Cultural Anthropology

The Confusion of Human Races

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"The Confusion of Human Races"
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The "confusion" of human races

The term "race" is used in Anthropology for purposes of classification, and to show groups of individuals that are distinguished from other groups for some common characters transmitted for heredity. In the 19th century the term was used mainly to indicate "cultural" characters of different peoples. We observe that racism, which has caused serious consequences in the 1900s (genocide), was born from the "confusion" of the two concepts above expressed. In the face of what we have defined as a real "confusion", we have to do some clarity. Firstly, it is necessary to realize the difference between "ethnic groups" and "racial groups". The expression "ethnic groups" means, absolutely, "socio-cultural" peoples characteristics; instead, with "racial groups", we refer us to "hereditary ties", transmitted for genetics.

Ethnic groups come from particular situations and conditions, and the most important are certainly the environment in which you live, the economy, the experiences of work, which are transmitted to the younger generation through education and learning; but that they are "modifiable", under the influence of external pressures, as military or cultural achievements, or for "imitation" of other cultures. What you want to point out is that, while the "hereditary" transmission is basically "rigid" (transmitted genes are those and there is nothing to do), the "cultural factors" are not rigid and for nothing "fatal", as in racial groups.

The confusion between the two elements generates, at the level of "common sense", a crucial mistake, involving some devastating consequences for the "victims". We are a few examples, from the work of G. W. Allport (1), which contained numerous "reasons distorted", involving incorrect assessments. To say, noted Allport, "Eastern race" is by nature "faitless" and "unfair"; or the Jews, as "race", will be "always" characterized by "distinguishing marks Jewish", which "derives from heredity", it signifies, as you can see, "to muddle" what it comes from "culture" with what it is of hereditary nature.

In fact, in Anthropology, as has been widely reiterated in various documents (2), the term "race" applies itself to human groups distinguished for transmissible "physical" characteristics: this is the only absolutely scientific classification; the "enlarged" concepts are not scientifically demonstrable and therefore they should be included in a "pseudoscientific" area. In short, Americans are not a "race", so how French or Italians are not them; what it unites, these different groups, are "cultural" or psychological but not racial aspects. This means that a "national community" is not a "race". However, an error of this kind is often made.

Final definition: we are all "one race", because we belong to the same human species, universally known as "Homo Sapiens" (3).

1) Allport, G.. W. (1954). "The nature of prejudice". New York: Addison-Wesley [ G.W. Allport, "La natura del pregiudizio", Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1973, p. 147].

2) See the "Declarations on human rights" of UNESCO 1950-'51, 1969 and 1978, articles 5, 6, 8, to indicate the most significant.

3) See the "Declaration on human rights", UNESCO, 1951. The Italian scholar T. Tentori, writes: "... There is no evidence on the existence of races 'pure'...The process of hybridization among races continues indefinitely... ". See T. Tentori, "Il pregiudizio sociale", Roma, Studium, 1962, pp. 148-151.

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