Genocide, not genes: indigenous peoples' genetic alcoholism is a racist myth

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Now, I’m not doubting that racism and class play a HUGE role in alcoholism. I mean, God, I grew up in a small, poor town; you drink to forget.

Having said that, can anyone with a scientific background explain whether or not this is bunk, or how much of it is bunk?

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This thread has been up for 8 minutes and not yet become a cesspool!


Text at the link agrees with the thrust of the post:

The findings suggest that it is unlikely that Native Americans carry a genetic variant that predisposes them to alcoholism. Certain variants of ADH and ADLH do have a protective affect against alcoholism in some Native American people; however, these findings do not explain the high incidence of alcoholism in the tribes that were studied.


I think a lot of this comes from people taking stereotypes and assigning some pseudo scientific reason for it. Like I have hard black people are better runners because they have an extra muscle in their legs. That kind of crap. It then gets passes around as I guess what would used to be called an urban legend or a meme today. It is plausible enough people shake their heads and say, “That makes sense.” and pass it along.

Personally my favorite facts are ones that go against conventional wisdom.


The economics and the trapped on intentionally worthless reservations sustenance payments combines with the old federal Christian school system which beats the idea of defeat into the natives in the borders of the US.
I cant even begin to describe what that universal prison-like boarding school did to native society, the rape and violence leaves a mark for a lifetime.
I did a few years as a coverage firefighter paramedic on and in the hospital covering a big Pac NW reservation, what a mess, I got to see the worst, and I have never seen per capita numbers rivalling the rape, poverty, and violence in any large city I worked when I was a US resident.
I was on the way out as the casinos were coming in so I did not really see the gradual improvements.
The beaten down depression drives the problem for sure. I saw so frequently the suicide by alcohol, if anything natives last longer and are more tolerant to the poison than any other group though confirmation bias and a non-random sample vs drink to death cases of other genetic samples I saw in larger cities.


The really sad (and by sad i mean depressing as hell) thing is that it really isnt purely a stereotype. I used to live in Flagstaff, just south of the Navajo reservation (“the rez”), and the amount of chronically alcoholic, homeless, Navajos was shocking. Growing up, one of our family friends was a teacher in the Hopi reservation, and alcohol very visibly gutted large swaths of that poor community. Spend a weekend in Farmington, or any other community bordering the dry Rez, and you can see this stereotype is actually a massive social problem.

I have a feeling the problem isn’t just “racism”, but probably a huge variety of factors, some social, some cultural, and some genetic.

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So are the meth problems among low-classed whites “genetic”?

Are the conditions on the rez not due to racism?

I don’t understand what “The really sad (and by sad i mean depressing as hell) thing is that it really is a stereotype.” even means.


Huh. I recall hearing somewhere about the supposed genetic predisposition to alcoholism in Native Americans (never believed it, as it didn’t really make sense to me), but I hadn’t heard the “because they didn’t get the plague over here” part of it. Fascinating, and even more nonsensical.


Is the supposed disposition towards diabetes not really a thing either?

It’s not a scientific argument. It’s a political argument, and therefore the inelegant distillations of scientific research shouldn’t matter.

And economic. It isn’t chateau lafitte that’s on sale in the border towns.

Outside of our nice little bubble here, you will probably find a majority of people who can only see addiction as a personal problem - to the point that this arrticle would be seen as “excusing” the addict’s behavior. Whether it’s those people out there or our own families, most people have no solution beyond shame.

"Many scientific studies, including research conducted among twins and children of alcoholics, have shown that genetic factors influence alcoholism. These findings show that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems. Children of alcoholics also have a higher risk for many other behavioral and emotional problems. But alcoholism is not determined only by the genes you inherit from your parents. In fact, more than one–half of all children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic. Research shows that many factors influence your risk of developing alcoholism. Some factors raise the risk while others lower it.

Genes are not the only things children inherit from their parents. How parents act and how they treat each other and their children has an influence on children growing up in the family. These aspects of family life also affect the risk for alcoholism."

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The genetic alcoholism theory isn’t only derived from racism. It meshes in with lots of other indications that, well, Native Americans are ill adapted for wallowing in filth like Europeans.

Old World people invented beer in order to better survive living in dense communities with no plumbing. Native Americans, meanwhile, didn’t reach the level of density that requires that to begin with. (At least not north of the Rio Grande.)

Did Jehovazilla edit their comment? Your “pullquote” and the comment don’t match.

But I see your type of comment on various boards, and it makes me sad. Here was someone who lived in one of the affected areas, giving their life experience, and because it was worded somewhat inelegantly, at least one person has to chime in with their I’m Offended And Here’s My Strawman Rebuttal.

I’ll offer one of my own. I think I know where Jehovazilla is coming from in part of it. To most people “racism” just means, “I’m going to discriminate against you because you are X and I hate X,” or something like, “Somebody else ring up this black guy because they always try to screw up their orders to get free food.” That’s blatant.

Now, take something else. “We’re going to stock cheap booze because it sells well here.” Is it racist? It’s not exactly, “We’re going to sell cheap booze because a lot of Navajo and Hopi come here.” If it sells well, it sells well. Or, if I quietly pass on job applications of people who have a criminal record (which may or may not be legal depending on the jurisdiction) and it ends up disproprtionately affecting minorities, is it racist to exclude people with criminal records? I’d argue that while it’s not racist, it’s indirectly a product of racism. I’m not sure it’d be my job to hire felons to combat racism–I think it depends on the job, I wouldn’t hire sex offenders to be school janitors or janitors in a women’s shelter or a bank robber to be a bank teller–but I know not everyone agrees.

I don’t think people should have to pass a Political Correctness Compliance Test or whatever to keep from being browbeat. Jehovazilla was just sharing a sad commentary that, while not 100% “right”, was mostly about how sad it was to see people drinking themselves to death.

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I disagree with that statement. There were some very large cities in North America Pre-Columbian.

Just one example (though probably the largest):


If the people you end up excluding on that basis are mostly not white, that actually is racism. Racism is a matter of effects, not (as so many white folks believe) intent.

Anyway, numerous studies show that racism is precisely the bigger factor in that situation. Employers tend to favor white candidates, even if they have a “record” and the black candidate doesn’t.


So, and I’m about to commit an ad absurdum of my own, if I own a BMW dealership and almost all of my customers end up being white, because decades of racism have led to almost only white people being able to afford the cars, am I then guilty of racism?

I guess my hangup is that I’m just old enough to remember times when people were openly, unambiguously racist, like when a car dealership my dad worked for refused to sell Cadillacs to three guys who came in, literally cash in hand, because they were black. Explicitly, obnoxiously told their money was no good there.

So I guess that gets back to the storeowner who stocks the cheap booze: is the storeowner a racist for stocking cheap booze, if there’s a rez or a poor, mostly minority neighborhood nearby?

I also feel like this

Anyway, numerous studies show that racism is precisely the bigger factor in that situation. Employers tend to favor white candidates, even if they have a “record” and the black candidate doesn’t.

while an important point, could stand to have at least one of those “numerous studies” cited. I know you’re going to tell me to Google it, but see…I didn’t make the claim. (To tell the truth, life experience tells me it’s almost certiainly the case, but the plural of anecdote isn’t data.)

Footnotes and references are supposed to stop this sort of thing. If you think that something’s just not right about a piece of data or interpretation of data, you can trace it back to the source, and reexamine the data with a skeptical eye. Part of the trustworthiness of the scientific literature comes from this built in vulnerability.

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