The scientific truth of the matter is that culture influences physical type far more than physical type influences culture.
Full recognition of this is all the more cogent since so much of the discussion concerning the relation between race and culture sees the problem as the determination of the degree to which race is the instrumental in shaping the culture of a people and does not consider at all the influence of culture on physical type.
Thus, we meet with the first of the several determinisms of which we take account in studying culture.
Herskovits argues at length the problem of racism. In fact, according to him, there is politicization of racism. In its extreme form racism is observed in the racial doctrines of Nazism, which maintained the existence of a so-called ‘Aryan race’, a kind of mystic grouping superior to all others, and, for political reasons, another presumed ‘racial’ entity, the Jews, who were singled out for special indignities.
In scientific terms, neither the word ‘Aryan’ nor the term ‘Jew’ has any scientific validity as a racial designation. Aryan is the name of the language from which most European tongues have been derived. Supporting this point F. Muller, who he was a philologist, observed:
There is no more an Aryan race than there is a dolichocephalic (longheaded) dictionary. As for the term Jew, its meaning, except when it is applied as a name symbol for a group called Jews, who possess in common a certain historic continuity, is extremely tenuous. No traits have been distinguished that characterize the Jews as such everywhere they are found.
A rich store of evidence, on the other hand, demonstrates that the Jews of a given region resemble the general population of the region they inhabit. The difference between the Jews of Germany and France, for example, is about that between the other elements in these two countries.
If we take into consideration the observations of Herskovits and Muller, it would be clear that there is no causal relationship between race and culture. Racism, according to these authors, is the workmanship of politicians. In empirical terms no race is superior to other races.
Despite these observations, Kroeber very rightly says that there is a definite relationship between biological and cultural factors.
Further, he very categorically says that “the performance of group in any field of life is the product of two sets of factors, biological and cultural, both of which are variable and usually not readily separable”. Kroeber has yet another explanation for racism. Besides being political, racism is also derived from emotions. These emotions are justified by reasons.
There are some races in the world which have established the superiority of one race over the other. It is argued that a particular race has some physical traits which put it higher than other races. Kroeber has made a strong intellectual argument to resolve the relationship between race and racism.
Actually, at this stage of our discussion it is difficult to speak of one race as doing superior to other. We cannot state that the physical characteristics of a race endow it with superior cultural traits. Kroeber writes:
It is doubtful whether as yet it is valid to speak of one race as physically higher or more advanced, or less human and less brutish, than another. This is not an outright denial of the possibility of such differential ratings: it is a denial only of the belief that such differentials have been established.
After the First World War, the theory of racism developed in Europe and the US. The arguments which constitute the doctrine of racism are as under:
(1) Racism is the distorted form of racial characteristics.
(2) It is the politicization and emotionalization of the members of a particular race.
(3) The doctrine of racism is explained by historical method.
(4) The instances and data provided by the advocates of racism are untrue and false.
(5) Racism argues that some races are superior to others.
(6) The origin of the doctrine of racism goes back to European feudalism and colonialism. The feudal lords argued that they were created by God to rule over others.
This doctrine was supported by colonial rulers. They argued as in the case of India and South Africa that they were meant for subordinating the people. Since they were the rulers, their race was also superior. In short, racism gets its validity from feudalism and colonial regime.
The apartheid policy practised by the whites in South Africa is a good illustration of racial domination. The Britishers in India echoed the same argument that it is only the English who know how to rule. It is in their blood.
Actually, racism is nothing but a distortion of scientific truth for ulterior ends. To fulfill the interests of a nation, a wrong correlation has been established by saying that inherited genetic differences are a major factor in producing the differences between the cultures and cultural achievements of different peoples and groups.
It does indicate, on the contrary, that a major factor in explaining such differences is the cultural experience which each group has undergone.
The UNESCO expert team, constituted in 1951, made the following recommendations with regard to races and racism:
(1) All human beings are created out of Homo sapiens. Their ancestors are one and one only.
(2) The physical differences that we find in human beings are essentially hereditary. These differences are basically genetic. These are observable due to processes of mutation, natural selection, genetic drift and population mixture.
(3) Race is nothing but a method of human classification.
(4) Nation, religion, culture, language are not races. They are aspects of our culture bank.
(5) Intelligence is not the creation of a race. It is achieved.
(6) No race is superior or inferior.
(7) No race today is pure. A lot of admixture has taken place.
(8) All human beings are equal and they have equal access to law.