Week Three: Race

While reading the AAPA statement on race, one part that stood out to me which also coincided with our readings Is that while human populations have been isolated, they have never been isolated enough to form genetic differences. Since migration is such an important part of our past, one must understand that with all migration came mating between two groups. Since those groups were physically able to mate, there were no genetic barriers stopping them from doing so which leads us to the fact that there is no inherent genetic difference among races. Which brings me to the next point that I found interesting which is that there are obvious physical differences among populations, however this is due to differences in frequencies of all inherited traits, including those affected by the environment. For example, darker skin was a genetic adaptation to protect from the sun’s UV rays. Those closer to the equator are more likely to adapt this trait because they are exposed to the sun more while those who live farther from the equator have less of a need for this protection. This does not mean that someone from another “race” could not also adapt this trait, it is just a common trait among those who live in certain climates.

The part I found most interesting in the AAA statement was that race is socially constructed. I completely agree with this statement because a look at history can show us how people used race to justify their superiority. Although slavery did not begin because of racism, it did create racism in America towards Africans. As they become more dependent on cash crops, they had to justify slavery by telling themselves and the Africans that whites were racially superior and that the Africans were meant for this kind of labor. Hitler also used racial superiority to justify the Holocaust. There are also many famous experiments where children with blue eyes are told that they are superior and then researchers observe how they begin to assert their authority over other children simply because they were told that they had superior genetics.

If I were to explain the non-existence of biological race to someone, I would most definitely start with the visual from link 3.4 which began by showing all of the genetic variation in Africa represented by dots. I would then explain how people began to migrate out of Africa, but since people from certain areas all migrated together, they were not representative of the whole genetic population. The visual would then show how once a certain group moved to a new area and grew larger, only the genes that they brought with them were represented in the new population, rather than all of the genes found in Africa. As more people migrated and brought only certain genes with them, traits that seemed small when looking at them in Africa among all of the genetic diversity now make up an entire population. While that population may seem completely unique from all others, it really did stem from Africa where it may not have been noticed because it was less common and being influenced by a different environment.

Leave a Reply