Competitive Exams: Race

The term ‘race’ is often used loosely to indicate groups of men differing in appearance; language or colour. To some race means a nationality or all of humanity. Some even define race as the group which is mixed in nearly all aspects but socially designated as different.

Race is scientifically defined as a group of people possessing the same biological inheritance, identified on the basis of external physical characteristics. Thus shape of head, color of the hair, eyes, skin etc are some of the physical characteristics which are taken into account in determining race.

Race is a biological concept but in course of time the members of a particular race develop a kind of consciousness. This race consciousness becomes a sociological phenomenon and it has an impact on social relations.

According to Maclver and Page the term race when properly used refers to a biological category. It refers to human states that owe their differences from one another specially their physiological differences to a remote separation of ancestry.

Franz Boas defined race as a scientific concept applies only to the biological groupings of human types. Horton and Hunt defined race as a group of people somewhat different from other groups in a combination of inherited physical characteristics.

Ralph Linton, an American anthropologist made a three-fold classification in The Study of Man. According to him the subdivision of Homo sapiens are breeds, races and stocks. Today breeds are encountered rather infrequently in some small primitive tribes or in some isolated mountains, though variants exist in such a group.

A race consists of a number of breeds which share certain physical characteristics. The individuals constituting a race will have fewer characteristics in common than those making up a breed. A stock includes a number of races and of course its members will share even fewer characteristics.

Major races in the world:

Usually mankind is divided into three major racial stocks-the Caucasoid, the Mongoloid and the Negroid.

The earliest classification of race was suggested by Huxley in 1870 who gave four principle types of classifications:

  • Negroid

  • Australoid

  • Xanthochroid

  • Melanochroid

Determinants of Race

Physical traits are examined to determine the race but sometimes it becomes difficult to tell whether the differences of traits are hereditary or environmental. Attributes such as weight, color of skin can be greatly modified by the environment. So the determinants can be definite as well as indefinite.

Definite: Stature, structure of head, structure of nose, blood group, length of hands and feet and perimeter of chest.

Indefinite: Color of skin, texture and color of the hair and structure and color of the eyes.

Races in India

Sir Herbert Risley classified the Indian population into seven racial types. The three fundamental races are-Dravidian, Mongoloid and Indo-Aryan. Four secondary races-Cytho-Dravidian, Aryo-Dravidian, Mongolo-Dravidian and Pre-Dravidian.

Though one of the major racial stocks the Negroid was not present in Risley's classification, J. H Hutton is of the view that Negrito races were the original occupants of India. The latest classification of the Indian people is made by Hutton, Guha and Majumdar. Guha lists six main races with nine subtypes:

  1. The negrito

  2. The Proto-Australoid

  3. The Mongoloid-Palaeo-Mongoloids, Tibeto-Mongoloids

  4. The Mediterranean-Palaeo-Mediterranean, Mediterranean, Oriental

  5. The Western Brachycephalis-Alpiniod, Dinaric, Armenoid

  6. The Nordic

Guha's Classification

Guha has summed up his conclusions as regards the racial composition of tribal India in 1952.

  1. The Kadar, the Irula and the Paniyan of South Indian with frizzly hair have an undoubted Negrito strain.

  2. The tribes of Middle India belong to the Proto-Australoid group

  3. The Brachycephalic Mongoloids of North Eastern India with typical features of the face and eye.

  4. A slightly different Mongoloid type with medium stature, high head and medium nose living in Brahmaputra valley.

Majumdar expresses fundamental disagreement with the support of an ancient negrito-strain theory. There is no evidence in support of a Negrito racial stock in India.

Culture and Race

Differences in physical characteristics among people belonging to different races are often confused with differences in culture and behaviour. When the term race is used it combines a set of unrelated features such as physical characteristics, language, religion, cultural traditions and behavior patterns which differentiate a given people from others.

Furthermore there is invariably an implicit value judgment in this sense of the term. Some races are regarded as being naturally and inherently superior to the others. This is a wrong view. There is no necessary connection between race, language, culture and nationality. Racial features are largely determined by genetic and biological factors whereas culture and languages are learnt, acquired and transmitted through training and education. Race prejudice is based on false and irrational premise.