Blog 3: Race

The articles from American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) on race that we read this week are very interesting. The statement from AAA on race stood out to me the most because they started off by stating that we, as a whole, have been conditioned to create a division in the human species due to physical differences. Similar topics were touched upon in the lecture video “Misconceptions of Race” when they talked about biological determination, which is essentially using physical traits to predict behavior. The system of classifying people and behaviors by what their physical appearances, phenotype, are both brought up in the lecture video and the AAA article. The AAPA article also states that, “…there is no casual linkage between these physical and behavioral traits, and therefor there it is not justifiable to attribute cultural characteristics to genetic inheritances.” If I were to explain this to someone who is unfamiliar with the subject I may first approach the topic by showing sources on how behavior and ones genes do not have an effect on the other. That way they can see that a different races behavior is not due to their genetic make-up, that we are all the same on the molecular level, and we are all human.

“…physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them”, is from the AAA article, and shows that the topic of race is more of a social construct. The article makes a long statement about societies historical past, from biblical belief to slavery causing people to create different segments or separate people into groups. I thought that the topic of slavery was a good example for people to understand starting from a quote such as, “Proponents of slavery in particular during the 19th century used “race” to justify the retention of slavery.” They then go on to mention that the physical difference of those in slavery, along with their social and cultural differences, were actually a lesser human being or even a separate species in some examples. One could use the example of World War II and Adolf Hitler as a good example of segregating people into different inferior races or groups, such as, Jews, Gypsies, Africans, etc.

One thing good thing about separating people into races, however, was touched upon in Norman Sauer’s article “Forensic Anthropology and the Concept of Race: If Races Don’t Exist, Why are Forensic Anthropologists So Good at Identifying Them?” He essentially said that a race classification system can help identify a body or victim, but it is not in a biologic sense that most people think of when they hear it.

Overall, if I were to introduce someone to this topic for the first time I would first give them an overview of what race is, then give them relatable examples just as how Hitler separated people, slavery, etc. It is also good to mention that genetics do not define social behavior either, since in those examples people mainly leveraged not just their physical appearance but their social structure as a way to differentiate people.

3 thoughts on “Blog 3: Race

  1. Hi,
    I think that the articles we read this week regarding the aspect of “race” were interesting as well. I believe that there is a barrier that is created when society places race as a category. As we have read, the environmental factors in a human life has a great impact on learned behaviors of that individual. It was also very interesting when you provided an example of racial barriers, like the Jews, Gypsies, and Africans. This was a great example because it exemplifies how people were not only separated, but discriminated against based on the idea of “race”. It had nothing to do with their beliefs, their work ethic, nor personality, but their race category. Your strategy of explaining race is a good strategy also.

  2. Many of the things you mentioned in your blog I also mentioned. One point I did not highlight that you did mention, however, is the point about race being important to identify a body/victim. It is interesting that in forensic anthropology researchers use three broad demographics which are European, Asian, and African ancestry to identify skeletal remains, but other anthropologists use race. Personally, although race is a social construct, I think it is important to highlight people who are different from us and use it as a learning experience.
    I don’t think we will ever truly get over race since it has been around for so long. However, I think more people should be educated about how race started and how racism and systemic oppression go hand-in-hand. That way we can be more aware about how we treat people and understand, from a historical and cultural perspective, people’s attitudes about racism.

  3. Hi Kathleen,
    Thank you for your well thought out and written blog post about the misconceptions regarding race and how a number of organizations and scholars view the topic. You made a number of excellent insights throughout the blog. I would also attempt to use examples from the past to explain to students how the human race has used ideas of race for evil purposes, such as Hitler and the Third Reich and the institution of slavery. Social and cultural behaviors are not related to biological traits. I believe that understanding this may be the first step in creating a future that is free from the stain of racial bigotry. Once again, great job on the blog!

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