November 28, 2007

Race is not "just skin deep"

From a CNN article on Lois Gibson, the forensic artist who drew the picture of "Baby Grace" from the toddler's decomposing body that led to her grandmother recognizing her.

But it was decades of research that help her nail the image.

A trained artist can look at a skull and immediately tell the race and gender of a corpse. And that's the beginning of giving a name to the unknown.

"If you turn the skull of a white male sideways, it's almost like a truck hit it. It's just straight up and down flat," said Marla Lawson, a renowned forensic artist who works for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "The forehead protrudes very little and the chin sinks in. But for African-Americans, they slightly slope at the forehead and they protrude slightly at the mandible and they have these great cheekbones. Their skulls weigh more than white people's skulls, and their teeth will be whiter and brighter usually."

An Asian person's skull will have a wider facial area, Lawson said, but people of Hispanic descent are more challenging because the structures are nearly identical to Caucasians.

But determining male and female is easy, said Lawson who created the first, and dead-on, likeness of Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph while he was a fugitive. Run your fingers vertically over your eyebrows. Males feel a defined ridge under the brow line. A woman's face is smoother. ...

Anthropologists spent years taking measurements from various cadavers -- male, female, chubby, emaciated, short, young, old, Asian, Latino, black, white. They've compiled those measurements in how the depth from skin surface to bone differs based on all those factors for 21 different spots on a face and placed those averages in a chart. Forensic artists use those measurements to determine how much flesh and contour to put on a skull to create a bust or make a sketch.

I don't watch much TV other than football games, American Idol, and Seinfeld reruns, but I gather there are many hours per week of shows like the various CSIs devoted to forensic medical investigations. Surely, watching these kind of police procedurals imparts the knowledge that race and sex are the first thing forensic scientists figure out from looking at skeletons, right?

So, how can the popular "race is just skin deep" myth survive? Do most people just compartmentalize their knowledge and never draw connections between the various facts they know? I'm really baffled by how people can fail to notice things like this.

I guess it's a little like how for 2000 years everybody accepted Aristotle's assertion that a heavy rock falls faster than a light rock without testing it. But, when it comes to race, you don't even have to perform an experiment. You just have to apply facts you already know in one realm (your daily life) in another realm (social theory). But almost nobody does that.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve - no one really believes "race" (btw, ethnicity is a better, more accurate, word) is skin deep - That's a hackneyed slogan used for pedagogical purposes.
Don't set that up a straw man - and then just go way over to the other side. There's a big difference between saying ethnicity matters a bit versus saying race matters alot.

Pat was pushing his new book on Morning Joe - Everyting he said was over the top. America's best days are ahead, but he is nostalgic.

Anonymous said...

Skull measurements?

Race as something real?

Haven't these ignoramuses read Dr. Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, in which such absurdities are dismissed for all time?

The dubious "profession" currnently named "forensics" is just a repeat of the "science" of "Dr." Mengele and his ilk.

I demand a full investigation of these racists by the proper authorities, particularly for their defamations of the various races.

Forensics is crimethink and it's wrong, wrong, wrong! It is almost as bad as statisitics and maths in general!

David said...

Distortions of thought in politics (in which everyone is interested) owe less to cognitive neglect, as in the Aristotle example, and more to coercion and the threat of coercion.

TH said...

I guess it's a little like how for 2000 years everybody accepted Aristotle's assertion that a heavy rock falls faster than a light rock without testing it.

The Alexandrian Greek philosopher John Philoponus proved Aristotle wrong a thousand years before Galileo, who simply read Philoponus's works and repeated the experiment described by him.

Leonard said...

"Race is skin deep" is used by the mainstream metaphorically. It means "race (to the extent I'll admit it exists at all, and I won't unless pressed) correlates only to unimportant traits". Note that "unimportant" here is by definition: to the extent that you convince a mainstream person that race is in fact correlated with trait X, she will assert that trait X is unimportant. Hence the rage and denial over race correlations with IQ, which even the most hardened liberal cannot bring herself to believe is actually unimportant.

Hoosier Comrade said...

Just a few dozen generations ago we hadn't even discovered the Americas, Steve! Heck, you were born only two years after Dr. William Shockley received the Nobel Prize for having invented the transistor. We competed as equals against baboons for the opportunistic scavenging primate niche up until very recently.

The glass is half full!

al fin said...

Do not be baffled, Steve. Most people certainly do compartmentalize their knowledge and never draw connections between the various facts they know. It is how they make it through the day with only 2 or 3 Xanax's instead of 5 or 6.

Most people simply do not want the cerebral metabolic burden of thinking.

Anonymous said...

I gather there are many hours per week of shows like the various CSIs devoted to forensic medical investigations. Surely, watching these kind of police procedurals imparts the knowledge that race and sex are the first thing forensic scientists figure out from looking at skeletons, right?


I remember an episode of CSI in which the head guy, Gil Grissom, tells someone else that race doesn't exist.

chrysoperil said...

"If you turn the skull of a white male sideways, it's almost like a truck hit it. It's just straight up and down flat," said Marla Lawson, a renowned forensic artist who works for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "The forehead protrudes very little and the chin sinks in. But for African-Americans, they slightly slope at the forehead and they protrude slightly at the mandible and they have these great cheekbones. Their skulls weigh more than white people's skulls, and their teeth will be whiter and brighter usually."

Never miss a chance to do down Whitey: even our skulls are inferior.

Michael Blowhard said...

Another example: I've taken a number of figure-drawing classes, focusing on both heads and complete bodies. (Not that I ever got any good at drawing, sadly ...) In a figure-drawing class you can be focusing and then refocusing etc on one physical subject for hours. You get very, very caught up in the properties and characteristics of the people you draw, and as the weeks and months pile up you start to notice generalizations -- similarities, diffs, etc. Old vs. young, male vs female, and certainly between the races. It's a *very* different thing to draw a white person's body or head than it is to draw a black person's. Proportions are (usually) different, postures are (usually) different, muscular arrangements are (usually) different, facial structures are (usually) different. It's actually kind of liberating to let yourself in your drawing acknowledge all this. Besides, you'll never catch a "likeness" if you don't acknowledge it all.

These differences are a lot of fun, by the way. Personally I can't figure out why more people aren't cheery and enthusiastic about the idea of differences between population groups. More variety -- what's not cool about that? I'd hate to go to the vegetable section of a supermarket and find just one vegetable on offer. Why not recognize -- and enjoy -- dozens of different kinds of veggies instead?

Ron Guhname said...

I suspect that many people are just not observant about body differences. The exception to this is that straight men observe women very closely for obvious reasons.

And those male brow ridges: I suppose they evolved to protect the eye when you get pounded for looking at another guy's wife.

jody said...

but wait, according to the new, totally stupid definition of "hispanic", a "hispanic" can be any race, therefore, it is impossible to tell whether somebody was "hispanic" just by looking at their skull.

in fact, every single human skull that ever existed could actually be a "latino" skull, going by 2007 conventions.

what if russia had invaded the america's instead of spain? would every indian, mestizo, and black person now be "slavic"?

oh wait, that's right, england also invaded the america's. yet somehow, of the millions and millions of non-whites who now have english names and speak only english, they never became "anglo".

STOP USING HISPANIC AND LATINO LIKE THEY MEAN ANYTHING.

randomizer said...

The liberal lunatics at Amanda Marcotte's site pandagon.net recently kicked around the topic of race and Saletan's Slate article. The conclusion: of course, race doesn't exist.

Someone in the comments asked, "well, if race doesn't exist, then we should abolish affirmative action programs, right?"

Not so fast! "Race is a social construct, not a biological one, and sure, we can use it to solve social programs."

Bottom line: race exists when it suits their purposes.
http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2007/11/24/6355/

Bill said...

"If you turn the skull of a white male sideways, it's almost like a truck hit it. It's just straight up and down flat,"

...for African-Americans, they slightly slope at the forehead and they protrude slightly at the mandible and they have these great cheekbones.

I guess that's a description designed to make prognathism seem desirable. I mean, after reading that article I'm ashamed of having a chin and a forehead. Why can't I have a protruding mandible and sloped forehead too?

Has anyone noticed how black models, like Tyra Banks, are far less prognathic than average blacks? How did they ever get anywhere looking like they got hit by a truck? Must be white racism.

Seriously, though, discussions of racial differences aren't going to become too popular or well-accepted if the way around PC taboo is to always cast white differences in a negative light, e.g. "like a truck hit it" or "lower IQ than Asians."

In China, people accept racial differences as a part of nature, especially those that tend to make Chinese seem more "evolved". Blacks readily accept that they are faster and more athletic than whites. Jews accept being smarter than others, and are proud of it.

Yet here we are expecting white people to go along with this by arguing: "not only are you more effeminate and weak than blacks, you are dumber than Asians too." It's a given that other races accept racial differences when they are seen as positive, but we expect whites to only accept the negatives? What an ugly, hopeless vision that is for us. It will never, ever appeal to the millions of young whites who have gone through school being told that they are racist scum.

This is how the "race is skin deep" myth survives. It is mainly white people who make and believe this statement, and I'd argue that it's defensive in large part. White people have been over the barrel psychologically for half a century now, and arguments of equality are always acceptable to those in a weak position. When others demand concessions from whites, they do so from a position of strength, as has always been the case.

So is it really such a mystery why whites accept absolute equality? In their minds, the alternative is accepting what they see on the very TV shows you brought up: evil white skinheads beating up old ladies, brilliant and sexually potent black men juxtaposed with sensitive white homosexuals who are prone to crying, amoral white businessmen, etc.

As long as whites feel morally, physically and intellectually inferior to other races (they do) they will always support the idea that there is no difference between the races. That's just simple human nature.

Anonymous said...

About CSI--the murderers on the show are generally white, so race isn't much of an issue. Sort of like how on 24 the terrorist threat so often comes from Eastern Europeans or white Americans.

Anonymous said...

Liberla/left types dont talk about 'race', they prefer to reference 'color' as if that was all there was to group differences. You can even begin to have what might seem like a promising discussion until you realise they are not going to move beyond 'color' to anything else.

MensaRefugee said...

I guess it's a little like how for 2000 years everybody accepted Aristotle's assertion that a heavy rock falls faster than a light rock without testing it.
----------------------------

Good question.

Just for fun, answer it seriously. :)

SFG said...

Y'know, only on a conservative blog could people have trouble with the idea that poverty causes crime. ;) One thing I think Steve should explore is the fact that certain things such as the decline in middle-class living standards have both 'conservative' (immigration, feminism) and 'liberal' (tax cuts for the rich) causes, and hence are hard to attack effectively because no matter which side you are on, some part of your platform ticks people off! More disturbingly (for me at least, though it fits human nature) is that I can't get conservative people to admit that liberals are sometimes right (global warming, etc.), any more than I can get liberals to admit conservatives are sometimes right (bringing up immigration gets me funny looks from my friends, I don't even dare discuss race and IQ)...

Bruce Wayne said...

Steve,

I love you man but this very intersting post has a really odd mistake as its premise. The phrase "race is just skin deep" doesn't *literally* mean that it is only a matter of the exterior skin and doesn't extend to the skeleton/skull underneath. It is used to indicate that race is only physical/material/visual difference and that this supposedly isn't important. Of course, it isn't important morally in terms of human dignity.

Now, you are quite right that the ones who say "race is only skin deep" when they say it, are not at all really admitting that race is a material fact, as in genetic. So your post is essentially completely right (as usual). I just had to chuckle though at reading you as being a literalist saying "see, race isn't just skin deep, it goes to the skull underneath as well!"

Proofreader said...

I wonder if you can easily tell apart Amerindian and East Asian skulls.
And Amerindian from Caucasian skulls.

If the answer is affirmative in both cases, you can easily pin down "Hispanics" with a pure or almost pure Amerindian background, like Salvadorans and Southern Mexicans..

It would be interesting to see how they identify intermediate skulls, for example, mulattoes and mestizos, if that is possible.

My guess is the Negroid part predominates and the Caucasian too in shaping the skull. Maybe that's the reason they say Hispanics are difficult to identify, as they are usually bi-racial (Amerindian + Caucasian; Negroid + Caucasian; Amerindian + Negroid) or tri-racial.

Bruno said...

"but people of Hispanic descent are more challenging because the structures are nearly identical to Caucasians."

I have my reservations about accepting the word of anyone who considers herself an authority on race, but yet views "Hispanics" as a distinct race. In reality, they can be very diverse with different degrees of racial mixture. Consequently, those who are primarily Spanish in racial heritage may have skulls that appear caucasian. Those who are primarily Indian may have differently shaped skulls and be effectively a different race, but we insist on calling them all one race, i.e., Hispanic. Ridiculous. That tells us nothing.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you can easily tell apart Amerindian and East Asian skulls. And Amerindian from Caucasian skulls.

You bet they can. Why do you think the Indians, First Nations, Native Americans, etc... in WA flipped out about the Kennewick Man.
Many suspect the US Army Corp of Engineers wrecked the site so that no further research could be conducted at the orders of President Clinton in return for campaign contributions for Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

If a black started whining about the descriptive language that a scientist used to describe blacks' skulls, you all would rightly suggest that he get over himself and not be so sensitive. Puh-leeze!

Eternally Anonymous

SFG said...

Steve: you know everyone knows the truth and says otherwise for practical reasons. You've blogged about it. It's like asking why nobody tells their boss what an idiot he is.

none of the above said...

This argument is also made very effectively by references to race in medicine. There are plenty of mainstream sources for this, because blacks and whites tend to have somewhat different patterns of diseases, and knowing that is important for doctors who treat both black and white patients. (I gather East Asians also have different patterns, but I haven't looked into it much.) This isn't just Bildil and sickle-cell anemia, either--blacks have different rates of heart disease and cancer, for example, and the diseases look different in blacks than whites. (AFAIK, nobody knows how much of this is genetic and how much cultural/environmental.)

My experience is that a lot of people hold the "race is just skin deep, there's no biology/science behind it" belief as an article of faith. Arguing against it with evidence feels a lot like arguing with a biblical literalist by pointing out the overwhelming evidence in geology, astronomy, biology, archaeology and history that undermines that position. When you challenge someone's faith, they usually get mad and attack you--on the net, this usually involves name calling and Godwin-invocation. (That's better than in person, where it can lead to an ass-kicking.)

David said...

Said none of the above:

(That's better than in person, where it can lead to an ass-kicking.)

If some PC idiot tried to administer "an ass-kicking" to me for my being thoughtful and right, one of us would land in the hospital - and it wouldn't be I.