Race is a social construct: It does not exist

By Dr. Lonnie Somer - Guest Commentary


The placement of human populations into racial categories has no biological validity.

In other words, the division of humans into 'races' is a social construct.

I've been explaining this to my students since 1989, when I taught my first Biological Anthropology class. The American Anthropological Association formally issued a statement in 1998 that reflects this conclusion.

While this opinion is not shared by all American anthropologists, it does represent the majority view. So how can we make this claim?

After all, the idea of race is taught to us and reinforced from our earliest years.

This notion is supported by government sponsored censuses and job and college applications. And populations of humans often do look quite different from one another.

Just look at our skin colors, nose and eye shapes, hair textures, and body builds. The scientific descriptions of human races have been steeped in bigotry from the earliest publications in the 1700s through the mid-twentieth century.

They were, in part, based on the false assumption that one's race determined one's behavior, personality traits, and intelligence.

Scientists of European descent invariably placed their race at either the pinnacle of creation or at the top of the evolutionary tree, depending on the time period of the publication.

All of these scientists agreed that races existed, yet virtually none of them could agree on a standardized definition of race nor where to draw the boundaries between racial groups.

I have read books that argued that as few as three races exist to as many as 150 races. For each racial category described by these scientists, there were always exceptions within and outside of these groups.

Some populations frequently possessed physical traits that did not conform to their supposed racial criteria.

In addition, the majority of physical differences among humans is clinal or gradual over distance; no boundaries exist where one trait abruptly vanishes and another appears.

Genetically, humans are more than 99.9% identical.

There are genes that differ from population to population, but they are statistically insignificant.

Only a very few genes account for our physical variations.

We all belong to the same species. There never have been 'pure' races.

Pigeonholing humans into these artificial categories serves no scientific purpose.

Doing so often results in stereotyping and discrimination.

I believe that a much healthier attitude is to judge every individual, as their lives intersect with our ours, by their own merits and not by their physical appearances.

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An older student was found unconscious in the North Parking Lot on April 13 by Public Safety. Reports were that the individual tripped and fell, hitting their head on the pavement. The student was then transported to a nearby hospital for further treatment.

Honda filtched

A 1997 Honda Civic was stolen in the South Lot on April 13 at 1:20 p.m. Des Moines Police showed up on scene and took a report. It is unknown if the vehicle was ever found. Public Safety advises students with a 1990 to early 2000 Honda Civic or Accord models to purchase a wheel lock because those cars are easy money makers for thieves. Some Honda models have few universal keys, making those cars very accessible too.

An epic epi-flub

A nursing student accidently injected himself at 9:10 a.m. on April 14 with a real epi-pen in class when he intended to use a prop. A medical call was placed and the student was checked out by medics. The individual did not suffer from any complications and made a full recovery, according to Public Safety.

Way too buzzed

An intoxicated male was found by Public Safety locked out of his vehicle in the South Lot on April 14 at 6 a.m. Des Moines Police responded and the man cooperated with authorities. The man said he was having a dispute with a roommate and he was trying to get away. Des Moines Police offered to drive the man home, but he declined and a friend of the man picked him up. The man was not indicted by police.

Backpack bandit

A person was caught stealing from multiple backpacks in the Library on Saturday, April 15 at noon. The thief was arrested by Des Moines Police and banned from Highline campus because he was not a registered student at Highline.

Write with power and precision

The Writing Center wants to help you learn how to write in your own way effectively. Today is their last workshop of the week, it will be from 11 a.m. to noon. The event will have hands-on activities and one-on-one time with tutors to explore the writing process. The Writing Center will also offer sign-up sheets for future tutoring sessions with one of their tutors along with information with up and coming workshops.

Young poets comes to speak

Highline hosts an open mic event followed by a poetry reading from Angel Gardener, Seattle Youth Poet Laureate. Gardener has written poetry based off of her life and life events. Being in the foster care system since the age of five and moving from more than 30 placement homes she has much to tell. At the age of nineteen Gardener is representing Seattle as the city’s Youth Poet Laureate. The open mic will be from 11:30 a.m. to noon and then Gardener will read and answer questions from noon to 1 p.m. in the Inter-Cultural Center, Building 8 Room 204.

Professors explain special numbers

Mathematics professors Wainwright Joseph and Dusty Wilson will be hosting a Science Seminar on what a Fibonacci number looks like. A Fibonacci number is an omnipresent number but identifying them can be difficult for some. The seminar will cover the basic principles of identifying these special numbers and defining them and their possible uses. The seminar will take place tomorrow from 1:30 p.m. to 2:35 p.m. in Building 3, room 102. Then the week after Highline faculty takes on the subject of fake news and how to stop it. Next Friday, the Reference Librarians Karleigh Knorr and Deb Moore will talk about where fake news comes from, how to identify it and how to stop it. Fake news has been a common subject in the past. The location and time of next week’s Science Seminar is is Building 3, room 102.

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