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Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 1

Research Paper:
Race Conceptualized
By: Chloe Lindquist

Anthropology 1010
Dr. Teresa Potter

December 5, 2018
Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 2

If we went back in time during the scientific revolution where scientists and explorers

navigated their way to new regions of the world then we would observe the development of new

ideas and interest to categorize humans. These explorers developed curiosities for those who had

cultural, physical and social distinctions in contrast to what white, Europeans were used to. The

beginning of race was considered to be a predisposition of individuals based on their outward

appearance. This term has had various definitions and continues today to be redefined and re-

established by humankind in order to accommodate to the changing needs and perspective of

individuals in our nation and worldwide. In our world there have been differing, identifiable

categories of people based upon their characteristics such as how facial features include more

distinct specifications as to the shape of their nose, ears, eyes and even lips. The color of hair,

how straight or curly it is, and how thick or thin it is can also provide categorization as to which

race someone identifies with. In our textbook, race can be described as “people who have

particular combinations of these and other traits have been placed together in categories

associated with specific geographical localities.” (Bartelink, Jurmain, Kilgore, Trevathan, pg.

315) We must be careful, however, simply because even though someone looks a certain way

that does not necessarily mean we can categorize them in a particular race. In this research paper

I will elaborate on race while touching on the ethical and scientific balance within race

categorization.

There are two approaches to the definition of race including a biological perspective and

a social perspective. It is important to find the distinction between the two and evaluate them

because the ever-evolving definition of “race” needs a foundation of reason to build off of. The

biological perspective of race refers to the “geographically patterned phenotypic variation within

a species.” (Bartelink, Jurmain, Kilgore, Trevathan, pg.316) This idea of race means that it can
Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 3

also be applied to plants and animals which are living organisms excluded from the human race.

This idea of race within humans, plants and animals has not been generally accepted as scientists

observed that “races” varied throughout different regions. They determined that rather than

defining individuals with similar characteristics by race they would define them by population

and eventually branches off one species to form subspecies. Interesting research that has been

found as a result of Modern Synthesis is the incorrect notion that the biology which has to do

with race is fixed and is without change. The correction to this notion is that race, in fact, can

change at a genetic level through regional drift and evolving species; those changes are observed

over time within their phenotype. As described in our textbook, “Anthropologists recognize that

such outdated concepts of race are no longer valid, because the amount of genetic variation

accounted for by differences between groups is vastly exceeded by the variation that exists

within groups. Many anthropologists also argue that race is an outdated creation of the human

mind that attempts to simplify biological complexity by organizing it into categories. Simplistic

racial classification may have been an acceptable approach 100 years ago, but given the current

state of genetic and evolutionary science, it’s absolutely meaningless.” (Bartlink, Jurmain,

Kilgore, Trevathan, pg. 317)

This bold statement may be the opinion of the author of our textbook but they do provide

substantial evidence in the progression of modern technology with their research that has been

done to identify variables in the complex DNA of humans to exemplify the diversity as well as

the similarities within what we have classified as “racial groups”.

There are many scientists that feel strongly about race being linked to the effort to group

similar people together which can be attributed to the social perspective. A scientist shares his

feelings to support this idea by saying, "What the study of complete genomes from different parts
Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 4

of the world has shown is that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single

absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all

Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded," …."It is all a question of

differences in how frequent different variants are on different continents and in different

regions." (Gannon, M., Paabo)

This evidence clearly shows that Africans and Europeans, from a genetic standpoint, are

biologically similar. This poses the question, is race biological, or is it social? Can it, perhaps, be

a little of both? As we look at how race has influenced the history of our nation, alone, we may

observe prejudice, racism and bigotry. Maya Angelou, the famous author, said of racism, “The

plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as

floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.”

(izquotes) This is a social perspective from someone who is aware of the history that race has

played in the lives of those in early America. We now live in a free nation but life was not always

free for everyone. An example of social perspective on race were the ways African American

people were treated in the 1800’s to mid-century 1900’s. There was segregation between what

they referred to as “whites” and “blacks” in order to maintain supremacy within the “white

people” group of race. The African-Americans were enslaved, mistreated, neglected and many

lives were endangered. The affect that race had on our nation socially was negative for those of

darker skin complexion and favorable for those with lighter skin complexion. This was a

biological factor that was not chosen at birth, nor was it a changeable biological factor. The color

of people’s skin simply exists and because of it people of that time period were either highly-

esteemed or highly-demeaned. Today there remains division between races in some areas of the

country. This is just one example of social perspective on race that existed on American soil.
Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 5

The concept of race was first brought to light in the 1500’s, nearly 600 years ago. The

term “race” was interchangeable with the word “species” during this time. In the 1600’s it

became associated with the culture groups that were distinguishable. A significant time in world

history was that of the World War II. The German dictator, Adolf Hitler, demanded those of

culturally and religious diverse groups be enslaved, mutilated and slaughtered. He preferred what

he called “the supreme race” which consisted of people having white skin, blue eyes and blond

hair. Their effort towards eugenics was accomplished for a period of time until the German

government was overthrown and those remaining enslaved and surviving in concentration camps

were rescued and freed. There are some concentration camp survivors who still live today to

share their story of extreme racism and prejudice toward Jews and many others who were of

diverse groups.

Today, we understand species to be more closely connected to the biological makeup of a

living organism, and the race is connected to the outward appearance, behavior and ethnic roots.

We see that in the 21st century it has been difficult to do justice in defining race in one way. The

demand for racial classification requires we do the next best thing to a precise, thorough

definition which is providing a definition that is sufficient enough to identify individuals. As

described by a research team that studied race and compiled their findings, “The debate over a

multiracial category reveals an intriguing aspect about our conceptualizations of race. The terms

“mixed race” or “multiracial” in themselves imply the existence of “pure” and discrete races. By

drawing attention to the socially constructed nature of ‘race,’ and the meanings attached to it,

multiraciality reveals the inherent fluidity and slipperiness of our concepts of race.” (Smelser,

Wilson, Mitchell, pg. 249)


Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 6

There are some ethical concerns that come with the categorization of populations by race.

When it comes to morality which involves the decisions that require a right and a wrong answer

it can appear to be subjective as moral perspective of each individual is affected by their personal

upbringing, experience and beliefs. I will mention a few ethical concerns to bring to light the

consideration of how racial classification may be impactful in significant ways. One example is

the medical treatment of individuals. Over time healthcare professionals and cancer researchers

have observed that African American women are more likely to experience complications during

chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer than men and women of other racial background. This

may be due to the difference in baseline white blood cell count from patient to patient. “The risk

was highest among African-American women, who had a 40% to 70% greater risk of

being diagnosed with stage 4, the most advanced, of any type of breast cancer, compared

to white women.” (Park, A.) There are other examples similar to this that have been linked to

the biological makeup of a person’s DNA in relation to their race. This may be useful in being

able to make patients aware of higher risks and possible outcomes in their treatment.

An ethical concern that has become more apparent over recent years is the need for

proper mental healthcare availability for minority groups. Our nation consists of over one-third a

population of people from foreign countries. We identify by the color of our skin, our cultural

upbringing, our beliefs and values. Many of these things are associated with race which impacts

the quality of healthcare many individuals are receiving or not receiving. As a newspaper article

by the author Ms. Remy elaborates on the lack of availability of the proper resources for

mentally unstable racial minorities. Another ethical problems she brings to light is the “paucity

of mental health providers who are ‘culturally sensitive’ and ‘responsive to their clients needs’.”

(Remy, G.) Due to the prejudice that arose in our nation’s history there still remains a divide
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between some who identify differently racially speaking. It may be useful to identify by way of

racial classification, however, it is important to address the ethical concerns that come along with

doing so.

In conclusion, race is an ever-evolving idea that was developed by humans in order to

understand humans more fully. In our efforts to classify, categorize, group or organize

individuals we have improperly labeled some with additional unnecessary labels resulting in

social disregard and neglect. The advanced technology in blood testing and genetic testing has

deepened our understanding of race on a biological level that is absolutely necessary. The

balance between social perspective and biological perspective on race in needful in our effort to

understand race and how humans are associated with that word.
Research Paper: Race Conceptualized 8

References:

Collection of famous and popular quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved December 04, 2018, from

https://izquotes.com/

Gannon, M. (2016, February 05). Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue. Retrieved December

04, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/race-is-a-social-construct-scientists-

argue
Jurmain, R., Kilgore, L., Trevathan, W., & Bartelink, E. J. (2017). Essentials of

Physical Anthropology (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Park, A. (2015, October 13). Breast Cancer and Race: How Ethnicity Affects Treatment. Retrieved

December 4, 2018, from http://time.com/4070036/race-and-breast-cancer/

Remy, G. (n.d.). Ethnic Minorites and Mental Health: Ethical Concerns in Counseling Immigrants
and Culturally-Diverse Groups. Public Health and Communities of Color:

Challenges and Strategies. Unknown publish date. Retrieved December 4, 2018, from

https://scholarworks.umb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?

referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1283&context=trotter_review
Smelser, N. J., Wilson, W. J., & Mitchell, F. (2001). America becoming: Racial trends and

their consequences (Vol. 1). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

*ePortfolio Link: https://chloecharleswortheortfolio.weebly.com/anthropology.html