Race question

If the only difference between a white person and a black person is the color of their skin, does a white person in blackface become a black person?

1, it’s not (I assume you’re talking generalities here). And 2, no anyway, because the skin doesn’t change colour, it’s just covered with a substance of a different hue. The skin itself doesn’t change.

Why do you ask?

Bolding mine.

That’s where it all falls down I’m afraid. There are clear physical differences, even related to disease (the occurrence of sickle cell anemia in blacks as opposed to whites for example), as well as cultural differences.

If you assume the bolded part is true you may have a point, but I personally don’t have enough faith to believe everyone on the planet is that open minded.

I just finished re-reading “Little Big Man”. The Native Americans (Indians) in the story had a word to describe an African-American (Black) man - they called him a “Black White Man.”

I’m trying to figure out if the OP is knocking down a strawman, or if he’s an alien from another planet who doesn’t understand what constitutes a racial feature. Either way, he doesn’t know what blackface is. So right off the bat, I’m not thinking this thread is going to have a productive discussion.

Sickle cell anemia is not, purely, a “black” disease. What are these cultural differences that you speak of? Do you mean in the way that lots of black people like soul food or soul music? What the difference between a cultural difference and a stereotype?

This is a complex question that has been done to death on these boards. I will try to break a brevity record for outlining it.

  1. There is no such thing as the traditional races. This means that you can’t draw a clean line and split people into 3,4,5 or more races. It isn’t as neat as that.

  2. There is such a thing as “populations”. Populations can have traits that are more or less rare than other people that aren’t in that population but it is extremely rare to find a trait that is exclusive to one group or population. These traits could include height, build, or susceptibility to a disease like sickle cell anemia or Tay Sachs. Most populations are fairly small but it is possible for them to be larger and resemble something we might call a race (not the traditional ones though).

  3. There is more genetic diversity in Africa than any other place. Different groups of African blacks are actually less related to each other than they may be to people outside of Africa. Talking about African groups as a whole is scientifically unsound and will get you nowhere fast. These groups are more like semi-independent populations as described above.

  4. The Out of Africa hypothesis states that whites and Asians are descendants of a rather small group of people that moved out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago and are probably descended from only one or a few African populations. That does leave some room for traits to be more or less prevalent in these groups than they are in most African populations due to a bottleneck effect.

  5. A lot more people have a mixed race lineage than we commonly acknowledge. Most black Americans have white blood and many American Whites have Native American or black blood than we normally acknowledge. This applies to many groups of people.

Sure, the white person covered in black paint becomes black, because an object that is painted black is, well, black.

Of course, I should point out that “black people” aren’t black at all. They’re actually brown.

I didn’t mean to imply that sickle cell anemia is a purely “balck” disease. It’s occurance however it definitely skewed.

I can’t give you an anthropology answer, but I can give you the biological one in laymen’s terms:

The difference in skin color is an adaptation to the amount of sunlight available and, in turn, the synthesis of Vitamin D. Remember that Vitamin D is not only required for calcium uptake from the diet, but it’s integral for the formation of new bone. You have bone cells called osteoblasts that build bone only once Vitamin D activates them. Without Vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium which makes up the mineral matrix of bone. Some cell types like neurons and pancreatic cells use calcium to release neurotransmitter and insulin, respectively.

The first-step in Vitamin D synthesis is the conversion of a sterol to an intermediate molecule by UV light (from the sun). This intermediate molecule is further modified by the liver and kidney to give form to Vitamin D, which the body can use.

Now here’s the rub. Even though the human body requires UV light to catalyze the first-step in Vitamin D synthesis, it is actually quite nasty to DNA, often disrupting portions of the helix. This is why you get sunburn - your body detects damage in the epithelial cells and triggers apoptosis (programmed cell death) which creates the redness, flaking, and peeling one normally associates with sunburn. Humans have developed melanin as a way to protect DNA in cells that are exposed to UV light; in fact, melanin preferentially accumulates around the nucleus (where the DNA is). Cool, huh?

This leads to a kind of give-and-take, where lighter skinned individuals are well-adapted to areas where there is not a lot of sunlight and darker skinned individuals are well-adapted to areas where there is a lot of sunlight. Make sense? Good. Now because melanin interferes with the absorption of UV light, darker skinned individuals in low-light regions would produce insufficient Vitamin D. Lighter skinned individuals, on the other hand, increase the likelihood of DNA damage (and cancer) in regions with lots of sunlight.

The issue in this day and age is moot. Vitamin D can easily be obtained through a diet and there are an array of products such as lotions and creams that protect against UV light. For a biologist, skin color is just the compromise between Vitamin D synthesis and the protection of genetic material. If you’d like more information such as the theories behind this phenomenon, I suggest you take an anthropology class. For some odd reason, they are pretty horny about skin color.

  • Honesty

I want to add a few questions:

If black and white in the US is a construct built by the people, does it make me white if I eat a mayo on white bread sandwich?

Since Puerto Ricans span the entire spectrum of human skin color, does that make me a rainbow?

If I like both AC/DC and NWA does that make me bi-polar?

If you like penguins and Eskimos, that makes you bi-polar.

This is very nearly a General Question, but with enough opinions to nudge it into IMHO territory. I do not see a Debate, Great or Petty.

[ /Moderating ]

To answer a question with a question: would Al Jolson ever have been refused a hotel room or a first-class passenger ticket on a train in Alabama if he showed up in blackface stage costume? (Never mind that Al himself was actually Jewish, or that he was actually sympathetic to and even liked by the “Negro community” of the time.)