Last modified on February 27, 2022, at 22:31


Modern Han Chinese in Ming Attire.

Race is a concept which classifies human beings according to broad physical characteristics such as skin color. Many assert that race is more than physical and claim that different races have different psychological, intellectual and religious characteristics.

Various different classifications have been proposed for human races in the past. Evolutionary textbooks used to have a chapter on eugenics that discussed various "races", such as Negroid (mostly Africans), Mongoloid (mostly Asian) and Caucasian (mostly Europeans) and which of the races were the furthest along in evolution.[1]

The concept of race is no longer considered scientifically valid, as there is little genetic difference between the so-called races, and those differences are mostly superficial. However, there are various animal species or subspecies with genetic distances between each other that are lower than that between human populations. For example, Coyotes and Wolves have an Fst Distance of 0.057, compared to 0.11 between Europeans and East Asians, 0.19 between East Asians and Subsaharan Africans, and 0.15 between Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans [2]. However, race in humans does not cluster so much as it forms gradients, or clines, for example a gradient in East Asian ancestry that stretches from Eastern Europe to Mongolia, or an increase in sub-saharan African ancestry that increases from North Africa to Central Africa. Where the line is placed for defining race, or ethnicity, can therefore be arbitrary.

Despite its questionable validity, race is still detailed in government census and other forms, mostly for convenience in classifying individuals into groups.

In a study done in 1999, 75% of anthropologists disagreed with the statement, "There are biological races in the species Homo sapiens" amongst cultural anthropologists 80% disagreed, and 69% of physical anthropologists disagreed[3]

The belief that one race is inherently better or worse than others is known as racism. For historical accuracy it's worth noting that until the events of the 1960s holders of racist beliefs were termed 'racialists' rather than the modern term, 'racists'.

Human geographers today prefer to discuss people in terms of ethnicities rather than races; the principal difference between one's ethnicity and one's race is that race is superficial while ethnicity carries with it a whole host of cultural traditions. For example, the Anglo-Saxons of the British isles have cultural traditions that are distinct from the ethnic inhabitants of Germany's Rhineland, though both ethnic groups would be considered racially caucasian.

A race also refers to a competition of speed (see: racing).

See also


  1. For example, Hunter, George William, A Civic Biology (1914), p.196: "At the present time, there exists upon the Earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos, and finally the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America."