Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Colour Terminology For Race

Here's a brief history of colour coding racial groups over the centuries culled from Wikipedia.


Color terminology for race

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In some societies and among some anthropologists, color terminology (or colour terminology) was used to label races, sometimes in addition to a non-color term for the same race. Identifying races in terms of their skin color has been common since at least the Physiognomica falsely attributed to Aristotle.
Other scientists were more cautious about such categorization, and Charles Darwin argued that the number of categories, or in this case the number of different colors, is completely arbitrary and subjective. For example, some claimed three distinct colors, some four, and others have claimed even more. In contrast, Darwin argued that there are gradations, or degrees between the numbers of categories claimed, and not distinct categories, or colors.[1]

Western classifications

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

One of the earlier uses of the concept of “black” as a metaphor for race was first used at the end of the 17th century when a French doctor named François Bernier (1625–1688), an early proponent of scientific racism, divided up humanity based on facial appearance and body type. He proposed four categories: Europeans, Far Easterners, Lapps, and Blacks.[2] The first major scientific model was created in 18th century when Carolus Linnaeus recognized four main races: Europeanus which he labeled the white race, Asiatic, which he labeled the yellow race, Americanus, which he labeled the red race, and Africanus, which he labeled the black race.[3] By adding the brown race, which he called "Malay" for Polynesians, Melanesians of Pacific Islands, and aborigines of Australia,[4] Linnaeus' protégé, anthropology founder Johann Friedrich Blumenbach(1752–1840), came up with the five color typology for humans: white people (theCaucasian or white race), more or less black people (the Ethiopian or black race), yellow people (the Mongolian or yellow race), cinnamon-brown or flame colored people (theAmerican or red race) and brown people (the Malay or brown race). Blumenbach listed the "races" in a hierarchic order of physical similarities: Caucasian, followed byAmerican, followed by Mongolian, followed by Malayan, followed by EthiopianRand McNally's 1944 map of races describes Amerindians as being the copper race or copper people.[5]

According to conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza, "Blumenbach's classification had a lasting influence in part because his categories neatly broke down into familiar tones and colors: white, black, yellow, red, and brown."[7][8]

[edit]Different races

Two historical anthropologists favored a binary racial classification system that divided people into a light skin and dark skin categories. 18th century anthropologist Christoph Meiners, who first defined the Caucasian race, posited a "binary racial scheme" of two races with the Caucasian whose racial purity was exemplified by the "venerated... ancient Germans", although he considered some Europeans as impure "dirty whites"; and "Mongolians", who consisted of everyone else.[9] Meiners did not include the Jews as Caucasians and ascribed them a "permanently degenerate nature".[10] Hannah Franzieka identified 19th c. writers who believed in the "Caucasian hypothesis" and noted that "Jean-Julien Virey and Louis Antoine Desmoulines were well-known supports of the idea that Europeans came from Mount Caucasus."[11] In his political history of racial identity, Bruce Baum wrote,"Jean-Joseph Virey (1774-1847), a follower of Chistoph Meiners, claimed that "the human races... may divided... into those who are fair and white and those who are dark or black."[12] Later, another binary racial classification system took hold de facto in the United States based on light skin people and dark skin or black people. According to Stephen Saris, in the United States there are two big racial divides. "First, there is the black-white kind, which is basically anti-black.". The second racial divide is the one is "between whites and everyone else" with whites being "narrowly construed" and everyone else being called "people of color".[13]

[edit]Understanding of melanin

Racial classification according to skin color became more complex when anthropologists added other, less obvious characteristics, in their attempt to achieve a scientific classification of races. It was later found that skin color depended essentially from the amount of melanin, and could vary widely in the same community. Thus, it could not provide a satisfying way to classify ethnic groups, much less "races." Following World War II and the discredit of such racial classifications, more and more biologists and anthropologists began to question the concept itself of "race." Thus, The Race Question statement by the UNESCO, in the 1950s, proposed to substitute the term "ethnic groups" to the concept of "race," arguing that human communities were defined as much by cultural traits (language, religion, etc.) as by biological characteristics (skin color being only one of them, along with blood types, which did not recover previous racial classifications, etc.).

[edit]Symbolism and uses of color terminology

The Martinique-born French Frantz Fanon and African-American writers Langston Hughes ("That Word Black"), Maya Angelou, and Ralph Ellison, among others, wrote that negative symbolisms surrounding the word "black" outnumber positive ones. They argued that the good vs. bad dualism associated with white and black unconsciously frameprejudiced colloquialisms. In the 1970s the term black replaced Negro in the United States.[14]

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