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Race And Culture

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Category: Miscellaneous

Autor: anton 10 April 2011

Words: 934 | Pages: 4

The word "race" as I see used in everyday life, particularly in the media, refers to a way of categorizing people based on similar physical characteristics. It also refers to the culture or identity of a people. By merely knowing one's race, people can affix several meanings to that person's background. Race seems to be a very crucial part of the formation of ones identity. There is also more of a tendency to describe culture in terms of race. For example, there is a "Black culture" or "Latino culture" in the United States that can be easily described. This culture, however, is not just dependent on race alone.

When anthropologists say that races are not biologically real, they reject the idea that humans can be divided into biologically distinct groupings or races (Mukhopdhyah and Henze 2005). The biological characteristics used to define races rely only on a few superficial genetic traits such as hair texture and skin color and ignore other major parts of variations in humans. According to anthropologists, the concept of race is a cultural invention, a culturally specific way of categorizing human beings (Moses 1997: 517). As a result, these cultural constructions are not fixed forever. Rather, they change over time. For instance, the idea of race in the United States today is not the same as it was a hundred or even fifty years ago. People can actively change how race is used and perceived. Race is not a biological construct; it's a construct that was invented during the era of colonialism as a way to justify the exploitation of certain "races".

However, with the way race in being used in everyday life, the idea of race also seems to have a biological component. When someone is said to be of a particular race, a set of physical features come to mind. Characteristics like hair color and texture, skin color, bone structure, eye and lip shape do vary among different races. These traits can be attributed to geography and the climatic variations that come with it. Climatic factors have played a major role in determining the various physical differences in the various human races. These differences are a result of the various ways the inhabitants of such areas adapt better to their surroundings (For example, darker skin protects against UV rays and wider noses humidify air better).

Due to stereotypes propagated by the media especially, race plays a role in the way people's capabilities are perceived. A good example would be the stereotype that blacks make better athletes. Anybody who pays a little attention to sports in America would see that blacks are a majority among elite athletes in the U.S and abroad. It would seem to be that blacks posses an innate quality that allows them to run faster or jump or higher. However, the black superiority in sports can be explained by cultural and environmental factors. Blacks are better at basket ball because more emphasis is placed on basket ball in the black community. Also, black success in basket ball generates more role models for young black kids who are encouraged by seeing people like them succeed in such sports.

Some may believe that racial characteristics determine much of cultural identity, which could lead to patterns of discrimination and prejudice. This belief however, is far from the truth. For instance, it would mean every African American would have genetically inherited the ability to speak "Ebonics". Culture and biological race are not the same. Cultural traits are learned; a baby can be placed in a totally different culture that he was born in and become acculturated regardless of their biological inheritance. Another example is the difference between Africans and African Americans; they may be of the same biological race but they have significantly different cultures due to the face that they were raised in very different societies. The genetic inheritance of a person cannot be changed but he or she can adopt a culture or identity that is totally different from the culture of someone else who is of the same race.

The anthropological belief that racial categorizing of humans is invalid and that there are no racial lines is useful in understanding that the traits that characterize different "races" are just physical. Even so, some of these traits, as seen by blood factor analysis, do cut across racial boundaries in a clinal fashion with very few if any "breaks" along racial boundaries (Gill 2000). This shows that there isn't really a "pure" race. People of the same race can have as many differences among them as they would if compared to another race. Cultural determinism, which basically states that culture determines human nature, places no boundaries on the abilities of human beings; that human beings are malleable and are not bound by their race. Biological determinism on the other hand states that human nature is determined only by genetic makeup. If this were the case, it would mean that criminals were actually born that way and therefore shouldn't be blamed for their criminal acts since it is intrinsic in them to commit criminal acts. I believe that the culture that we were raised in does contribute to determining who we are; our values, our actions, morals etc. Also, human beings are adaptable, and just because one was raised in a certain culture, does not necessarily mean that one cannot accept or adapt to the patterns of another culture.

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