Race - Politically Correct Definition

In our wonderful world of political correctness, since when has anything other than human been an acceptable response on certain government applications as well as a variety of public questionaires. Do we have to be invaded by Romulons before we are the human race? Shouldn’t ethnicity be a more appropriate question, if it is at all even necessary!

This belongs in GD. Moderators incoming in:






General Questions is for questions that have factual answers. I agree that this is more of a Great Debate.

Off to Great Debates.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator

I’m with you. Whenever I’m asked to fill in race, I put “human.”

I put: “No, thank you.”


Race, noun, a category into which humans are placed in order to provide groups according to the desire of the categorizer to have groups. The criteria by which such categories are sorted is subject to the opinion of the categorizer.

Also to run very fast, often to avoid categorization by the more stringent of categorizers.


I hate to be the wet blanket of PC here, but contrary to what may be locked in our DNS, race does exist and it is quite important.

Many federally funded programs (especially schools) are funded by an equation that considers race (to measure minority population.) In the case of education related matters, races are defined by SEDCAR standards. I’ve posted them before in GQ in response to a question regarding educational research. The five SEDCAR races are:

1 - American Indian
2 - Asian/Pacific Islander
3 - African American
4 - White
5 - Hispanic

While there is no biological basis for these categories, as will be brought up time and time again whenever the word “race” is used in a thread, the categories are real, important, and used frequently.

When we discuss “human” as a race, are we not actually defining a genus and species? When the Romulans invade, I assume they will represent a different species than I. Human race is quite a misnomer.

Race as a concept is hopelessly problematic and muddled. How the hell can anybody tell their “racial makeup” without a detailed genealogical chart? What about people with a quarter of a different group? An eighth? Do we use that insulting and racist “one drop rule” and even if we do what the hell does that do for crossbreeding between different nonwhite racial groups?

The only thing race really refers to are common, and largely unimportant, biological traits. The only reason to even focus on it at all is to ensure that it is treated as the non-issue it actually is.

I’ll Bite.

I would define ‘race’ as the tendancy of descendants of each of various geographically isolated human populations to share various minor genetically inherited physical characteristics such as skin color, facial features, stature, hair type, etc.

And since Pbob57 mentioned ‘ethnicity’, I would define that as the extent to which ones heritage or ancestral background influences one’s behavior or mannerisms, such as accent, choice of diet or garb, religious beliefs, etc, via one’s upbringing.

Ethnicity is a form of ‘culture’ but FTR they are not the same thing as race.

but it IS an issue! That’s not to say it’s important in all areas…

There is no research that says “Black children can’t score as well on standardized tests as white children”, but it is still important to disaggregate test scores by race. (Of course, it would be much better to disaggregate by poverty status as it correlates so highly with race in test outcomes and is often a better logit predictor.)

When a school (or system) is given grant money to institute a program to improve scores for minority students, the system (and the GFA) must have a means of determing who the minority students are. How do they do this? Race. Using SEDCAR standard definitions. Now, I’ll concede that some of the value labels and even one of the operational definitions are more of a description of “ethnicity”, but the point is simply that school systems, local, state and the federal government, parents, testing organizations, Grand Funding Authorities and other education-related groups need this information that they call “race”. Should it be so? probably not. Will it go away? probably not.

At the latest meeting of educational researchers, where SEDCAR standards are part of the agenda, discussions were held regarding altering the values for the race variable. At one point over 12 different “races” were suggested. A big sticking point was that there are many “black” children who do not consider themselves “African American” since their most direct lineage is from the Caribbean. Similar type arguments came regarding Central American/South American/Spanish “Hispanics”. Where did this end up? Right where it started. With the 5 race values I listed above.

When governments at all levels and community leaders stop asking how African American students did compared to white students, or how Hispanc students did compared to white students, and as soon as Grant Funding Authorities stop awarding grants dealing with race, I will gladly stop collecting these data.

I’m not holding my breath.

For your reading enjoyment here is a page of information from the SEDCAR manual, provided to you at no cost.

Note that the definition for Hispanic included the word “culture” and the phrase “regardless of race”. This posed a problem so in the 2000 edition of the manual the race variable options were:

Since agencies have been keeping race data for some time, the conversion from the 1994 definitions to the current ones is not happening. Making these changes retroactively for the many years of data stored is quite the task and, at least for school systems, not a priority. The 1994 recommendations work fine for education at this point.

<quote>The only thing race really refers to are common, and largely unimportant, biological traits

If you substitute species, or breed or genus into this definition, does it make it less true ? Or subjective ? Or muddled ?

Biologists actually do wrangle of the definition of species quite a bit. (The popular notion that a species can be delineated by individuals who produce fertile offspring when breeding has a number of significant exceptions, so the scientists are still not in complete agreement.)

Breed is irrelevant to humans and no human population has actually been bred for any traits.

I’m sure that there are a few genera where scientists struggle with the boundaries, but the notion of genus is fairly solid.

The concept of biological race is much muddier than that of species, and is being discarded.

The cultural concept of race (in which appearance has a direct effect on the treatment of one group of people by another), sadly lingers in our society–hence the SEDCAR groupings.

“Race” can also refer to, and is often used to refer to, a large group of people who are NOT necessarily part of a "biological race concept, but rather share some other thing in common. You could, for instance, refer to the “French race.”

I’ll go with sqweels on this one.