What is a race? For many people, a race is defined as the color of your skin, but in fact, this term has a variety of meanings. Some of these come up often in everyday life, as we discuss “the human race. ” Other definitions used on government forms, as when Americans record which race they belong to for the U. S. Census. Some meanings are far more technical when for example a “biologist talks about different races of a particular species of plant or animal” (MacEachern 34). The context in which the word race used has an array of definitions, but in the day to day life, we continue to distort the differences between these meanings.
One of the most vital tasks of an anthropologist is to examine the biological and cultural variability that is present in humanity. They look at the customs and traditions of different cultures, in search of common foundations that define our shared existence and also the differences that offer variety to our daily lives. “We study the biological characteristics of different human populations, our relations with our relatives the apes and monkeys, and the evolutionary history of our species” (MacEachern 34). The concept of race is one of the most academic and emotionally charged subjects in the field of Anthropology.
Is race still a useful concept for anthropologists? To further examine this controversy, this essay will be analyzing three different perspectives; include Dr. Loring Brace, Dr. George W. Gill, and Lawrence Otis Graham Found When Working at the Greenwich Country Club. Dr. George W. Gill is an American anthropologist who is considered an expert in skeletal biology. In an interview, he stated, “Slightly over half of all biological/physical anthropologists today believe in the traditional view that human races are biologically valid and real” (Gill, 2000). Gill is certainly one of those anthropologists.
Because of his extensive background in forensic anthropology, Dr. Gill believes that race can be identified through bones. He argues that just like bones can determine the age or sex of the person, and it can also identify their race. Gill states that “I am more accurate at assessing race from skeletal remains than from looking at living people standing before me” (Gill, 2000). Dr. George W. Gill believes that race is still a useful concept for anthropologists in the sense of classifying skeletal features such as the nose, mouth, femur, and the cranium.
Furthermore, Dr. Gill also states that “the other half of the biological anthropology community believes either that the traditional racial categories for humankind are arbitrary and meaningless, or at the minimum there are better ways to look at human variation than through the racial lens” (Gill, 2000). Dr. Loring Brace is a part of this half. Brace is an American anthropologist at the University of Michigan. He argues that there is no such thing as a natural division of the race. Almost half a millennium ago, it was a “known” fact that the world was flat.
Brace states that our views regarding race based on the same sort of common sense, which is just blindingly incorrect. As regards to skin color, Europeans and Chinese are relatively similar to one another than either is darker skinned than Africans. Dr. Loring Brace says “If we test the distribution of the widely known ABO blood-group system, then Europeans and Africans are closer to each other than either is to Chinese” (Brace, 2000). It proves that those with very different skin colors, often referred to as different races, are in fact more related to each other than those with the same skin color.
Lawrence Otis Graham is a corporate lawyer at a midtown Manhattan. Graham graduated from Princeton University (1983) and Harvard Law School (1988), and Graham has written eleven nonfiction books. On this article, it’s about how Lawrence Otis Graham wrote about his experiences as a successful black lawyer posing as a busboy in an attempt to understand the allwhite country club society and why he could not join. During his first day, Graham encounters several racist comments made in his presence.
The most common of which is referring to “the Negroes,” and “the Mexicans. ” The people in the country club commonly over-generalize about certain ethnic groups and make stereotypical comments. An example of this conversation between a mother and her newlywed daughter, they are discussing housekeepers, and the mother recommends to hire black maids because “they can, at least, speak English while you can’t trust either one of them. ” Graham also discovered policies at were discriminatory against minorities. One such policy was the employee golf privileges.
When Graham first heard about this, he was quite surprised, but if it turns out that those golf privileges only extended to the staff at the waiter level or above. However in Graham’s experience, the black race did not possess the master status determining characteristics, it was the whites which did so. At the Greenwich Country Club where Graham conducted his experiment being white was the definite personality which determined master status. The first example of this is the fact that there are not any non-white members of this club.
Which excludes many people, including Graham, who are not white, but have the means to join. A race is not a useful concept for anthropologists. There is no such thing as a biological entity that warrants the term race, meaning that there is no one particular thing you can point at and say “that is a race. ” The characteristics of people from different parts of the world that we have come to know, we have mostly gained through the media, such as what we see on the television, magazines, and newspapers. Pictures in the media show us that the people of Norway, Egypt, and Kenya appear very different.
But if one were to travel down through Egypt, through Sudan, and down to Kenya, the people at every stop along the way would all look similar to the last, because of their closeness and relation to one another. There would be a gradual change in skin color, lighter to darker, but that is only because traveling from Egypt to Kenya, you get closer to the equator. Dark skin is necessary to protect from the equator’s harsh ultraviolet rays. Therefore, black skin is an adaptation to the environment, not an identifiable race (Brace, 2000).
In conclusion, the term “race” is one with many different meanings. The one that everyone is most familiar with is a group of people that share a physical trait, such as skin color. Anthropologists will continue to investigate the concept of race. It is analyzing whether biological racial concepts are applicable models for studying the variability surrounded by humans. I argue that it is not a correct model for studying the variability surrounded by people. Because everyone has interbred with one another, there are hundreds of thousands of “micro-races” around the world.
The term “race” does nothing more than promote needless confusion. There is no reason for anthropological research to be held back by terminology that confuses rather than illuminates the world. I know that it is very unlikely that the world will stop using physical traits as models for social differences. The race is a term deeply ingrained within humans, and it will not be easily given up. The idea of race remains a fundamental part of structuring the social world and helping us make sense of the world.