Understanding Race Research Project
Understanding racism and the motivation behind it has been a challenging affair both in the past and now. Through the years, various discourses have been conducted to help in either progressing racism or reducing racial discriminations. The timelines videos on race as well as various articles on the website describe the concept of racism based on the perceptions of different researchers on racism. In the ensuing sections, different articles are summarized based on their perceptions of different skin colors and the presentations of various scholars on the subject.
One Race or Several Species
The timelines video on race depicts the charging attitudes of mankind towards the differences exhibited between people with different skin types. The video begins at 1600 to 2010 and highlights the distinctive features of scientific beliefs at each of the timelines. From the video, the 1770 to 1850s timeline attracted the greatest attention due to the beliefs and studies that were conducted in the period (American Anthropological Association, 2016). The article titled ‘one race or several species,’ highlights some of the studies done in this period in support of polygenism (Race, 2007). During the period, there were scientists of two different belief classes. The first group comprised of the monogenists who believed that all human kind belonged to a single species and differed in race. The second group comprised of the polygenists who believed that those with black skins belonged to a lower class of humans. The polygenists believed to some extent that those with dark skin were of a different species, somewhere between those with bright skin and the lower primates.
Several studies were conducted in the 16th and early 17th centuries with the objective of confirming the validity of arguments regarding polygenism. Each of those studies based its hypotheses on a given premise or assumption of life. In the first study described under this timeline, the discussions of Edward Long conducted in 1774 were described. Edward Long conducted a study to prove that it was possible that those with dark skin were not of the same species as the other men. The arguments posited by Long were that contrary to popular belief, it was possible for organisms in different species to breed. He cited animals such as foxes and jackals which could inter-breed in spite of being in different species.
Another study described in the article is that conducted by Samuel Morton, which was aimed at confirming the assertion that differences between mankind were more than skin deep and that this warranted the polygenist argument. In his own defense, he collected skulls from different human races and used them to determine the brain matter volumes from one race to another. His objective was to prove that Africans, who were mostly working as slaves at the time, did not only have a darker skin but also had a smaller brain capacity compared to other humans. The position was to be confirmed by filling lead balls into human skulls. Morton eventually reported that Europeans had the largest brain volumes while African had the smallest. The findings of the research can however be refuted as biased given the initial objective of the researcher and his reporting structure for the findings. Furthermore, despite the fact that the findings were published, the methods used in the research are neither valid nor reliable hence cannot be deduced to be an accurate reflection of the truth. The findings were published in an 1844 report.
Further in 1854, Josiah Clark published his own works in support of polygenism. The article concludes by giving a recap of the studies conducted by the different polygenists at the time. However, it also states clearly the opinions and overriding statements by monogenists such as Douglass. In 1854, Douglass rebutted the reports by most of the other polygenists including Morton, Glidon and Agassiss by emphasizing the ill intentions of the slave masters in arguing that the slaves were not humans. His conclusion is that their objectives in so doing are to refuse to set their slaves free and rather keep them enslaved all their lives. The article provides an interesting perspective to the differences among humans. For those who initially thought differences were only on the skin tone, the arguments of the likes of Morton and Long can be a source of deeper thinking. Similarly, the arguments for monogenism can be a source of inspiration to polygenists to reconsider their standing on the subject of skin tone. Those who support polygenism do so for their own selfish gains contrary to the perceptions of those who propose monogenism.
Article Summary: Only skin deep
In the article ‘only skin deep’, the author attempts to explain the rationale for the different skin tones among people of different races (Race, 2016). Considering the themes depicted in the article, it can be deduced that the author intended to communicate the fact that skin colors should not be considered as differentiating factors between humans but rather evolutionary outcomes for better existence among humans. The article begins by explaining how during the evolution of mankind, people grew bigger and more active in search of food, especially in the hot regions. Due to expose to the hot environments, the first response was to increase the sweat glands in the body. However, this was insufficient to cater for the effects of the UV radiation which they were exposed to. This implied that there was need for additional methods for protection against the hot environment.
As the people adapted to the environment, their bodies also developed fewer hairs hence exposing the skin more to the harmful UVR. The implications were that a darker skin, capable of protecting people against the harmful rays was needed. This resulted in permanent darkening of the skin. The most affected were people who moved towards the equator. Those who moved towards the poles where the heat from the sun was less had lighter skins. The explanation given for the darkening of the skins as an adaptation to human life changes is understandable. The author’s subject that the differences are only skin deep is also acceptable given the arguments presented in support of this point. Nonetheless, there are still some questions posed and answered through the same article.
The article’s points are discussed as predictions made by Jablonski and George Chaplin. The proof for these arguments is reported to be missing given that the proponents of the adaptation argument attempted to provide proof for their arguments successfully. To confirm their hypothesis, Chaplin and Jablonski conducted experiments to measure skin reflectance as an indicator of the relationship between the skin tone and the geographical and environmental conditions in which one lives. The findings showed results parallel to the environmental adaptation theory. In an interview to confirm the findings of their experiments and their thesis on the skin color, Nina Jablonski made other explanations that could help in developing a deeper understanding of the thesis.
In her response to whether darker skin protects people from skin cancer, Jablonski asserted that the objective of evolution was to change factors that improved with progress in reproduction. The characteristic of skin cancer is such that it affected people after child birth hence has evolution could not be explained to be protecting people against skin cancer. In another question on why people from Alaska and Canada were darker than expected based on the theory of evolution as a cause of skin coloration, Jablonski explained that the different environmental conditions in their areas of residence contributed to the darker skin coloration. During summer, Alaska and Canada and other countries within the same kind of environment experienced high levels of UVR from the snow on the ground hence exposing people to harm. While the dark skin limits the ability of the people from absorbing vitamin D during the prolonged periods of darkness, their diets make up for the shortness of vitamin D as it is rich in this nutrients.
Having explained the origin of the differential coloration in humans, the article concludes with Jablosnki’s response to the expected coloration in the future. She explains that humans will still come in a mix of colors, especially those who live in cities where there are multiple skin colors and high potential for inter-breeding.
The arguments made by Jablonski and Chaplin can be taken as an explanation to help in diverting the masses from racism. If the same information could have been available in the 1770 to 1850s timeline, it could have changed the perceptions of scientists regarding differences in skin tones and their implications on other biological differences. It could have changed the general idea about racism and probably eliminated racial prejudice.
American Anthropological Association (2016). History: Race in the U.S.A. Retrieved from www.understandingrace.org/history/index.html
Race (2007). One race several species. Retrieved from www.understandingrace.org/history/science/one_race.html
Race (2016). Only skin deep. Retrieved from www.understandingrace.org/humvar/skin_03.html