Racism Facts
Racism Facts

51 Thought-provoking Race and Racism Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 20, 2016Updated October 4, 2019
  • The concept of race is a modern concept. In the ancient world, the Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims did not have racial categories. Rather people were divided according to religion, class, language, etc.[5]
  • Aristotle’s famous division between Greek and Barbarian was not based on race, but on those who organized themselves into community city-states and those who did not. The ancient Romans categorized people not on biological race or skin color, but on differing legal structures upon which they organized their lives.[9]
  • Most anthropologists and biologists view race as a political grouping with roots in slavery and colonialism. The number of races and who belongs in each race have shifted over time and nations—not because of responses to scientific advances in human biology, but rather in response to political purposes.[7]
  • Most genetic variety is not between races, but rather within races. For example, two random Italians are as likely to be as genetically different as an Italian and a Chinese.[9]
  • Evolution Race
    Most anthropologists and biologists believe categories of race are not biologically grounded because modern humans simply have not evolved into separate subspecies or races
  • While humans differ genetically in some ways, such as blood type and skin pigmentation, most anthropologists and biologists believe categories of race are not biologically grounded because modern humans simply have not evolved into separate subspecies or races.[9]
  • Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) tried to prove in the 19th century that select “races” were superior to others by measuring the cranial capacity (brain size) of different groups (“whites,” “American Indians,” “blacks”). He also argued that there were different origins and lineages for different races (polygenism), rather than a single creation (monogenism) as found in the Bible.[9]
  • In the medieval era, Muslims and Christians divided humans based on the categories of “believer” and “nonbeliever,” not on biological race. Additionally, the Jews based the differences between “goyim” (non-Jew) and “Jew” on faith rather than on biological differences.[9]
  • The 14th-century Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldun argued against the theory that physical characteristics reflected moral attributes. For example, he explained that dark skin developed because of the hot climate of Africa and not due to the curse of Ham.[5]
  • The U.S. Census Bureau defines race as a social category recognized by the United States and does not attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. The Census Bureau recognizes five categories of race: White (people with origins in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa,) Black or African American (Africa), American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. The census also includes an Hispanic ethnic category. It is an ethnic category rather than a race category because the Latino community includes many races, such as white, black, Native American, Asian, and mixed.[8]
  • Scientists project that in 1,000 years humans will still come in many different colors, though people in the city will have a more mixed skin color rather than strikingly dark or light skin.[9]
  • Race and ethnicity are different entities. While both are social constructs, race is associated with the idea that there are innate biological differences and has largely been discredited. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is associated with culture, religion, language, etc.[9]
  • Most people who identify themselves as African American in the United States have some European ancestors. Additionally, a large number of people who identify themselves as European American have some Native American or African ancestors.[9]
  • Hair and Racism
    In the early 20th century, some churches in the U.S. required a person to run a comb through their hair without it snagging before they could enter
  • In the early 20th century, some churches in the U.S. would hang a pinewood slab on the door with a comb hanging from a string. A person could enter only if his or her skin was lighter than the pinewood and if they could run the comb through their hair without it snagging.[5]
  • French physician Francois Bernier was the first to use the word “race” as a category for scientifically classifying humans in a 1684 essay titled “A New Division of the Earth, According to the Different Species or Races of Men Who Inhabit It.”[9]
  • Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), a Swedish botanist and physician, established the origin of the color scheme of races. Linnaeus divided Homo sapiens into four “natural” varieties: H. sapiens americanus, H. sapiens europeans, H. sapiens asiaticus, and H. sapiens afer, which were linked to the four known regions of the world: America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. He color coded the species red, white, yellow, and black, respectively, and assigned each a set of physical, personality, cultural, and social traits. He considered H. sapiens europeaus the ideal.[9]
  • Johan Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), a medical professor in Germany, argued that human beings fall into five races: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American, and Malay. He argued that Caucasians, who derived from the Caucasus Mountain region, embodied the ideal human from which the others “degenerated.” It was a popular belief that Caucasians were the ideal form based on a skull that had been found in the Caucasus Mountains, near the supposed location of Noah’s ark.[9]
  • Since the very first U.S. census in 1790, every U.S. census has sorted people by race. Since then, racial groupings have changed 24 times.[9]
  • According to the 2010 American census, white and Asian children had the lowest rates of poverty of any ethnic group. Blacks had the highest level of children living in poverty at 38.2%, children who were identified with two or more races were reported at 22.7%, and Hispanic children were reported at 32.3%.[3]
  • The gene that causes light skin color in Europeans is different from the gene that causes light skin color in East Asians, indicating that they evolved light skin separately. The allele associated with the light skin found in Europe originated fairly recently, approximately 6,000-10,000 years ago.[9]
  • The Human Genome Project, which mapped out the complete human genetic code, proved that race could not be identified in our genes. While scientists may use the idea of race to make practical distinctions among fluid sets of genetic traits, all people belong to the same hominid species, Homo sapiens sapiens (Latin for “wise man” or “knowing man”). In other words, biologically, there is one human race.[9]
  • Scientists believe that geography and ultraviolet rays cause variation in skin color, not race. Scientists believe that even though darker-skinned natives of Alaska and Canada live in northern regions with long periods of darkness, they receive higher levels of UVR reflected from the surface of snow and ice during the summer. Additionally, their diet is rich in vitamin D (from eating seal and fish), which compensates for the reduced sunshine in the winter.[9]
  • Skin Color Fact
    Scientists believe that geography and ultraviolet rays cause variation in skin color, not race

  • Some scholars believe the earliest use of the word “race” in the English language was in the 1508 poem by William Dunbar, a Scottish member of King James IV’s court who wrote the poem “The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins.” One of the verses described those who were “bakbyttaris of sindry races” or “backbiters of sundry races.” Dunbar most likely borrowed the term from the Spanish raza, which applied to breeds of horses and dogs.[9]
  • Traditionally the U.S. has followed the concept of hypodescent, or the rule that a child of a mixed race union is classified in the less privileged group.[9]
  • Before the African slave trade boom in the 18th century, between one-half and two-thirds of all early white immigrants to the American colonies were non-free laborers. Initially, European settlers in the colonies gave blacks from Africa and Native Americans the same status as white indentured servants. By the 1700s, however, Africans and their children were treated as a different race and were viewed as life-long properties of their masters.[9]
  • In 1662, Virginia outlawed interracial sex when the legislature amended its prohibition of all fornication to impose heavier penalties if the guilty parties were “negroes” and “Christians.” In 1691, Virginia made it illegal for a “negro,” mulatto, or “Indian” man to marry or “accompany” a white woman. Laws prohibiting mixed marriage in Virginia were in effect until 1967. South Carolina did not overturn its ban on interracial marriage until 1998, and even then 38% of voters opposed the referendum.[9]
  • In the early 1800s, blacks hoping to move to Ohio had to post a $500 bond guaranteeing their good behavior, and they were required to produce court documents proving they were free.[9]
  • Different nations assign race in different ways. In Japan and the U.S., race is fixed and assigned at birth. However, in Brazil, race is more fluid and is determined by a number of factors such as a person’s parents, a person’s phenotype, and a person’s socioeconomic status. In places like Brazil, a person’s race can change as they become wealthier or poorer.[9]
  • Between 1878 and 1952, state and federal judges issued 52 racial perquisite cases for citizenship in the U.S. In these cases, judges ruled that Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Afghanis, Native Americans, and anyone of mixed ancestries were not white. On the other hand, Arabs, Syrians, and Asian Indians were generally considered white.[9]
  • In the 1800s, Irish immigrants to the U.S. were considered to be closer to Africans than to the English. Italian newcomers were called Guineas, an epithet reserved for African Americans.[9]
  • African Americans/Blacks made up half of all new HIV diagnoses and slightly under half of all new AIDS diagnoses in 2009. In 2008, of all the people living with an HIV diagnosis in 40 U.S. states and five independent areas, 46% were African American/black, 31.6% were white, 20% were Hispanic/Latino, 1.3% were multiple races, 0.6% were Asian, 0.4% were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.04% were Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.[4]
  • Racial Term Fact
    The term “Arab” is not a racial term but rather a cultural and linguistic term that refers to those who speak Arabic as their first language
  • The term “Arab” is not a racial term but rather a cultural and linguistic term. It refers to those who speak Arabic as their first language. Arabs share a culture and history, but “Arabs” are not a race.[9]
  • According to a White House spokesperson, President Obama checked only the box for black/African American when he filled out the 2010 census.[9]
  • When darker Egyptian rulers were in power in ancient Egypt, they called the lighter-skinned group “the pale degraded race of Arvad.” However, when lighter-skinned Egyptians were in power, they labeled the darker people “the evil race of Ish.”[5]
  • A Harvard professor wrote four adamant letters in 1863 to Lincoln’s Civil War Commission asserting that incorporating blacks as equals in the reunited nation would contaminate the white race, both socially and biologically.[9]
  • At the end of the 19th century, American anthropologists used Darwin’s notion of survival of the fittest to justify the killing of American Indians and forced regression of blacks to servant class. In light of the survival of the fittest theory, it was also popular to believe that the “defective” bodies and minds of “savage races” would gradually lead to their own extinction.[9]
  • In the early 1900s, eugenists attempted to use IQ tests to prove that certain races were inherently more intelligent than other races. For example, they used tests to try to demonstrate that blacks and recent immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were intellectually inferior to Americans of Anglo Saxon or Scandinavian descent. By the 1940s, eugenics had been discredited both as bad science and as an excuse for racial hatred.[9]
  • In the early 1900s, the Racial Integrity Act in the United States required racial classification of every person at birth and made marriage between whites and anyone with even a trace of Negro ancestry a crime. It was motivated by concern that sexual intermingling between blacks and whites would deteriorate the white race.[9]
  • Thomas Jefferson was not only a political philosopher but also a naturalist. In one of his notes, he argued that black people were predisposed to sleeping more because their minds were empty: “An animal whose body is at rest and who does not reflect must be disposed to sleep, of course.”[9]
  • The infamous “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” launched by the U.S. Public Health Service in Macon County, Alabama, in 1932 was created to confirm the long held view that venereal diseases acted differently in blacks than in whites. The study is widely considered unethical, mainly because researchers knowingly did not treat patients with syphilis, even after penicillin was discovered to be an effective treatment. The study lasted 40 years, until 1972.[9]
  • The Institute of Medicine in 2002 scientifically documented widespread racial disparities in health care and suggested they stemmed at least partly from physician bias. In one generation, between 1940 and 1999, more than 4 million African Americans died prematurely relative to whites.[9]
  • After pornography, ancestry websites are the most commonly visited on the Internet. A molecular biologist from John Hopkins asserts that each one of us has around 6.7 billion relatives.[9]
  • Interracial marriage has been legal in the U.S. since 1967. In 2008, a record 14.6% of all first marriages in the U.S. were interracial marriages. Nine percent of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics, and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own. White men/Asian women pairings are the most common form of interracial dating and marriage in the U.S.[1]
  • A daughter born to an Irish mother and American Indian father in Maryland in 1680 was labeled a “mulatto” and sold into slavery.[6]
  • Baby Race Facts
    Research indicates that infants as young as six months old notice racial differences
  • Research indicates that infants as young as six months old notice differences in skin and hair colors.[7]
  • Statistics show that white wife/black husband marriages are twice as likely to end in divorce than white wife/white husband couples by the 10th year of marriage. However, a black wife/white husband marriage is 44% less likely to divorce than a white wife/white husband couple by the 10th year of marriage.[9]
  • In 2007, economists Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers argued that their research showed that National Basketball Association referees are more likely to call fouls on players of a different race than themselves.[7]
  • According to federal statistics, one in four students reports being a target of ethnic or racial bias in a typical school year.[7]
  • In California, 40% of African American men between 18-25 are either in jail, on parole, or on probation.[7]
  • Sociologists Simon Cheng and Brian Powell found that parents in biracial families typically devote more time and money to enrolling their kids in activities, such as music lessons and museum trips—not necessarily because they have more money, but most likely to compensate for their marginalized social status.[7]
  • California was the first state to ban the use of race and ethnicity in public university admissions. However, now that affirmative action is banned (Proposition 209), Asian American students have dominated admissions. At UC Berkeley, for example, 46% of those admitted into the 2012 freshman class are Asian; 30% are white.[2]
  • The majority of interracial romantic relationships are among college students. African-American college students tend to disapprove of interracial dating more so than white college students.[10]

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