Milk! It can do more than give you a quick heart attack on a hot summer day, it can also be a symbol of white supremacy provided you don’t know a lot about genetics or evolution.
This latest bit of news comes from the protest staged by famous
weirdo Transformer ally performance artist Shia Labeouf (even Louis Stevens had problems getting his art projects off the ground). Shia’s “HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS” project was shut down after the livestream was hijacked by white supremacists and become a “site of violence.” Some of the folks (Volk?) who were responsible for shutting the installation down were white supremacists who drank a lot of milk. These fine young scholars chose this because they saw some scientific studies that European populations have higher percentages of lactose tolerance than other populations. The persistence of lactose tolerance into adulthood is genetic so it must be racial as well, right? Hence, they think that drinking a beverage that most of us associate with childhood shows them to be studly, racially-superior manly men!
Racists have always been looking for markers of race. In the US, skin color is the most obvious racial marker, but that has seldom been enough since skin is only, uh, skin deep. Our racist legal racial regime was never based on skin color but on heredity; a good example of that is the 1924 Virginia Racial Integrity Act. Heredity, genetics, that is where the real racial markers must be, right? If it is in your genes then, the racists think, that must mean it is fixed, permanent, and thus real! As Lewis Carroll would say, “As large as life and twice as natural!”
Of course, the racists are wrong about all this. And they were wrong a century ago when a similar arguments were made about another racial marker, the cephalic index.
What’s the Cephalic Index?
The cephalic index is a measure of head shape. It is the ratio between the width and length of the skull. A century ago, it was thought that the cephalic index was a reliable measure of race, since it was thought to be inherited generation after generation. Here’s a typical photo from William Z. Ripley’s authoritative Races of Europe (1899):
The more oval (lower your cephalic index) your head, the better your race. There’s the noble Teuton up there sporting a cephalic index of 75 and the lowly Alpine with his pitiful 86. Ripley claimed that the cephalic index was “is one of the best available tests of race known.”
There was a problem with using the cephalic index as a marker of race is that it alone did not give the racists what they wanted. Another of Ripley’s illustrations makes the problem clear:
There is an African gentleman with a cephalic index of 70! In fact, there were LOTS of Africans with those nice oval heads. So clearly, the racists thought, we had to throw more traits in the mix to prove the reality of race. The reason the cephalic index was chosen as a measure in the first place is that scientists thought it remained stable over long periods of time: it was “non-adaptive” in a Darwinian sense. Since natural selection had no reason to select head shape, it gave us a glimpse into our primordial racial past. Here’s Earnest A. Hooton, America’s leading physical anthropologist trying to explain which measurements to take in order to find a race in his 1931 book, Up From the Ape:
I regard the following bodily characteristics as mainly non-adaptive variations: the form, color, and quantity or the hair, and its distribution in tracts; the color of the eyes and the form of the eyelid skin-folds; the form of the nasal cartilages, the form of the lips and of the external ear, the prominence of the chin; the breadth of the head relative to the its length; the length of the face; the sutural patterns, the presence or absence of a postglenoid tubercle and pharyngeal fossa or tubercle, prognathism, the form of the incisor teeth; the form of the vertebral border of the scapula, the presence or absence of a supracondyloid process or foramen of the humerus, the length or the forearm relative to the arm; the degree of bowing of the radius and the ulna; the length of the leg relative to to the thigh. This list is not, of course, exhaustive.
The more traits they added, the better the measurements got, in short, the better the science got, the less “race” they found. The whole project of trying to find specific anatomical markers failed because, the more markers you found, the less they correlated with each other and the more elusive race became. To make matters worse, in 1911, the founder of American anthropology, Franz Boas (1868-1942) discovered it was not nearly as stable as scientists thought. Boas took the measurements of children of immigrants and found that the index changed in only one generation. None of this was of any help trying to find “race” in people and by the 1940s, even Hooton had abandoned this method. Instead of looking for race outside of natural selection, scientists started looking for race as a product of evolution. Hence the Alt-Righters think they were evolved to drink milk and thus this is proof of the reality of race since most other people can’t drink milk.
Evolution Doesn’t Work the Way Racists Think it Does
macho shitheads Alt-Right protesters in the video think that milk symbolizes their racial uniqueness. Since it is a genetic trait, it is realer than anything else, they think. It is biology and biology certainly can’t be “socially constructed!” If there is one thing the Alt-Right hates, it is this notion that race is a social construction.* Unfortunately, they are completely wrong about the relationship between genes and culture. The gene for milk-drinking is socially constructed.
There are certain populations that maintain the ability to digest milk and certain ones that don’t. And that ability is tied to a particular genes one inherits from ancestors. But it has nothing to do with “race” and even less than nothing with white supremacy. The ability to digest milk as an adult is a great example of gene-culture co-evolution. The gene for lactase persistence…um….persists because of the cultural practice of dairying. In other words, the gene is a direct result of the cultural practice of keeping livestock. So, it isn’t a glimpse into some racial past, it is a glimpse into the permeable boundary between genes and culture; the very boundary that makes us human beings.
The other problem our young Alt-Right scholars miss is the same problem the cephalic indexers had: Africans have it too. Same kind of dairying practices, different gene, same ability to enjoy delicious, delicious milk. The world is way more interesting than the Alt-Right can imagine.
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