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Race and Ethnicity - and Inequality

By Susan Thomas

The notion of ‘Race’ dates back to the study of 18th century anthropologists and philosophers while focusing on geographical location and phenotypic traits like skin colour to categorize people in different regions. This study did not only form the notion of separate race but also emphasized thatthe differences have biological basis. This inaccurate study led to the belief that some races had superiority over others. It established the process of exploitation by white Europeansfor generations all over the globe,resulting in slavery and colonialism.

Even in the present notion of race, there is an irrational belief to look at race through the lens of skin colour, hair texture, have genetic backing which somehow explains the differences in the races. But in the long term of scientific evaluation throughout the decades, scientists have found that the word ‘Race’ is a myth.

In 2003, scientists accomplished the ‘Human Genome Project’ which led them to understand human ancestry with the help of genetics. So, in this case, the ‘Actual Gene Variation’ phenomena tells us that the biological definition of the notion of ‘race’ cannot be described due to genetic variation amongst individuals or populations. So while talking in terms of variations, the differences in genes could be smaller in different regions or it could be massive in a single region. All because of how human population create cluster in different geographical areas. Hence, we cannot find any uniformity in a particular ‘race’.

Although, categorizing people into different races, mainly sticking to continental differences such as African, European, Asian, Oceania and Native American, helped scientists to find differences. But if 1000 people are taken from so called recognized ‘races’ of modern humans, we can find a different variations in each group as there are no genes unique to a specific so called ‘race’.

India’s genetic history is quite the amalgamation of complex and varied combinations of populations. The question pertaining to race is often associated with caste system but it is quite far away from truth. The Indian land has witnessed constant gradation with extreme vibrant cultures. According to Tony Joseph Indians are a mix of First Indians, Iranian agriculturalists, south-east Asians and pastoralists from the central Asian Steppe.

A study which was led by David Reich (geneticist) - The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asialaid out some foundational arguments. In his study which was co-authored by 92 other Geneticists showed that there were 2 major migrations to India in the last 10,000 years. (a) One section migration from Zagros in south-western Iran (between 7,000 and 3,000BCE) (b) 2nd set came from the Eurasian Steppe from a region now known as Kazakhstan (after 2000 BCE, primarily indicated as the Aryans).The other set of migrants came from the Southern-East Asia known as the speakers of Austro-Asiatic languages.

Most of the researcher, scientists, fundamentalists, all have been in search of a mythical uniform identity that India has never been. In most of the historical and scientific findings, India is best described as a biryani or a pizza, where the land forms the base and the genetic identity is seen as the spectrum of flavor that an individual can’t even begin to taste. For generations, the motherland (India) has been under immense pressure because of various factions waging wars and trials in the human society to grab the land as their own. The hunger to establish and monopolize a chunk of land through ingenuine indoctrination of facts and studies to institute insidious propaganda has been at the expense of the weak and marginalized.

Ethnicity according to the Oxford Dictionary - The fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition. As discussed above, India is a conglomeration of various groups, right from the middle-east to the east-Asian regions which resulted in diverse ethnic divisions in groups, constantly adapting and introducing their native traditions in India.

There are 7 major categories researched and studied by Colonial Indian researchers and much to their advantage to segregate and manipulate.

It is important to note that India has been and will always be a land open to ideas, cultures and different ways of life if there is a fundamental understanding of differences. Differences shouldn’t be the seen as hindrances to growth and legitimacy but a way to embrace the roots filled with moral values and a whole eco-system of belief.

Photos by

Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash


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