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Why Spawn Isn't Black

A continuation of my Indian Comics Irregular essay Why Spawn Isn't Black:

Race is a social construct.

Solomon Moore, LA Times, 3/5/01

There is tension between what we think is true and what is true, because race is contrived. It is actually not an accurate description of biological diversity.

Lawrence Hirschfeld, professor of anthropological sciences and psychology at the University of Michigan, author of Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture and the Child's Construction of Human Kinds, in the LA Times, 3/13/01

Humans are very much alike genetically, with most of the variation within—rather than between—ethnic groups.

US News and World Report, "Where We Come From," 1/29/01

...[I]f there's one thing the genes show, [experts] say, it is that there is no such thing as race. The external differences that most people would use in defining race—skin color, eye shape, height—are genetically inconsequential, minor variations that evolved in response to the environment, the genetic equivalent of a sunburn. For instance, a change in just one gene accounts for Northern Europeans' fair skin, which may have developed to better absorb sunlight and synthesize vitamin D. "We are all brothers," says Stanford's Underhill, "and we're all different."

US News and World Report, "Where We Come From," 1/29/01


A Question of Race
Forensic Anthropologists Disagree About Racial Characteristics and Bone Structure

Race Isn't Real?

...[S]ome scientists say bone measurements can't determine race because race, to begin with, isn't real.

Norman Sauer, a professor at Michigan State University and a colleague of Gill's recognizes that different physical characteristics in humans corresponds to where they or their ancestors came from. But he doesn't buy the concept of race, which he characterizes as a false method of categorizing humans. He says this is a difficult concept for people to grasp.

"You might ask, if races don't exist, than why are forensic anthropologists so good at identifying them?" says Sauer. That's because, he says, humans have invented race and it has endured as a concept in society, but can not be defined biologically.

Sauer believes traits that show how a person is related to a larger population group are not the same as race, which he says is a system of classification that has no sharp, defining lines. Instead, he says, human differences should be seen as a continuum with gradual change, rather than a few distinct groups.

"If you were to walk from Europe to Africa, where do you put the line?" asks Sauer. "All of the change is gradual. The lines are historical and political. It's in people's minds."

Recent genetic evidence seems to bolster Sauer's claim that race is all in the mind. Scientists involved in the sequencing of the human genome say they think their work will prove that race can't be seen in our genes.

"What we've shown is the concept of race has no scientific basis," Craig Venter, the head of Celera Genomics, said in June. Celera announced the near completion of the sequencing of the human genome this summer, along with the publicly-funded Human Genome Project.

More on racial characteristics
For Millions of Latinos, Race Is a Flexible Concept

Rob's comment
As I said before, many scientists would say race is skin-deep. It's an arbitrary classification based on color and a few other superficial traits. No superficial traits, no race.

I'd say the Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, Man-Thing, Ghost Rider (the skeleton, not his human host), and Casper the Friendly Ghost don't belong to any particular race. I'd put Spawn in the same category as them. No original skin, no race.

Anyone who disagrees (Gnat, are you there?), please tell us which race the above five characters are. Or admit you can't. Good luck.

Related links
Culture and Comics Need Multicultural Perspective (original version, with responses)
Rob's reply to (G)nat Gertler
Sandman, Star Wars, Spawn

Readers respond
"Hello. I'll bite (a little) on the [Mummy/Frankenstein's Monster/Casper] challenge."
"[W]ould be ok to paint pervasive religious figures like Jesus...with blonde hair and blue eyes?"
"[H]ow is one classified as 15/16ths white or black by 'blood'?"
"The perception of the reader/audience/other characters is that he's African-American."
"I can't back away from a challenge!!"

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