Statement on “Race”

The Statement on “Race” is a 1998 race denialist statement by the American Anthropological Association. It was adopted by the Executive Board without any membership voting. It can be seen as a response to The Bell Curve and race and intelligence debate.

The statement opens with Lewontin’s fallacy, continues to the argued clinal nature of skin color, and takes this as a refutation of biological race. The race concept is then attributed as a “fabrication” of European colonialists in order to justify “hierarchies”. The “logical end” of racial classification is defined as “the Holocaust“. Finally, the authors state that “all normal human beings have the capacity to learn any cultural behavior”, a patent falsehood, and conclude that “present-day inequalities between so-called “racial” groups are not consequences of their biological inheritance but products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances”, with no evidence or reasoning.

The statement was preceded by the 1994 “Statement on “Race” and Intelligence”. Neither of these brief, politically correct statements cited any sources for the claims made.

Specific claims in statement include:

  • This means that there is greater variation within “racial” groups than between them.” – See Lewontin’s fallacy and Arguments regarding the existence of races: Genetic variation between populations compared to the genetic variation in populations.
  • Throughout history whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species.” – Even when there have been no physical barriers between groups, groups may avoid interbreeding and practice endogamy. Examples include JewsGypsies, and Indian castes. If there had been very extensive interbreeding between all human groups, there would be no, or only very small, group differences regarding characteristics such as skin color.
  • Physical variations in any given trait tend to occur gradually rather than abruptly over geographic areas.” See Arguments regarding the existence of races: Continuous change of genetics and characteristics?.
  • And because physical traits are inherited independently of one another, knowing the range of one trait does not predict the presence of others. For example, skin color varies largely from light in the temperate areas in the north to dark in the tropical areas in the south; its intensity is not related to nose shape or hair texture. Dark skin may be associated with frizzy or kinky hair or curly or wavy or straight hair, all of which are found among different indigenous peoples in tropical regions. These facts render any attempt to establish lines of division among biological populations both arbitrary and subjective.” – Dark skin color and “Afro-textured”/”wooly” hair texture are not independent characteristics, since they are unusual in northern regions, likely due to both characteristics being adaptations to the climate in southern regions. Thus, either of these characteristics makes an ancestry from southern regions likely. Furthermore, while only looking at skin color and hair texture may not be enough for accurate classification, morphological descriptions of different races include many more characteristics. Genetic classifications may use thousands or more genetic markers for classification. Only looking at one or two characteristics is an example of Lewontin’s fallacy.
  • Today scholars in many fields argue that “race” as it is understood in the United States of America was a social mechanism invented during the 18th century to refer to those populations brought together in colonial America: the English and other European settlers, the conquered Indian peoples, and those peoples of Africa brought in to provide slave labor.” – See race and racism.
  • It is a basic tenet of anthropological knowledge that all normal human beings have the capacity to learn any cultural behavior.” – Likely an example of not just race denialism, but more general genetics denialism. For example, there are very likely minimal IQ requirements for learning advanced mathematics, needed for many professions and associated behaviors in advanced cultures.


Creators

The statement states that “a position paper on race was authored by Audrey Smedley” and “reviewed by a working group of prominent anthropologists” which are mentioned. The creators were thus

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