This article was written by Serena Nalli, a 16-year-old student from Canada who was the recipient of the National Honor Award in the Sciencious International STEM Writing Competition. Serena chose to write about the topic “Do you believe that the concept of race is biologically accurate?” and effectively incorporated her creativity, analytical-thinking skills, and research skills into this article. Well done to Serena Nalli!
Race is not a biological classifier. Race is a social ideology. Race is not derived from fact. Race is derived from the human desire for power. According to Britannica, race is “The idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioural differences,” (Smedley, 2020, para. 1). Since this concept continues to span many generations, people adhere to the preconceived notion that race is a scientific concept, although it is not. The concept of race is not biologically accurate; rather, race is a social ideology adapted in order to create an unfair classification system among the human population which divides people based on skin colour and physical characteristics. It is fabricated by humans in order to divide humans.
To begin, race is not biologically accurate, because many genome studies suggest that there is no pattern in the DNA among those of different skin colours. Svante Pääblo, biologist and director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany studied the Neanderthal genome. After his studies, Pääblo’s conclusions prove that the concept of race has no basis in biology. None. He states, “What the study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown is that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded,” (Gannon, 2016, para. 8). Analysis of this statement proves that the notion of race cannot be scientifically proven because studies find no correlation in genomes of people with different skin colours.
Furthermore, race is a social construct, with original intentions of creating rank in society, in a time where there were limited scientific discoveries. Race was originally invented by Early Europeans to elevate their status and to justify racism and slavery, further dividing people based upon this newly built social construct. According to Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, White Europeans used religion and the desire to gain power to formulate the concept of race: “Documentation of the racist idea that Africans needed slavery in order to be fed and taught Jesus, and that it was all ordained by God, began to seep in and stick to the European cultural psyche,” (Kendi, 2020, p. 8). This is evidence that race was a social classification system intentionally used for the ranking and sorting of people. It was based on religion and selfishness rather than scientific evidence. The idea of race created European superiority and Black inferiority, because people of colour began to conform to the rules of their White counterparts. Europeans, often known for their desire to be the dominant culture, obviously ranked themselves as first, placing Blacks, who they saw as inferior, due to a mere difference in skin colour, beneath them. There were no scientific experiments actually conducted to analyse biological data, but instead race was based on physical observation to identify differences among people. Additionally, this construct was used to fuel racism which is not based on science and is the epitome of the hatred and separation of people. In other words, racism is an example of the barriers placed on people of colour by the social construct of race. Not only did this idea fabricated by human’s place Europeans as psychologically superior, but it justified slavery or profit and political gain, exactly as its inventors intended.
The first viable option of genetic testing to provide concrete data regarding the DNA of different species came long after the concept of race was constructed. DNA testing is a modern scientific discovery: “By most accounts, the prehistoric period of genetic testing begins in the 1950s with the discovery that an additional copy of chromosome 21 causes Down’s syndrome,” (Molteni, 2019, para. 5). Considering that the concept of race was established well before then, a likely conclusion is that when first constructed, race could not possibly have been based on biology. It was a fabricated classification system rather than a scientific one, because at this time, there were no genetic tests to validate the sameness or distinctiveness in humanity. This type of genetic testing or DNA testing did not come out until the current era so it could not have been scientifically proven until this time. Hence, race from the beginning was a concept that was not biologically precise.
Clearly the concept of race is not biogenetically accurate; instead, race is a social construct with the sole purpose of classifying humans into distinct groups based on supposed inherited characteristics. Perhaps it is time that humanity abandons this outdated, inaccurate classifier and begin to focus on what binds us rather than what divides us. After all, the late Maya Angelou reminds us that “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better,” (Angelo, 2014). Certainly, we know better.
Angelo, Megan (2014, May 28). 16 Unforgettable Things Maya Angelou Wrote and Said. Glamour. Retrieved from: https://www.glamour.com/story/maya-angelou-quotes
Gannon, Megan (2016, February 5). Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue. Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/race-is-a-social-
Kendi, I.X., & Reynolds, J. (2020). Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Little, Brown and Company.
Molteni, Megan (2019, December 3). Everything you need to know about DNA, medical breakthroughs, and genetic privacy. Wired. Retrieved from: https://www.wired.com/story/what-is-genetic-testing/
Smedley, A. , Takezawa, . Yasuko I. and Wade, . Peter (2020, November 23). Race. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/race-human
Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/race-human