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Race and Racism

  • By: Sean M. Crotty
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Race is a marker of difference among humans based on physical features such as skin color or hair color/texture. Historically, race was treated as a biological or “scientific” method of human classification, in which racial “groups” were defined by the presence or absence of particular inheritable traits. This argument was tied to failed theories such as social Darwinism—which applied Darwinian notions of competition among species to competition within the human population—and environmental determinism, which argued that particular social traits were inherent to people living in particular places due to the environmental and climactic characteristics of each place. These theories were developed during the colonial era and were used by those in power to rationalize the exploitation or extermination of particular “racial” groups. The scientific ...

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