Defining Race: an Anthropological Perspective

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There seems to be one problem that both sides of this argument share. The word 'race' has no solid definition in relation to humans. The resulting consequences are displayed in our human story by a nasty, tangled mess of facts and fiction that are thrown around meaninglessly. I found the discovery of this lack of responsibility and accuracy in the realm of present day science incredible, and I'll admit I even laughed a little. I guess I had more faith in science than I realized. One argument against the idea of using race to identify modern humans states that we are not genetically different enough to justify classifying human subspecies. Steve Olson, in his book Mapping Human History , makes this observation and writes that our ancestry is more diverse than we realize so the visible characteristics of any human can be very deceiving. He goes on to say,

Most African Americans have European ancestors; all European Americans have African ancestors. "Race" disguises rather than acknowledges our multifaceted histories. We have to remember how small genetic differences between groups are.(69)

When this point is extended to the rest of earths organisms the argument does not hold up. The common mixing of cat subspecies does not discourage the use of labeling. We are not separate from the animal kingdom. If we stop the taxonomic labeling here for humans why do we attempt to put any order to our living library at all? Steve Olson's opinion seems to be backed by the exciting and massive Human Genome Project that was completed in 2003. This project opened up a whole new window in which to view ourselves. I visited the official website of HGP and the position on race is clear.

DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consitent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one...
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