Race is an archaic (i.e., out of date, no longer considered valid) scientific concept which classifies human beings according to broad physical characteristics such as skin color.
Historical Definitions of Race
The five races of mankind were considered to be:
- Black (Negro)
- Brown (as in India)
- Red (Native American)
- Yellow (Oriental)
- White (Caucasian)
The amount of melanin in one's skin naturally determines how dark it is. Some historical ideals of beauty exalted the lightness or darkness of skin. The 19th century American song, "The Yellow Rose of Texas", referred to the slightly dusky color of a girl's skin.
Since prehistory, human populations have gone through periods of isolation and intermixing which lead to differences between groups. Scientists believe that these are largely a matter of different statistical frequencies of variations from an agreed-on standard, rather than racial differences as was once thought. Modern humans share approximately 99.9% of their DNA. Of the .1% that does vary, 85% of the observed variation is unconnected to membership of any particular group of people.
Modern biology acknowledges phenotypic and genotypic differences between groups of people. These differences may be obvious, like skin color, or non-obvious, like a difference in allele frequency. None of these differences within the species are as significant as differences between species.
Race is also viewed as a socio-political construct, used conveniently to justify certain political policies.
Religions have taken different views on race that have generally paralleled those of society as a whole. Religion has been used to justify racism, and to help eradicate it. Many Christian groups were involved in founding the abolitionist movement; others helped propagate racism. For example, the Morman Church banned Blacks from serving as priests until the 1960s.