Is 'race' a cultural or biological term?

Where did all the different colors of people come from?

Paintings of men of various races

Melanin is a brownish black pigment (coloring) found in the skin of people.  Albinos have no melanin due to a mutation, which does not allow them to produce any. Your skin color is determined by how much melanin you have in your skin.  Very dark-skinned people have a lot of melanin; light-skinned people have very little.  Genes that govern its production determine the amount of melanin you have in your skin. Therefore, there is really only one color (melanin) of people; different people just have different amounts. 

But why are there so many different shades of skin color all over the world?  Wouldn’t it take millions of years to produce such large populations of dark-skinned people?  Actually, the reverse is true.  What is seen with skin color is explained clearly with the Biblical model.  Noah was probably middle brown in color and he and his wife had the genetic variability in their genes to produce all the shades we see today.  By the time of the Tower of Babel there were a great variety of skin colors in the population.

With the dispersion from the Tower of Babel an instantaneous barrier of certain people groups was created.  If a particular group was isolated that did not have the genetic ability to produce very dark skin and there were only light-skinned people to marry then it would produce a population of only light-skinned people.  Likewise, for dark-skinned and mid-brown people groups.  In other words, it would not take long at all to produce a large population of people with the same color of skin due to the dispersion from the Tower of Babel.  Also, with the language barrier that existed, the people groups probably did not intermingle much and large groups of people the same color (shades of color) developed.

On the other hand, if it were true that man has been around for about a million years then we wouldn’t expect such isolated groups of people.  Surely in that length of time all types of people with all types of skin color would coexist.  You would not expect such large differences in the color of people groups.

I was talking to a pastor about his church and asked, “Why are there not more Afro-American people in this church?”  He proceeded to explain to me that black people are descendent from Ham and they are cursed and we should not associate with them.  Well, as they say in the South when they want to be blunt, “Let me lay the hay down where the goats can get it:” This teaching is wrong.  Ham was not cursed; his son Canaan was cursed (Genesis 9:18,25;10:6). This is not taught anywhere in the Bible.  This belief has been the justification for slavery and other non-Biblical racist attitudes.

Some also falsely teach that black people are black because of the curse of Ham. It is traditionally believed that the descendants of Ham settled in Africa because the Cushites (Cush was Ham’s son) were thought to live in what we know today as Ethiopia.  Ham also had two other sons Mizraim and Put.  We cannot say dogmatically what the skin color was of any of these people because the Bible and extrabiblical history does not tell us.  As we have seen before, skin color is genetically produced and dark-skinned people most likely got that way because of dispersion and isolation, and not a curse.  Black skin color is never called a curse in the Bible. 

Acts 17:26 says that we are all of “one blood.”  This means that we are all descendants of one man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).  Therefore, no matter what the color of our skin, we are all related.  We all have the same sin problem and we all need to be saved from the punishment of that sin.  If we do not agree that we are all related because we all go back to one man, Adam, then why should the gospel be preached to all  nations?

Notice how I have not referred to different-colored people as races.  I agree with the scientist Robert Lee Hotz at the Advancement of Science Convention in Atlanta who said, “Race is a social construct that derived mainly from perceptions conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality.”  I also agree that the term “race” should be abandoned.  The ABC News science page in September 1998 said, “More and more scientists find that the differences that set us apart are cultural, not racial.  Some even say that word ‘race’ should be abandoned because it’s meaningless.”

I will discuss the word race and the affects that Darwinism has had on fostering racism next time.

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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen