Race is a subject with much controversy surrounding it. Through reading about the American Anthropological Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropology, the hidden simplicity of race became clear. It is almost unbelievable to me that most of the genetic variance we see, 94%, is actually within the racial groups themselves and not between them. It was interesting to read that physical treats are very independent of one another, with each one gradually varying over geographic areas completely unrelated to other traits. The AAA explained that by looking at history, it is easy to see that the majority of these physical differences’ impact is through a “social mechanism.” Race was used as a human classification with a large focus on a justification of slavery. The physical differences that could be found were used to create a human hierarchy and establish rank among the Europeans, Africans, and Indians. It makes total sense that the Europeans craved power, so they exaggerated these random physical differences by correlating them with fictitious inferior traits and subsequently “dividing, ranking, and controlling.” Science scholars went as far as to say that Europeans, Africans, and Indians were different species, with Africans being “closer taxonomically to apes.” This same way of thought led to the cruelties of the Holocaust.
The American Association of Physical Anthropology reinforces the AAA’s statement that current views on biological race are based mainly on historic “social constructions of race.” They also discuss the idea of racism as a large component of these socially created discriminations. They make it very clear that all Homo sapiens are equal and are descendants of the “same ancestral group over the same amount of time.” The discussion of the impact of environment and heredity on different traits is very interesting, as it often seems forgotten how impactful our surroundings can be. It is also intriguing that “nutrition, way of life, and other aspects of the environment” can play a large role. I enjoyed the AAPA’s explanation of the absurdity involved in classifying humans with “absolute boundaries.” The point that stood out to me the most from the AAPA explained that as humans have evolved through natural selection, the traits that “have universal biological value for the survival of the species are not known to occur more frequently in one population than in any other.” Therefore, creating a hierarchy based solely on these traits is entirely impracticable.
After the studies completed in this course thus far, it would not be difficult to explain the non-existence of biological race to a person who is unfamiliar with the topic. The AAA explains the fact that there are so many different physical variations among humans that are so random and unrelated, that it is clear to see that these “lines of division among biological populations [are] both arbitrary and subjective.” So if race is meant to divide the human species neatly and clearly, then these physical variances would have to be neat and clear, which they are not. Biological race does not exist because all of these physical differences among humans “have no meaning except the special ones that humans put on them.” Through time and ignorant people, it became understood as a “worldview” that a hierarchy actually existed among the biological races, but it did not. This was merely an “ideology about human differences” that was distorted and had nothing to do with biology. AAPA helps by explaining that the creation of these social implications were in a large effort to “support racist doctrines” and “prejudice.” So the existence of biological race implies racism. And as mentioned before, the AAPA makes a clear point that all of mankind has evolved together therefore discrediting any claims of a “general inferiority or superiority to this or to that race.” With so many points illustrating the absurdity of race beyond a social construct, it is clear that biological race does not exist.
“AAA Statement on Race.” American Anthro. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.
“AAPA Statement on Biological Aspects of Race.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 101 (1996): 569-70. Print.