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Pet Sins October 2009

Do apeish features characterize a 'lower race'? Double standards in 'identifying' simian features in humans

Unfortunately, stereotypes that link people of subSaharan African descent with simian behavior and/or appearance have persisted into the 21st century, as evidenced by news stories such as Spain Fights Soccer Racism Against Black Players : NPR, which describes bananas being throw at black players, and Carter disappointed by Banana prank (TSN), in which Russian spectators threw bananas at a black NHL player.

In the United States, political correctness prevents the majority of people from stating their prejudices out loud, but recent immigrants may be less in touch with the climate. I once overheard a Chinese man from Taiwan saying that blacks looked like gorillas. According to acquaintances, this man was extremely prejudiced againt blacks and viewed them as a lower race. He also hated South Asians and Mexicans and adored the appearance of whites.

But do subSaharan Africans really possess simian traits in their apperance? And even if they do, are subSaharan Africans the only people with simian physical traits? Steven Peck, in his Atlas of the Human Anatomy for Artists, points out that BOTH whites and blacks have simian facial characteristics, and in fact whites have some apeish traits that most blacks do NOT have: "The whites tend, instead, to preserve the bold brow ridges, the thin lips, and the hairiness of the animal prototype - traits that are less evident in most blacks."

But most of the people out there who mock the allegedly simian facial features of blacks don't point out other simian facial features on whites. The issue is not whether modern humans have simian traits, but rather, why simian traits are pointed out for some 'races' but not for others. Peck states in Atlas of the Human Anatomy for Artists:

"Some millions of years ago, Man branched off from a stock of anthropoid primates and began his long journey into the Present. If this journey had taken place on a single highway of development, we should be tempted to explain racial differences figuratively in terms of 'distance traveled.' And this would tempt us further to chart the races of mankind as shading from apishness to non-apishness.

As a matter of fact, many people do have this idea of a one-way progression upward from the primitive form. Yet it is no more possible to show a single contiuity of human races than to show a single continuity for the many breeds of dogs.

Let us rather consider the journey of mankind as a radiating movement on several roadways at once... All races have been evolving - losing certain simian features while preserving others. But they have not been obliged to lose or preserve the same features... It is not so much a matter of which race has evolved the most, as of whose lips and whose brow ridges or whose hair is most evolved."

So it would seem from the above that subSaharan African physical features, as far as lips, brow ridges, and hair are concerned, have evolved the furthest away from the 'simian prototype', if there is even such a thing, while the same features in whites have remained closer to that of gorillas.