Mixed Kids are not Prettier: Blowing Up “Hybrid Vigor”February 28, 2010
Okay, I am a bit sick of hearing people talk about mixed folks like we’re some sort of science experiment:
A few days ago, my cousin (“E”), his girlfriend (“J”), and I (“me”) met up with a married couple that they are friends with. In this couple, the man is a white Australian man, and the woman is a Chinese woman. (*1) The guy’s a nice one, but he’s not killing it in the looks department. The woman (also quite wonderful) is average-looking. (*2) She’s pregnant.
So after we part ways, “J” (also Chinese) is excited about the baby, and she says, “I can’t wait for their baby to be born – she is going to be so beautiful. Because she is Chinese and he is a foreigner, the baby must be so pretty.”
Record-scratch. I look at her, “What?!” I don’t say it, but I’m thinking – ‘Has she looked at the father? What is wrong with people?’
Because this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of thing. I hear it all the time – “mixed kids are just so pretty.” And – although I’d love to bathe in the ego-stroking that entails (an interesting counterpoint to “Asian men aren’t hot”) – I’m not having it. And before I break it down further, let me just say that I know plenty of mixed folks, and there’s not always a whole lot of “beautiful” running around (I’m sorry, but I just got to be honest here). The few that are actually above-average? Well, the ones with the above-average parents, of course. Just like with the majority of pretty “mono-racial” children.
It doesn’t end there, though. I’ve also heard that mixed kids are “so intelligent” (mostly here in China). I’ve even been told (back in high school) that “all mixed kids are just so nice.” (*3)
When this topic gets brought up on a larger level – how beautiful and wonderful and healthy mixed kids are – we inevitably get a reference to “hybrid vigor.” In these cases, the person making the argument (wrongly) describes “hybrid vigor” as the genetic superiority of “cross-bred” animals and plants in the world. “It’s science,” they say – and people usually buy it.
Well, sorry, people – but this particular gorgeous, super-intelligent and wondrously kind mixed-race “cross-breed” has a science background. And y’all – apparently, from your mis-use of scientific understanding – don’t.
So step into my class for a second.
First-off, don’t wrongly cite Gregor Mendel and his pea-experiments as any sort of evidence – either way – of “hybrid vigor.” Yes, his cross-breeds did better than those plants he did not cross-breed, on an overall level.
But . . . uh . . . you’re missing a vital fact here: those plants that he didn’t cross-breed? He self-pollinated them. As in, they were inbred. Even closer relatives than brother and sister – because the sex cells came from the same plant. It was practically cloning. And even though lots of people like to say members of a particular “mono-racial” group “all look the same,” you’re really not all clones.
Okay, so then our faulty scientists will say, “well fine, what about with dogs and pigs and horses and sheep, etc.? Cross-breeding them increases fitness.”
Well, yes and no. First off, “hybrid vigor” actually just references the times when cross-breeding happens to increase fitness – not a fact that it always occurs. There’s another term, “outbreeding depression,” for when cross-breeding causes more problems. So, again, y’all are skipping some important details.
“But cross-breeding more often increases fitness, then.” Sure, sure. In dogs and pigs and other domestic animals, that’s true. But again – look at the comparison – those animals that do not get cross-bred: these are either “pure-bred” animals (like pugs, for instance) or “inbred” animals. We’ve talked about inbreeding (and no, I don’t think mono-racial folks are all the products of thousands of years of inbreeding), so . . .
“Pure-breeds”? Artificially, selectively-bred animals? These are animals that have been forced to breed together for many many generations to enhance some specific physical characteristics – at the cost of a lot of health problems. These are not real-world animals. Outside of the domesticated world, “pure-breeds” simply do not exist. Because, in the real world, “pure-breeds” would die out within a couple generations because of all their problems. All that remains in the natural world are cross-bred animals.
So comparing races or ethnicities to “breeds” is just lazy, and poor science. Every racial and ethnic group out there is a result of “cross-breeding.” Our human gene pool is all mixed up – because we have been (mostly) avoiding the inbreeding and artificial selection that creates domestic animals. Our DNA is more varied within any particular “racial group” than it is between them. Which then suggests that – if any of this “science” can be applied to human beings – then, perhaps, so-called “mono-racial” offspring would be more likely to have the advantage of “hybrid vigor” than multi-racial offspring.
Of course, that would also be abusing the science, but I hope you can see my point – there is no such thing as “purity” in race. Every “race” is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of inter-breeding, cross-breeding. We’ve survived as long as we have because we are not “pure.”
Mixed kids? The result of exactly the same reproductive processes and selection pressures as the rest of humanity. Flat-out. (*4) Some of us are super-hot or wondrously intelligent (or both), for sure. But, sorry, some of us just have to pull on inner beauty or wouldn’t exactly astound others with our coherence of thought (or both), as well.
Untrue “positive” stereotypes like this are just as damaging as negative ones (on a large scale). Allowing ourselves to be reduced to the equivalence of domesticated animals? Hell no. Let somebody “other” you in a “positive” way, and you’re just setting yourself up for the negative stereotypes and prejudice to follow suit – and trust me, it’s going to happen.
And, finally, for those anecdotalists out there who want to say, “but, really, all the mixed people I know really are beautiful,” I’ve got some things for you to ask yourself:
First off – are they “beautiful” simply because they’re “different” and “exotic?” That would be my first guess if they literally all are so gorgeous, in your eyes. And I don’t need to go further into that one about why that’s not okay.
Second – honestly, how many normal, everyday mixed people do you make note of? What does it take for you to even get to the point where you know for sure that we are mixed? Chances are, for us to be noticed on that level, we either have to be in the media (which is going to obviously over-represent the “hot” mixed folks), or else we just have to stand out from the backdrop of everyday life. And if we’re good-looking, that’s one way to do so.
I mean, how often do you think about or even ask some “below-average” guy or gal, “wow – you have such an interesting look, what is your racial background?” Right. You don’t. So you likely aren’t even aware of the thousands of mixed people you walked right by on the street that were not “beautiful.”
It’s Confirmation Bias, people (and if you don’t know what that is, it’s important – please look it up).
Mixed folks are great – GO US – but it’s simply not due to our genetic difference from the rest of humanity. We are not aliens; we are not dogs or other domesticated animals. We’re just another socially-defined group of people, and a force to be reckoned with – like the rest of our species.
And if you still don’t believe me . . ? Well, dang, please don’t make me be such a jerk that I have to send you photos . . .
(*1) In general, if I say “Chinese” without specifying another country of origin, then I mean born and raised in China and of Han (majority) ethnicity.
(*2) For perhaps the only time on this blog, I’m working off a general, super-shallow societal concept of physical “beauty” here, because that’s the level on which I mean to take this stereotype down. If people were talking about mixed-race folks being “beautiful” within a completely different framework for beauty, then we’d be living in a better world than we do.
(*3) Man, I thought of so many ways to disprove that last one after the fact, but – in the moment – I was too surprised to do much of anything.
(*4) This is just common-sense, and it bothers me how people who have no idea what they’re talking about mis-read scientific findings to “prove” damaging theories like this.
(*5) And yes, I am wholly conscious of the fact that this entire post so fully falls out the way I lament we teach our kids to “argue” in my “Broken System, Part III.” Sigh . . . see what prejudice can do to a guy?