The instances of ethnic genocide have happened in the past and, unfortunately, usually occur in the modern times; they are killing numerous innocent people every day. This type of discrimination is based on ethnic affiliation of a person and usually on what is one of the most visible peculiarities of the human body, the skin color. According to the skin color, the humans are classified into three main categories: the Blacks, Browns, and Whites. The first two categories have always been unjustly discriminated for their anthropologic features. It is a global problem even now when humans have achieved much in terms of evolution, development, and technology.
The fact that even the most progressive people forget is that such a classification developed when humanity had no knowledge about the genetic makeup of a human being. The only available data at that time were the physical features of the body, out of which the most prominent one was, of course, the color of skin. The classification was probably adopted when humans realized that not everyone looked the same; they started to distinguish races according to visible features of appearance, in order to explain these differences.
The cave paintings in different parts of the world always were an excellent source of information about the early humans. Different cave paintings found in Southern France and Northern Spain show images of rather intricate design, which were created with highly sophisticated tools. Anthropologists are able to prove that these paintings were created by humans, who lived some 40,000 – 10,000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic era, the last stage of the Stone Age. Images of people and animals can be seen in different caves across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Among other drawings, there are pictures of the entopic phenomena that were believed to have been created from an alternate state of consciousness. This fact indicates that people of that time had connected to deeper level or alternate level of consciousness. These humans were called Cro-Magnons; they lived in Europe after Neanderthals. In the course of time, they spread from Europe to Central Asia. The Cro-Magnons shared some common features with Neanderthals; they were of a medium height and had multiple ancestors. Another theory, however, asserts that these people migrated from Africa, to start living in Europe. The people used very interesting and sophisticated tools to make their life easier; they created different instruments to be used in their daily life for hunting, foraging, and expressing their artistic skills. They even used specific calendars for scheduling and exploiting the resources effectively. They chose raw materials for manufacturing different tools very carefully. People used blade and pressure flaking technique in production of various tools from makeshift things, like ivory, animal bones, or stones. Different forms of weapon like burins, throwing spears, or atlatls were made with such techniques. This achievement made the life of the Cro-Magnons better. Atlatls made the hunting much easier and more efficient than before. It was so efficient that within 1000 years after its invention large mammals like mammoths were made extinct. Nets were another great invention that made catching of smaller animals easier.
The videos by Lisa Gezon show that, actually, there was no ‘common race’ that existed in the past and, according to which, the skin color classifications had been done. The movies also assert than skin color depends on geographical locations and not construction of the human body. It is showed how people from Somalia discriminated the representatives of the Bantus people, who have comparatively darker skin. Somali people are killing the Bantus just purely because of skin color while Bantus consider or differentiate Somalis as longhaired people with long noses. Numerous deaths prove the extent of human suffering that happens because of the classifications based on the skin color.
Race is the taxonomic category of subspecies that is based on a biological definition. The ethnocentric view on humans makes people consider other ethnic groups to be different. In certain cases, some groups or communities make themselves superior to other people. In addition, phenotype is a genetic characteristic that can be seen or measured. It includes height, appearance, skin color, eye color, hair color, or even metabolic rate of a person. Anthropologists, who study human traits, believe that they need specific tools for studying the human variations, such as the genetic makeup or genotype, which is unique for every human being. There are around 3 billion know genotypes, and only one of these 3 billion can be a person’s unique one. While phenotype is visible, genotype is hidden; therefore, most classifications are based on the phenotype even though genotype provides a more holistic and objective picture.
Even when humans carry the same characteristics, they can differ in how they look. The video shows the example of how ‘nose’ is different in different people. This differentia is most common in human beings, and it is called ‘polymorphism.’ Polymorphisms occur because of possible variations of the human genes.
It is possible to classify people based on any genotype or allele that are present in the human body. This way, if classification uses blood type as the main criteria, the racial classification will be changed completely. Likewise, any other trait can eliminate the racial classifications that are most common in the modern world. When the whole complexity of the genotype is considered, one can develop such classifications based on color, height, or weight. Building classification on one or two criteria alone is insignificant and irrelevant.
In addition, the lecture shows how polymorphism was spread all across the world as different peoples have been travelling and mixing with others for many years. When there were no means of travelling and people married within the same close neighborhoods, the genotypes were spread and preserved in the small areas. Nevertheless, when the modern and fast means of transportation were invented, ‘gene flow’ started happening more and more often, as people started mixing with representatives of different communities from all over the world.
When scientists acquired better knowledge on the genotype classifications, they started noticing that the mutation, which was happening in the humans, depended on the environmental factors. The video takes the example of the Malaria disease for explaining such mutations. People, who were living in areas where the Malaria disease was most common, had undergone mutation and developed the mechanism that protected them from the disease. What has happened was that the red blood cells, which are most commonly attacked by the malarial parasites, have changed the shape and acquired the form of a ‘sickle’. These cells, which are also called ‘sickle cells,’ are less susceptible to the infection caused by the parasites.
Such mutations are very common in people living in areas where malaria diseases are widespread; when these people marry and have kids, they pass on this mutation to their offspring, as well. On the other hand, this mutation makes such individuals more prone to sickle cell anemia than humans living in other parts of the world. This example shows how the environment, in which people live, plays a huge role in determining their genotype.
Apart from environmental factors, human body is influenced by many other factors that make them adapt and evolve. New culture and technology also play an important role in making people more adapt.
An interesting example of how Native Americans have evolved to become more susceptible to type-2 diabetes is shown in this lecture for making viewers understand the concept.
In early days, Native Americans had to go through alternate times of a feast and famine. This condition caused a change in the genetic makeup of the people, to develop a ‘thrifty gene,’ which allows them store fat whenever possible. This peculiarity allows them live on the calories longer; therefore, they are able not to starve during times of famine. This genetic makeup was not an issue for the Native Americans in the early days when they had a healthy diet and enough exercise. When the people evolved culturally, however, they started to eat unhealthy food that had more sugar and live an unhealthy lifestyle with less exercise. These conditions made their ‘thrifty gene’ act adversely in making them more susceptible to diabetics. Basically, among two people having the same diet and exercise routine, the Native American will be more vulnerable to get diabetic because of the ‘thrifty gene’ as compared to the other person. This disease also passes through generations as a parent can pass on the diabetic gene to the children; thus, it is affecting a big population.
Except environment, nation also interacts with the natural selection, which determines human survival, and reproduction. Nowadays, humans do not need to adapt biologically, they can adapt culturally, technologically and in some other ways to the changing environment. Mutual interaction between culture and human biology is known as the bio-cultural evolution that can have positive or negative effect. In the case of Native Americans, for example, it had a negative impact.
Nutrition also affects the phenotype; for example, one might have the gene to become taller than the average height, passed on from the ancestors. On the other hand, not enough nutrients or childhood diseases can stunt the person’s growth, preventing one from becoming tall. In this case, the environment, in which a person lives, affects the phenotype. Environment and culture affect the phenotypes of people; therefore, there is no basis to classify people on phenotype, which is influenced by the environment or culture, in which they live. It is sad to see people continue suffering due to discrimination made by certain groups of people against the others based on insignificant physical traits. These lectures employ vivid examples for demonstrating that race classification is biologically invalid.
Both videos start with showing some horrific ethnic genocide in human history, the infamous Nazi Holocaust, and numerous sad images of such instances happening even today, in the modern world in countries like Sudan, Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda. Everything that has happened in the past or is happening now is caused by the human tendency to classify themselves based on race.
These videos provide viewers with a clear picture of what ‘race’ is, and how humans make classifications based on physical characteristics; they also prove that, as environment affects such classifications, they are incorrect and irrelevant.
These videos also bring out the problems of classifying humans based on race and question the validity of such classification. The movies define phenotype, genotype, polymorphisms, and also show that environment plays an important role in the genetic makeup of a human being.
The lecture shows that the difference in the human population that is visible is caused by genetic differences, which are mostly brought in by changes in the environment, in which people live. Therefore, there is no significance or sense in classifying people according to their phenotype characteristics. The classification should be based on genotype, which will eliminate racial prejudice and discrimination all together from the modern world.