Short Essay on Racial Classification

As every human being has a large number of physical features or traits, what we are required is to determine how much weight is attached to these traits. We give below some of the basic traits which are employed for race classification:

(i) Stature or Bodily Height:

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Each race has its minimum, maximum or average height. Experience ha* shown that stature has relatively lesser value for classification. Ex­cept for a few groups which are numerically insignificant, there is no human race that averages less than 4 feet 11 inches in height for men.

There is none that averages taller than 5 feet 10 inches. This means that practically the whole range of human variability in height falls within a foot.

It is also said that stature is much influenced by environment. Each of us is a fraction of an inch taller in the morning than when he goes(s to bed at night. The standard of living also affects stature. Better- off classes is taller than the poorer classes.

(ii) Cephalic Index:

This is expressed in terms of the ratio of the length of the head to its breadth. It has certain practical advantages. First, the head measure­ments are easily made with accuracy. Second, the cephalic index is nearly the same on the living head and on the dead skull. Third, the index makes it possible to compare present and past generations. Fourth, it is the same for men, women, children and adults. And fi­nally, it is little affected by environment.

However, for racial classification, the index does not yield any broad results. It is often useful in distinguishing sub-types, nation from nation or tribe from tribe; but it is not uniform for the primary races. In other words, there is no typical cephalic index for the Caucasoid race.

(iii) Nasal Index:

This gives the percentage relation of breadth and length of nose. It runs constant in all the three races. In other words, all Negroids are broad-nosed.

Practically, all Caucasoids are narrow-nosed; and the ma­jority of Mongolians have a medium nose. Nasal index varies according to the age of the person; it is utterly different in a living in­dividual and a skull. It is because of this that lesser importance is attached to this index.

(iv) Prognathism:

This is the degree of the protrusion of the jaws. It is the conspicuous feature of human beings. It indicates the historical and primitive im­portance of men. It has a general correlation with the fundamental social types. For instance, all the Negroes are prognathous, Mon­golians are moderately so and Caucasians slightly so. What is important is that prognathism is difficult to measure or specify in fig­ures.

(v) Capacity of the Skull:

This is not a dependable trait for racial classification. There is much overlapping between races in the realm of cranial capacity. Further­more, the measurement obviously cannot be taken on the living, except by computation estimates based on diameters. In spite of its in­terest, the usefulness of cranial capacity is of restricted value in distinguishing races.

(vi) Texture of the Hair:

For racial classification this feature is perhaps most significant. Hair is distinguished as wooly in the Negro, straight in Mongolian and wavy or intermediate in the Caucasion. Hair texture seems to run rather strongly along the hereditary racial lines. It is not influenced by age, sex, climate or nourishment.

(vii) Hairiness:

Physical anthropologists consider hairiness of the body to be a reliable source of determining race. The baldness or fullness of the head and the degree of development of the chin which covers beards and the body are the most striking manifestation of a race.

Caucasians are defi­nitely a hairy race, whereas Mongoloids and most Negroids are smooth-skinned. It is largely on the basis of their hairiness and hair texture that the races like the Australoids have been separated from the Negroids, and the Ainus from the Japanese.

It is strange to find that baldness occurs most frequently in association which heavy beards and body hair, in line with which fact women are rarely bald.

(viii) Colour:

Colour is another dependable trait of race determination. It includes the complexion of the skin, the colour of the hair, and the colour of the eyes. All of these are due to varying amounts of the same pigment called melanin. It is found that the environment affects skin colour markedly.

A day’s exposure to the sun may darken an individual’s complexion by several shades. In spite of these drawbacks, however, complexion remains sufficiently important to warrant consideration in every classification.

However, it must be said that hair colour and eye colour are prac­tically immune against direct change by environment. They are without doubt excellent hereditary criteria, although they offer much the same resistance to measurement as does complexion.

The utility of these two traits in race determination is limited by another factor. Blue eyes and blond hair are racially characteristics of only a single major sub-race, that from Northern Europe. Outside of the Caucasian stock, virtually, black hair and black eyes are the universal norms for human races.

(ix) Lip Formation:

There are some other minor characteristics or traits which help us identify a race. Among these are included lips, ears and other such things. Physical anthropologists interestingly associate lip with primitiveness. For instance, it is said that the Apes have thin lips. However, Negroes have the least Ape-like lips. Similarly, the Causasoids and Ne­groids also do not have thin lips. Ears are also not considered as dependable indicators of a race.

(x) Blood Groups:

There are four types of blood: A, B, AB, and O (and many sub-divi­sions of these). These provide emphatic confirmation of the unity of mankind. “It is an erroneous conception that blood is the factor that distinguishes one race from another. It was Hitler who said that only the Aryans have the pure blood.

In reality blood is so similar that transfusions can take place between compatible blood groups in differ­ent races and lives can be saved, provided, the type taken from the donor is compatible with that of the recipient.

It must be stressed here that blood groups are no criteria for race classification. It is the creation of some anthropologists with vested in­terests. As a matter of fact, in the Caucasoid and Mongoloid races, we find an almost equal correlation of blood types.

For instance, on a pro­portionate basis, there are very few people in each race who have blood group O. The same can be said about the other three major blood groups.