Race: are we so different?

Screenshot from the AAA "Race" website.

The American Anthropological Association – the leading body of professional Anthropologists – has produced a cool website about the concept of “Race”, as known through historical, biological, and experiential perspectives.

Designed as a public service from the discipline, it’s a well-produced website which manages to be broad in scope, and yet deep enough to be fairly educational.

For example, there is a nice interactive graphic which shows the association between sickle cell anemia and malaria.  The sickle-shaped red blood cells, while not optimal for health in their own right, do a valuable service in protecting the body against malaria by helping rid the malaria parasite.  Contrary to popular wisdom, then, the disease is not related to skin colour.

Similarly, you can take a quiz with the provocative title “Who Is White?” (no hints given here), or play the simple “Game of Life” in which different daily events are given multiple meanings or outcomes based on Race.

The little module on skin colour alone should educate a lot of people who are unaware of the biological underpinnings of human diversity and how these do not map onto conventional notions and categories of Race.

The Historical perspective is overwhelmingly from a United States history point of view, but the AAA is indeed an American institution so that’s understandable and much of the information transcends borders.

Race is a loaded concept!  Anthropologists may know that it is a social construct, but not everyone knows that, and certainly not everyone has a benign view of what “Race” entails.  This website is a good example of a professional organization reaching outside the academy and trying to bring their findings directly to the public in an accessible way.

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One response to “Race: are we so different?

  1. Archaic notions of race are still very much found in the present day – and often more difficult to disentangle institutionally than one might imagine. For example, this upcoming talk at the NMAI will discuss “blood quanta” and Tribal membership in the United States:

    https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=212863328755531

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