Race and Racism

03 Oct 1994 12:02

The human species may or may not be meaningfully divided into distinct groups, internally unified by common descent, which correspond to "races". Whether it is or not is a question somewhere at the border of historical genetics, and our decisions about what kind of taxonomy is useful to us. Racism, though, is a cluster of practices and supporting ideas, in which it is important to classify people into racial groups, and treat those of different races differently. Races are imagined as categorical, unified by descent. Races are supposed to be inferable from surface features such as skin color and the shape of the face (as opposed to, e.g., molecular markers of immune response), but to carry important implications for many things other than physical appearance, like moral character and intellectual capacity.

See also: The American Dilemma