Will “Americans” and “Europeans” ever become identifiable races?

Race is real and not just an imagined construct of modern times. Even two thousand years ago (about 100 generations) races were recognised and used as a classification. They were somewhat different to those recognised today – but not so very different. In the main, racial attribution followed known or assumed tribal affiliations and visible physical characteristics. Even in Roman times, members of the Celtic tribes and the Germanic tribes and Egyptians and Greeks and Africans were all depicted as differing in physical characteristics and of being of different races. Whether among the various European tribes or the 12 tribes of Israel or the castes established in India, parentage and ancestry manifested as visible, physical characteristics were – and still are – used in race classifications. It is virtually certain that the races that existed 2,000 years before the heyday of the Roman Empire were different again. If 5,000 years ago the Harappans were a race, their genes are now spread all over the sub-continent and they are are no longer identifiable.

Though classification of a race is by the visible attributes it is inevitable that they are accompanied by non-visible attributes. The non-visible attributes may show up as the ability to tolerate high altitude, or the aptitude for long distance running, or for sprinting, or for diving. They may include resistance to some diseases and a propensity for others. The non-visible attributes could include any characteristic dependant upon genetics. And even if politically incorrect to say so, it could include the genetic components of intelligence. Insofar as behaviour is determined genetically, a race may have characteristic behaviours.

  1. Race is a system of classification of humans by clustering their visible, physical attributes. The classification is real but is not static. It is dynamic in that the clustering may change over long time periods (hundreds of generations) as mixing or non-mixing between the clusters occurs. (One hundred generations would need about 2,000 years).
  2. Visible physical attributes are primarily determined by parentage and thus by ancestry and thus by genetics.
  3. Racial classification is therefore a genetic classification but sorted by visible characteristics.
  4. Differences in the visible attributes between clusters are emphasised when the clusters are genetically isolated from each other. Geographic isolation contributes but the critical point is genetic isolation.
  5. A particular race cluster persists only if breeding is constrained to be within and among members of the cluster.

Race is classification by snapshot – a current clustering by physical attributes. The clustering will change slowly over tens of generations but at every time, a snapshot of the current races will exist.

Great Britain has been a melting pot of peoples mainly from across Europe for 2,000 years. But the British “race” is still in flux. The US is often considered a melting pot for the blending of genes and it would then make sense for the gradual emergence of an “American” race. With the surge of emigration into Europe and the decline in fertility of the “native Europeans”, a gradual emergence of a “European” race would also seem probable. However the tendency of immigrant groups to marry among themselves and isolate their particular gene pools, works strongly against the emergence of new races.

If continuous, steady, immigration becomes the new normal and immigrant groups keep to themselves, it may never happen. If it does, I expect it will take more than a thousand years (50 generations) before the world sees an identifiable American or a European race.

But a thousand years hence there will still be clustering of peoples by visible, physical attributes and identification of peoples by the races of the day.

Skin colour is by far the most visible and thus the obvious attribute that is first used as a sorting criterion for race classification. I suspect that skin colour would dominate as the sorting criterion even if some race had some very significant, but less visible difference, such as – say – an extra finger.


Related:

The changing colours of the world’s population


 

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