General Question

samantha42's avatar

How do we define race?

Asked by samantha42 (1points) May 1st, 2008

Using phenotype(s), genetics, and socio-culture factors, as our measuring tools?

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27 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

For what purpose?

shilolo's avatar

This sounds like a homework question to me. You might want to go directly to the literature for this. There have been a number of articles written about this subject. You might want to search PubMed for this information. To start, here is a useful article on the ethical issues, and another on the genetics of ‘race’.

samantha42's avatar

Yes, this is a homework-related question, and thank you very much shilolo for the links!

peedub's avatar

How do we currently? Or, how should we?

Mangus's avatar

Race is a social and political reality, but the variety of things, including perceived phenotype and pseudo-science, used to justify it at different times and places are fictions.

peedub's avatar

I second Mangus.

Mangus's avatar

Hope you still agree, peedub, I edited my response slightly. But the sentiment is the same. There is no such thing as race, in a scientifically relevant sense.

peedub's avatar

I agree one hundred percent.

delirium's avatar

The term ‘race’ is defined as ‘a division of a species that differs from other divisions by the frequency with which certain hereditary traits appear among its members.”
Continuous variation means that traits do not naturally divide themselves in to discreet categories. You’ll find skin color, for example, getting darker the closer you get to the equator. There’s no place where you can scientifically place a “line”. Every time you state someones ‘race’ you’re basing it on a few random traits. (delirium is hoping you’re not just copy pasting this instead of reading and retyping. So this is a tad bit of sabotage if you are just copying.) Ironically in a lot of cases the ‘black’ person sitting on one side of me in the library has DNA more similar to mine than the ‘white’ person sitting on the other side of me. You also cannot make a statement about someones race without comparing it to something else. But because its a perfect gradient, there’s no where that you can draw the line.
Every trait will produce a different set of ‘racial’ groupings.

This word, “race”, is not a valid biological concept because ‘races’ and the characteristics that define them are not distinctive—this is because ‘race’ is a sociocultural concept, not a biological one!

Anthropologists (in particular) prefer use the concepts of ancestry and population group to avoid the pitfalls of ‘race’.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

lets see well phenotypes are in reproducton,socio-culture would be about ethnicity, and measuring tools? thats absurd. I am 90% positive the answer is genetics because it is the basics of building a person(and every other living thing). If I were you Genetics would be the way to go.

zaid's avatar

Delirium is getting more intriguing by the minute. I agree everyone that says that race is a social construct rather than scientific classification.

btw, I’m fond of the quote that “race is fiction. racism is non-fiction.”

gooch's avatar

according to many applications I have filled out it is primarily ethnic grouping…Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Other

gorillapaws's avatar

Race can be a useful tool for diagnosing, treating and assessing risk of certain medical conditions. I know that there are several diseases that are many times more or less likely depending on your race. So I dont think it’s a totally useless concept.

susanc's avatar

I want to hear what delerium says to that. Please.

max's avatar

I’ll give you some information that if you include it, will guarantee that you score high on your homework. Race is defined very differently in different countries. What you call “black” in the U.S for example, is split into 2 distinct groups in South Africa – Black & Coloreds. A mixed race person, like Beyonce for example, is Colored and is grouped together with Indians or Arabs, and Black are only those with straight african heritage. In Brazil, there are about 6 races depending on the persons mixture level. In America, all those 6 would be lumped together into black. In eastern europe, a ‘latino’ is just plain old white, and not somehow distinct from ‘white’ like you do in America. In the UK, asian refers to people of Indian Pakistani origin, and not chinese-korean-japanese origin.

The concept of race as distinct categories is VERY different across countries. Take a look at the CIA world factbook to see how different countries split their ‘races’.

max's avatar

gorillapaws: Where your ancestors come from is indicative of your risk for some diseases. So people with African origin at somewhat greater risk for some type of diseases, but this has just a small intersection with what an American would refer to as a race. Most blacks in America have mixed racial origin, and this takes away their risk significantly. Also, hispanics are medically likely to be white, pacific islanders will belong to some other category, etc. The correlation between American defined races and medical conditions is weak because of the amount of mixture in those populations.

gooch's avatar

@ max sickle cell anemia is more prevelant in blacks due to genetics

delirium's avatar

:] max said it al, susanc.

delirium's avatar

And gooch… sickle cell anemia is an instance of biological evolution. After humans started to do Slash and burn agriculture about 6000 years ago, malaria moved from animal to human hosts. There is positive selection of sickle-cell alelle which means that there’s balanced polymorphism (heterozygotes most fit).

Now, that’s interesting and all… but not all ‘blacks’ are more prone to sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is only bad when a kid is homozygous for it. That means that two parents of must be het for or homo for.

Okay, now think about all that data and look at the map where malaria (and therefore sickle cell) is prevalent.
Ergo not more prevalent in ‘blacks’.

gooch's avatar

@ delirium prevelant does not mean all inclusive. I know all blacks are not at jeopardy but typically African-Americans have a better chance of getting it than your offspring would.
Also biological evolution tends to have an effect on cultures or “races” more often than not.

shilolo's avatar

@Delirium. There are several problems with your hypothesis. First, there have been 4 unique mutations that account for sickle cell anemia. They have been estimated to have occurred roughly 6000 generations ago, or about 70,000–150,000 years ago (reviewed here; note I chose this reference because it is freely available on the web, rather than requiring a subscription). So, the mutations arose long before slash and burn agriculture existed.

Second, while it is true that heterozygotes are usually asymptomatic, under instances of severe stress, individuals with sickle cell trait (hets) can develop symptoms reminiscent of true sickle cell anemia.

Finally, and this is the most telling problem, the map you linked to shows the areas endemic for all forms of malaria. There are actually 4 species of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum, P. ovale, P. vivax, and P. malariae), with P. falciparum being by far the most dangerous. P. falciparum is primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, and being heterozygous for hemoglobin S is protective only for P. falciparum. So, in fact, gooch is correct. Sickle cell anemia is much more prevalent in blacks, owing to their origin in Africa where P. falciparum is endemic.

gorillapaws's avatar

@shilolo you seem to really know your malarias! I know who I’m going to call when I have a disease-related question on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” phone a flutherite for the win!

delirium's avatar

Hahaha, thanks! That’s what I get for listening to people wax poetic about malaria in the lab.

anoop's avatar

AAA’s Interactive Application “Race: Are We So Different?”

American Anthropological Association’s Official Statement on Race:

kcmyl's avatar

A race is an event in which multiple parties attempt to reach the destination before everyone else does.

lorinathomas's avatar

The term race or racial group usually refers to the categorization of humans into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of heritable characteristics.

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