Cultural Anthropology

How Real is Race using Anthropology to Make Sense of Human Diversity

Douglas Black's image for:
"How Real is Race using Anthropology to Make Sense of Human Diversity"
Image by: 

The decline of civilization begins with the perception that race changes everything, and that our subtle cosmetic or cultural differences are paramount to this indigenous behavior of cultural segregation. One of the most defining arguments that anthropologist have had to deal with is why most people fail to accept humans are just humans despite their creed, color or personal beliefs.

As a scientist in the vast discipline of anthropology they must ask themselves; what is race, and really how different are we from one another? At the same time they focus their attention to the psychological sense of why humans are obliviously ignoring their species, and are more focused on the external differences?

Geneticists in anthropology have found that evidence stemming from the analysis of DNA reveals that the greatest physical variation to be found is only 94%, which curiously is only found within so-called racial groups instead of being between them. This means conventional race groups such as Caucasians and African Americans, only vary by a degree of 6% of their genes. This may sound confusing, but what it boils down to, is that there are more differing genetic traits within a specific race like African Americans, than there are between two completely separate geographical races. This goes to prove that the continued shared genetic material by all humankind is still maintained as a single species, not segregated groupings.

Now the real conundrum found within researching "race", now lies within the humanity factor, which has now been proven to be the single engine that drives us to segregate one another based n cosmetic or geographical differences. Another study that borders this theory is the physical or more conventional reasons why humans differ in so many ways. This angle is approached by various anthropological disciplines that focus on the gradual changes in physical traits, which are inherited independently.

Skin color can vary from generation to generation, becoming darker or lighter, with no interference from genetic intervention. Obvious examples of these changes can be seen due to interracial breeding, but the other less noticeable changes occur over generations of extended periods. This revelation raises an evolutionary theory that most racial differences are inherent of humankind adaptation, which simply could mean that skin pigmentation and other changes are caused by the biological ability to cope with specific regional conditions.

Time Life Magazine really captured the true essence of a pioneer in the field of cultural and racial anthropology, who was quoted as a "patriarch of a family that dominated anthropology as no family has dominated a scientific field before or since." That family was Louis, Mary and Richard Leakey, who spent a better part of their career uncovering the origins of the earliest known examples of hominids (humans). Mary had captured worldwide attention in 1978 during an exploration in Tanzania at a site called Laetoli; when her team discovered a trail of hominid (human) footprint impressions preserved in the volcanic ash. This discovery was like a snapshot from 3.6 million years ago.

Just two years prior to Mary's find, a team in Ethiopian badlands of the Afar Triangle, in northeast Africa, discovered the skeletal remains of "Lucy" dating at least 3.2 million years old, and is still to date the earliest example of complete hominid remains ever found. So the theory that links these events are that humans have been traveling through time on a constant path of evolution, which was through adaptation, and genetic learning. The evolutionary world of anthropology's balance was tipped to a new direction that put a new focus on the relation between race and DNA. Spencer Wells was another dedicated geneticist and anthropologist, that took this theory to a whole new level, when he tested over a thousand DNA samples from around the world, and began comparing them through an exhaustive and painstakingly difficult process. But what was revealed was just another link to our racial beginnings. He found that of all the samples from across the face of the planet shared a key identifier that links us somehow to a small tribe from Africa that roamed the land around 60,000 years ago.

Anthropologist and Archaeologists have long considered this link before the Spencer Wells results were found, but now a conclusive link constituted the possibility that we all stemmed from a race of people who some how survived a cataclysmic event that occurred over 70,000 years ago. Only a few tribes or hominid cultures adapted or survived the events, and eventually spread across the land. Archaeologist concurred with the theory due to the range of fossils and evidence that supported the time-line gap, between tools and other physical and cultural changes.

There still are going to be many theories that become the focal point of argument by the scientific community alike, especially from the Holy trinities that dispute the lack of a non-spiritual origin. Personally, before I delved into anthropology, or other subjects of philosophical nature, I always felt that color, culture, and belief were not just borders, but instead a manifestation of non-acceptance, which I still have never truly understood.

I hope that this article sheds a little light on the vast controversial subject of anthropological science, and that your view on race has now somewhat been altered, because if we can all just see past the outer image we cast, than all there would be left is our humanity!

More about this author: Douglas Black

From Around the Web