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Race Is Imaginary

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Race Is Imaginary

The concept of race and its validity is a question that has been debated for centuries. The two articles “Out of Our Skulls: From Race Typology to Variation on the Physical Anthropology Laboratory,” by Leonard Lieberman and “Bred in the Bone,” by Alan Goodman, examine race, its implications and whether or not race really exists.

Lieberman’s article discusses how best to address race in a laboratory setting and in forensic analysis of findings. He discusses the older conceptions of differences between races, as being primarily differences in physical differences with emphasis on the skull and the brain. He highlights the fact that when anthropologists classify their findings in terms of race, it is more of a cultural basis then a genetic one. When the decision is made as to what race a skeletal remain represents, the group that society would place the remains in, based on its characteristics, is identified. Lieberman discusses the biological validity of race by arguing that there would be more clear, cut ways to distinguish race genetically that would be accurate one hundred percent of the time, if there in fact was a genetic basis to race. The theory that race is a biological concept falls short when the rule of hypo-descent, or the one-drop rule comes into play. The rule implies that if a person has one great grandparent that is Black then they are automatically Black, even if their outward appearance is that of a White person. The genetic validity of race also comes into question when the ancestry of White and Black Americans is considered. Black or African Americans have ancestry that consists primarily of African, White and American Indian ethnicities, while Whites have European ancestry. He also discusses the fact that whenever examining traits in attempts to associate them with one race and in turn classify that specimen, many traits are not exclusive to one race and that more variation can exist within races then between them, making it even harder to make a claim for biological races. A quote by anthropologists, Giles and Elliott summarizes Lieberman’s article, “Negro by cultural standards, not genetic ones,” meaning that the standards we used to classify individuals into races have no viable genetic basis and are strictly cultural and regional.

Goodman’s article has the similar purpose of examining the arguments surrounding the validity of race and discrediting them. He starts off by introducing his argument with a story from the Oklahoma City bombing and how using race to identify a human remain from the bombing site was inaccurate. A leg had been identified as belonging to a white male with a darker complexion when it was later determined to be the leg of an African American female. This shows the fallacy in the concept of race because of its reliance on skin color and the fact that skin color can sometimes be misleading. Goodman then goes on to challenge the actual existence of race. He examines three main standpoints; that races are divided into three or four distinct categories, that �race’ is really a myth and that provisions made for certain groups because of racism should not exist, and that although race has no biological basis, racism is still a reality. Goodman addresses Norman Sauer’s article, “Forensic Anthropology and the Concept o Race: If Races Don’t Exist, Why Are Forensic

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