Friday, October 16, 2009

Race & Human Variation: Student Observations

During this past week, students in SOC 320 Gender, Race & Class engaged in a lively discussion forum after reading about race in our textbook, completing the sorting exercise and viewing the video clips at the PBS website. Here are just a few student comments from our discussion.

"Wow!!! First off let me say, I really enjoy topics like this. I found the video quite interesting when it explain how truly close we are, genetically alike, versus any other species in the world. It amazes me how much people react to race and the misconception that comes with race. Is race real? Race is real only to the minds of confused people. Society has created this separation amongst the many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Over the years, it has been embedded within us that we are a specific race, when ultimately we are just one race, the Human Race. Race is not real. Being a racist or having racism is real." Student in Soc 320 Online

Thank you for your comments! Yes, while there is genetic variation (scientists call this genotype) among human beings, classifying people into discrete biological or "racial" groups by their visible traits (scientists call this phenotype) is not possible. The sorting exercise demonstrated this. Dr. Kulik

"This section is absolutely interesting and I am soaking up every last bit of it. I've never really paid a whole lot of attention to the meaning of race and its origin. Unfortunately I only guessed 7 out of the 20 for the sorting exercise. I was very confident and actually took upwards of 20 minutes trying to get my answers correct because I was adamant I could figure out a person's race just by looking at their physical features. Race is not real and here it is 2009 with all the integration that we do as a country, well as a world, that we still attempt to put people in a "race" box just by their appearance. It was very interesting to see that we are more genetically linked then we think we are. The video was very enlightening and I will let my children watch it so they can learn this as I am. "You can't judge a book by its cover" truer words were never spoken!" Student in Soc 320 Online

Good points. Thank you! While human populations show some genetic variation, it is correct that we are far more alike than different. Dr. Kulik

"I did not do too well on the sorting exercise. I think I got seven out of the twenty right and the rest I guessed. It was not easy, I will tell you that though, I learned you cannot categorize people based on the way they look, their physical features. The reason why I did not do too well on the sorting exercise, for example, is that a person who is considered black in one society might be nonblack in another. Race should not be based on the physical features of people. I think race should be considered more a social and/or a mental construct rather than an objective biological fact." Student in Soc 320 Online
There are historical and cross-cultural data to support your argument that racial groups have been socially constructed. Historically, Brazil has classified people in as many as 30 or more categories. Also, in U.S. history, the Irish and Italians were once classified as "non-white". If race were purely biological, why would these categories shift over time and across cultures?
Good observation! Thank you! Dr. Kulik
"There is only one race, and that is the human race. I could go on for half an hour and talk about evolution, but anyone should be familiar with the works of Charles Darwin! I took a class in evolutionary psychology and we studied Darwin, I learned so much! Read about evolution! Scientists have concluded that we are one human race; Homo Sapiens! The external differences we see and wrongly perceive as races are just biologically developed traits that make us more suitable for the natural environment we initially grew up in. Natural selection has shaped our skin colors, noses etc. differently in order to better deal with the natural environment we live in." Student in Soc 320 Online
I'm glad you raised the concept of adaptation. I have posted some information on biological adaptation and skin color. Thank you! Dr. Kulik
Thanks to all students for your excellent work this week!

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