As you can see, examining the racial worldview is not a simple issue. Kind of like evolution. One of the reasons most people can say that they don't believe in evolution is that it's hard. A bit like 'presidenting' was for Bush 2.0!
|1820 drawing of a Book of Gates fresco of the |
tomb of Seti I: Berber, Nubian, Asiatic, Egyptians
|Linnaeus: Carl von Linné|
Anthropologist Earnest Hooton. It's not so much
that he was aware of his system's arbitrary nature,
it was that his rational mind was trying to think of
square pegs in terms of round holes. [In the vernacular,
this is known as an epic fail.]
And this underscores the fundamental problem with such classifications. As soon as you get beyond gross oversimplifications, you run into the problem of who to leave in and who to leave out of increasingly specific subsets of humans.
The problem of racism, and the realization that racism was based in just the kinds of classifications that physical anthropologists had been buying into, led to a sea change of sorts in the discipline. The racial worldview, if you like, compelled these scientists to categorize, but they were too aware of the political winds to call them simply races. Instead, they looked for a classification that would both explain the clusters of characteristics and that allowed them to justify the classifications in the first place.
|Anthropologist Stanley Garn|
|Von Luschan's Chromatic Scale|
Take the category Black, for example, or the more scientific sounding ‘negroid’ that used to be found in textbooks. When you’re looking for a way to categorize anything, you’re usually looking for a feature or a suite of mutually exclusive features that could be used to uniquely characterize that group—to set it apart from others. That, at least, would seem to sum up what racial categories were about.Well, the term ‘black’ falls down immediately. The very dark-skinned people of west Africa’s Ituri Forest, east Africa’s Kikuyu people, and the Arunta of Australia share nothing else in common but their skin tone! Everything else about them is different. They all have radically different body plans. Australian dark-skinned people and African dark-skinned people have different hair, different hair color, and different facial features. All they really had in common is living quarters that get a lot of intense sunshine, which as you know creates problems for fair-skinned people, and which naturally selects against genomes containing genes that code for fair skin.
|Artificially delineated global distribution of skin colour|
Basing a classification on skin colour alone ignores the different languages that the two African groups speak, and the radical difference between the African languages and those of Australia, to say nothing of the huge differences in cultures across the two continents. But most racists would simply call each and every one of them Blacks, and would value their customs and beliefs differently to those of fairer-skinned peoples.
The same criticisms could be made of the other generic colour classifications commonly espoused: white, red, yellow.
Take white, or the more scientific-sounding Caucasian. People in the Caucasus, many of them, at any rate, have quite brown skin. In fact one needs to do a lot of special pleading to fit a very fair-skinned Norwegian into the Caucasian mold. For me the inability for such classifications to accurately reflect reality is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Speaking of camels, we're over the hump. Not much further to go and you'll be all trained up!