An Adopting Mother Confronts the Complexion Gap

A few weeks ago we discussed a new kind of camp for Indian children adopted by white American parents. Today, via a tip on the news tab, I came across an article on Alternet by a Jewish New Yorker who adopted an Indian baby as a single mother, and was somewhat taken aback by the darkness of her child’s skin:

The first photo I received of Vaishali showed her with fair skin. I was surprised, because from what my adoption agency told me, the child assigned to me would be much darker. After I got over that surprise, I had another: I felt relief. Suddenly — guiltily — it was a comfort to know that she would not look so different from me, and even more important, that her light skin would save her from a lifetime of prejudice.

But ah, the magic of flashbulbs. A few months later I received several more photos and gaped at them in shock. The baby was much, much darker. (link)

Lisa Lerner has, initially, a lot of anxiety to deal with about the gap between her skin tone and that of her adopted daughter (read the whole article for examples: the kicker is the diaper change). She gets over it, but is still often surprised by the fact that no one in her social circle — including her Indian and Black friends — is as dark as her daughter:

Very soon, my daughter will have a lot to process. She’s adopted, she’s the child of a single mother, she’s an Indian Jew by conversion. We spent the summer with my father in upstate New York, and she was nearly always the darkest child in music class, gymnastics and day care. In New York City, even Blacks and Indians in Vaishali’s and my social circle are lighter than she. Over and over I see how light skin equals privilege. Now that I have become Vaishali’s mother, I realize: We need darker friends. (link)

I’m sure there will be some folks who will be offended that Lisa Lerner is publicly stating some of these things she says in this article. I personally am not: she’s expressing the shock she felt along with her embarrassment about that shock, and describing how she got past it. Yes, her initial reaction to her baby’s skin tone betrays “racism,” but it looks to me like she’s recognized and dealt with it.

Still, I wonder what people think about the solution she outlines: “We need darker friends.” Is it really damaging to a child (the baby has grown up some now) not to be around anyone who physically resembles her? And wouldn’t it be slightly strange to seek out “friends” on this basis?

[Oh, and one more thing: the Times recently had an interesting article on the growing number of cross-racial adoptions in the U.S.]

625 thoughts on “An Adopting Mother Confronts the Complexion Gap

  1. I think it is interesting that there are SO many people hellbent on proving Egypt was not a black society. People may not be overt in their motives, but if race isn’t a big issue to the majority of these scientists, why focus on the racial side of egypt at all?

    because a large percentage of african americans are convinced that ancient egypt was a “black” civilization. this is irrelevant, until you start pushing as fact instead of belief. just like people being creationists doesn’t matter, so people believe that x was “black” doesn’t matter, until they start pushing it into academic discourse.

    If you mean to say that only VERY darkskinned individuals with blue-black skin can be black, then maybe not. I don’t doubt that the people of Egypt were lighter than most people in sub-saharan africa, but I am lighter than most black people in sub-saharan africa too. And I am never mistaken for anything but black.

    social definitions of race a construct. african americans are about 20-25% european in ancestry, and because this quanta varies across the population, as do the “informative” appearence genes, some african americans are quite light. the perception of race varies from country to country. the african american basketball player jason kid is “black” in the USA. why? because his father is black. on the other hand, a reporter once noted that jason kid was given as an example of a white basketball player. why? because if his hair is cut short it really isn’t obvious that the man is black. in russia american constructions of race do not hold, so if someone does not look black, they aren’t black. in the USA this isn’t necessarily so, someone who is predominantly white in ancestry and appearence can legitimately claim to be black as a social norm, but this is not so in many other parts of the world. e.g., in south africa, admixed people are “colored.”

    I just don’t understand why it is so easy for people to believe Egyptians mixed with Greeks, Arabs, etc. people who lived beyond a water boundary… but they refuse to believe even slightly that the Nubians, who were EXTREMELY close in proximity (and without any significant natural barriers) and relatively close in culture, ever mingled with the Egyptians at all.

    there was probably more admixture with nubians than greeks. probably as much with arabas nubians. i don’t know which people you are talking about, the scholars i have read on this topic aren’t that unsophisticated. i have cited the % of sub-saharan african admixture in arab populations in a previous thread, it isn’t hard to ascertain because sub-saharan african mtDNA lineages are diverse and quite unique, eurasian lineages are relatively “homogenous.” the mtDNA research suggests a lot of female mediated gene flow, in keeping with the arab practice of castrating black males.

    Its funny that greeks and italians can get really really dark (to the point where they look latino) as well, but very few people seem to want to prove darker people came into those areas…

    1) that’s not true

    a) white supremacists from northern europe regularly claim that darker peoples degraded the nordic mediterranean population and that resulted in its decline. google “nordicist” and “southern italian” for what i mean.

    b) a line of research starting with cavalli-sforza in the 1970s, and proceeding into today, argues the extent of “demic diffusion” of neolithic middle eastern farmers into europe after agriculture showed up in the levant and anatolia. the % is usually that 20-50% of the ancestry is “middle eastern,” probably on the lower end, but graded from southeast to northeast. in other words, greeks are more similar to anatolians, and to a lesser extent levantines, than they are to irish and swedes. this is from science.

    also, please note that it is scientists who have been pushing for out-of-africa over the last 25 years.

    i really could care less whether egyptians were black, or martians or whatever. i’m not that interested in all this ancestral/community pride. and i don’t care what mythologies blacks, hindu nationalists, white supremacists or chinese chauvanists promote. but when they try to misrepresent the scholarly consensus, i flip out, that is my community and the closest thing i have to a “identity.” don’t mess with my kind is all.

  2. Oneup, you should check it out if you’re single. All you have to do up here is be ablebodied and breathing.

    Thanks for the tip, but I don’t do handouts… or white boys ::whistles:: :-)

  3. a) Funny how I have to type ‘brown’ to comment here. What if I self-identify as mocha or black, or ‘tan’. Anyway.

    b) Funnier how the most popular thread on SM is something to do with skin color. Shows we South Asians (at least the Net-scouring ‘population’ of us seem exercised by this topic. Something to do with our inherent sense of inferiority/superiority/_-ority.

  4. The murals that the Egyptians painted often show a shade of brown that is almost exactly the shade of my skin.

    also, please note that there are constraints of pigment and stylistic issues at work. some of the mycenaean and minoan frescos display brown skinned men and white skinned women. this does not mean that men were as brown as depicted (or women were as white as depicted), but the color coding reflect different perceptions of sex in the bronze age greek world (helen was “xanthos,” fair, herakles was sun blackened, etc.). similarly, my understanding is that the egyptians perceived of themselves as “red,” middle easterners as “yellow” and nubians as “black.” also, i think the “red” symbolism derives from the idea of lower egypt as “red,” but i’m fuzzy on this.

  5. and oneup, your point in the generality is not totally unfair. histories of “the west” start with egypt and iraq, but as time progresses the west shifts to greece, but as greece declines it becomes “the byzantine orient,” and so on. so i do not deny a bias in the representation here, but, the key for me is proceed further in a precise clarification of the issues, not the elevation of rival, even more factually fallacious mythologies (e.g., i think it can be argued that the influence that egypt, via perhaps the solar calender and such, had on africa as a whole is mediated through european colonialism. the analogy between egypt and africa a a whole and greece and europe as a whole is inapt because europe does derive in part from a greek cultural substrate, with christian theology, classical philosophy, and even in the names [jason, christopher, etc.], nigerians are not similarly influenced by egypt, their cultural shaping is tied to events in west africa, or, via their adherence to world religions like christianity or islam).

  6. Aren’t there any people from the Caribbean out there? Trinidadians or Guyanese especially. You live in countries with a huge number of Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean people (commonly termed “Creole”)How does the politics of color operate in your countries?

  7. this is irrelevant, until you start pushing as fact instead of belief. just like people being creationists doesn’t matter

    These are not similar. Creationism is tied to religion but the belief that egypt was black is not. People aren’t going to start pushing intrusive policies just because anc. egypt is considered a black civilization.

    african americans are about 20-25% european in ancestry, and because this quanta varies across the population, as do the “informative” appearence genes, some african americans are quite light.

    But even with the highest percentage, we are still mostly non-white (I assume majority black/african). So we would still be black. Unless you are implying that because I might have one great great grandparent who was half white, that means that I am no longer black at all. So if the Egyptians were the same percent of euro, they would still be pred. black, and Egypt would still be considered, at least by todays standards, black.

    And I don’t think you can compare most of black america to jason kidd because in his case, the mixture is more recent than in most african americans.

    1) that’s not true

    Then why is that type of research limited to just white supremecists and not to ordinary people who just really want to get to the root of the matter? When people research ancient greek and italy in that manner, they are supremecists, but when they try to prove egypt wasn’t black, they are just scholars… right.

    also, please note that there are constraints of pigment and stylistic issues at work.

    Then why are there murals where a variety of skin tones are shown within one picture?

    this does not mean that men were as brown as depicted (or women were as white as depicted)

    Nor as light…

    the analogy between egypt and africa a a whole and greece and europe as a whole is inapt because europe does derive in part from a greek cultural substrate, with christian theology, classical philosophy, and even in the names [jason, christopher, etc.], nigerians are not similarly influenced by egypt, their cultural shaping is tied to events in west africa, or, via their adherence to world religions like christianity or islam).

    I don’t think you can compare a continent the size of Africa to one the size of Europe when it comes to the spread of culture. Nigeria isn’t even close to Egypt.

    i really could care less whether egyptians were black, or martians or whatever.

    Liar. You love this.

  8. Creationism is tied to religion but the belief that egypt was black is not. People aren’t going to start pushing intrusive policies just because anc. egypt is considered a black civilization.

    Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools. afrocentrism is taught as history in some charter schools from what i know.

    But even with the highest percentage, we are still mostly non-white (I assume majority black/african). So we would still be black. Unless you are implying that because I might have one great great grandparent who was half white, that means that I am no longer black at all. So if the Egyptians were the same percent of euro, they would still be pred. black, and Egypt would still be considered, at least by todays standards, black.

    egyptians were not european. there aren’t two races along a north-south axis, there are a host of local populations. there a gradual change in genetic frequencies as you proceed north vs. south. but, there are discontinuities. e.g., the sahara is one discontinuity, there just aren’t that many people in the sahara. the populations to the north are light brown in color, and that light brown color is not necessarily because of african admixture. black skin is the ancestral state of our species after 2 million years before the present (after we lost fur). the peoples to the north of the sahara and in west asia are separate from europeans, or black africans. some groups, like ethiopians seem to be mixed with west asian populations (especially on the male lineage, and this males sense, ahmaraic is semitic language), and also have their own special adaptations (mostly highland adaptations). within africa itself, there is substructure, the bantu speaking farmers are very different in appearence form the khoisan people, who have tighter/curlier hair, epicanthic folds, and lighter skin.

    so, to be more explicit, if you take a phylogenetic tree of all genes for egyptians, nigerians and syrians, the three groups are easily separable. they have their own genetic signatures, but, on a graphical display showing the relationship between the groups, egyptians will be closer to syrians, and quite often, even to european groups, than they will be to nigerians. if you take nubians, egyptians will be closer than to nigerians, because there has been persistent genetic mixture between the two groups. but, that does not mean there is a difference, just as there has been arab admixture into egypt’s population, but egyptians exhibit strong differences form arabian peoples.

    Then why is that type of research limited to just white supremecists and not to ordinary people who just really want to get to the root of the matter? When people research ancient greek and italy in that manner, they are supremecists, but when they try to prove egypt wasn’t black, they are just scholars… right.

    i don’t get what you are trying to say? did ou read my second point where i state that there has been a scientific controversy and debate about the extent of neolithic admixture into southern europe over the past generation? please, i’m trying to engage in good faith here.

    Nor as light…

    egyptian records when describing the “sea peoples” of the aegean during he 12th century describe them are european looking as we would understand it.

    I don’t think you can compare a continent the size of Africa to one the size of Europe when it comes to the spread of culture. Nigeria isn’t even close to Egypt.

    exactly. which is why afrocentrism as a concept is incoherent. there are similarities within africa, but to paraphrase a 19th century diplomat, there are no africans, just nigerians, kenyans and algerians.

    Liar. You love this.

    no, this is just like creationism. rebutting fake scholarship is a waste of everyone’s time.

  9. Here is a positive, interesting article from Hindu on a small window of Anglo-Indians as of today, circa 2003.

    Interestingly, it talks of Christmas Ball at the Railway Institute. Excerpts:

    However, the younger generation looked more Indianised in their culture and behaviour. Some women wore Punjabi dress, while a few draped themselves in saris. Not all did forget their culture, they continued to greet each other with a kiss on the cheeks at the first meeting and most of them seemed adept at waltzing on the floor.
  10. George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Cole Porter, Edward Hopper, Tom Waits…if that ain’t white American culture then I don’t know what is.

    Meena, you’ve listed some of the greatest contributers to American culture in the last 100 years (absent of course, the non-white Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, et al), but I’d be hardpressed to find many people who would readily identify them with our current culture, let alone even know who most of them were.

    I like that you mentioned Edward Hopper and I’m especially impressed with your addition of Tom Waits; though I’m a fan of his work (his collaborations with Primus stick out in my mind), I’m curious as to what made you mention him as a stalwart of white American culture.

  11. Razib,

    Most Indian Punjabis in the UK are Sikhs, but there is also a sizeable minority of Hindu Punjabis here, although not in as large numbers as Gujaratis (who make up the majority of Hindus in the UK). So overall, yes, Punjabis comprise the greater proportion of British Indians and the number rises futher when you include those from Pakistan. During the last few years a small number of Sikhs from Afghanistan have also arrived here.

    The average 2nd-Gen British Gujarati is also not representative of what the average Gujarati back in India looks like — this also applies to the rest of the South Asian northie population in the UK, including Punjabis etc; I don’t know exactly why this is. Climate is certainly a factor, but it may also be something to do with the fact that many desis here seem to be from localised areas of the regions they originate from along with appearing to be from highly-specific backgrounds (families, [where applicable} castes etc) which are not representative of the subcontinental regional population as a whole.

    Technophobicgeek thank you very much for post #511 (2nd paragraph) — greatly appreciated.

    Amitabh thanks for post #557 — you hit the nail on the head exactly in everything you said, and it is good to hear a credible “second opinion” from someone who does actually have first-hand experience of visiting the United Kingdom. Your comments about the reality of my own conduct on this blog and the total lack of evidence supporting the allegation that I share the stereotypically-negative attitude in this matter were also spot-on. There are too many extrapolations, assumptions and (indeed) acts of prejudicial stereotyping being perpetrated by certain people here.

    The irony is that I was primarily referring to facial features, although skin-colour is obviously a relevant secondary factor too, and it speaks volumes about the irate commenters concerned that they would automatically asume my comments to be predominantly about the latter. Nuance and (especially) context appears to be lost on some people, and they interpret comments through the fog of their own neuroses, with the result that they see imaginary demons and nefarious intentions & attitudes where none exist.

    Dharma Queen – You owe me an apology.

  12. Meena, you’ve listed some of the greatest contributers to American culture in the last 100 years (absent of course, the non-white Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, et al), but I’d be hardpressed to find many people who would readily identify them with our current culture, let alone even know who most of them were. I like that you mentioned Edward Hopper and I’m especially impressed with your addition of Tom Waits; though I’m a fan of his work (his collaborations with Primus stick out in my mind), I’m curious as to what made you mention him as a stalwart of white American culture.

    DJ, I didn’t add the black performers(of course I didn’t forget them!) because the person in question I was replying to was commenting about white American culture. Hence, the white performers. :)

    And hey, I had to come up with something, aight? :P Hopper is one of my favourite artists. I know Waits isn’t exactly mainstream, but he’s awesome.

  13. I know Waits isn’t exactly mainstream, but he’s awesome.

    He may not be mainstream here but he is, in his own words, “Big in Japan.” @:)

    I don’t mean to diverge from the topic further, but I must add I find it refreshing to talk to a desi whose knowledge of American music extends beyond Justin Timberlake or The Ying Yang Twins. You don’t happen to be familiar with John Cage, do you now? (I’m not referring to the character from Ally McBeal.) @=)

  14. DJ, how could I not have heard of John Cage? B-) Although admittedly all this post-modernist classical music is a little too far out for me. I’ve been studying piano for 3 years now, not including all the previous music lessons I’ve had and I find the history of classical music to be very interesting to say the least. Although, I haven’t listened properly to the genre for a while now. I agree, I haven’t met a desi yet who knew much more about music than Bollywood and Puff Daddy(or P Diddy or whatever he’s called these days).

    (Sorry for the offtopic-ness!)

  15. Dharma Queen, I’m not French…but if you happen to also like non-thuggish, medium height black men, then I’m your guy. ;)

  16. You live in countries with a huge number of Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean people (commonly termed “Creole”)How does the politics of color operate in your countries?

    I am not Indo-Carribean, but from what I understand things in Trinidad are not so nicey nicey. The blacks and Indians vote for separate political parties. Black politicians like Dr. Morgan Job accuse Indians of racism for refusing to intermarry with blacks and preserving their culture. The rise of Hindutva has lead Hindus in particular to protest symbols like the Trinity Cross. Indians are mocked in calypso music, and they try to mock blacks back in chutney music. All this against a backdrop of a booming economy thanks to oil and gas and personal interactions which are prolly not so bad.

  17. Jai,

    Nonsense. What appears to others as a genuine interest in physical differences in different regions of India has struck me forcibly, by the gratuitousness of some of your fairness-related remarks over various threads, as something very different – an unhealthy obsession with a sense of your own fairness and that of your ethnic group. I’m not going to apologize for that (and please note that it has struck not only me as such, but several other commenters – none of whom are my ‘girlfriends’). However – I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and lay off for now (till the next time you casually drop another line I find suspiciously colorist). You do not have some sort of special status on this site protecting you from criticism (or what you call ‘others’ neuroses’).

    Huey, Can you samba?

  18. Jai, Oh and be careful not to get me started on the misogyny underlying your assumption that I get support from ‘girlfriends’ in the name of ‘desi sisterhood’…

  19. Hush! Enough already. If you have some beef with each other that’s fine but take it to the mail or something. Anyway I haven’t seen anything wrong with Jai’s comments, on the contrary I think they are very well constructed. Perhaps spending too much time thinking about ‘desi’issues has made you see ghosts?

  20. Does anyone else suspect that R. K. Khan is an alter ego of Razib Khan?

    And yes, Jai and his ilk do deserve to be ridiculed. Why this obsession with looking non-indian?

  21. In 80s, Chief of Indian Navy was an Anglo-Indian, Admiral Dawson

    Yes his family settled here. I once attended a party with some of his relatives, everyone, including the ‘aunties’, in western attire. They served Indian food, and then got behind the piano and started singing old British Navy songs; my uncle, an old navy hand, as brown as brown can be, joined in. Its a very interesting culture. Also the older millitary families are very anglicized as well – “more British than the British”, and lets not forget the Bengali babus, the “bhadralok” who along with parsees served as the steel frame of the Indian Administrative Service.

  22. I find it sad and interesting that the only two places that I have seen Razib’s skin color brought up are here at SM and at this vile place.

  23. 503 · risible invisible

    Thackeray, the guy wrote wrote “Vanity Fair,” part of the Western canon of great books – half brownz

    um..not.

  24. Here’s a worthwhile and relevant essay: The Age of White Guilt and the Disapperance of the Black Individual. Sample:

    <

    blockquote>Back then I thought of being black as a fate, as a condition I shared with people as various as Duke Ellington and the odd-job man who plowed the neighborhood gardens with a mule and signed his name with an X. And it is worth noting here that never in my life have I met a true Uncle Tom, a black who identifies with white racism as a truth. The Negro world of that era believed that whites used our race against our individuality and, thus, our humanity. There was no embrace of a Negro identity, because that would have weakened the argument for our humanity. “Negroness” or “blackness” would have collaborated with the racist lie that we were different and, thus, would have been true Uncle Tomism. To the contrary, there was an embrace of the individual and assimilation.

    My little experience of myself as an individual confirmed the message of the civil-rights movement itself, in which a favorite picket sign read, simply, “I am a man.” The idea of the individual resonated with Negro freedom–a freedom not for the group but for the individuals who made up the group. And assimilation was not a self-hating mimicry of things white but a mastery by Negro individuals of the modern and cosmopolitan world, a mastery that showed us to be natural members of that world. So my experience of myself as an individual made me one with the group.

    Of course the author, Shelby Steele, is much reviled, but I like this essay a lot. Maybe because I also identify as an “individual,” while there are many members of my ethnic group who would instead identify me as a “self-hating Jew.”

  25. Some more excerpts from the that article:

    The greatest problem in coming from an oppressed group is the power the oppressor has over your group. The second greatest problem is the power your group has over you. Group identity in oppressed groups is always very strategic, always a calculation of advantage. The humble black identity of the Booker T. Washington era–”a little education spoiled many a good plow hand”–allowed blacks to function as tradesmen, laborers, and farmers during the rise of Jim Crow, when hundreds of blacks were being lynched yearly. Likewise, the black militancy of the late sixties strategically aimed for advantage in an America suddenly contrite over its long indulgence in racism. One’s group identity is always a mask–a mask replete with a politics. When a teenager in East Los Angeles says he is Hispanic, he is thinking of himself within a group strategy pitched at larger America. His identity is related far more to America than to Mexico or Guatemala, where he would not often think of himself as Hispanic. In fact, “Hispanic” is much more a political concept than a cultural one, and its first purpose is to win power within the fray of American identity politics. So this teenager must wear the mask that serves his group’s ambitions in these politics.
  26. I do not know that Anglo-Indians have a very long tradition till today in Indian Airforce. In 80s, Chief of Indian Navy was an Anglo-Indian, Admiral Dawson You will be surprised.

    Kush, this is very interesting. Thanks for the link.

  27. “I am not Indo-Carribean, but from what I understand things in Trinidad are not so nicey nicey. The blacks and Indians vote for separate political parties. Black politicians like Dr. Morgan Job accuse Indians of racism for refusing to intermarry with blacks and preserving their culture. The rise of Hindutva has lead Hindus in particular to protest symbols like the Trinity Cross. Indians are mocked in calypso music, and they try to mock blacks back in chutney music. All this against a backdrop of a booming economy thanks to oil and gas and personal interactions which are prolly not so bad.”

    Sadly, this is actually quite true. My mother is Indo-Carib (from Guyana) and my dad is from Gujarat, but from my (somewhat limited) understanding of Caribbean politics, there is is a long and bloody history of racial violence there, especially in Guyana. It reached its pinnacle in the late 60s- early 70s, when the reigning political party in Guyana (Afro- Guyanese)began to take over Indian businesses etc. and bar them from certain positions in the govermnent, and encourage crimes against them etc.Most Indians then just left the Caribbean for the West, in order to escape the oppression. Even today, it is extremely segreated, with whole areas and villages that are either predominantly Indian or African. So, yes, inter- marriages are strongly discouraged, the idea being the preservation of culture.

  28. Just a little comment: I don’t quite understand the purpose of talking about race as a biological or genetic matter. Whether or not it is related to some biological reality seems totally irrelevant to me.

  29. shelby steele has a twin brother, claude, at stanford. claude does not agree with shelby’s politics. i once went to a talk given by anti-racism activist tim wise. wise talked about how claude doesn’t talk to shelby anymore because of their political differences, with a large smirk on his face. the audience, mostly supporters of wise (and assumably claude steele) laughed loudly and thought. i thought it was pretty disturbing, i mean, they’re twins, but shelby steele’s politics is enough to come between them? and this audience was praising claude steele’s shunning of his brother, and found it admirable or amusing?

    whatever.

  30. Shelby Steele is a joke. He is the Black answer to Dinesh D’Souza- someone that has gotten rich and well-known by telling the (largely white) establishment exactly what they want to hear. It doesn’t bode well for your viewpoint that he is the person you have chosen to espouse your viewpoint. He is well-known for trivializing the impact of racism and slavery and blaming the segregated state of America’s cities on minorities and the traditionally oppressed.

    I knew someone would say that – that’s why I warned he was “much reviled.” But his essay is excellent. I actually didn’t know anything about Shelby Steele when I first read the essay in Harper’s in 1999, and I still know very little about him, except most people I asked to read the article wouldn’t because it was written by Shelby Steele and they hated him already. Oh well.

    It’s a great essay.

  31. Politics should never come between siblings/family. Agree to disagree, but remember that your blood bond is stronger than any political issue. The only exception is if your sibling is actually influencing policy or people in a concrete way, and his/her views/actions are having a real impact beyond mere dinner-time conversation (in other words, is more than just an armchair politician). Then I guess if you strongly disagree, it would be hard to maintain that cordiality. Shelby Steele, because of his influence and well-known profile, may fit into that category.

  32. Nina P.

    Great excerpt from Stelby S. I certainly am very wary of folks who want to box me into “oppressed brown” or “southasian with victim complex” or “hindu north indian” boxes. I may actually possess all of these identities, but I would like to be able assert them when appropriate.

    razib-da

    Thanks for all the information about race/genetics/skin reflectance. With this type of information (which somehow is not all that accessible) a discussion about these issues becomes much more grounded. It becomes more like a discussion about short vs. tall or some other physical feature. In its abscence, a lot of the crack-pot theories (“All culture from europe/egypt/aryavarta”) flourish and are had to respond to.

    Gautham

    Get a life buddy ! Why are you wasting your time issuing instructions to us Uncle Toms? Why not go elsewhere and lead a revolution or two (probably against an imaginary oppressor, but who cares!)?

  33. Christopher Hitchens and Peter Hitchens are the other famous siblings who are fighting over their political beliefs.

  34. I can understand wanting to correct Jai’ assertions: (1) On another thread, he’s said it’s a mistake to use the term “brown” to describe South Asians and claims it’s the number of South Indians in USA which leads the term to be used. Because you know they’re darker. In this post about sardani pol Nikki Haley, commenter #8, Sonia herself a sardani has written she doesn’t look brown. It’s not suprising to find a sardani with that look, but it’s still entirely atypical. Manish Vij, who claims Punjabi ancestry, called his site, Ultrabrown. I don’t know if any South Indian lobbies pressured him into it.

    Secondly, perhaps it would be beneficial for you to clarify exactly where in India your ancestry lies. This would enable other commenters on SM to put your own viewpoint into its proper context. Thank you.

    (2) Here he wants commenters to specify their sub-ethnicity, because apparently ethnicity shades all our viewpoints. These are two points that no one has called him out on. They’re pretty insidious and they need to be. So here goes. I’ve been on Sepia since DAY ONE. I’ve never participated in any skin color debates even when I’ve disagreed with what was being said. The Panjabis as brand/breed apart is a veiwpoint I find comically. Here’s my biased take: I’m a “south indian”. I’ve put in quotes because Razib and Jai don’t understand it’s not one ethnic group. Besides I’ve never been to any of the four south indian states nor do I speak any of their languages. For a diversity of phenotypes check out the Konkanis, Coorgis, Mangoloreans, Kannada brahmins, Tamily Iyers. I have first cousins who could pass for African-American when they shave their heads and others that would not look out-of-place on the national Italian soccer team. My light skin (for an Indian) gets me mistaken for Persian in L.A. by Persians, “Spanish” by Puerto Ricans in NY. But I was raised by olive-skinned parents who never spent a second commenting on skin color..besides to place any value in it would be to denigrate my dark-skinned biological siblings. But I can’t tell you how many times a dark-skinned Gujarati/Punjabi/Marathi has espoused the Aryan/Dravidian theory…and told me we were different races. While the thought bubble in my head is saying, “Dude, ummm you’re really dark..what the f* are you talking about?”

    And I’ve been to Jatt weddings, desi ghettos in Birmingham, Leicester (in UK) and Malton/Brampton in Canada and everyone looked real brown to me. Real brown. These are Jatt heavy areas and I saw very few people that resembled Middle Eastern actor Jai posted to. Talvin Singh, Tjinder Singh (Cornershop), the cast of Goodness Gracious Me, and Paminder Nagra are much representative of “North India” than Bollywood. You can lable me a darkie trying to bring Panjabnation down…but I’m trying to speak objectively. At heart I understand Jai’s frustration…I share the same when I get told by Indians I don’t look “South Indian” or I get told by firangis I don’t look Indian. I want to scream that I look exactly like my father and his father before him. But perhaps I have to expect I look atypical…and the Darmernders and the Bollywood Kapoors of the world do too!

  35. Meena, you’ve listed some of the greatest contributers to American culture in the last 100 years (absent of course, the non-white Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, et al), but I’d be hardpressed to find many people who would readily identify them with our current culture, let alone even know who most of them were.

    i agree w/ DJ Drrrty Poonjabi, very impressive list by Meena, especially since she’s like 16 years old or something (she mentioned in an earlier post). So that’s 3 Tom Waits fans on SM, I’m shocked, but the guys so eccentric he’ll probably do a bollywood themed album next.

  36. But I can’t tell you how many times a dark-skinned Gujarati/Punjabi/Marathi has espoused the Aryan/Dravidian theory…and told me we were different races. While the thought bubble in my head is saying, “Dude, ummm you’re really dark..what the f* are you talking about?”

    Sudhir Kakar, the noted Indian psychoanalyst. mentions in the introduction to one his his books (The Colours of Violence?) that his father, a Punjabi Khatri, took pride in the fairness, the martial spirit, and the intellectual achievements of his community, the fairness in particular even though his father was not fair. I have seen darker Tamil Brahmins take pride in the fact that some Iyengar ladies are very fair as well. In a culture where fairness is prized so highly, people will go to all sorts of legnths to even assert a fairness pedigree!

    The foolishness of this Aryanism (which led to ghastly consequences in Europe, so you’d think these people would stop) has created counter-hegemonic assertions of black is beautiful even in India. There is one Malaysian Tamil professor on the net who is claiming that Tamil is derived from Sumerian (on the tenuous similarity that both are agglutinative languages), and that such Sumero-Tamils eventually seeded all of Indian civilization, the Sanskritic overlay being inconsequential. And since the Sumerians were, according to this school “black,” Tamils are black, and all of Indian Civilization is thus black.

  37. Razib, here are a ton of theories out there, and until there is a consensus, not a group of people on one side or the other, but a general agreement that is as sure as the world is round, I won’t believe any scientist with a racist agenda on this matter.

    You claim Egyptians are closer in relation to Syrians than they are to Nigerians. I know you’re a fan of numbers and scientific surveys, but you seem to be blind to the ease with which statistics can be molded. Have you seen a map lately? Neither Syria nor Nigeria are all that close to Egypt. But Nubia, at the time, extended far into what is now Egypt. If you’d said Egyptians were pred. lebanese of jordanian then I’d be more inclined to believe your theory. But more Syrian than black/nubian? That just doesn’t make sense geographically, considering the time period (2500 BC or so).

    egyptian records when describing the “sea peoples” of the aegean during he 12th century describe them are european looking as we would understand it.

    Now I really believe youre talking fiction. The Egyptian empire was well beyond it’s peak by the 12th century.

    Timeline

    Which includes the Egyptian kingdom being taken over by Nubians (Syrians too, but only “briefly”). It does mention extensive contact with palestine, and that I do believe… given the linguistic similarities. But it was only after the kingdom had come into its own culturally that Greeks and Romans come into play. These people were black/brown before they were more white. And by today’s standards (everywhere, lets not pretend people from other countries won’t see me as black because I have a lighter skin color, I know from experience that is not true) that would make the egyptians black. White people invented the one drop rule, and while I don’t completely agree with it, I think its messed up for them to apply it to today, then try to backtrack on it when it becomes inconvenient and challenges their ideas of white supremecy.

  38. i thought it was pretty disturbing, i mean, they’re twins, but shelby steele’s politics is enough to come between them? and this audience was praising claude steele’s shunning of his brother, and found it admirable or amusing?

    Theres a difference between political dischord and extremism. As Guathaum mentioned, political beliefs often permeate every aspect of your life. Those of us who aren’t moderate, are often living manifestations of those beliefs, because those beliefs structure our decision making process. I’m sure the two are cordial, but why should they put themselves in a position to argue day in and day out?

  39. Liar. You love this. no, this is just like creationism. rebutting fake scholarship is a waste of everyone’s time.

    Also, I was definitely joking when I said the bolded part above. Try not to be so serious, you don’t have ALL the facts.

    And Gautham, sorry, I completely butchered your name up there.

  40. The light-skin of Punjabis is one of Jai’s bizarre colour-hobbyhorses (along with dislike towards the word ‘brown’ as an identity). See here or here. To me, you’d have to be colour-blind, or just plain blind, to mistake your average Punjabi for a white guy. Khalsa Community School in Malton is clearly not full of “porcelain” kids (to use one of Jai’s terms).

    Take a sampling of Punjabi politicians in Canada — Ujjal Dosanjh? Ruby Dhalla? Navdeep Bains? Gurbax Malhi? Moe Sihota? Even Wajid Khan?

  41. The pride that some Pakistanis take in their ostensibly ‘lighter skin’ tone as compared to Indians and martialness of their people is indeed comical. I have met more than a few Pakistanis who cant help but make gratuitous references to the darker skin of Indians. Maybe its a punjabi thing as the muhajir Pakistanis dont really do that unless they are pathans themselves.

  42. Whats even more comical is that both Indian and Pakistani pathans include Punjabis in the category of ‘others’ aka darker skinned people. A pathan in Lahore would rather marry off his daughter to his gatekeeper before he would consider the son of his punjabi neighbor.

  43. The light-skin of Punjabis is one of Jai’s bizarre colour-hobbyhorses (along with dislike towards the word ‘brown’ as an identity). See here or here.

    I read the 2 examples Ikram gave us of “Jai’s bizarre colour-hobbyhorses” thinking I’d find the smoking gun but was left unimpressed. It just goes to show the pointlessness of arguing by going beyond the person’s statements and trying to decipher their motives. personally i see nothing wrong w/ jai’s comments, especially when taken in their totality (this shows there is no obsession with the subject); but i suppose it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he is slyly trying to inform us of his own “superior” color.

    the problem is the reverse could be true. the critics of jai may be projecting their own hypersensitive color coded inferiority complex. it’s all very round-about and pointless. sometimes it’s best to take someone at face value especially when we are discussing a sensitive subject theoretically fraught with “hidden motives” on all sides.

  44. the problem is the reverse could be true. the critics of jai may be projecting their own hypersensitive color coded inferiority complex.

    I don’t know if thats necessarily true, there have been tangible injustices which at least partially used color as a rationale on the subcontinent – like in Bangladesh, but its tabled as a possibility. What makes it even more complex is the variety of the brown phenotype. I have seen fair couples – the guy “light olive” and the woman “porcelain” to use Jai’s terminology, suddenly become fiery activists against colorism when they have a dark brown baby. karma works in wonderful ways.

  45. . I’ve put in quotes because Razib and Jai don’t understand it’s not one ethnic group.

    wtf do i have to do with your argument? if you’re going to get all righteous please characterize my position properly, i certainly haven’t been dissing on south indians (this is the second time someone has cast this aspersion, wtf!?! i don’t even recall using the word “southie” as that other individaul implied)

    Razib, here are a ton of theories out there, and until there is a consensus, not a group of people on one side or the other, but a general agreement that is as sure as the world is round, I won’t believe any scientist with a racist agenda on this matter.

    most scientists are pretty liberal. you are in the “earth is flat, opinions differ” mold here.

    Now I really believe youre talking fiction. The Egyptian empire was well beyond it’s peak by the 12th century.

    i have no idea how the relative power of egypt is important? the reason the sea peoples could invade the delta was precisely because they were weak.

    White people invented the one drop rule, and while I don’t completely agree with it, I think its messed up for them to apply it to today, then try to backtrack on it when it becomes inconvenient and challenges their ideas of white supremecy.

    stop fixating on what white americans think. of course non-whites are black to white supremacists, that’s irrelevant to my point. the simple reality is that many black americans have accepted as a matter of practicality the white idea that hypodescent is normative, that one drop of black blood means you are black. this doesn’t necessarily apply to all peoples every, and, it is totally irrelevant to scholarship.

    ). It does mention extensive contact with palestine, and that I do believe… given the linguistic similarities.

    semetic and the egyptian language (the ancestor of coptic) are only minimally similar phylogenetically (i believe coptic has a closer, but very distant, relationship to the berber languages). egypt ruled palestine so it surely influenced the vocabularly of aramaic and what not.

    These people were black/brown before they were more white. And by today’s standards (everywhere, lets not pretend people from other countries won’t see me as black because I have a lighter skin color, I know from experience that is not true) that would make the egyptians black

    i have a friend who is 1/4 lebanese is was considered black my the rednecks in our town despite his blond hair and green eyes. so i am aware of hypodescent, but, you seem intent on forcing this sort of paradigm as the norm into the scholarly discourse. that’s dumb. just because some redneck with 1 tooth in his mouth thinks that egyptians are “darkies” does not imply that we should buy into the afrocentric idea that egyptians were “black/brown.” the genetic data does not show a strong influence of greek or macedonian genes, probably because these groups mostly clustered around alexandria. the egyptians of today were the egyptians of the past. there is nubian genetic influence, mostly maternally mediated.

    the idea that “whites,” as we understand them, founded civilization is false. the theories promoted in the early 20th century that nordics founded sumer and egypt are false. the theories that modern italians are genetically different than classical “nordic” romans is false. but that does not mean that the american model where there are two races is must be used to infer that sumer & egypt were founded by black people should be accepted. there is one standard which may apply on the social-political realm for solidary, but, i object which that standard starts to bleed into the scholarly discourse.

    if you believe that scientists are racists who are propogandists for a white power structure, or think this is a possibility, that is fine. the only thing i ask is that you understand that we are living in the golden age of human phylogenetics, and the relationships between various modern and ancient people are now understood to a highly subtle degree, to a far greater extent than white racists of the 19th century who created the racial paradigm dominant in the united states.