Blog 3: Race

I definitely appreciated what both the statements from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) were addressing. Even when I think about race I notice there are a lot of arbitrary groupings and associations I come up with, and reading these statements really highlighted that idea. I liked how the AAA Statement addressed a lot of the history of where the idea of “race” came from and the fact that it really started through arbitrary beliefs about peoples and a cultural standard of how certain people should be. I also liked the AAPA Statement, especially the parts where the statement addressed gene flow and expansion. I think a lot of the points they made were similar, with respect to history and the result of years of human movement, but some of the specifics were a little different.

I think it is interesting that the AAPA Statement pointed out that there seems to be no evidence of pure races in the present or the past. In thinking about evolution and to the beginnings of the human race, it is generally scientifically accepted that the “human race” first originated in what is now Africa. If you follow through with this concept, it is only logical that there was no “pure” race, seeing as we have all evolved from the same original group of “people”. Further, the entire history of the human population is composed of the migration of peoples, expansion and colonization. This means that for millennia, groups of humans have interacted and mixed with each other resulting in gene flow, as the AAPA Statement addressed. For this reason, there really is no real way that a group of people could have stayed “pure” for so many centuries.

In trying to explain the non-existence of a biological race to a person who was unfamiliar with the topic, I would point out how both statements also addressed how any given trait is inherited independently from others. We learned about this earlier in the course with meiosis and the independent assortment of genes. This means, again, that no two traits will technically ever have to be in the same group of people. I think this is definitely why there is so much complexities with race and how we see it. If a group of people all had exactly the same physical traits, it would be much easier to categorize them as a specific race. However, since there are so many slight variations, in terms of height or skin color or hair or eye color, there is no possible way to link a group of people with just one trait. Even with skin color, there are so many different shades that it is impossible to identify just one group of people. If we do try to, either the groups are so big that they include a fourth of the entire world, or the groups are so small that it does not make sense to have that many “races”.

Either way, I think that “race” is truly a very arbitrary and pretty useless concept to use. There are so many other ways that people choose to group themselves, like nationality or ethnicity, that there really is no reason to keep using “race”. Also, with the incredible technology and easier ways to travel and interact with new people, I think that our definition of race will definitely have to change to reflect the highly interconnected world we live in today.

6 thoughts on “Blog 3: Race

  1. Hi there, I felt as though I related to your post quite a bit because I had the same train-of-thought when reading through the articles. I also think it is fascinating that there is not technically a “pure race.” It’s crazy to think that we all originated from a population in Africa and through migrations and alternative breeding/selective breeding we evolved to the humans we are today. I think that the second lecture, Gene Flow and Gene Drift, is relevant in this portion of your post. Founder’s effect and genetic drive play a key role in shaping what and who humans evolved into. I could go ever further and talk about the importance of fission and fusion of communities, but that is getting off topic from your post. Good job!

  2. I like your idea of pointing out how even people within a certain “race” vary greatly as well – so how can we categorize all of them into one group?
    I think your method of teaching someone who does not know about the non-existence of biological race would be very effective. Your explanation of gene inheritance is also a good point to make.
    I wonder how many people who perpetuate the idea of races realize how much mixing there has been for the entire existence of human history. We have combined so many different traits and characteristics that, like you said, it would be impossible for any one group to stay “pure”. Saying that a certain race is “pure” is just preposterous – in keeping with the ignorant view of “races”, no one is 100% white, black, Hispanic, Asian or otherwise!

  3. Hey Suhana,
    Great blog post, I thought it was spot on! I like how you described race as arbitrary, because that is such a good way of putting it. That, to me, is a good way to explain why race cannot be biological, because science is not really all that arbitrary. The science supports, like you said, that there is no dry cut way to categorize race. Like what the lectures said, there are too many places that you could make the cut off. Any similarities in a group are because of environment and culture, not because of genetics.

    I also like your paragraph of how you would explain to someone that there is no evidence of pure races existing now or ever. I think that it can be hard to explain this to a nonbeliever, because race has been so politically and socially charged. People want to believe that there are genetic differences to differentiate races, so they can justify their own awful treatment and attitudes toward people of color. I liked when you said “no possible way to link a group of people with just one trait” and when you discussed that skin color comes in so many different shades, because I think this is a good way to explain that race cannot really be classified on a biological level. Anyways, great blog post!

  4. I really hold on to the statements that you made about there being no evidence pure races in the present and also that the entire history of the human population is composed of the migration of people; expansion and colonization. As I mentioned in my post, being African-American means that you have ancestry origins from Africa. And scientific evidence suggests that Africa was the continent in which human life began. So, this would suggest that all individuals are African American, right? Most discussions today about race among scientists concern examination of the differences between groups with the goal of understanding human evolutionary history, and the relationship between our genes and our health with the goal of determining the best course of medical treatments. However, this doesn’t mean that the race concept in biology can’t be used to support racism.

  5. I agree with you, i think race is a useless concept to use as well. I’m bi-racial (black and white) and I always identify myself as such. However, growing up in a predominately white school I always felt out of place because my peers thought me to be different. I believe they identified me as being just black and I remember sometimes feeling uncomfortable. Because my skin was a little darker and my hair was more coarse, I remember feeling not pretty or good enough. Growing up I use to wish race was never a concept. I thought if race was never taught I would never be seen as different.

  6. Your supporting evidence of how the human race cannot be pure is explained in detail very well. The way you describe how historically we are all technically from Africa and because of gene flow and migration there is no way we can all be pure due to population interbreeding with one another. Once again you make a great point going back to something we have learned previously in the course saying that no two traits can biologically be in the same human. This is a great reason to point out why there are so many different races and why none of us are pure once again. I completely agree on your stand point of race and they we don’t even need to use it, we have ethnicity and nationality to help describe each other.

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