I was talking about a speculative new race of humans that could be created with genetic engineering and several people told me that race does not exist and is a social construct. I get what they are saying but I also read many times over the years that different groups of humans all have slight genetic differences even though we are all the same species. Racism in the world usually relies on aesthetic traits, e.g. different skin color, facial features, hair. Those things seem trivial, but I would think that phenotypes would definitely be a big thing in our genomes. Therefore, why cannot race exist?

Also, while applying for jobs, hirers always ask for my ethnic background. The options are White/Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Hawaiian, and Indigenous American or Alaska Native. First off, I think not separating Pacific Islanders with East Asian and South Asian is a big mistake. There is a huge difference in Asian and Indian culture, and I think they should have their own box. The same goes for Middle Eastern or Arabic, as I feel their culture is significantly unique as well.

Lastly, isn’t Hawaiian an ethnic background and determinate by geographical location not genetics?

This post is totally open-minded, and I have ZERO beliefs that any “race” is superior.

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    $\begingroup$ This here states that there is more variation within a "race" than there are between two different races. scienceandsociety.duke.edu/does-race-exist I'm guessing what it is referring to is that what we can see is only a very small contributor to the overall genetic variation. But what is specifically referred to in the article is there is a gradual spectrum between every "race" based on geographical proximity rather than clear delineations. Sort of like colours. We say red and green are separate colours in regular speak, but if you look they are not distinct groupings. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Jan 29 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ It's not that race cannot exist theoretically, it's that is doesn't exist empirically among the lines drawn for humans as a socially-imposed phenotypic construct. In non-human animals and plants we might refer to "subspecies" as biologically legitimate groupings. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 29 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ what makes you think a unique culture would be genetic and not say a unique combination of environment and history. Also cultures are not as different as you think, agricultural cultures are very similar compared to everything out there. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 30 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ I think your friends are misunderstanding social constructionism and race theory. Countries are social constructs, but that doesn't mean that Italy doesn't exist. Money is a social construct, but good luck telling your landlord that it doesn't exist. Also, most US employers follow the federal government's five categories for data on race, so the one should read "Pacific islanders or Native Hawaiian." White and Asian folks living in Hawaii mostly know not to refer to themselves as Hawaiian in any context, even if they were born there and spent their whole lives there. $\endgroup$
    – MikeyC
    Commented Jan 31 at 22:10

2 Answers 2


Definitions of race as we normally use it varies greatly from culture to culture, ones based on actual Biology don't match our preconceived ideas.

You could break humans into races, but if you do based on any kind of biological grounds, it can't be by the superficial things we traditionally use.

The biggest problem with race is if you split humans into races, everything 'not an African native' is one race. Or hundreds of native African races before the Norse and the Mayan are not the same race.

Almost all of human genetic diversity is inside Africa and that is for a species that has very little genetic diversity. one subspecies of chimp has more genetic diversity than all of humanity. A Norwegian native and an Australian native are more similar genetically than the Berber and Bantu two different native African lineages.


On top of that there is more diversity within populations than between them because of how low the genetic diversity is. Only around 6% of human genetic diversity falls along classical racial lines, meaning they are superficial differences not representative of deep relationships. Humans almost went extinct at one point, and we are all the descendants of likely less than a thousand survivors, so we are all super related. and most of our differences are small changes since that point.

enter image description here

Skin color is useless, since it is a superficial adaptation to latitude. Native skin color correlates really well with yearly UV levels, and the adaptation happens fairly fast. thanks to 'Cheddar Man' we know the British people of 10000 years ago had black skin.

Skin Colour:

enter image description here

UV levels:

enter image description here


John's answer is the correct one about race, and this answer makes no attempt to address the biology.

However, to address why you only get those options in you questionnaires, it is because you are apparently in, or applying for jobs in, the USA, as that is really the only country that might be interested in Alaskan Natives and Hawaiians.

There are reasons beyond race for such questions.

These groups are the ones specifically addressed in the law that was passed by executive order on the 25th of June 2021 in the USA, and are also ones included in things like Census questionnaires. You can read the full text of the executive order here. The order is titled

Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce

and begins:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 1104, 3301, and 3302 of title 5, United States Code, and in order to strengthen the Federal workforce by promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, it is hereby ordered as follows:

The definitions section mentions the groups (note the similarity to your list), including whole groups whom you definitely couldn't term races. You should also note the wording - it specifically does not ask about race, rather about communities (emphasis in quote is mine), so this isn't a "race" driven question you are seeing in your applications, as you noted, but perhaps not realized, when you inquired about Hawaiian in the question:

In the context of the Federal workforce, this term includes individuals who belong to communities of color, such as Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, Native American, Alaska Native and Indigenous, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and North African persons. It also includes individuals who belong to communities that face discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity (including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, and non-binary (LGBTQ+) persons); persons who face discrimination based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions; parents; and caregivers. It also includes individuals who belong to communities that face discrimination based on their religion or disability; first-generation professionals or first-generation college students; individuals with limited English proficiency; immigrants; individuals who belong to communities that may face employment barriers based on older age or former incarceration; persons who live in rural areas; veterans and military spouses; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty, discrimination, or inequality. Individuals may belong to more than one underserved community and face intersecting barriers.

Now, I am aware that this is titled for the "Federal Workplace" meaning that you might think it only applies to those organizations that are federal. In fact, I believe that this would apply to any organization that has federal funding, which includes a huge range of organizations, any of whom can get federal grants - all would need to comply with this law. This includes private businesses, research organizations, hospitals, charities; in fact just about any employer you can think of.

  • $\begingroup$ These categories were absolutely not laid out in an executive order in 2021 $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 30 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause See the large quote in the middle and reproduced here: Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, Native American, Alaska Native and Indigenous, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and North African persons That's pretty similar to the list in the question. The link provided is even whitehouse.gov... $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Commented Jan 30 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ These are standard US census categories. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 30 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause Yes, but they wouldn't be asked about in job questionnaires if there wasn't someone looking for them and having to fill diversity measures. The point of my answer (and perhaps I should make this more clear in there) that there are reasons besides race for asking these questions.' $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Commented Jan 30 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ Also, Federal employees are only US Federal Government employees. Contractors aren't federal employees; my salary is paid by a federal grant but I'm a state employee in the state that my university is in, etc. This is all quite off-topic for Biology and perhaps belongs in Politics. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 30 at 3:59

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