Race and Racism


Race and Racism

What is race?

We all know people look different. Anyone can tell a Czech from a

Chinese. But are these differences racial? What does race mean?

Are the Ainu a race?

If not, to what race do they belong?

What do we mean when we the word


Race is a biological concept

Race is a geographically

(hence, reproductively) isolated subdivision of a species, or subspecies.

If reproductive isolation lasts long enough, then a new species is produced.

Do human “races” exist?

Human populations have not been reproductively isolated long enough to have developed into biological races.

Early human classification into races have been dependent solely on the evaluation of phenotype

(manifest biology

— appearance, skin color, eyes and nose shape, hair texture, etc.).






Saudi Arabians





Which Race?


Native Americans



Australian aborigines


South Africans


The Baka

New Guineans

Geographic “types” are ambiguous

Only 6% of human genes account for the phenotypical differences seen between “races.”

Greater overall variation exists within each “racial” grouping than between such groups.

The phenotypic traits that do exist are largely adaptive in nature.

skin color in about 1500 AD-

Compare this map with the previous one

If human races were as distinct as many have assumed, shouldn’t there be some correlation between skin color and blood type?

Skin color is a function of melanin production in the dermis layer of the skin.

Distribution of Type “O” blood

Melanocytes - cells, located in the basal layer of the skin, produce melanin, a pigment in the skin, eyes, and hair.

Differences in skin color are not due to the number of melanocytes in the skin, but to the melanocytes' level of activity

Skin coloring is adaptive.

Skin pigmentation, Vitamin D, and survival

Vitamin D not common in nature; the human body synthesizes it in the skin with the help of ultraviolet radiation.

Vitamin D is necessary for directing the body’s use of calcium.

Too much Vitamin D is toxic; too little will result in rickets

– a debilitating bone disease.

Skin pigmentation levels control Vitamin D production.

Dark skin protects skin from excessive ultraviolet radiation

Northern populations, with little sunlight, require minimal pigmentation to produce Vitamin D.

Tropical populations require protection from too much ultraviolet radiation and too much Vitamin


Light skinned people are maladapted for tropical areas.

Dark skinned people are maladated to northern areas

Hair form types and skin colours shade into each other; there is no line in nature between a white and a black race, or Asian race

Simplistic racial categories based merely upon a few traits do not constitute a scientific approach to human biological variability.

while there is plenty of genetic variation in humans, most of the variation is individual variation.

While between-population variation exists, it is minimal

There are no races in the biological sense of distinct divisions of the human species

The physical traits chosen to define race are basically arbitrary and could be things such as red hair, or ear, nose or eye shape

terms like Black, White, Asian, and

Latino are social groups, not genetically distinct branches of humankind.

Race is a real cultural, political and economic concept in society

What race is this man?

dd Paternal


1 White

1 Native American

2 Black

Father dd Maternal


2 Chinese

2 Thai


What assumptions lie behind the designation of Tiger

Woods as an

“African American”?

The “drop of blood” theory

Southern segregation laws: 1/64 black = black

The obsession to classify people by race in the US:

These are social, not biological ideas

Race is…

not a fixed, concrete, natural attribute

the institutionalisation of physical appearance

socially or culturally and historically constructed

Categories defined and assigned significance by the society

social meaning which has been legally constructed

shaped by those in power.

an ever changing complex of meanings shaped by sociopolitical conflict

racial differences exist and are perpetuated because they have cultural significance

S.Washburn, anthropologist

the number of races will depend on the purpose of classification. I think we should require people who propose a classification of races to state in the first place why they wish to divide the human species.

The Anthropological View

Although people obviously differ from each other physically, we are not able to attribute differences in culture to differences in physique (or “mentality”). In our study of culture, therefore, we may regard human race as of uniform quality, i.e., as a constant, and, hence, we eliminate it from our study.—

Leslie White (1900-1975)

Social Meaning of Race Affects

Access to wealth, power and prestige

Access to education, housing, and other valued resources

Where you live

How you are treated

Life chances

Health Disparity

• The U.S. Census Bureau began gathering data by race in

1790 because the Constitution specified that a slave counted as three-fifths of a white person, and because Indians were not taxed.

• More recently, the way in which information regarding race is collected has been hotly debated.

– Some social scientists and interested citizens have been working to add a “multiracial” category to the census.

– This “multiracial” category has been opposed by the

NAACP and the National Council of La Raza because both groups feel that the communities they represent will lose access to funding, resources, and jobs if their numbers as counted by the census go down.

• The choice of “some other race” more than doubled between 1980 and 2000.

– This represents an imprecision in and dissatisfaction with the existing categories.

– Also, the number of interracial marriages and children is increasing.

Some people argue that since race has no biological existence, the U.S. government should cease collecting data about race

the American Sociological Association asks


‘Race” Disappear if the United States Officially Stopped

Measuring It?”

“As long as Americans routinely sort each other into racial categories and act on the basis of those attributions, research on the role of race and race relations in the United States falls squarely within [a] scientific agenda...As the United States becomes more diverse, the need for public agencies to continue to collect data on racial categories will become even more important. The continuation of the collection and scholarly analysis of data serves both science and the public interest.” --American

Sociological Assoc.

Statistics Canada

Collects information on

1. Visible minorities

persons who are identified according to the Employment

Equity Act as being non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour

Aboriginal persons are not considered to be members of visible minority groups

2. Ethnicity

includes aspects such as race, origin or ancestry, identity, language and religion, culture, the arts, customs and beliefs and even practices such as dress and food preparation.

It is also dynamic and in a constant state of flux. It will change as a result of new immigration flows, blending and intermarriage, and new identities may be formed.

There are three fundamental ways of measuring ethnicity: origin or ancestry, race and identity.

Race refers to the genetically imparted physiognomical features of a person

The change in format to an open-ended question in 1996 likely affected response patterns, especially for groups who had been included as mark-in response categories in 1991.

In addition, the presence of examples such as

"Canadian", which were not included in previous censuses, may also affect response patterns.


Each of us has an ethnicity

- frequently confused with race

Shared cultural characteristics of a group

Includes: national origin, language, traditions, customs, religious beliefs/practices, etc. as well as racial category

The American Anthropological Association has recommended that the Census Bureau eliminate the term "race" and replace it with

"ethnic origins," noting that many Americans confuse race, ethnicity and ancestry.

A Brief History of race

Race did not exist until the European expansion and exploration beginning around 1500

The ancient Greeks, for example, saw themselves as first among civilized nations around the Mediterranean

But the Greeks did not link physical appearance and cultural attainment.

They granted civilized status to the

Nile Valley Nubians who were among the darkest skinned people they knew

They did not grant it to European barbarians to the north who were lighter skinned than they were

People were divided on the basis of religion, class or language or status

The distribution of human skin color before A.D. 1400


Before the 1400s slavery was widespread in state societies

but its victims were either recruited internally or from neighbouring groups and were largely physically indistinguishable from slave-holders. i .e. slavery was not based on race

Egyptian slaves

Slavery was a status that might be held by anyone.

Slave descendants could acculturate into the dominant population and did not become permanently demarcated by race.

Romans slaves pouring wine

After 1500

European exploration brought them increasingly into contact with other human societies

Europeans did not encounter them on equal terms

superior technology, especially military technology, meant

Europeans were significantly more powerful

As a result, exploration quickly turned to conquest and gave rise to an Ethnocentric feeling of European superiority.

Pizarro at The Battle of Cajamarca

Nov 16, 1532

Francisco Pizarro



Pizarro and 168 Spanish Conquistadores with cannons, guns and horses defeat Atahuallpa, the last independent Inca emperor and an army of 80,000 precipitating the demise of the great Incan Empire.

After 1500 a racial order built on the ethnocentrism of the various European colonial powers.

A Women of

Color with her

African Slave.


What struck explorers most forcefully were differences in physical appearance particularly skin colour

An early distinction emerged between those who had black skin as opposed to had white skin.

This characterisation was important because of the way in which the colours black and white were emotionally loaded concepts in European languages especially English

The contrasts denoted polar opposites

white represented good, purity and virginity

black symbolized death, evil and debasement

Africans, native Americans, and colonised

Asians were devalued, intermarriage was prohibited and persons of mixed ancestry were denied same entitlements as those of solely

European ancestry

evident in all European colonial societies by the late 1600s

Races as families or inbred lines

16 th

& 17 th

C: race used interchangeably with type, variety, people, nation, generation & species

By the latter half of the 18 th

C race is strongly equated with “breeding stock”

Farmers and herders understand animal breeds as highly inbred lineages with heritable characteristics

Emphasizes innateness of characteristics

Value judgments were and are critical to choosing the reproducing members of a line of stock, because one breeds for some specific, valued quality

The Scientific basis of race

The concept of race emerged in modern form between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th.

Its emergence is, in part, an aspect of the general growth of scientific enquiry and explanation

In the 1700s as Western science developed it began thinking about, and explaining natural and social phenomena and to place the world’s peoples into natural schemes

a drive was underway to map and explain a similar order in the natural and social worlds.

Formal Human Classification

Linneaus Systemae Naturae, 1758


White; muscular; hair – long, flowing; eyes blue


Reddish; erect; hair – black, straight, thick; wide nostrils


Sallow (yellow); hair black; eyes dark


Black; hair – black, frizzled; skin silky; nose flat; lips tumid

Formal Human Classification

Linneaus Systemae Naturae, 1758


White; muscular; hair – long, flowing; eyes blue


Reddish; erect; hair – black, straight, thick; wide nostrils


Sallow (yellow); hair black; eyes dark


Black; hair – black, frizzled; skin silky; nose flat; lips tumid

culminated in 1795 when Johann Friedrich Blumenbach first used the word ”race” to classify humans into five divisions






Johann Friedrich



Blumenbach also coined the term "Caucasian" because he believed that the Caucasus region of Asia Minor produced

"the most beautiful race of men".

1830s and 1840s Philadelphia doctor and polygenist Samuel

Morton set out to prove that whites were naturally superior and that brain size bore a direct relation to intelligence

He collected hundreds of human skulls and measured them by filling the skulls with lead pellets and then pouring the pellets into a glass measuring cup.

His tables assign the highest brain capacity to Europeans (with the English highest of all). Second rank goes to Chinese, third to

Southeast Asians and Polynesians, fourth to American Indians, and last place to Africans and

Australian aborigines.

Samuel G. Morton (1799-1851)

His work helped establish the scientific basis for physical anthropology but also the idea that race is inherently biological

In 1977 Stephen Jay Gould (In the Mismeasure of Man 1981), reanalysed the data

discovered that Morton’s racist bias had prevented identification of what clearly were fully overlapping measurements among the racial skull samples he used.

Gould in his desire to prove

Morton wrong demonstrated the opposite bias and discovered that the skulls of black people were actually larger.

He then did a blind test and discovered the overlapping measurements

Breaking the link between race and anthropology

Boas in the 1890s broke the link of anthropology with race by showing that language, race and culture were separate things and needed to be studied separately.

Showed that mappings of

Northwest Coast Native

American biological traits, cultural similarities and linguistic affinities yielded different results.

The Concept of race under attack

The revelation of the Holocaust, and the enlistment of science in its perpetuation, caused a wave of international revulsion.

In the 1960s the idea of race itself became the target

The anti-racists attacked the notion that the human species was divisible into five or any other small number of races.

the result was the gradual disappearance of the concept of race from natural science

In the 1960s anthropology affirmed that race does not exist


Homo sapiens celebrating their diversity (from the

American Anthropological

Association Newsletter).

Vending-machine in Jackson,


Jim Crow Laws (1876

– 1967)

What is Racism?

a doctrine or belief in racial superiority, including the idea that race determines intelligence, cultural characteristics and moral attributes

Racism thus makes an association between physical psychological and moral attributes

and these are used to justify discrimination and prejudice.

“I have a Dream”

Martin Luther King:

‘I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they are not judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’


The notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a person’s genetic lineage

Which means, in practice, that a person is to be judged, not by their own character and actions, but by the character and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Even if it were proved that the incidence of a person of potentially superior brain power is greater among the members of certain races than among the members of others, it would tell us nothing about any given individual and it would be irrelevant to one’s judgement of him or her.

Should a Hitler be raised to superior status because his German

“race” has produced Goethe, Brahms, Wagner, etc.

A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race - and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.

Racism claims that the content of a person’s mind (not their cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited;

that a persons conviction, values and character are determined before they are born, by physical factors beyond their control.

Race is employed in order to classify and systematically exclude members of given groups from full participation in the social system controlled by the dominant group

Levi Strauss sums up racism doctrine in 4 points

1. There is a correlation between genetic heritage on the one hand and intellectual aptitudes and moral inclinations on the other

2. All members of human groups share this heritage, on which these aptitudes and inclinations depend

3. These groups, called races, can be evaluated as a function of the quality of their genetic heritage

4. These differences authorise the so-called superior races to command and exploit the others

In examining inequalities anthropologists are not concerned with inequalities of ability, aptitude or talent among individuals

But concerned with inequalities that are an inherent part of collective existence

and that arise from the evaluation of qualities and performances and the organization of persons into more or less stable arrangements.

These studies aim at investigating not only the existing patterns of inequality but also the mechanisms of their reproduction over time.

A major change between the past and the present has been the shift of attention from the origin to the reproduction of inequality.

On April 20th, 1999 two gun-toting students entered

Columbine High

School in Littleton,

Colo., killing 12 students and a teacher

What if they had been black?