0.88% of U.S. Grimms are black – are the U.S. structurally racist?

When it still was completely free, Wolfram Alpha was one of my favorite search engines. Because it would provide me with nerdy data. But when you search your family name, it becomes racist. Not their fault, they just dig all available data.

I live in France, and the reason, why we have no good statistics about how many black, brown, white, green or checkered people live in most European countries is that our census doesn't record any racial data. But when you e.g. search your family name via Wolfram Alpha, you get quite a detailed information.

Typing in "Grimm" in Wolfram Alpha's search machine (in France): first comes frequency in the U.S., then the racial composition of U.S. Grimms, finally a list of famous namesakes (screenshot truncated after #3).

Wolfram Alpha automatically assumes (correctly) that the search string "Grimm" is a surname, hence, the following is listed:
  1. the frequency of the name in the U.S.
  2. the racial composition of U.S. Grimm's
  3. a list of "notable people" — the most notable being an (former) FBI employee [WolframAlpha/Wikipedia] outcompeting my globally more famous namesakes and possible, not necessarily direct relatives: the famous story collectors Brothers Grimm.
The Brothers are my possible relatives, because during Germany's fascist and openly racist phase, one had to trace ancestry. And great-great-uncle was very meticulous and didn't stop with the last two generations (who were trading colonial goods in Engers at the Rhine). The Grimms who passed down their name via the fathers' line to me, stem originally from the same region as the Brothers. Likely not direct, because the area is still a stronghold of our 'tribe' (it's not yet settled, where the name comes from, being a tribal attribute is one theory) as could be seen in the nice proportional maps by using phone book records (not accessible anymore, the URL has been bought a company selling your genetic profile).

A graphically not so nice (still free) alternative for Germany is Geogen4.1.

Geogen4.1 online server output for "Grimm" showing that Grimms are near ubiquitous in Germany, but increased numbers (outside largest cities and metropolitan areas) are still found in northen Badenia and southern Hesse (service provided by Christoph Stoepel:

Wolfram Alpha putting a former U.S. FBI agent, representative, and felony convict before the Brother Grimms is however less disturbing than the information that 96% of U.S. Grimm are "white", 1.5% "hispanic", and less than 1% "black", "mixed", "Asian" and "Amerindian" — a racial profile of U.S. Grimms. 

The reason is that the U.S. counterpart, the United States Census Bureau (USCB), does record the "race". But it's not the baddy "race" where some of my ancestors got a bit dirty with, but a positive, needed one.

The standard categories for responding to the "race question" are (quoted from the USCB's site):
White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. [a likely shock for Trumpaneers: most muslims are "white", but also good news: banning and discriminating them is then per definition not racist].
Black or African American – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. [Genuinely native South Africans, the Khoikhoi and San, have nothing to select, but they were never chosen as slaves for the colonies in the New World.]
American Indian or Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.
Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. [I suppose Australia is treated as a very big Pacific Island, else, an eventual member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait people has nothing to select.]

And since this is not racist, you decide what you are. As a German, who read Karl May as a child and out of respect for the people whose land we've (the "white race") have stolen, I would naturally tick "American Indian or Alaska Native". Just to increase their numbers. Or, as a geneticist, "mixed" with reference to my typical Central European genetic signature/heritage (a bit Neanderthal, otherwise mostly peoples from the Central Asian steppes and other parts of Asia — Celtic, Romance and Germanic are Indo-European languages).

A distance-based network of Eurasian languages, showing our words for cats...

and dogs (see here for context).

If you feel mixed (or are), you can choose of course more than one category, it's up to you: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically." — because that would be impossible, unethical or hard.
  • Biologists used races to address morphs within a species that show no evidence of breeding barriers, hence are defined by being different without being separated. Biological races are hence in permanent flow. It has become a bit out of fashion, except for cultivated animals and plants, where we (can) control the (in-)breeding process.
  • I don't want to comment the "anthropological" attempts to define human races. In general, they were all racist, and usually not well-informed by actual data.
  • Genetically, we are a mess, because we love to roam (and pillage, not rarely rape in darker times). Unless your ancestors come from an isolated island, a tribe killing everyone approaching them, or an obscure religious sect that prohibits intermarrying with the not faithful, you will have quite a genetic mix (see e.g. this fun interactive map by the Max-Plank-Society: and this wiki dedicated to human mito-haplotype genealogies).

Mitochondriome-based hypothesis about early human migration (source: WikipediaCommons)

The according USCB page also informs one why it is necessary to record your race.
"Information on race is required for many Federal programs and is critical in making policy decisions, particularly for civil rights." — which settles the question about how structurally racist the U.S. are (Trumpelchen remains a syndrome not a cause). When you need such programs to protect one race by recording races you have a structural problem with racism.
"States use these data to meet legislative redistricting principles" — Oh, yes. It can be very useful to know where the black people live, who usually vote for Democrats when voting at all, when e.g. a Republican-dominated state senate/house gerrymanders the congressional districts for the next presidential and national elections (see also this 2014 WaPo article on the most gerrymandered congressional districts).
"Race data also are used to promote equal employment opportunities and to assess racial disparities in health and environmental risks." — Just travel the States to see how well this works out. It's not a bad idea, but then you also have to put an effort to change the situation. Moreover, given the history of the U.S. as an immigration country that mainly attracted strange (the original Mayflower colonists) and later usually poor people (Irish, Scandinavians, Germans, Polish, Italians; after the collapse of the Soviet Union many eastern Europeans; now mostly Asians and Latin Americans), which then were treated accordingly (see picture below), provenance data may be more helpful to counter inequality rather than recording just the race.

PS "Hispanics" (or "Latinos") are not a race, but the only recorded ethnicity.

A long tradition: warm welcome for immigrants, here: commenting on the influx of Irish and other European beggars more than 100 years ago (see also this post, in German). These days people with a name like former Fox News anchor-man Bill O'Reilly (his ancestors obviously "Irish Scum" from a "nativist" [the original/today] perspective) are forefront in protecting America's Greatness from similar "garbage" (motto: once you're in, keep others out).


  1. Hi Guido, nice work! Just stumbled over your awesome genealogy statistics while googling my/our names (yes literally). Btw. my grand father told me he was remotely related to the Grimm brothers but I think he was just exaggerating.

    1. Hi Guy,
      Probably a lot of grandfathers with our name tell this story to their grandchildren.
      And some of them may be actually right.

      It's really a pity that the pages are down, because you could easily compare different names (also in neighbouring countries) an see that the classic most common German names indicating a profession (Müller - miller, Schmied - smith, Fischer - fisher etc.) have no structure at all, but others like Möhn, the name of my other grandfather (no idea where that comes from, either), were very restricted. And the Grimms are somewhere in-between.

  2. That Geogen site is quite impressive. Never knew that there were that many Grimm's. Btw. I read some of your other posts. Very informative and funny too.


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