Thursday, July 21, 2011
Neanderthals Were Totes Refined, Apparently
So, comparing Africans and those of African lineage to animals is a thing. It's a totally fucked-up thing, but it's something we see again and again in representations of black people both in the US and internationally. You should definitely check out the link above, because Sociological Images recaps this trend pretty well.
So when I saw this news item about how the genetic code of Eurasians may contain a bit of Neanderthal DNA, the phrasing got my attention. Instead of "white people totally interbred with cavemen," we get something quite different. Neanderthals, despite being traditionally depicted as primitive caveman types (accurately or not), are described here as "the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute." Then there's this BBC graphic that shows black racial groups splitting off from the evolutionary track in much the same way that we're used to seeing invertebrates splitting off from the evolutionary track to mammal-hood.
Both kind of bug me. Some of the adjectives just seem ... cherry-picked. I suspect that if a different species were discovered to have similarly contributed to the African gene pool, said species might be described a little differently. And it's also possible that the corresponding evolutionary diagram might still show more detail on the Eurasian side of things. Admittedly, I don't have any examples of this, but my spidey-sense is tingling.