Talk:Racial characteristics

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As far as I am concerned, the only useful stuff on this page is already in Race -- and the rest is unscientific crap. What is the intent behind this page? Why is there a need for this article, when we already have an article on race, especially when there is no scientific consensus as to the characteristics, or even existence, of race? Slrubenstein

I agree. Whatever now in the article that can be salvaged should be moved to race and then this article should be deleted. --mav
I vote for deletion too.
Ericd 22:54 Mar 31, 2003 (UTC)
And so do I. Can't tell where the author is coming from or going, but I do not believe we should join this ignorant and offensive journey.
User:NuclearWinner Mar 31, 2003
I vote for deletion. -- NetEsq 02:45 Apr 1, 2003 (UTC)
I agree. Move salvagable bits (if any) into race, and delete. The Anome 09:22 Apr 1, 2003 (UTC)

Since there seems to be something of a consensus, I have removed the contents -- here it is

Any discussion of racial characteristics depends on a definition of "race". In the 19th century European scientists divided the Human species into several races which were eventually consolidated into 3 - Negroes (i.e. Sub-Saharan Africans), Mongoloids (i.e. East Asians and Southeast Asians) and Caucasoid (i.e. Europeans, Southwest Asians and South Asians).
19th century racial scientists characterized these races in terms of physical and mental capacities. Today only a small minority of people believes that race is correlated with mental capacities.
Physical appearance
Negroes - dark skin, tightly curled hair, velvety skin, long arms and legs, prominent jaw, broad nose
Mongoloids - light yellowish skin, ultra-straight hair, short arms and legs, broad face, broad nose, epicanthic fold (common), scarcity of body and facial hair
Caucasoid - very light to dark skin, colored eyes (common), abundance of body and facial hair (common), colored hair (common), narrow face, tall and long but narrow nose

Personally, I see no valid information here that is not already in the article on Race, but if anyone can find something useful here, by all means move it into that article, Slrubenstein

At risk of being tarred as a rascist, I disagree that the information here is already covered at race. Specifically, there is a list of characteristics here, such as "narrow nose" or "curled hair" that is not presented there. Should we list all these characteristics there, list them here and link to them from there, or pretend they don't exist? -º¡º

Well, the point is, if these are valid they should go in the appropriate part of the Race article. But most agree that "narrow nose" and "curled hair" are really racial stereotypes and not scientifically valid. It is true that these are inherited traits, and it is also true that they have some selective value. But traits such as these are highly variable along a gradation. For example, people living on the equator have dark skin. People living farthest from the equator have fairer skin. Between the equator and the poles you can find a gradient in which skincolor generally changes from darker to fairer. But there is no magical line that divided people with dark skin from people with fair skin. "Race" depends on such lines -- a clear line between black and white people, for example. But that clear line is cultural, not scientific -- biological differences such as these as I said work through gradients. The consequence of this (this difference between the way biology works versus cultural taxa) is that there are some blacks who are fairer skinned than some whites. Similarly, you can construct a "race" of people with big noses -- many people within such a race will not be related to one another very closely. If you construct a "race" of closely related people with large noses, some wil have small noses. And of course, the ultimate question is, why use "nose size" to define races? There is an answer, that has to do with European history -- not sicence. In other parts of the world, people also use the word "race" but wouldn't include nose size among their criteria. In short, it is not scientifically meaningful. Slrubenstein

Slrubenstein, I don't disagree with the correctness of any of your factual statements above. I think that one key disagreement between us would stem from your belief that things need to be "scientifically meaningful" to be in wikipedia. Many people believe in the concept of race, and much of the politics of the nineteenth and twentieth century stemmed from the concept of race. Even if racial characteristics were (and I'm not saying they are) to be a completely discredited idea, that doesn't mean we couldn't write about it encylopedically. -º¡º
which the article on race does, and I think pretty well. I don't disagree with you -- but this article presented the information as scientific; ANY article which claims that there "are" three races, defined by certain physical characteristics, is presenting a particular point of view as if it were NPOV or objective or scientific, and that -- and only that -- is what I thought was wrong; otherwise, my objection was merely that the article was redundant. Slrubenstein
This isn't my battle, so I'm going to save my silver bullet for something I really care about. But I don't think that the information above is presented at Race, or if it is it is buried so deeply I can't find it. Where does that article say "Negros have prominent jaws" or "Mongoloids have straight hair"? I don't know how to fit this stuff in without hacking it to pieces, but it seems like there should be room for it *somewhere* on wikipedia. The content could be simply disclaimed with something like "according to conventional euopean theories of race from the end of the nineteenth century" or some such. Too bad that the word "race" with regards to humans has become loaded with emotion and politics, while we can still use "breed" to refer to canines. Observing that the population of a species has been divided into certain subgroups with physically different characteristics shouldn't be an exercise in tiptoeing around political correctness. -º¡º
Frankly, I do not see how what you write above is a response to my initial comment (the one you first responded to), which said, "if anyone can find something useful here, by all means move it into that article." If you want to move "Negroes have prominent jaws" into that article -- to quote myself again -- "by all means move it into that article." Nevertheless, I think you will find that most other contributors to that page, including myself, will delete it, not because it is "politically incorrect" but because it is factually wrong. In the meantime, perhaps you should read the article before judging it. Slrubenstein

I see my thoughts have wandered. I'll state my points clearly.

  1. It is appropriate for Wikipedia to contain a list of physical traits that were historically considered to be characteristics of race.
  2. (It is not appropriate for Wikipedia to present these traits as being current scientific understanding.)
  3. These traits are not currently included, in any depth, in the current article on Race.
  4. I do not feel that Race is the appropriate place for these traits to be listed, and therefore disagree that the content from this article should be moved there.

Your assertion that you will delete "Negroes have prominent jaws" seems to agree with my belief that these traits don't warrant being listed at Race. The question remains, where *should* these traits be listed? -º¡º

Well, okay -- if you mean "in the 19th century, many scientists (or non-scientists, whatever) defined the "Negro race" as characterized by ...." I would not delete that and have no objection to it being including in the encyclopedia, especially if more context is provided. However, I still think that goes in the Race article as that article does discuss 19th century notions of race. Of course you can disagree with me -- but I am only one person. If you can convince the four people above who voted to delete this article (and Tannin, who did not write anything on this page but on my talk page) to change their mind, well, I will accept the new consensus. Slrubenstein
Yes, that is exactly how I would see it handled, by saying "in the 19th century" and perhaps moving the whole thing to something like "Historical definition of race". I agree that the Race article does discuss the 19th century concept of race, but it (properly) doesn't bog down in details like jaw structure, hair color, nose dimensions and so on. As I said earlier, this isn't my battle, and I don't want to step into editing the articles on race at this time. I have other things I'd like to spend my Wikipedia time on, which has already been mostly spent today going off on tangents. Alas, I'm sure you know how that is. -º¡º
Ah... I do not go off on tangents; tangents go off on me! :) Slrubenstein

Yesterday, on SLR's talk page, I wrote: There seemed to be three possible things to do: (a) just delete it - I was tempted - (b) move it to 19th Century views on race or something similar - i.e., leave the content more or less intact but make it clear that this is a discussion of a particular aspect of 19th century proto-science - quite interesting as a sociology of science/history of public opinion topic - or (c) just take out the hopelessy non-scientific stuff. (Fast runners & slow runners - ha! Seen a list of Olympic champions lately? All races are well-represented.) I took the quick and easy method, just deleted the silly stuff. Something could be done with it, but my main current focus is birds. Maybe some other week.

I guess that sees me agreeing with everyone here. Which is kind of a nice change, really. Lately I seem to be disagreeing with everyone! :) Tannin 23:12 Apr 1, 2003 (UTC)

(Oh, and as for tangents, does anyone know if the damn things respond to spraying with DDT? They breed like rabbits! I am way over-committed. Tannin)


The primary reason that I voted for deletion of the article on Racial characteristics had nothing to do with political and/or scientific correctness. Rather, after comparing the racial characteristics article to the article on race, I came to the conclusion that the latter was redundant, repetitive, and said what was said elsewhere, etc., etc., etc.

Assuming, arguendo, that discussions of racial characteristics should be included in Wikipedia, they should not be part of an article that sucks so bad as to make the average reader wonder why it was written in the first place. One way of accomplishing this is to create individual articles for the posited racial phenotoypes that are referenced in the race article, with each such article suitably NPOVed to eliminate any inadvertent endorsement of pseudoscientific racism.

BTW, my experience with tangents is that spraying them with DDT only makes them angry; I'm still looking for the right angle. -- NetEsq 00:38 Apr 2, 2003 (UTC)

If people do decide that a seperate article is not necessary, please could they leave racial characteristics redirected to race. This serves various purposes, including:
  • links to racial characteristics go somewhere useful
  • bookmarks, search engines (google has cached it via acapedia), external links, etc, all carry on working
  • history of page is available if anyone desires to use it at a later point for an aforementioned "19th century views" page.
  • doesn't require magical sysop powers, decreasing concerns of "elitism".
  • conformance to current policy.
  • future people who wish to add info on this subject get to see that it's been done before and was redirected and are thus made aware of this debate, avoiding duplication of effort