Race (human categorization)

A race is a categorization of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into groups generally viewed as distinct within a given society.[1] The term was first used to refer to speakers of a common language, and then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century, the term began to refer to physical (phenotypical) traits. Modern science regards race as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society.[2][3] While partly based on physical similarities within groups, race does not have an inherent physical or biological meaning.[1][4][5] The concept of race is foundational to racism, the belief that humans can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another.

Social conceptions and groupings of races have varied over time, often involving folk taxonomies that define essential types of individuals based on perceived traits.[6] Today, scientists consider such biological essentialism obsolete,[7] and generally discourage racial explanations for collective differentiation in both physical and behavioral traits.[8][9][10][11][12]

Even though there is a broad scientific agreement that essentialist and typological conceptions of race are untenable,[13][14][15][16][17][18] scientists around the world continue to conceptualize race in widely differing ways.[19] While some researchers continue to use the concept of race to make distinctions among fuzzy sets of traits or observable differences in behavior, others in the scientific community suggest that the idea of race is inherently naive[8] or simplistic.[20] Still others argue that, among humans, race has no taxonomic significance because all living humans belong to the same subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens.[21][22]

Since the second half of the 20th century, the association of race with the discredited theories of scientific racism has contributed to race becoming increasingly seen as a largely pseudoscientific system of classification. Although still used in general contexts, race has often been replaced by less ambiguous and loaded terms: populations, people(s), ethnic groups, or communities, depending on context.[23][24]

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