January 20, 2021

Cultural Anthropology

What evidence does the author present to argue against the view that races are biologically based types? What arguments does the author make to suggest that the physical features used to categorize people into «races» are arbitrarily selected?

Race is a topic that has been on debate by professionals for a very long time. In this debate, it is very important just as Jeffrey Fish puts it that one has to start by explaining to all what race is. Race and ethnicity have been the major concepts that are used to groups human beings. The race of the man is the one that is seen to have been modified a lot among all the other races. Although the evolution of man has been very slow, it is very significant.

In order to oppose the argument of races being biologically based types, the author starts to give the example of the physical differences that exist in animals because of adaptive value concept. This is evidenced in the differences that existed in the settlers of the new world who had different environments as consequently had different characteristics. Those living in the far north, the Eskimos, had light faces, rounded bodies and were short. All these features were because of the weather.

The rounded figures helped in insulating the bodies and since the sunlight was either very little or none at all, they had to have light skin colors. In contrast, there were Indians who lived in the far South especially in South America and Central America. These places have intense heat and as a result, the people had thin frames and dark complexions. He further opposes that racial differences are biological as it is shown when we are meant to understand the precise behavior patterns and learning styles of the Latino children, the whites, Native Americans, Asians and the Blacks. With all the different types of people, there is no single group that is seen to have advanced due to biological characteristics. If it was true that cultural evolution was driven by biological evolution, the more advanced cultures should be more intellectually and biologically evolved. According to Fish, the physical features used to categorize people into to races are arbitrarily selected. He supports this argument by saying that these cultural constructs are found in the biological world. People leaving in the same region are found to be more alike when compared to others from other regions (Miller, 310).

It is true that race is not biological but rather differentiated according to some physical characteristics found in people including color, height and body shape. The only traits that can be used to group people into specific races are arbitrary.

How does the system of racial categorization in North America differ from that in Brazil:

  • a) in terms of how people get categorized,
  • b) in terms of the rigidity/flexibility of the categories,
  • c) in terms of the races of one’s family members?

The term used is used to refer to the different types of categorization of human beings used in different countries. Different countries use this term to mean different things. This implies that although race categorizes people, it is not done by use of the same methods in all the countries.

In North America, race is used to refer to either the blacks or the whites. This means that in North America, a person is either black or white. Since the people who live in North America have been there for quite some time, they have been grouped with reference to their origin. This gives birth to African-Americans, European-Americans and Native Americans. Before the 19 th century, racial grouping was done according to the color of a person as well as his social status. After the 19 th century, the groping was made easier as a person was either black or white depending on his ancestry. A person was white if only he had a pure white ancestry while the blacks were from both the intermingling of the blacks and whites and pure blacks (Fish 119). This form of categorization has been used in favor of the whites so that they could be able to keep their wealth and supremacy (Fish 61). The one-drop-rule that was used in

North America was very rigid and not to change under all circumstances. In Brazil, racial groups are done by use of cultural traits that are biological. Racial grouping was done in reference to a combination of eye color, hair color, skin color and hair texture. This implies that in Brazil, race was more on appearance than of hereditary factors. These racial groupings were not rigid (Miller 215).

Race can be used to bring very bad feelings into people as it is evidenced in America where race is used to oppress. On the contrary, in Brazil, race is subject to change and does not have any deeper meaning to the people.

In light of your personal experiences and what you read for this exercise (Fish, Miller), what is your opinion on race and racial differences?

The term race has been used to bring divisions and conflicts in the society. Race does not reflect any positive attitudes irrespective of where it is used. It is a term, which has been debated upon for years, and it is the high time that it ends.

Whenever the term is used, there appears to be differences, which bring about ethnic wars and conflicts. There are some countries where race is used to mean divisions in that different racial groups will have to use different social amenities. In these countries too, there are some people who feel superior to others in reference to the race they belong to. For instance, when people are referred to as being black, it means that they have to be the ones to supply manual labor while the whites will have to supply the management skills and technical skills. This implies that the blacks will never be the same as the whites no matter how much they struggle in life.

Race is a term that should have been banned many years back. It is never fruitful.

Works cited

Fish, Jefferson M. Race and intelligence: separating science from myth, NY, Routledge Publishers, 2002

Miller, В Barbara D. Cultural anthropology 5 th Ed Allyn and Bacon Publishers, 2009

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