Biological Anthropologists Often Examine Anth 001
Prompt 1: Race
Sandra Laing was born in 1955 in South Africa during apartheid. Both of Sandra’s parents were considered “white” and looked white in appearance, but Sandra was classified as “colored” due to her darker skin complexion and her hair texture. Sandra’s parents considered her white and treated her the same as her white-appearing brothers (that’s what they claim, at least). But, the Laing family was puzzled. How could two people have a daughter that looks completely different from them?
Three generations of Sandra’s family members were regarded as white, but, at the time, many families did not know about the effects of gene flow between Dutch settlers and South Africans that occurred during early colonization periods. Many families who considered themselves purely white were not, in reality.
At 10, Sandra was expelled from her all-white school because they wanted to classify her as “colored.” Authorities used tests such as the pencil test to determine racial status. During this test, a pencil would be pushed through the individual’s hair. A person would only be classified as white if the pencil fell out. During apartheid, laws prohibited people of different races living together. If family members ended up categorized as a different race, family members would be forcibly taken away from their families. The Laing family ended up fighting several lengthy legal battles to have her classified as white. Paternity tests indicated that she was their biological daughter.
Sandra faced many difficulties throughout her life. She was shunned from everyone around her because she didn’t fit neatly into one category. When she married a black South African, her parents felt betrayed and disowned her completely. Sandra’s brothers still refuse to talk to her. When she had children (who were classified as colored), police attempted to take them away due to laws that white parents could not raise colored children. The children were taken away, and the couple ended up divorcing. Sandra later remarried, had more children, and was able to reclaim her children that were taken away.
Wayne Joseph is a principal of a high school in southern California who took a genetic test to determine how much of his ancestry was African. He had always identified as Black, and felt connected to his culture and identity. When he received his tests back, they revealed he was 57% Indo-European, 39% Native American, 4% East Asian, and 0% African. His family in Louisiana had always been identified as “colored” due to their appearance, even though they, unknowingly, did not have African ancestry.
“I kiddingly say, if I was 21 instead of 50, I’d be in therapy,” Joseph says, “because when you define yourself one way and then at 50, there are results that say you’re something else, it does rock your whole world.”
Biological anthropologists often examine human diversity from evolutionary and genetic perspectives, and the concept of race is a fascinating topic to explore. We should certainly seek to celebrate diversity and cultural heritage. Both of these cases, however, reveal issues that occur with attempting to classify individuals based on racial categorizations.
Q: Do you believe race is a biological or social construct? How so?
Answer about 8 sentences
And comment on 2 other students posts for about 5 sentences each.
The two students responses for comment are coming tomorrow.
You can give the main response first.