Broadly speaking, race is seen or is assumed to be a biologically driven set of boundaries that group and categorize people according to phenotypical similarities (e.g. skin color) (Pinderhughes, 1989; Root, 1998). The categorical classification of race can be traced back to the 16th century Linnaen system of human “races” where each race was believed to be of a distinct type or subspecies that included separate gene pools (Omi & Winant, 1994; Spickard, 1992; Smedley & Smedley, 2005). Race in the U.S. initially began as a general categorizing term, interchangeable with such terms as “type” or “species”. Over time, race began to morph into a term specifically referring to groups of people living in North America (i.e. European “Whites”, Native American “Indians”, and African “Negroes”). Race represented a new way to illustrate human difference as well as a way to socially structure society (Smedley & Smedley, 2005).
Why is it impossible to use biological characteristics to sort people into consistent races? Review some of the concepts such as “non-concordance” and “within-group vs. between group variation.”
In America, essentially everyone is classified in terms of race in a way. We are all familiar with terms such as Caucasian, African-American, Asian, etc. Most Americans think of these terms as biological or natural classifications; meaning that all people of a certain race share similarities on their D.N.A. that are different and sets that particular race apart from all the other races. However, recent genetic studies show that there’s no scientific basis for the socially popular idea that race is a valid taxonomy of human biological difference. This means that humans are not divided into different groups through genetics or nature. Contrary to scientific studies, social beliefs are reflected through racial realism. Racial realists believe that being of a particular race does not only have phenotypical values (i.e. skin color, facial features, etc.), but also broadens its effects to moral, intellectual and spiritual characteristics.
“Differentiated races are fixed either by nature or God. You cannot escape your racial classification (Weidman, 2006).” This is the fifth basic belief of ideology and instantly establishes a basis on why race has survived in the twentieth century. There will always be scientists, philosophers, doctors and historians examining the origins and the continuation of race. By examining their research we are able understand this color line and how it has impacted the twentieth century.
THESIS: Scientists and other intellectuals recognize the modern concept of "race" as an artificial category that developed over the past five centuries due to encounters with non-European people. Even though people still attempt to organize humans into categories according to their race, these categories have been shown to have no scientific basis.
Culture, Not Race, Explains Human Diversity, Mark Nathan Cohen, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 17, 1998, pp.B4-B5. The term race refers to a biological subdivision of a species. At one time, scientists held that there were as few as three such subdivisions in the species Homo sapiens: Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongoloid. Mark Anthony Cohen points out that this is an antiquated view, yet it lingers as a common belief in society. Mark Nathan Cohen makes an interesting point in his article “Culture, Not Race, Explains Human Diversity”. While the article does deal wholly in the realm of the opinion, it is supported by numerous scientific facts. In fact, Cohen’s usual method of drawing in a reader is to make a blanket statement and then “beef it up” with several scientific facts.
Race has no biological meaning. There is only one human race; there are no subspecies, no single defining characteristic, traits, or even gene, separates one “race” from another. Instead of being a biological concept, race is a social construct, and a relatively modern one at that. It was created to give light-skinned Europeans an advantage by making the white race superior and all others inferior. Throughout its history, the concept of race has served this purpose well.
The meaning, significance, and definition of race have been debated for centuries. Historical race concepts have varied across time and cultures, creating scientific, social, and political controversy. Of course, today’s definition varies from the scientific racism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that justified slavery and later, Jim Crow laws in the early twentieth. It is also different from the genetic inferiority argument that was present at the wake of the civil rights movement. However, despite the constantly shifting concepts, there seems to be one constant that has provided a foundation for ideas towards race: race is a matter of visually observable attributes such as skin color, facial features, and other self-evident visual cues.
The subject of race can be a touchy subject to many people. How people see themselves versus how a society views where a person fits into racial categories is a complex subject that has no clear lines. There is a tendency to categorize a group people together into an ethnic group, no matter the culture of the people, based off of physical traits. Ethnic categories and ethnic collectivity can seem at first to be very similar, but while categories put people in groups based off of physical traits while ethnic collectivity is more fluid as who people are as well as commonality.
The concept of “race” has continuously evolved from where it stood 200 years before. Many approach race as dynamic instead of static currently, however I believe this changing perception and advancements in the philosophy of what “race” is hasn’t necessarily changed society’s hierarchal view of the largest social construct to exist.
Goodman would say. Race is a cultural concept. Physical differences can be explained by mutations, breeding, migration, and geography. What I found to be the biggest factor was first migration from central Africa to the rest of the world and the different environmental stressors to survive where they migrated, such as skin color which is what seems to be the largest definer of race. As humans moves to other areas of the earth that did not have such harsh heat they did not need the same amount of melanin in their skin anymore so skin color got lighter. Then when these people settle in the area they breed and have children that carry on the gene for lighter skin and other
Through research of DNA samples, scientists have been able to declare that race is not biologically constructed due to the similarities between human genes. Nevertheless, in reality, people still emphasized on biological aspects such as skin color, or hair texture to categorize others into different races. This in turn, denied the true identity of race, which it is culturally constructed. Ethnicity, by definition is also culturally constructed, therefore it greatly resemble race. There is no real clear line to distinct the two.
Although we often use race to classify, interact, and identify with various communities, there is a general consensus among scientists that racial differences do not exist. Indeed, biologists such as Joseph Graves state, "the measured amount of genetic variation in the human population is extremely small." Although we often ascribe genetics to the notion of race, there are no significant genetic differences between racial groups. Thus, there is no genetic basis for race. Our insistence and belief in the idea of race as biology, though, underlines the socially constructed nature of race. Racial groupings of people are based on perceived physical similarities (skin color, hair structure, physique, etc.), not genetic similarities. Nevertheless, we are inclined to equate physical similarities with genetics. Sociologists also use a temporality to argue that race is a social construct. The notion of race results from patterns from the signification of certain traits to different groups of people. However, these patterns (and societal notions of race) change over time. For example, the 20th century belief that "In vital capacity… the tendency of the Negro race has been downward" is certainly not commonplace among individuals today. Notions of race also differ across societies. Racial attitudes towards blacks, for example, are inherently different between the United States and Nigeria. These arguments all suggest that race is socially constructed. The lack of a universal notion of race means that it is not a natural, inherent, or scientific human trait. Rather, different societies use race to ordain their respective social
There is a specific meaning to race and how its role impacts society and shapes the social structures. Race is a concept that “symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies” (Omi & Winant 55). In other words, Omi and Winant get down to the crux of the issue and assert that race is just an illusion. Race is merely seen as an ideological construct that is often unstable and consisting of decentered social meanings. This form of social construction attempts to explain the physical attributes of an individual but it is constantly transformed by political struggles. The rules of classifying race and of identity are embedded into society’s perception. Therefore, race becomes a common function for comprehending, explaining, and acting in the
In his explanation of the evolution of racial classification, Zuberi presents these social origins of racial classification. First off there was the Chain of Being which arranged all the world’s beings in a hierarchy and in turn creating a racial hierarchy since people of African descent were closest to the animals and people of European descent were closest to the Creator, or God (Zuberi 78). Later came the nineteenth century idea of social Darwinism which argued that people of certain races were best fit to be dominate and survive over the more inferior races (Conley 332). With the evolution of these ideas came the racialization of enslavement, which resulted in settlers considering Africans the ideal slaves and Europeans as the ideal citizens, and also the formation of the ideology of racism (Zuberi 80). Racism ultimately began with the birth of the term “whiteness.” Before other cultures and non-European people were even brought sound there were separation between the original British settlers and the other European immigrants (Conley 327). Racism is the idea that there are groups superior to other groups based the different and unequal traits the different races possess (Conley 327). This is far different than white privilege which is what puts those who are socially classified as white at an advantage over all the other inferior races (McIntosh 1).