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Sarah Aezer

POLS 2070-001

Mixed Blood Abstract

The article, Mixed Blood written by Jeffrey M. Fish in the November-

December 1995 issue of Psychology Today, explores cultural differences in

classification of race. The article begins by explaining that psychologists in America

have been questioning whether or not race and IQ test results are correlated.

Essentially, psychologists are curious if a persons race determines their

intelligence. Fish states that there is no such thing as different races of people and

goes on to support this statement with scientific evidence.

American social scientists and the general American public do not fully

understand the causes of differences in physical appearance in human beings. They

tend to try to classify people as one of three races: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and

Negroid. Fish explains that human beings are all of the same species and that we

have evolved from the same form of earlier life in the same place: Africa.

He goes on to describe the different ways in which human beings came to

have physical variances in appearance. The causes of differences in human

appearance, he says, are mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Fish gives

examples of the ways in which mutation and natural selection helped humans

survive in different climates. For example, in colder darker climates, people

developed light skin that maximized absorption of vitamin D. In hot climates,

humans evolved to have tall thin bodies to maximize surface area and keep
themselves cool. Geographic separation of human beings will create differences in

the frequency of specific genes. Fish illuminates how groups of the exact same

species can evolve to possess innumerable physical traits in order to survive in

innumerable climates. Now that humans arent separated geographically, genes

occur more frequently and have little to do with climate. Some humans will have

light skin and curly hair; some humans will have an extra fold on their eyelid and

also have dark skin. Astonishingly, American culture ignores even a basic

understanding of evolution and focuses rather on classification based on only a

small handful of physical traits.

How is it then that American culture in general comes to see people as

classifiable in 3 races? For that answer, Fish compares and contrasts how Brazilians

classify physical traits into race. He first describes a phenomenon that happens in

America known as hypo-descent. Hypo-decent allows cultural racial biases

determine ones race. If a person has a black parent and a white parent, they are

considered to be black because their blood is tainted by blackness. In the concept of

hypo-descent, a persons race is determined by their culturally least desirable traits.

In Brazil, ones physical traits are broken down into many more factors and humans

are classified into many more racial groups than just 3. Because there are so many

groups, Fish chooses to describe the way in which only one city, Salvador, classifies

tipos, or types of people. For example, louras are straight blonde haired, light

skinned, light eyed, narrow nosed, thin lipped. Brancas are similar to louras except

they may have any color of straight hair, and any color of eye. In Brazil, races are

determined by much more subtle variances in physical traits.

The ways in which Americans and Brazilians determine race are just a small

example of how people are classified all over the world. Fishs most important

message can be described by his avocado anecdote. Americans consider an avocado

to be a vegetable, Brazilians eat avocado as a fruit. Whether you eat a vegetable

avocado in the United States or put it on a plane and eat a fruit avocado in Brazil, it

is still an avocado. Fish argues that examining IQ scores, or anything else for that

matter, based on race is flawed. Racial classification happens in every culture and

affects people greatly, but scientifically speaking, Fish makes clear that race is a