The study of racial mixture in the British Commonwealth: Some anthropological preliminaries

The study of racial mixture in the British Commonwealth: Some anthropological preliminaries

Eugenics Review
Volume 32, Number 4 (January 1941)
pages 114-120

K. L. Little
The Duckworth Laboratory
University Museum of Ethnology, Cambridge

In a recently published and noteworthy symposium entitled “Race Relations and the Race Problem,” eleven prominent American writers reviewed the sociological implications of racial contacts on the American continent, with special reference to problems arising out of the very large racial minority in the U.S.A. of some 13 million American Negroes. One of these authors, Professor S. J. Holmes, has pointed out elsewhere that there are three racial possibilities in view for the United States. The entire population may become “white”; it may become “black”; or “whites” and “blacks” may fuse together into a hybrid stock. This last possibility seems to be fairly well substantiated by the anthropometric material collected by Professor Melville J. Herskovits, who in his turn attributes the rise and growth of this new hybrid “race” to the effect of social selection.

Although the interest shown in North America to problems of racial relations in particular, and to human genetics in general, as proved by the articles in such journals as the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, is readily understandable, it stands out in very sharp relief to the lukewarm attention afforded to such matters in the countries which compose the British Commonwealth. The latter empire comprises practically speaking members of every major and minor race group in the world, and so contains the elements of most possible forms of human miscegenation, yet official information regarding the actual racial compositions of these populations is often very incomplete, and particularly so in the colonial areas where it would be most interesting. Nor, anthropologically speaking, can much of the semi-official data, as displayed, for example, in such books of reference as the Encyclopaedia Britannica by the use of phrases as “the higher-type races,” “black low type,” etc., be considered more satisfactory. The fact, however, that nothing like a complete anthropometric survey has yet been instituted even in this country, may help to explain, though not to condone, the lack of more exact information elsewhere…

…How Will Racial Relations be Affected in the Future?

In sociological science it is no more than a truism to state that the structure of no society is static. This would be clear even if the disruptions achieved by such forces as war did not make the presence of the dynamic factors which are continuously changing and modifying institutions and traditions even more obvious. It may, therefore, be thought unquestionable that present forms of racial or social segregations will undergo corresponding alteration, becoming either more elastic or more rigid in the process. In the former event then not only will the racial composition of populations change considerably, but many new “racial” populations will emerge. In this light, then, eugenic considerations involve not only the forms of racial hybridization at present in force, but the far wider possibilities of the future; since it is but reasonable to suppose that in human genetics no less than elsewhere, the biological results become more diverse as new and additional factors are added. Moreover, specific as well as general consideration seems all the more necessary, when it is remembered that answers stlll to be provided for certain ambiguously interpretable phenomena are in a sense but the preface to wider fields…

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