June 15, 2020
Kenyon has announced plans to resume in-person instruction for fall semester. Read more here.
Race is a human creation that has become so well established that it seems natural. It is a categorical approach to describing the continuous and complex variations in human physical differences, treating certain arbitrarily chosen physical features as diagnostic of what are presumed to be fixed and meaningful racial taxa.
It has been known for close to a century that races have no biological reality. There is as much or more genetic variation within a supposed race as there is between members of these categories. As much as races are not biologically real, they are socially very powerful. That is because race was never just a means of understanding relations among people. Race was created with the intent of demeaning and disparaging the vast majority of the world’s populations. This was accomplished by classifying them in ways that explicitly ranked races by their imagined degrees of intellectual and cultural inferiority when compared to the supposed superiority of whites, especially middle class white males. This too is a lie, but a powerful one. By classifying people of color as less intelligent, less able, and less human than whites, members of those categories were exploited to the point where some could be treated as property.
Race, therefore, is a biological illusion designed to serve the interests of the powerful by classifying the majority as expendable.
Kenyon College Department of Anthropology