

The version of SLC24A5 associated with dark skin is common among East Asian and North American peoples as well as Africans. The version associated with light skin is primarily associated with those of European ancestry.

The media refer to Barack Obama as the first African ancestry president, but as many as six other presidents may have had African ancestors. Like many other white Americans, they may or may not have known about African ancestors. My previous post looks at this issue and the general issue of why geneological records may not reflect one's biological ancestors.

After the broadcast of the "Roots" miniseries, many Americans decided to research their ancestry. Many whites were surprised to find ancestors who had served in the military in the 19th Century who had the letter "C" after their names meaning "colored".

The Spanish were the first to bring Africans to North American with the establishment of their Georgia settlement in 1526.

For the English settlements, the first African "servants" arrived in Jamestown in 1619 only 14 years after the founding of the settlement. African and poor white indentured servants initially worked together in the fields. This practice would have led to sex across the color line.

Some Africans became free and had their own farms. Antonio the Negro arrived in Virginia in 1621. He later became free, changed his name to Anthony Johnson and eventually had his own farm with indentured servants. The idea of servants being slaves developed gradually with the cost of replacing servants being a factor in the decision to make the Africans permanent slaves.

White servitude was abandoned in part because it was too easy for escaped white indentured servants to blend in on the frontier. Lighter skinned descendent's of Africans would have been able to do the same thing long before the American Revolution. Those on the frontier spent much of their time outside and would have had sun darkened skin. The small frontier populations would have led to marrying whomever was available without much concern about color.

Laws eventually prohibited marriage across the color line, but owners and overseers had sex with slaves throughout the period of slavery. During slavery a baby's status as slave or free usually depended upon the status of the mother because at the time they had no way to reliably determine who the father was. Some plantation owners might have claimed light skinned children born to them by slaves as the children of their wives.

Southern states allowed white men to rape black women without fear of punishment until the mid-20th Century.

Children of dark skinned parents who decided to leave home an pass for white would have eventually married those who considered themselves white.

We will never eliminate racism in the United States as long as politicians and media continue to claim that skin color defines a person's "race". The term "African-American" perpetuates the old American racist belief of "part black, all black."

The ancestors of some black Americans arrived in Virginia nearly 400 years ago and in Georgia nearly 500 years ago If white Americans whose families have lived here for only a century or so can be considered "regular Americans" ( to borrow Archie Bunker's term) then why must dark skinned Americans whose families may have lived here for four or five centuries bear a label implying they belong somewhere else.

Only about 500,000 Africans were imported into North America during the three centuries of the slave trade. Thus, the vast majority of the 4.5 million blacks living in the U.S. in 1860 were born here. Those Americans whose ancestors were slaves are regular Americans, not Africans.

The Census Bureau wants us to check our "race" on census forms. Even if Europeans and Africans are separate "races", we Americans are all mixed together and are not biologically divided into separate races according to the color of our skins.

We need to recognize the wisdom of the Lakota phrase Aho Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are All Related) regardless of the color of our skin.

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