RACISM: A Baseless Social Phenomena-II

Part 2 :- How are racial groups classified and what are the bases of classification of racial groups?

It is clear through our last article about the factors that are responsible for forming different races. Now let’s take a look at how these racial groups are classified and on what basis.

A racial group is classified on the basis of certain characteristics or genetic traits. These traits are used to classify the races and hence are referred to as racial criteria.
Although the guidelines for choosing racial criteria was put forwarded by William Clouser Boyd in the year 1950, many thinkers and philosophers had already given their thoughts and perceptions on races and their classification. Herodotus gave the description of skulls of the inhabitants of Greece, Egypt, Libya, etc. Vesalius, the famous anatomist, who is considered as a pioneer in racial chronology, too had observed differences in the structure of the skull among the Greeks, Turks, Belgians and Germans. Even Hippocrates laid emphasis on environment to explain the differences in physical features among different populations.
The list doesn’t end here. The father of physical anthropology, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, also considered as the real father of craniology, also had studied and observed variation in the physical features of different population groups.
Later, a number of people contributed to the study of craniology, however, they only talked about races, their differences or their classification. But none talked about the criterias for racial classification or the basis of their classification. Then in the year 1950, W. C. Boyd pointed out some guidelines for choosing a racial criteria. And yes, to understand the basis of racial classification, we must know the important requirements in order for a criteria to be designated as racial criteria.
These conditions as suggested by Boyd are as follows-
A criteria must be objective, so that the biasness of the different investigators in identifying and classifying the concerned trait can be eliminated.
The selected criteria must be non-adaptive so that it acts as a barrier against natural selection.
The criteria should not be modified by environmental conditions.
The criteria should not be subject to a high rate of mutation.
Lastly, the criteria should be controlled by a known genetic mechanism.

After taking these conditions into account, we observe that the racial criterias are divided into three categories-

1. Those criterias which have some common variable characters and whose hereditary mechanism is neither simple nor completely known are included in the first category. For example, hair colour, skin colour, nose form, facial form, etc. Some of these characters can be noted by visual observation(hair colour, nasal bridge), some others are observed with the help of instruments(cross section of hair under microscope), while others demand careful instrumental measurements.
2. The second category includes those physiological characters whose genetic processes are well known such as the ABO blood group, MN blood group, etc.
3. In the third category, those rare genetic traits are taken into account which occur in low frequencies, such as color blindness, abnormal traits of human blood, etc.

Nine important racial criterias have been noted that are used for racial identification. On the basis of various classification and categorisation of each of the above criterias, people belonging to a particular population group are grouped under a particular race. Each of these criterias are equally important in identifying and classifying races, and hence, need an in-depth study to understand the classification of the most evolved species on this planet, Homo sapiens.

Let us have a look at these criterias:

1. Skin Colour
We all know what pigments our skin. Yes! It is Melanin which is found on the epidermis or the upper layer of our skin.
It is known for its protective value. As such, the skin colour among human beings varies either for protection from the harmful rays of the Sun or from colder environment. Human beings, therefore, can be grouped into 3 major categories on the basis of the colour of the skin. These are-
i. Leucoderms or White-Skinned people(Europeans, Polynesians, North Africans, etc.)
ii. Xanthoderms or Yellow-skinned people(Asiatic Mongoloids, some Amerinds, Bushmen, Hottentots, etc.)
iii. Melanoderms or Black-skinned people(Negroids, Papuans, Melanesians, etc.)
However, different population groups falling under one group neither indicates any genetic relationship between them nor can we assume that people under similar geographical condition will have the same skin colour. Consequently, skin colour is a criteria for identifying different races and not a criteria for determining racial superiority and inferiority.

2. Hair
Hair, which is a major part of our overall facial look is considered to be an important racial criteria that can help us in the identification of racial groups. In order to do so, anthropologists and scientists have considered certain characteristics of hair.
These are-
i. Form
Hair form is divided into three main types which are again subdivided. These are as follows-
a) Leiotrichous or smooth hair, mostly prevalent among the Mongoloids, is of three types-
Stretched(usually straight)
Smooth(thinner and soft)
Flat wavy(tendency to become wavy)
b) Cymotrichous or wavy hair is prevalent among many Europeans, North-Eastern Africans, Western Asians, etc., which means that white-skinned people mostly have this type of hair form. It is of the following types-
Broad wavy(waves are broad)
Narrow wavy(waves are short)
Curly(large spirals are present)
c) Ulotrichous or woolly form is present among Negroes, Papuans, Melanesians, etc. It may be-
Frizzly(short,deep waves)
Filfil(small knots of thick rolled hair appear to be separated by spaces, popularly known as peppercorn hair)

{Figure:- (Leiotrichous- 1)Stretched 2)Smooth 3)Flat wavy) (Cymotrichous- 4)Broad wavy 5)Narrow wavy 6)Curly)}

(Figure:- Ulotrichous hair- 7)Frizzly 8)Filfil)

ii. Colour
The colour of our hair is also taken into account as the environment doesn’t influence it much.
There is a wide range of variation in hair colour in Europe and parts of Northern Asia. The Mediterraneans have a darker hair colour, while the Northern Europeans have lighter hair colour, ranging from light brown to reddish colour.
iii. Texture
Hair texture may be of three types-
According to Stanley Marion Garn, the thickness of hair varies between 25 micron and 125 micron. He even gave a classification of hair texture types, on the basis of which the Chinese and the Japanese people have coarse hair, while the White-skinned people have medium hair.
iv. Quantity
While observing the quantity of hair, the hair on the head, body, beard, moustache are also taken into account for racial classification. Hair quantity may be-
Did you know that Mongoloids and Negroids have scanty facial and body hair?
v. Whorl
Hair whorls usually occur singly. Two or more whorls are usually rare. They may either be clockwise or anticlockwise. Clockwise hair whorl is dominant over anticlockwise.
vi. Cross-section
Cross-section of hair is observed under microscope. It may be-
Circular(usually occurs in straight hair of Mongoloids)
Oval or elliptical(in ulotrichous hair of Negroids)
However, recent studies have shown both circular and oval cross-sections of hair may be present in the same head and hence it has lost its significance in racial discrimination.

3. Head Form
It’s fascinating to think that the shape of the head is considered to be an important racial criteria as it is relatively independent of environmental fluctuations. In order to compare the headforms of different racial groups, cephalic index(when the measurement is taken on head) or cranial index(when the measurement is taken on the skull) is calculated, which is the ratio of the maximum breadth to the maximum length.

Cephalic Index(C. I.)= Breath of head/Length of the head *100

Classification(According to Martin)-
Hyperdolichocephalic(very long and narrow) -69.9
Dolichocephalic(Long and narrow) 70.0-75.9
Mesocephalic(Medium) 76.0-80.9
Brachycephalic(Short or broad) 81.0-85.5
Hyperbrachychocephalic(Very short broad) 85.6-
Calculations show that dolicocephalic head form is rare in Mongoloids, while in Negroids, brachycephaly is rare. Data available also suggests that brachycephalic head form developed later than dolicocephaly as a result of mutations and other factors.

4. Face
In addition to the shape of the head, the shape of the face is also considered as a racial criteria.
It is expressed in terms of the relation of its breadth to its length. The length is measured from nasion(the point where the frontal bone meets the two nasal bones) to gnathion(lowest point on the lower border of the mandible) and the breadth across the two cheek bones is measured. The facial index is calculated by using the formula-

Morphological facial Index= Morphological Facial length/Bizygomatic Breath *100

Hypereuryprosopic(very broad face) -78.9
Euryprosopic(Broad face) -79.0- 83.9
Mesoprosopic(Medium face) -84.0- 87.9
Leptoprosopic(Narrow face) -88.0- 92.9
Hyperleptoprosopic(Very narrow face) -93.0
However, facial index is affected by certain factors such as age, sex, function, etc., which is why it can’t always be extensively used for racial identification. In spite of all that, face serves as a significant criteria for racial classification. Because in addition to face form, prognathism is also observed. The prognathism may be alveolar or facial. The Negroes and the Australians exhibit projection of the alveolar margins of the upper and lower jaws, which is called alveolar prognathism. The Mongoloids do not exhibit facial prognathism but they may show a little alveolar prognathism.

5. Nose
In case of nose, the nasal bridge, the root, tip, nasal septum, etc. are observed. To calculate Nasal Index, nasal length and nasal breadth are measured. The measurements can be taken both in the living person and in the skull. The Nasal Index is calculated in percentage as-

Nasal Index= Nasal breadth/Nasal length *100

(Living person) (Skull)
Hyperleptorrhine(very narrow)-54.9
Leptorrhine(narrow) 55.0-69.9 -47
Mesorrhine(medium) 70.0-84.9 47-51
Platyrrhine/Chamaerrhine(broad) 85.0-99.9 52-58
Hyperplatyrrhine(very broad) 100.0-
The Caucasoid people have leptorrhinre nose, Mongoloids mesorrhine, while the Negroids have platyrrhine nose.

6. Eye
Two things are observed in case of eyes- shape and pigmentation of iris. The pigmentation of iris shows a wide range of variation among leucoderms. The Negroids and the Mongoloids generally exhibit dark brown iris. The shape of the eye is affected by age, sex, etc. But they may be distinguished into two types, as suggested by Earnest Albert Hooton
i. Mongoloid eye– Present in Mongoloid people and people having Mongoloid admixture, the Mongoloid eye consists of a skin fold called epicanthic fold, whose placement on the eyelid defines the shape of the eye. It may be of four types-
a) Complete Mongoloid fold(skin fold rests on the entire upper lid)
b) Mongoloid fold or inner epicanthic fold(skin fold covers the inner angle of the eye)
c) External epicanthic fold(skin fold covers the outer portion or the outer corner of the upper lid)
d) Median fold or cover fold(skin fold hangs over the middle part of the upper lid)
ii. Non-Mongoloid eye– It is open, wide and lacks eye fold. It is found among the White racial stock.
However, the eye fold is sometimes present in some African Negroes, namely the Bushmen and Hottentots.

(Figure:- A) Complete Mongoloid fold B) Inner epicanthic fold D) External epicanthic fold E) Median fold C) Non-Mongoloid eye)

7. Stature
Stature should not be considered as important a racial criteria as other ones since it is a variable character affected by both environment and heredity. Heredity plays an important role in determining a person’s stature. For example, two people living side by side in the same environmental condition may have varied statures(e.g. the tall Norwegians and the short Lapps in the north of Scandinavia).
Stature is also affected by difference in environment. If the conditions are unfavourable, people may be temporarily or permanently underdeveloped. But if the environmental conditions are favourable, the same people may show increase in their stature. For example, the hill Garos of Meghalaya are shorter than plain Garos.

Classification(Martin’s scale)
Pygmy -129.9 cm
Very short 130.0-149.9 cm
Short 150.0-159.9 cm
Below medium 160.0-163.9 cm
Medium 164.0-166.9 cm
Above medium 167.0-169.9 cm
Tall 170.0-179.9 cm
Very tall 180.0-199.0 cm
Giant 200.0-

8. Blood Group
The classification of human races can be done in several ways as discussed above. Similarly, there is another way to classify human races and that is done by the observation of blood groups. By studying blood groups we can identify certain genetic behaviours very easily. As we know, the main function of blood is to supply nourishment in the body especially Oxygen. But besides that, it also helps in removing waste.
Blood is composed of two types of material-
i. Blood plasma (Yellow fluid)
ii. Blood corpuscles
To study the human racial classification through blood, we have to understand the genetic markers in red blood cells and genetic markers in plasma. The genetic markers are studied under three major heads-
a) Red cells antigen: Blood group polymorphism
ABO system
MNS system
RH system
b) Haemoglobin
c) Enzymes

9. Dermatoglyphics
It is the study of the ridge pattern on the skin of fingers, palm, toes and soles. In 1888, Sir Francis Galton identified three types of finger pattern-
i. Whorl
ii. Loop–  a) Radial loop
b) Ulnar loop
iii. Arch– a) Plain arch
b) Tented arch
Sir Edward Richard Henry classified finger pattern into four types-
i. Whorl
ii. Loop
iii. Arch
iv. Compositesa) Central Pocket Loop
b) Lacteral loop
c) Twin loop
d) Accidentals(patternless)

Studies show that whorls are more common in Mongoloids than Caucasoid population. Loops are most frequently seen among the Caucasoids. Arches are most frequent in Negroids but also appear in small number among the Mongoloids. The palm is also studied and four main linesare obtained.

Blood group and dermatoglyphics are two vast topics and a brief description of these doesn’t suffice the value they put in racial classification and identification.

It is the contribution of criterias like those mentioned above that has helped us in the course of time to study and understand different population groups of the world. As time passed by, several methods and techniques were developed that helped us in better classification of races present in the world. Then in the year 1931, American anthropologist Earnest Albert Hooton divided the population of the world into three primary races- Caucasoid, Negroid and Mongoloid along with several secondary and sub-races. As a consequence, today, a large number of races and sub-races haves been identified.
Racial classification, is thus, made on the basis of certain genetic traits. Such types of traits are used in the classification of human races and are known as racial criteria.
Through these facts we get a clear picture of what a racial group is, the factors that led to their formation, how they got classified and the basis of their classification, in a nutshell. It is very clear that race is a biological phenomena not a social issue like racism, which is a myth.
We humans are weird beings. From radio to mobile phones, from bullock cart to aeroplanes, from pinnochio to robots, we have built every possible thing. Even the sky does not seem to be a limit. However, we haven’t been able to truly see inside ourselves.
Why is the only thing that we seem to be lacking in, is HUMANITY?

Article By:- Sabita Devi

Edited By:- Jagjeet Kaur

© Copyright Reserved Alysane Society
© Copyright Reserved Sabita Devi

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