August 21, 2016

African admixture events

Quickies

This paper is probably of interest to many but I don't have the insight to make a proper analysis. Just to mention that I feel deeply uncomfortable with the use of the "Sub-Saharan" term, which has so many wrong ideas attached to it, particularly the word "sub" (under, below) that it really irks me. Why not Trans-Saharan or Ultra-Saharan?, very Roman and not the least Eurocentric but definitely not just all kinds of wrong, as "Sub" is. Why not Tropical and Southern Africa?

Sub-Saharan is not just implicitly Eurocentric and almost certainly racist (sub-what?! subordinated?, sub-human maybe?) but, most importantly, it is geometrically and geographically very wrong. The South is not "under" the North: they are all on the same spheroid surface or equivalent cuasi-plane. Even a primary school student knows that!

Anyhow, this is what they have to say in minimalistic terms:

George BJ Busby et al., Admixture into and within sub-Saharan Africa. eLife 2016. Open access LINK [doi: eLife 2016;5:e15266]

Similarity between two individuals in the combination of genetic markers along their chromosomes indicates shared ancestry and can be used to identify historical connections between different population groups due to admixture. We use a genome-wide, haplotype-based, analysis to characterise the structure of genetic diversity and gene-flow in a collection of 48 sub-Saharan African groups. We show that coastal populations experienced an influx of Eurasian haplotypes over the last 7000 years, and that Eastern and Southern Niger-Congo speaking groups share ancestry with Central West Africans as a result of recent population expansions. In fact, most sub-Saharan populations share ancestry with groups from outside of their current geographic region as a result of gene-flow within the last 4000 years. Our in-depth analysis provides insight into haplotype sharing across different ethno-linguistic groups and the recent movement of alleles into new environments, both of which are relevant to studies of genetic epidemiology.



Figure 4. Inference of admixture in sub-Saharan African using GLOBETROTTER. (A) For each group we show the ancestry region identity of the best matching source for the first and, if applicable, second events. Events involving sources that most closely match FULAI and SEMI-BANTU are highlighted by golden and red colours, respectively. Second events can be either multiway, in which case there is a single date estimate, or two-date in which case 2ND EVENT refers to the earlier event. The point estimate of the admixture date is shown as a black point, with 95% CI shown with lines. MIXTURE MODEL: We infer the ancestry composition of each African group by fitting its copying vector as a mixture of all other population copying vectors. The coefficients of this regression sum to 1 and are coloured by ancestry region. 1ST EVENT SOURCES and 2ND EVENT SOURCES show the ancestry breakdown of the admixture sources inferred by GLOBETROTTER, coloured by ancestry region as in the key top right. (B) and (C) Comparisons of dates inferred by MALDER and GLOBETROTTER. Because the two methods sometimes inferred different numbers of events, in (B) we show the comparison based on the inferred number of events in the MALDER analysis, and in (C) for the number of events inferred by GLOBETROTTER. Point symbols refer to populations and are as in Figure 1 and source data can be found in Figure 4—source data 1

34 comments:

  1. Excellent complaint on the term "Sub-Saharan"/

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    1. I appreciate your appreciation, because sometimes it feels a bit loony saying that, even if I do feel that it's just stating the obvious.

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  2. You are not lunaticat at all. If the term would mean a small fringe of the Sahara and its environment as a small subset, it could be right. But if they are talking about all the space between the southern limit of the Sahara and Cape of Good Hope, the subset should be northern portion.
    It is like using Latin America instead of Central and South America or Iberoamerica. I live in South America and none of my ancestors spoke Latin.
    Cosas de gringos....

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    1. Well, I thought "looney" came from "loner" and not "lunatic", my bad. In any case, roughly same meaning in the context above.

      What I'm realizing browsing the WWW is that there is a growing number of people, particularly Africans, very unhappy with the term. Also it seems that, as I imagined, the word did not exist not so long ago, but it was coined c. 1994, probably by the IMF or World Bank. The reason may have been that prior to that date Apartheid South Africa was included in the Anglosaxon "white" colonial grouping (along with USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), so they had no qualm using the traditional term "Black Africa" for the rest of the region.

      OK, one may argue that "Black Africa" is "tainted" with Eurocentrism or racialism but compared to the blatant abhorrence of "Subsaharan Africa" it is very reasonably neutral. So basically they changed "Black Africa" into "Subsaharan Africa" mostly to include the White South African minority.

      Personally I think that there are some good reasons to sometimes distinguish between most of Africa and the Mediterranean part of it, strongly integrated with West Eurasia since Paleolithic times because of geography. But I find that, of all possible choices, "Subsaharan Africa" is the most racist, Eurocentric and conceptually wrong of all. And I'm 99% sure that it was coined by quite racist and stupid white people in global dominance institutions like the IMF and World Bank, of worse than dubious ethics.

      The alternative terms are:

      1. Black Africa: quite reasonable and, even if coined from a "race" perspective, perfectly recyclable for Black Pride.

      2. Tropical and Southern Africa (most of the time "Tropical Africa" will suffice). I've read that "Tropical Africa" might also be "tainted with racism" but I cannot see why: it is a very precise and correct geographical description of the region between the Sahara and Zimbabwe. The only issue is that it excludes the southern tip of the continent, what sometimes may not be convenient.

      3. Africa (without adjectives): for short and in some contexts is useful indeed. I've even known of Moroccans calling Africa to what is south of the Sahara, like saying: Africa is mainly that part. However it's not convenient for precise terminology, like when using "Asians" or "Asia" in the reduced US sense that excludes West Asia.

      ...

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    2. ...

      "It is like using Latin America instead of Central and South America or Iberoamerica."

      Well, South America does not include all Latin America, so it is indeed a very bad alternative. The precise global institutions term anyhow is "Latin America and the Caribbean", so it also includes English and Dutch speaking countries like Guyana, Surinam or Jamaica.

      You say "none of my ancestors spoke Latin". Not sure which is your background but chances are they did: Latin was the major international and education language in all Catholic Europe, and later also Protestant Europe, until well into the Modern ages, when national languages at local level, and French first and English later at international one, replaced it. In any case "Latin" here means "Romance" (Latin-derived languages), i.e. Spanish, Portuguese and French.

      Reduced alternative versions are "Iberoamérica" (i.e. Iberian America), which would exclude French-speaking countries like Haiti, or also very used is "Hispanoamérica" (Spanish America), including only former Castilian/Spanish colonies that retain the language (the status of California, Texas and Florida, among others, is open to interpretation). Some more allegedly "radical" opinions suggest Abya Yala, a Kuna (Bolivian indigenous) word for America in general, but it has its own problems: it would refer to "Indigenous America" primarily.

      I personally accept Latin America as lesser evil, which normally implies all the "Latin America and the Caribbean" region, even if some countries in it are Germanic speaking.

      I know that global regions' terminology is plagued with issues but none compares to that of "Subsaharan Africa", the worst choice possible.

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  3. I looked at the dictionary, and this time I am right. Loony is used as a colloquial of lunatic. Sorry.....
    I was reading somewhere that in euskera the word "bitxi" means "little"
    In Mapudungun, the language of the South American Mapuche people, the word for "little" is "pichi".
    There are many places in Chile and Argentina that contain that word.
    Pichilemu, Pichicuy, Pichidangui...
    And in the country, the father is still referred as the "taita"
    That´s for your collection of coincidences.

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    1. "I looked at the dictionary, and this time I am right."

      I was implying that you were right, of course (I wrote: "my bad"). Sorry if I was not clear enough.

      "... in euskera the word "bitxi" means "little""

      It means either odd, special, strange, anomalous (also found as "pitxi") or jewel, bead, ornament. "Little" or rather "small" is "txiki" (probably at the root of Spanish "chico/chica" = boy/girl). In general 'x' (sh) and 'tx' (ch) tend to imply diminutive. Olga → olgatxo/-txu, in ancient times in the Aquitanian or NE parts it was -sko instead however, so Bela (crow) → Belasko (little crow), but that version not used anymore.

      "In Mapudungun, the language of the South American Mapuche people, the word for "little" is "pichi"".

      Careful with single-word coincidences. They do happen, a lot, for no reason at all (other than our phoneme range being limited and words tending to short forms). You can only propose relatedness if there is a significant number of look-alikes in a blind test such as one done with the standard Swadesh word-lists. There is in any case some guy who has been proposing a Basque-Andean connection (with Quechua specifically) in the last years but I have a very hard time taking him seriously. The main reason is that Native Americans separated from Eurasians at least 17 Ka ago (more likely in the LGM) and remained almost purely isolated until Columbus. There's evidence now of some Polynesian interaction (chickens, minor ancient DNA) but those don't have anything to do with Basques either. The only chance of Basque-like influence in America would be to give credence to fringe hypotheses about Iberian, Carthaginian or Roman arrival to America, what would need some much bigger than a random wreck to have a linguistic impact (also any such hypothetical impact would have happened in the Caribbean, not far south in the Andes). A reverse (America→Europe) migration looks even less likely, IMO.

      "And in the country, the father is still referred as the "taita""

      Those are "baby-words", there is a good theory around that claims that babies "invent" them in their early babbling once and again. Their first "word" (babbling) is something like mama, ama (because "m" is the easiest consonant and "a" the easiest vowel), so parents assign this one to to the mother, then the baby begins sayin things like papa/baba/aba or dada/tata/ata (once the first teeth erupt) and these words go to father and siblings in more or less random order. It's a recurrent fantasy story-telling parents and other relatives make up with their babies babbling. In any case it'd be much more likely a relation with Altaian languages like Turkish (ata = father, same as probably was in ancient Basque) because Native American remote Eurasian roots are from that area (and not Europe or the Mediterranean region - there's a connection too but it's even more distant c. 50-40 Ka BP).

      Careful with word coincidences: a solid method is needed, else it's very easy to make false links between any random pair of languages.

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  4. You are right. A couple of words means nothing more than a coincidence.
    There are other words that look like a cultural influence. In Chile, in old times the "five o´clock tea" was named "la hora de once" because men instead of drinking tea like the women, took a glass of "aguardiente" that has eleven letters. That's how the legend goes. Coincidently, you basques, at the Caserío took your "amaiketako" including paitarra, with great joy at eleven in the morning.
    I wonder if those basques who colonized Chile in great number were involved
    in this coincidence.....

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    1. The (h)amaiketako is what Spaniards call "almuerzo" or in industrial environments "el bocadillo", a "lunch" (but not the main main meal) or "second breakfast" that breaks the worker's morning monotony. I'd guess the name is recent because people did not know what time it was in terms of ordinal hours at earlier times (no clocks, just the sun). Naturally the hamaiketako can also be at 10 or whatever, there's no strict rule, just feeling like having a short break at work to eat and drink something but I would not drink spirits if I had a long working journey ahead yet. Better some much lighter and refreshing cider.

      Influences between coastal countries are possible and in some cases documented (for example expressions in the line of yeep/eep in English or iepa/epa in Basque ), as sailors and migrants brought usages from here to there, so there may be a connection. But I'd think the very word hamaiketako is from the industrial era, I'd dare even say it's from a recent time, because it was only in the Nazi era when German time zone was adopted by France and Spain (earlier they had the same time as Britain and Portugal, one hour less) and therefore the main meal was moved ahead to real noon (~2 pm in summer, 1 pm in winter) or early afternoon (3/2 pm), so a "second breakfast" or "early lunch" was needed around 11 am.

      Probably that was earlier Angelus' time (hora del Angelus in Spanish), which today is at 12 pm for those who still keep the most ancient and forgotten Christian traditions that once pervaded the rural areas by the power of bells.

      My best guess in any case.

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  5. I can't find the reference right now but it must be said that population genetics has revealed recently that Basque genetic influence in Latin America is quite limited: greater than zero but definitely not at all pervasive and quite smaller than it would be if Basques would have contributed as any other "region" of the Kingdom of Castile. The main source of European colonists by far seems to have been core Castile and Andalusia, although the issue of possible widespread Guanche (Canarian aboriginal) ancestry in the Caribbean area remains poorly explored (I suspect quite real but strong evidence still needs to be produced). Also a sizable Galician diaspora from the industrial period exists (in some places like Argentina "gallego" is used for all Spaniards).

    Basques mostly took the roles of sailors in the Castilian (alias "Spanish") colonial empire, later on there were some waves of emigration, notably after losing wars (Carlist wars, Spanish Civil war) which were no doubt influential in the so-called Basque diaspora in terms of ideology but not so large in figures either. What happens, I think, is that almost anyone who has one Basque ancestor may more easily keep track of that ancestry than of other branches because Basque houses act as social centers in many places and maybe Basque roots feel a bit more "special" or even "prestigious".

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  6. In Chile you may find families, whose ancestors arrived as early a 1541-1600, with 6 or 8 basque last names on a road. And this fact has nothing to do with modern migration, but with the colonial structure. I suspect that many of them belonged to the Kingdom of Navarra and took posts in the colonial administration and the army, to fight against the Araucanos and carried with them lots of relatives. Then in the 18 th century came another lot from Vizcaya, interested in the mining business, together with others from Santander and Asturias.
    Then after the independence, the migration slowed down, until as a consequence of the Carlist Wars and the integration of the Basque Provinces to Spain, that meant for the boys to be enlisted in the colonial wars, thousands left for America at the end of the 19th century together with basques from Iparralde. Then another lot came after the Civil war.
    The result of these migrations is that in Chile aproximately the 20% of the last names have a basque origin, in all the social spectrum And the % of Rh (-) is between 8% -10%. Higher than would be expected in a country where most of the mtDNA have an american origin.
    In Argentina there are small towns where people speak Euskera
    and the country people wear red, or pale blue chapelas. But in Argentina the basque migration mostly from Iparralde, was inmersed in a sea of inmigrants from the rest of Europe. In spite of this fact they have an enormous cultural presence, more than in Chile, anyway.

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    1. The part is not the whole, the exception is not the rule.

      A most interesting read on this matter is:

      → http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150324/ncomms7596/full/ncomms7596.html

      But read carefully and using the supp. materials, particularly supp. fig. 5 and tables and refs. right after it, because it gets a bit tricky.

      The only strict Basque sample is "Basque" in the pops. section, which is the same as "Basque 2" in the clusters section. "Basque 1" is a subset of "Spain" from the 1000 Genomes Project, just as the five other subsets or clusters labeled "Spain 1", "Spain 2", etc. "Basque 2" has an almost zero presence in Latin America and while "Basque 1" is more common it is unclear why they decided those Spaniards are supposed to be "Basques" (particularly when there is a distinct Basque sample in the 1000 GP).

      Sadly analyses on Spain's autosomal structure are missing, there was one many years ago but it was horrible (not just Basques but all regions around the Basque Country were missing), the only apparent result was that Catalans and Andalusians are somewhat different from Central Spaniards. Galicia and Canary Islands were not studied either.

      However in this study they detect five Spanish clusters (six when including "Basque 1"). The most influential ones in Latin America are:

      · "Spain 1", made up of only 5 samples from the 1000 GP project.
      · "Spain 2", made up of 27 samples from the 1000GP plus 12 samples from Behar 2010.
      · "Spain 3", 24 samples from the 1000 GP and 13 samples from Behar 2010.
      · "Basque 1", made of 8 "Spanish" samples from the 1000 GP.

      Their presence within the European-like share of American ancestry:
      · 'Spain 1' is present at significant levels only in "Colombia A" and Puerto Rico.
      · 'Spain 2' is dominant in Puerto Rico, "Colombia B" and Dominican Republic, also common elsewhere.
      · 'Spain 3' is relatively dominant among the Maya, in Mexico, Peru and 'Colombia A'.
      · 'Basque 1' is significant in both Colombian samples, Mexico and Peru.

      'Spain 4' and 'Spain 5' seem to be Northeastern components, because they include one "French" sample each (probably Gascons) and are effectively absent. "Basque 2" (AKA just "Basque", from a 2008 paper) is also absent.

      Data for the Southern Cone, Bolivia, Central America, Cuba and Venezuela is lacking.

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    2. Erratum: the European component in Maya is "Spain 2", not "Spain 3".

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    3. A tentative consideration of what the Spanish clusters may mean could be:

      · Spain 3 = Castilian, known to have spread mainly to highland areas and probably dominant among early "conquistadores".
      · Spain 2 = Andalusian, known to have settled mainly lowland areas.
      · Spain 1 = Canarian or Guanche, known to have been forcibly drafted for colonization of the Caribbean, particularly "forgotten" islands like Puerto Rico.
      · Basque 1 = maybe Basque or maybe representing some areas of North-West Castile akin to to Basques in genetics, hard to say without further info.

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    4. "The result of these migrations is that in Chile aproximately the 20% of the last names have a basque origin, in all the social spectrum And the % of Rh (-) is between 8% -10%. Higher than would be expected in a country where most of the mtDNA have an american origin."

      I would like to know more about that thing of the surnames because when you go for example to:

      → https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categor%C3%ADa:Familias_de_Chile

      I only find 5/75 Basqu surnames in the first section, although it is 5/28 first surnames in the second one. These are prominent families anyhow and it's probable that Basque surnames are relatively more common among the elites than among the masses anyhow, just as English or French surnames are as well.

      As for the Rh⁻, it is lower than the Spanish or in general European average (Rh⁻ is not just a Basque or "Celtic" marker but primarily a European one, just that most concentrated in these two Atlantic regions), so it fits the expectations. It must be said that mtDNA alone does not provide an accurate estimate of overall ancestry and there is at least one study from a coastal district of Colombia that shows that Native American mtDNA can perfectly be overwhelmingly dominant in a "mestizo" population that is nevertheless overwhelmingly European (Spanish) by autosomal ancestry. How? Repeated waves of immigrants that were almost only men, all from approximately the same origin. The key to this discernment was X-DNA, which is also carried by men and showed in the case studied that it was mostly European as well.

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      Erratum to previous comment "North-West Castile" (last lines) should read "North-EAST Castile".

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    5. "In Argentina there are small towns where people speak Euskera".

      Oh, really? First time I heard from them. Care to provide some details, links...?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Some years ago, I met an argentinian lady with an italian last name, that came from a small town in the Provincia de Buenos Aires, where almost everybody, including her mother, was basque. So they celebrated all the traditional festivities in the streets, spoke Euskera and so on.
    Also in Argentina was the famous Publishing House "Ekin" that published History, Politics, Dictionaries, Poetry, and Gramatics.
    Look at the Wikipedia and you will find out about the huge influence of the basque migration in that country.
    Chile has never been a country of migration, too poor and with very difficult accesses, and no special wishes to atract hordes, foreing people never surpassed de 2% o 3% of the total population.
    Nevertheless, you may find a higher than expected proportion of basques last names, not only in the upper classes, but in the common people.
    As an example, the nanny that took care of me, was Loyola Andaur and married a guy whose last name was Subiabre, of course is Subiaurre.
    And my actual cleaning lady is Urra.
    Most of the chileans ignore the origin of their last names and have no memory of having foreign ancestrs.
    I have found only 2 studies about the genetic of the chileans. One of them arrived to the conclusion from a sample taken in Santiago, in various districts, that most of the founder men, 85% were europeans, and most of the founding ladies were native americans.
    But there is a new one more complete and some of the results may be seen in

    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composici%C3%B3n_%C3%A9tnica_de_Chile

    here there is an allusion to the proportion of basque last names.

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    1. "Most of the chileans ignore the origin of their last names and have no memory of having foreign ancestrs."

      Yeah, it's curious to see how the world changes in terms genetic and the very actors of the changes are unaware or almost so. We feel the places we live in particularly in childhood, we can still "live" them via our parents or maybe to a lesser extent our grandparents (if we have an intense relation with them) but it becomes weaker and weaker and at some point the genetics do not matter anymore. That is: except for segregated communities with a very special identitaty like African Americans in the USA, Jews, Roma - otherwise you mix and become one with the rest of your neighbors, you assimilate.

      "I have found only 2 studies about the genetic of the chileans. One of them arrived to the conclusion from a sample taken in Santiago, in various districts, that most of the founder men, 85% were europeans, and most of the founding ladies were native americans".

      Makes sense. You can still see the Native American streak in many Chileans, even if it is one of the "whitest" countries in South America.

      The study you mention seems to be this one:

      → https://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0034-98872014000300001

      Although it's not the best possible study and it certainly does not address the issue of Basque ancestry, it seems pretty good to discern Chilean ancestry in terms continental.

      Of Basque roots, what the Wikipedia entry says is: "se estima que en la actualidad los chilenos con algún origen vasco serían entre 1.600.000 (10 %) y 3.200.000 (20 %)". For anyone reading that does not understand Spanish: "it is estimated that nowadays Chileans with some Basque origin would be between 1.6 million (10%) and 3.2 million (20%)".

      This is not the same at all as 20% Basque surnames, just that 10-20% of Chileans seem to have variable ("some") Basque ancestry. Many (most) are probably like former Uruguayan president Mújica, whose Basque surname only seems to represent a small fraction of his complex ancestry (there was recently a Basque TV program on that).

      An average estimate of 15% with "some" Basque ancestry may well mean less than 5% of total Basque ancestry, maybe just 1-2%. It depends on how diluted it is.

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    2. "Some years ago, I met an argentinian lady with an italian last name, that came from a small town in the Provincia de Buenos Aires, where almost everybody, including her mother, was basque. So they celebrated all the traditional festivities in the streets, spoke Euskera and so on".

      "Also in Argentina was the famous Publishing House "Ekin" that published History, Politics, Dictionaries, Poetry, and Gramatics".

      Argentina is one of the places, along with Idaho, where Basque immigrant culture seems more lively, because there are important cultural institutions doing an excellent work. I'm not surprised to learn that there may be towns where most are Basque by origin, what would surprise me is that they still speak Basque in their daily lives, barring some group of elderly people maybe. Time does not stop and it takes a toll, it does here in the homeland so I would think it's even more intense overseas.

      (Note: I'll delete your duplicated comments).

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  9. If you have some spare time, have a taste about being basque in Argentina.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6NUFFvRzic&index=9&list=PLAB4116206566A18F

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    1. I've began watching and will watch in full later on. It seems better than the usual ETB diaspora documentary (which tend to favor some less "political" and more "bourgeois" kinds of people) but not too different in the essential facts.

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  10. Concerning the original topic of using subSaharan, I don't see anything wrong with using that term. The reason it is used is because the maps show things in an up and down orientation.
    The prefix sub only has negative meaning in attaching it to the word human as a description intent on portraying the subject as inferior.
    If a person of southern African descent takes this as a racial slur, then that individual is easily offended.
    Here in the United States, we have seen the term for an African American change from negro to black and then African American because of percieved racist connotations. European Americans are still called caucasian or white in official government applications for services or permits. No complaints result from that. American aboriginal people whom I have met accept being called American Indians just as readily as Native American. If anyone could have reason to be offended it would be central American people and South American people who are officially called Hispanic because they mostly speak Spanish. Their race and point of origin is not even officially recognized. This potential insult has never been brought to anyone for consideration of changing terms.The reason why is that central American people accept it. There are no Offended
    Persons Reports.
    We don't call that area in question South Africa to prevent confusion because there is a nation with that name. I guess a mindful person could use Southern Africa or Black Africa but I would bet there are Africans who would be offended by describing that geographical location as Black.
    It is very odd that offense is taken with SubSaharan. It is a logical, benign combination of words.
    It is not an innocent writers fault that Africans worldwide have grudges about their history and use that history to remain perpetually angry at caucasian people. The blame for lingering poverty of those people is now today on their own leaders.
    In the United States the government gives anyone of African descent advantage in every possible way. Free or subsidized housing, food, schools and preferential hiring for jobs. There are no starving African American people. If one is poor in the United States it is because they refuse to take advantage of opportunity. There is no oppression.
    The African American continues to maintain that they are oppressed in order to justify and continue government welfare.
    The question becomes do you owe them to be so careful not to offend them?
    Treat them with the same respect you extend to other people but you shouldn't worry yourself with SubSaharan. Stop acting like you are guilty of what happened in history. It only encourages them to continue to create new occasions to be offended.

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    1. "The reason it is used is because the maps show things in an up and down orientation".

      The PRETEXT is that, the reason could be ignorance (south is not below), nordocentric arrogance (south is not below) or plain outright racism (sub means "under" or "inferior").

      "The prefix sub only has negative meaning in attaching it to the word human as a description intent on portraying the subject as inferior."

      Also "subnormal", "substandard", "sub-par", etc. Sub is absolutely common in all kind of words that mean "inferior", as well as physically or metaphorically "under": subterranean, submarine... but also submissive, subordinate, etc. Add to that the words that use the French variant "sus", like "surrogate", etc.

      So "Subsaharan" is sending the wrong message in terms geographic (south is not below, Upper Egypt is south of Lower Egypt for instance) but, maybe more importantly it is sending the wrong message in terms of the position of that huge chunk of the World and its peoples, often impoverished and exploited in terrible ways, is "SUB", i.e. inferior (racism) and below (submitted, neo-colonialism).

      "If a person of southern African descent takes this as a racial slur, then that individual is easily offended".

      I could also say that if I call you names ("bastard", "jerk", whatever) and you take offense, then YOU are easily offended. I'm pretty sure that most Black Africans have a very thick skin but one thing is being tough and another thing allowing absurd abuse being thrown at you every day just because some white men in Washington decided it'd be "a great idea" for a geographic term. I would think that Africans should have a say on how their continental region is usually denominated through the world, right? I would also think that people in general should be more (auto-)critical and humbly accept when a bad idea is a bad idea, reckoning is the first step in healing, then comes correcting bad habits. We are not there yet however.

      "Here in the United States, we have seen the term for an African American change from negro to black and then African American because of percieved racist connotations. European Americans are still called caucasian or white in official government applications for services or permits. No complaints result from that".

      Part of the problem is that too many of these bad ideas come from the USA, precisely. No offense meant but when I traveled to your country as exchange student in 1985, I was shocked by being asked about my "race" in official paperwork at school. What?! Race?! We were in the 20th century, Hitler was dead long ago, who cares about that?! Well, it seems that a lot of US administrations do and IMO that's racist.

      On top of that it was hilarious that the woman doing the interview insisted on labeling me as "Hispanic" (apparently that's also a "race" in the USA)... until she somehow realized that I came from Europe many long minutes later. I couldn't care less about what she wrote down but I did care that that "race" was considered relevant at all. Astonishing! Absolutely astonishing! 30 years later I'm still astonished, seriously.

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    2. Continuing with the previous, I would think that most people of African descent are OK with the term Black and use it regularly, Whites do to. I reckon that I'm so nitty picky that when I was a kid I disputed the very idea of white/black skin color conventions, because for me they were "obviously" beige/brown, right? What do we have proper names of colors for? It may sound silly but I did have a point. This is much more serious though, IMO "Black Africa" is much more neutral and purely descriptive than the totally absurd "Subsaharan Africa" neologism. I'm sure it will fall out of fashion eventually but not yet because there is too much press in too few hands, white hands incidentally.

      "I would bet there are Africans who would be offended by describing that geographical location as Black."

      It was absolutely common until the 1990s, when the IMF and World Bank coined "Subsaharan Africa" out of the blue, in order to include the White South Africans, suddenly moved to with the rest of the country from the Anglosaxon Colonial region (not sure which was the exact name but it included USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) to core Africa with the end of Apartheid. It is a term coined for the small minority of non-Mediterranean or post-colonial White Africans, not for the almost infinitely larger Black African majority, which was rather OK with the term Black Africa, revalued by Black Pride movements. Of course there can always be debate about these issues but the choice of "Subsaharan" is absolutely BAD.

      "The blame for lingering poverty of those people is now today on their own leaders".

      Partly it is indeed but a great deal is because of imperialist intervention, directly (Libya, Mali, Chad, Central Africa), active connivance (Niger, Ethiopia, Morocco, Uganda) or indirect intervention via proxy (Rwanda, East Congo, both stirred up by Uganda, proxy of the USA and Great Britain). When countries like oil-rich Nigeria slide towards China because they do have a much more constructive approach to "business", the so called "the West" (USA and European allies primarily) stir up Boko Haram (now associated to DAESH), just as they did in Syria and Libya and Afghanistan before them or in the Uganda of a previous era with the very similar Lord's Liberation Army and other mercenary madmen.

      It's like with the slave trade: of course there were a lot of Africans implicated in it but the Western and Arab powers had active policies that demolished those who dared to challenge the slavist system (for example Kongo) and promoted similarly destructive "madmen" organizations in their primitive form, like the Chagga militant "tribe". In general those who cooperated with the slave trade, got weapons and wealth, those who fought against it had no access to those key resources. Today it is hardly any different, even if it is not slaves anymore the main merchandise but minerals (uranium, gold, oil, etc.)

      ...

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    3. ...


      "In the United States the government gives anyone of African descent advantage in every possible way."

      Nobody was discussing originally the "racial" (or rather ethnic) situation in the USA but what I know first and second hand is a very mixed picture. Segregation was generalized until the 60s or 70s, this actually disadvantaged Blacks in many ways, including not having access to the cheap housing market of the 50s and 60s, which today constitutes a good deal of the wealth of the so-called "middle class" families, almost uniformly White. What I saw in Virginia when I was living there was non-official de facto segregation: Blacks and Whites hardly ever mingled out of school, it may have improved since the late 80s, I hope so, but there is still a very clear ethnic divide and that is very evident in the reports that arrive abut systematic persecution and even murder of poor people, mostly Blacks, by a very violent police force that shoots first, asks later. There have been A LOT of truly scandalous cases in the last year alone, I'm sure you know of them, but it is something very insidious and systematic in any case and police murders are only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe it should be even more scandalous that Blacks are much more likely to be arrested and convicted for marihuana use than Whites in spite of consumption of this soft drug being absolutely equal in both ethnic groups. This is because police does "racial profiling". And it's not just the police: it's the whole society, Blacks included probably. It has been demonstrated that a white man openly pretending to rob a car at midday in NYC was totally ignored, when the white actor was replaced by a black one, he was corraled by police in no time, put to the ground at gunpoint and almost arrested. I guess he was lucky not to get shot dead on the spot.

      Also, please, watch this: http://www.pbs.org/video/2176766758/

      It's not unrelated at all: private prisons and prison work for almost nothing feeds the arrest and conviction of people, with or without reason, for absolutely unimportant pretexts. And most of the victims of that rotten neo-slavery system are Blacks.

      So please don't be so arrogant about something that is quite obviously not the rosy benevolent treatment that you imagine but almost exactly the opposite.

      "The question becomes do you owe them to be so careful not to offend them?"

      I'm not merely worried about offending or not Black People or anyone else. In fact that's only half of my complaint, the other half is that it is an offense to intelligence: south is not below, sometimes below is southwards, sometimes is northwards, sometimes to the east, sometimes to the west. Above or below has to do with the vertical dimension and, in the spheroid that is Earth that dimension is defined by a radial axis from the center of Earth to outer space or more simply by relative sea level.

      Here also people commit the error way too often when they say "I'm going down to Madrid", when in fact Madrid is around 500 meters ABOVE Bilbao, which is at sea level. We should put maps upside down more often because this vulgarization of geography is truly offensive to intelligence and only shows ignorance, the kind of ignorance that, seemingly, the Western Imperial Regime has been spreading actively in the last few decades, when it has been shown that the so-called "Flynn effect" of apparently every growing IQ scores has collapsed and is going backwards, at least in the developed world, affecting particularly to the most intelligent segments of the curve, which have shrunk dramatically. Are we becoming dumb, is "Idiocracy" our future? I fear the worst, really.

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  11. Mr. Fleming, are you a subCanadian?
    - - -

    (Yep, I'm still banned for no good reason....)

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    1. You're banned for a good reason: spamming with incoherent babble-rant once and again, if I recall correctly (it's difficult to keep track of all cases but I'm pretty sure it was your case). I have no idea why a sane person would do that but I have a good idea about what I'm not going to tolerate in my tiny slice of the blogosphere.

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    2. Also trying to breach the ban does not speak in favor of your good intentions. The proper channel would be to email me and persuade me that you are not anymore behaving as you used to (an apology would be a plus).

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  12. Racism and history are enbedded in languages. Curiously in Iberoamerica (Do you like the term?) the word Negro doesn´t have an unrespectful connotation. And in every family the darkest kid, in relation to their brothers, is called "El Negro" or La Negra with affection.
    I also find very odd to classify the population according to the colour, or the texture of the heir, like they used to do in South Africa, inventing a Hispanic Race. How they would classify the Austronesian "Negritos"? They are not african, though they look alike.
    The genetists, who have access to all the mixtures of the human race must have fits of laugh with these classifications belonging to a societies that still has lots of prejudices and believes related with "pure" races.


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    1. "Iberoamerica (Do you like the term?)"

      I already discussed this term and others above in a previous comment.

      "the word Negro doesn´t have an unrespectful connotation."

      Of course not: "negro" is just "black" in Spanish (not sure in Portuguese, they tend to use "preto" instead). It is a descriptive term that is embedded in culture. In Basque Beltza (black, the black one) is a traditional male name, so is Zuria (white, the white one), they probably referred originally to relative pigmentation as the examples you mention in America (the other America).

      A curious debate that has arisen recently in Europe is the question of "blackface". In the USA it has clearly racist connotations because of recent history but it does not necessarily in Europe (where among other things there used to be almost no black people, so it was an artistic resort to represent them in some festivals, it is still some times although nowadays real black people are preferred when available). What is intriguing is how the US standards are taken sometimes at face value without considering the local cultural context, which is a bit annoying. Let's not forget that it was the USA which imposed on France an all-white liberation parade of Paris, for example, when the French (colonialist and what-not) were perfectly ready and proud of allowing their black colonial troops to parade with full honors. While nobody is clearly exempt of the sin of racism, I do think that, without the Germanic and particularly the Anglosaxon approach to the issue of "races", which tended historically towards Apartheid, and still does to some extent, this matter would be several degrees less controversial and much more normalized.

      "The genetists, who have access to all the mixtures of the human race must have fits of laugh with these classifications belonging to a societies that still has lots of prejudices and believes related with "pure" races".

      Depends on who. Certainly one can use genetics to draw boundaries and many do, even vindicating the "truthness" of "race" based on population genetics (emphasizing cluster over cline, despising the overwhelming similitude of all humans). But you can also argue for the opposite: for huge swathes of clinality and an extreme difficulty to discern any sort of "pure race". In fact all Europeans, for instance, are a bit Black African and a bit East Asian: under the "one drop rule", we are all black.

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  13. It seems to me that in order to understand and remember, we humans use classifications and tags; and in the way, we start to believe that
    reality corresponds to our classifications, narrowing our point of view, because the map is not the territory.
    And these facts lead us to make many mistakes as human beings and cause a lot of pain that could be avoided.
    I hope that genetics helps us to be aware that we are all black, pink, yellow, brownish, neandertals, siberians, native americans and...basques, cousins in some degree.

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