In 2006, author Alon Ziv published the first edition of Breeding Between the Lines, a haphazard exploration of the idea that mixed-race people are inherently "healthier and more attractive" than people of non-mixed backgrounds.
"The biology of race is a sensitive topic with an ugly history, but Breeding Between the Lines approaches it responsibly," the book's website reads. "Ziv presents evidence from academic journals, world history, census counts, and pop culture to explain why interracial individuals have measurable physical and mental advantages."
Though Ziv has described his work as a factual, objective"biology book" backed by peer-reviewed studies, it's a book promoting eugenics for the modern age.
Traditionally, when we think about eugenics, we're thinking about the problematic theories that were once used to justify anti-miscegenation laws, segregation, and the forced sterilization of minorities. For decades here in the U.S., social norms and policies rooted in eugenic ideology played a major role in the disenfranchisement of and discrimination against people of color who were considered genetically inferior to white people.
Though the book's a decade old, it recently went into its second edition with a brand new cover photo and a vastly different social media landscape full of people who couldn't understand why Barricade, the book's publisher, would deign to put the book out again. Author Daniel José Older took to Twitter (which wasn't really a thing back in 2006) in disbelief.
Older wasn't alone in his criticism of Ziv's newly-republished book. Others felt that while feigning to be in favor of the well-being of people of color, Breeding Between the Lines was, in fact, inexorably tied to racist ideology.
Alon Ziv's book, which I will never read, is what you typically get when race, as a social construct and bad science, is your framework.
— Astro Zaddy (@swindellium) May 24, 2016
Breeding Between the Lines's thesis stands on the other end of the traditional eugenic spectrum with its assertion that multiracial people are inherently superior. From his perspective, the fact that mixed race people are also people of color means that there's nothing wrong with saying that someone of mixed race is "better" than their peers. What Ziv seemingly fails to recognize, though, is that that the ideas he's advocating have a lot to do with the long history of valuing minorities with genetic connections to white people over those who don't.
In her video "The Many Problems With, 'I Want Mixed Babies,'" Franchesca Ramsey explains the many ways that society has a creepy and dangerous tendency to fetishize the children of interracial relationships.
In many cases, fawning over a mixed person's "good hair" or their pretty blue eyes, can be interpreted as saying those physical traits somehow make them a more acceptable (or superior) version of other people from their ethnic backgrounds.
This book hides behind cherry-picked studies to substantiate arguments. One of Ziv's points about multiracial people being more attractive is built upon the idea that humans objectively find symmetry to be aesthetically pleasing.
A 2002 study conducted by UCLA Assistant Adjunct Professor of Biology Jay Phelan attempted to scientifically "prove" that biracial people were more prone to being symmetrical and, subsequently, more attractive. After splitting a group of 99 students into groups according to whether or not they were biracial or "uniracial," 30 people rated their attractiveness .
While the experiment proved his hypothesis, it failed to account for a number of important factors influencing the study's findings. The idea of a "uniracial" person is absurd. Though people may identify as black, white, latino, or Asian, each of those racial groups are comprised of people with genetic connections to multiple ethnic groups from various regions. The experiment treated subjects as racial monoliths that could all be grouped together by particular physical traits.
What's more, unless the study's participants were explicitly told to gauge a person's attractiveness based solely on the symmetry of their faces (and given the tools to measure said symmetry), there's no way to account for the many other things that influenced how participants judged the photos.
“Right wing, left wing—everyone’s going to hate my idea,” Phelan told Elle in 2003. “But I think the movie Bulworth put it best: ‘Everybody’s just got to keep f—-ing everybody ’til they’re all the same color.”
This glibness says a lot about how to interpret this type of pop science. More than anything else, Breeding Between the Lines is meant to be provocative and get people riled up over its not-so-subtextual racism. In an attempt to legitimize his opinions, Ziv takes a jab at Rachel Dolezal, saying that claiming black identity "did not work out well for her."
Here's to hoping that clinging to eugenics doesn't work out too well for him.