When we seek to categorize people, we must at all times ensure that in categorizing them we do not deprive them of their humanity. We ought to be clear about why we're categorizing people in the first place, and I think that if the reason is not to empower them but to dismiss or discriminate against them, then we are better off not categorizing them at all. Even so, we ought to be mindful of the intellectual baggage that we bring from discredited nomenclature, and we ought to try to keep our usage consistent with the most current thinking in science.
There's a really helpful discussion of the history of race as a concept here
which should be read alongside the current guidelines for using 'race' as a concept in Nature Genetics
Key sentences:Thus, populations are never 'pure' in a genetic sense, and definite boundaries between individuals or populations (e.g., 'races') will be necessarily somewhat inaccurate and arbitrary.
and Modern human genetics can deliver the salutary message that human populations share most of their genetic variation and that there is no scientific support for the concept that human populations are discrete, nonoverlapping entities. Furthermore, by offering the means to assess disease-related variation at the individual level, new genetic technologies may eventually render race largely irrelevant in the clinical setting.
So much for the science. If we don't keep this in mind, it's too easy to end up with ugly crap like this:
JakebensonI don't even consider people from Spain, Italy, or Greek to be "white" yet they are European.
From genetics, there is no "European" race; there is no genetic basis for a "Caucasian" race or even really a "white" race. And why do you care?
The problem really for me is that the notion of race is so strongly tied to the discredited rhetoric of colonialism. Examine this typical example from the Victorian era, and of all places a children's novel. Truly chilling stuff:We've got an island all to ourselves. We'll take possession in the name of the king; we'll go and enter the service of its black inhabitants. Of course we'll rise, naturally, to the top of affairs. White men always do in savage countries.
---- R M Ballantyne, The Coral Island
The bottom line is: race as a social concept these days boils down to "I look different from him". Like d'uh! Do we need to self-express this in terms of an outdated colonialist rhetoric with no real genetic basis? At the end of the day, we're all human.... and we have many differences more relevant and interesting than "race".