Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Susan (
26 Sep 1996 14:51:56 GMT () wrote:
>I've been hearing long enough statements denying the existence of race in
>humans, but I've never been clear just what it is that is being denied.
>Would someone please define the word and show examples of species in which
>a) there are clearly demarcated races, b) other species where there is
>only blurring, and c) where humans fall along the continuum?

I'm not exactly sure of what you are asking here, but what you've raised
is exactly the point-- there is no definition of race in humans that
always applies. Most of them have so many caveats attached that they
aren't particularly useful. The problem is that the term was originally
concocted on the assumption that the differences between "races" are
greater than those within the "racial" groups. This is only true of you
select stereotypical individuals as representatives. Instead, if you
line humans up all over the world, what you find is a continuum in which
any lines drawn are either arbitrary, or don't match up (i.e. using
different criteria produces different groupings, rather than each group
being defined by a group of traits that always vary together). In the
end, there is far greater variation within each group than there is
between them, which is opposite of what a racial classification would

I don't know enough about non-human animals to know whether the term is
usefully applied there or not. But in humans, it keeps slipping away if
you try to apply it with any kind of consistency.

I've asked
>this question before and got no satisfactory answer. But these Newsgroups
>have a high turnover, so some race denier may be here that can answer my
>question. I am NOT interested in learning that race is a sociological
>concept, one that has no *necessary* connection to the biological concept.
>I am quite well aware of this. What I want to know about is the biology,
>since I don't think any race deniers deny that races exists in the
>sociological sense.

Again, I'm a little confused-- are you suggesting that "race deniers"
don't acknowledge that there is biological variation? I certainly doubt
that. The problem is, as I said above, that the biological variation
which exists can't be carved up into neat racial groups.

Also, I might point out that the confusion of the biological variation
and the sociological variation is what tends to cuase trouble, i.e.
people believe the sociologically defined races, and then confuse them
with biological traits (i.e. if African Americans are defined
sociologically in a particular way, then the biological differences one
can also observe may be used as an explanation for the sociological
differences). This is a version of the "naturalistic fallacy" so often
raised here in ol' sci.anthropology!




"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
-- Emo Phillips