The Explanation Of Sexual Relations Between White, And Slave Sally Hemings

1788 Words 8 Pages
All modern humans are classified under the species Homo sapiens, yet cultural values inform us to perceive races as somewhat distinct subspecies. Race has deep seated ties to human history, as seen with the atrocities of colonialism and with racial purification plans exemplified in the Holocaust. While there are vast differences in human biological variation, from skin color to hair color to physical features, genetics has shown that there is actually more variation within a specific race than between them. Why then do humans so readily seek to define differences between each other? Through historical as well as contemporary examples, this essay seeks to explore the cultural, historical, and biological notions behind the classification of race. …show more content…
One of the most widely published and questioned examples of this is the case of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. While there has been some debate regarding the true nature of the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings, most historians do agree that there was a sexual component. Hemings had five surviving children in her life, and DNA studies conducted in 1998 almost confirm that Jefferson was the father of her children. This complicates the understanding of what race means in the context of American history. Thomas Jefferson is one of America’s founding fathers, a great pillar for which we support the collective American identity. One commentator states in Peter Nicolaisen’s article, “‘Black Americans are not only integral to the American experience, we are also in the family,’” while another one adds, “‘…if we can accept that, like the progeny of Jefferson, we may all be cousins, then maybe there’s hope for an end to racism,” (Nicolaisen). The phrase “we may all be cousins” resonates back to the evidence that there is only 6% of genetic difference between the races, and that the majority of variation exists within racial groups. It should not matter that Thomas Jefferson fathered children who could be deemed interracial, except that the culture of Virginia and America as a whole instructs that this violates human homogeny. This shows how race …show more content…
These racial groups were all constructed by white men who had the power to dictate such things. Looking back even to Linnaeus, there was a drive to use race as a construct to subvert populations that were not homogenous to the European norm. In our modern world, there are still ramifications of these classifications which were instilled centuries ago. Biological variation exists because of numerous factors such as geography, population genetics, and chance mutations within an environment. However, one “race” variation does not rank superior to another in terms of being any more human. Human cultures are the ones that have marked race as an “othering” category, ostracizing some while treating others with privilege. The subjectivity of how certain cultures inform individuals about biological variation has shown to be somewhat absurd, and is no more helpful than the Romans saying that certain groups have eyes in their

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