The invention of race

Race today is known as the color of someone’s skin. If you ask anyone on the street they will most likely give you a finite number of races. A small number of specific “races” even come into my head as I write this. Race is a way of categorizing, or I should say discriminating, amongst the true single race; the human race. The color of our skin has genetic influences, but there are no specific genes that code for a specific pigment of skin (Fitzpatrick, 1998).  Race truly is just the adaptation of our skin to protect itself from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. People who live closer to the equator and more extreme sun have adapted darker skin color than humans who live in the opposite climates. This can be proven by following our lineage back to Africa, which is where we all originate from. As our ancestors moved out of Africa and began to inhabit different parts of the earth, after years and years, evolution caused skin color to change. With less direct ultraviolet radiation, our skin did not need to be protected as much, thus we became much lighter than some of our ancestors originally were.

Biologically, we are the same race. Just with a different color on the outside. Like we learned listening to the lecture, you cannot determine race by looking at someone’s DNA which means that is not genetic difference that we share as humans.  People of the same skin color tend to reproduce with someone of similar color, more frequent than the blending of “races”. This has in a way, made significant population sizes that appear to be different types of races. The fact that all humans can reproduce with one another, regardless of race, shows us that race is a term invented simply to profile us as a species. This profiling in a way, made it okay for discrimination to exist. When race became prevalent, laws could be made that made it okay or not okay for people to do things based on the color of their skin. How obnoxious of a thought this was.

Ethnicity can influence our health because due to socioeconomic status specific “races” may have better opportunities or predispositions to be healthier than others. For example in lecture we talked about the idea that African Americans have a higher chance of hypertension. Though the statistics might show this, their race is not the reason for this susceptibility at all. Things like where African Americans live in the US, what foods they tend to consume, other cultural influences affect this heightened risk.

Race has been used to discriminate us from the one race we all truly are, human. Race could be used in a positive way, because as humans we are so unique and the differences we do have make us all individually beautiful. I hope for a future when most people think “ready, set, go” when someone says race, and not the pigment of someone’s skin.

Fitzpatrick, Tony. “Genetically Speaking, Race Doesn’t Exist In Humans” American Anthropologist. 1998. Accessed July 08, 2016. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/1998-10/WUiS-GSRD-071098.php

One thought on “The invention of race

  1. It is still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that the “finite number of races”, as you put it, are all based on the appearances of people. Skin colors changed due to peoples’ exposure to the sun and its harmful radiation, but also because of vitamin D needs. Lighter skin allowed people in areas with lower amounts of sun to produce the needed levels of vitamin D. These skin colors were an adaptation to different living environments, not a symbol for the development of different races of humans. As you stated, we are all members of the human race.
    I find it interesting that in your example you brought up what foods are eaten, living location, and “other cultural influences” as being what affect the health of African Americans where hypertension is concerned, but said “race is not the reason for this susceptibility at all”. I think that these are all puzzle pieces that contribute to health issues, but after this week’s readings, I feel that discrimination is also a piece to this health puzzle. Discrimination can lead to people having decreased access to health services or not being treated with the diligence and help that would allow them to become healthier. This can cause stress that can augment an already unhealthy situation.

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