Race mixture: a social or a biological problem?

Race mixture: a social or a biological problem?

The Eugenics Review
Volume 41, Number 2 (July 1949)
pages 81-85

A. Dickinson

The ideas of the layman on race are curiously distorted. Race is commonly identified with a given language or culture, with a group living in a common habitat or possessing a single characteristic feature such as pigmentation. Men stubbornly cling to concepts of racial purity and elaborate these into theories of racial superiority or inferiority. Needless to say, this human weakness is often attended by dire results in a world in which people of differing physical traits are being herded ever more closely together as the barriers of distance are gradually broken down…

…Prevalence of Hybridization

Yet objective investigation on scientific lines clearly shows that only the broadest classification is possible in respect of physical traits, a classification which reduces the teeming millions of the world, and the multitude of self-styled races into which they divide themselves, into perhaps no more than five main groups. Likewise empirical proof has been given that intra-racial variability often exceeds inter-racial variability in respect of measurable physical traits…

…We speak in general terms. It is impossible to do more by way of an introduction to a study of race mixture, but it is clear from the foregoing generalizations that concepts of racial purity are largely invalid and that the psychic homogeneity of the human species is much greater than is commonly supposed. It is also evident that differences in language and culture are by no means coincident with differences in physical traits. A rational approach to the question is needed-one which dispenses with what can only be the dead-weight of national ideologies and which acknowledges that an excessive degree af miscegenation must have taken place over thousands of years to account for the present day distribution of physical traits and the variability about a norm which obtains in even the most race-conscious of societies. Given the psychological abhorrence of race mixture which persists as a corollary of untenable theories of racial purity, we must endeavour to assess in quantitative and qualitative terms the indisputable fact of race mixture as it exists in the world to-day…

…Social Aspects of Hybridization

This of course throws into high relief the psychological and social aspects of the question. A strong psychological prejudice against race mixture will inevitably result in the concept of hybrid inferiority. This in turn will often prevent hybrids from revealing their true potentialities. Widely regarded as social outcasts they will find it well-nigh impossible to rise to the position in society which might well be their due. As a consequence their minds will become warped and their personalities stunted. It is not surprising that hybrids, particularly those living alongside their progenitors, commonly reveal a minimum of ability, marked indolence and an astonishing proclivity towards moral laxity. Yet the condition of such people can hardly be attributed to biological factors. Rather is it due to their lack of opportunity in a society which is at once prejudiced and highly irrational in outlook. In the words of Young, ” the social behaviour of hybrids is best considered as a reflection of their cultural milieu than as resulting from biological sources.” Castle, too, makes the same point by contrasting the crossbreeding of black and white and red and white in the United States. The blacks and the mulattoes are visited with strong social disapprobation, their opportunities for advancement are limited, their numbers decrease and, if the mulatto compares favourably with his black progenitors, it is only because in the past the whites, his blood relations, have shown at least a modicum of compassion for their unfortunate offspring, whereas the lot of the pure-blooded Negro has always been an unfortunate one in the land of his enslavement. That the mulattoes will not stand comparison with the whites goes without saying. But their plight should be contrasted with that of the Indian hybrids in whose case there is no strong social prejudice. It should be borne in mind how well they thrive, how they are assimilated back into the white population, how they frequently attain positions of considerable authority and responsibility to which they are fully equal. Here the difference in the results between the aforementioned crossings are not referable to any biological harmony or disharmony, but wholly to the social attitude adopted by the whites, favourable in one case, unfavourable in the other…

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