Re: Identifying Race

Arthur L. Baron (abaron@STU.ATHABASCAU.CA)
Wed, 21 Aug 1996 15:11:01 MDT

> >I think that "race" needs to be taken away as far as possible from its
> >"biological" aspects. Or perhaps more accurately "pseudo-biological"
> >aspects. But this will be a slow process; because of the common usage,
> >cultural reinforcement, dated texts, and the enshrinement into sociocultural
> >mindsets the re-definition will be resisted, as it has been here.
> What "has been resisted here"? And what or who does "here" refer to?
> How do you propose to take "race" "away as far as possible from its
> 'bilogical' aspects"? How do you propose to redefine it?

Let me try. Anthropologists traditionally fall into one of two camps: race and
no race. Race can be defined as a human population whose members have in
common some hereditary biological characteristics that differentiate them from
other human groups. In more genetic terms, a race is a breeding population
that differs from others in the frequency of certain genes. Membership is
determined only by hereditary biological traits and has no connection with
language, nationality, or religion, although these often act as isolating
mechanisms. There is no such thing as an Aryan race, a French race, an
American race, or a Christian race.

The other camp argues that there is no such thing as race; in their view race
is a product of imagination and reason that corresponds to no reality in the
world of nature. This position is advocated by Ashley Montagu, Frank
Livingstone, Jean Hieraux, and C. Loring Brace. One reason for their position
is that physical anthros cannot agree on how many races there are.

Frank Livingstone wrote, "There are no races, there are only clines." A cline
is a geographical transition from higher to lower incidence of a biological
trait, a gradient in the frequency of a trait over a geographical range.

This works for my pseudo-biological, politico sensibilities.

arthur baron