Reflections Week 6: Ethnic Ancestry as Biological

Hi all. For this week’s post, I will be reflecting upon this week’s video lecture, entitled “Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics. More precisely, I will be discussing race and its importance in discourse.

Stated in the lecture is that “race is a social construct, rather than a biological fact”. This is not true, as there are notable physical and genetic differences between racial (or rather ethnic ancestry) groups, which are common to people of a common ethnic ancestry group. Skin colour, types of hair and facial characteristics are only parts of it. To deny this would be to deny decades of scientific research that has been documenting this topic thoroughly. Although there is genetic variation between members of the same race, there are still trends and commonalities between such members. Nonetheless, this does not make race more or less important as a political or moral argument, and also does not take away stress from the fact that we should base our discourse and reflections on one’s personality and psychological characteristics, rather than the biology they are assigned or born with. Additionally, this is not to say that these ethnic ancestry differences are to be part of a broader moral argument, such as “Africans are X, and thus are better at Y than Caucasians”, which is highly reprehensible and factually incorrect. To read more about this topic, I highly recommend Vivian Chou’s article posted on Harvard’s SITN website.

Additionally, it is true that these racial differences have been highlighted and even heightened, which has caused historical divisions that have led to many conflicts and brutal wars. The Casta paintings namely commit this fallacy by highlighting racial difference in order to justify different racial treatments and racial superiority. In Latin America, even today, there is still a tremendous divide between peoples of European vs. Indigenous ancestry. In Mexico, notably, there have been studies done about how Mexicans of European, Indigenous or even Latin American ancestry have experienced different social, political and economic treatments. Most individuals in positions of power are still of European or Latin American descent, and only recently was the National Indigenous Congress (similar to the Congressional Black Caucus in the United States) created and had elected political representatives. This is also a problem throughout the rest of the world, including the West, which is not deprived of this. The economic/financial wage gap between ethnic groups is still something that is grappled with in Canada and the United States to this day.



1 thought on “Reflections Week 6: Ethnic Ancestry as Biological

  1. Valeria

    Hi Joseph!
    I understand your point of view. However, I think saying that race is a social construct doesn’t mean it denies the “notable physical and genetic differences”. According to the AAA statement on Race, the concept of Race was a technique used by Colonizers to justify the rigid hierarchies and inequalities imposed by physical differences. Race (as an ideology of inequality) expresses the need to classify superior and inferior traits based on the physical appearance of human beings. The genetics of human beings is not a reason to separate people into categories (because if you do, then it will be racist) instead, diversity is about the mixing of behaviour, culture, geography and physical features. That’s why race is a “social construct, rather than a biological fact.”


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