DOES RACE EXIST? A PROPONENT’S PERSPECTIVE
There is great debate in the scientific community about whether race, in a biological sense, exits. About half of physical anthropologists are of the opinion that it does. Furthermore, they point out that there are a number of useful reasons to think so.
- Those most likely to see the utility in a biological conception of human races are forensic anthropologists, those most called on to identify the racial origins of skeletons.
- Forensic anthropologists who carry out racial identification of remains do so with a very high degree of accuracy, utilizing a variety of techniques in combination with one another.
- Gill argues that if one can use biological criteria to make consistent and reliable assessments about the identity of skeletons, they must have some basis in biological reality.
- And if we can assign skeletons to the traditional major races that were developed by early physical anthropologists, then there is no reason that living humans can’t also be classified within those categories as well.
- As forensic anthropologists know, skeletal and bony features of the body can help us accurately predict race just as well as the soft tissue, the skin, hair and other features that are evident to the naked eye.
- Other types of biological anthropologists, those studying blood factors for instance, are less likely to subscribe to a biological notion of race because the features they study are arrayed with no regard to physical characteristics of race.
- But, Gill argues, often these scientists go beyond merely disbelieving in biological races to actively working against that notion because they worry that prominent scientists endorsing a biological definition of race is socially dangerous given our world’s inequalities.
- He asks an important question, and that is whether or not talking about human variation within the realm of biological races works to promote racism, or perhaps to reduce it?
- There are a variety of answers to that. One is that by discussing race (biologically and socially), variation and discrimination in an open manner, we work to undercut bigotry.
- Finally, Gill posits, that there is value in exploring how we got to be the way we are, in looking at the evolutionary reasons behind features in modern humans. And that includes a biological conception of race.