Race Essay Example
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Anthropologists describe the meaning of the term race in two distinct ways. First, physical anthropologists view the biological features of human populations in various areas of the world. Virtually, they compare populations with the aim of understanding the modeling of human biological variations. In the 19th century, anthropologists studied the external characteristics of people. These features included the proportion of their limbs, their skin color, features of their bodies and faces, or the color and configuration of their hair. In the 20th century, the focus shifted to a subtle variation of antibody types and blood groups. As such, physical anthropologists highlight the levels of these physical variations for humans’ existence from small, local communities to categories across the globe. According to the arguments of anthropologists, race denotes the presence of a number of fundamental biological populations into which all humans can be categorized.
On the other hand, some anthropologists in their study regarding human cultures perceive race from a relatively different angle. In this respect, the focus is not on the biological appearances of human populations. Instead, an emphasis is on the manner in which people divide their social world to different groups of persons (Goodman 1). Concepts of race are among the most contentious, misunderstood and controversial classifications in scientific as well as in social landscapes. Over the past decade, the perception of genetics has experienced a pressure between the view that ethnic and race is biologically substantial.
Similarly, there has been a perception that social categories have no or little biological significance. According to geneticists, there are two dominant historical notions of race. First, that is a perspective grounded in the early population genetics and eugenics movements that that takes racial categories as biological classifications (Goodman 2). Finally, there is a view originating from the work of social scientists and physical anthropologists. These groups argue that race is fundamentally historical and cultural construction of little biological significance. Physical anthropologists define race in terms of their environment. Precisely, they argue that the physical appearances of humans depend on their locations.
Despite the fact that geneticists have actively debated throughout the 20th century concerning the competing perspectives, geneticists are yet to reconcile in the 21th century. In this respect, during the celebration of the first fifty years of modern genetics, Laurence Snyder (1951) provides a resemblance to the present state of affairs (Goodman 2). Snyder argued that human population differs from one another in various proportions of the allelic genes of the varying sets of hereditary factors but not in the kinds of genes that they contain.
In North America and Europe, for example, language was used to describe geographical and physical differences. These include ‘White’, ‘African’ and ‘Nordic’ among others. For this matter, race is used as a cultural construction rather than biological fact. When race is viewed as a biological concept, physical features of humans and genetic makeup must be taken into consideration. Examining race as a biological construction requires that evolutionary history is traced using data from genetics from archeology and physical anthropology. Contrarily, race as a cultural concept necessitates assessing cultural categories and attitudes as well as the ideas existing in people’s minds. In essence, biological races can exist among the human population without having any cultural significance. Thus, there are limits illustrating race as a biological concept as compared to defining race as a cultural construction.
Goodman, Alan H, Race- The Power of An Illusion. Interview With Alan Goodman. California Newsreel, 2003
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