Brown (racial classification)

Brown or brown people is a racial and ethnic term. Like black people and white people, it is a metaphor for race based solely on human skin color. In racialist ideas, the color brown and the term brown people were used to describe a series of hypothesized racial groups that included North Africans, people from the Horn of Africa, West Asians, South Asians, Central Asians, Southeast Asians, Eskimos, Native Americans, and Latin Americans.[1] In Brazil, brown people is a term for pardo.

Racialist models

In the 18th and 19th century, racialist written works proposed geographically based "scientific" differences among "the races." Many of these racial models assigned colors to the groups described, and some included a "brown race" as in the following:

These and other racialist theories have been dismissed scientifically. As a 2012 human biology textbook observes, "These claims of race-based taxonomy, including Coon's claims for homo-sapienation, have been discredited by paleontological and genomic research showing the antiquity of modern human origins, as well as the essential genomic African nature of all living human beings."[9]


In the 19th century, the notion of a single "brown people" was sometimes superseded by multiple "brown peoples." Cust mentions Grammar in 1852 denying that there was one single "brown race", but in fact several races speaking distinct languages.[10] The 1858 Cyclopaedia of India and of eastern and southern Asia[11] notes that Keane was dividing the "brown people" into quaternion: a western branch that he termed the Malay, a north-western group that he termed the Micronesian, and the peoples of the eastern archipelagos that he termed the Maori and the Polynesian.

Ethnic and racial identifier

The appellation "brown people" has been applied in the 20th and 21st centuries to several groups. Edward Telles, a sociologist of race and ethnicity, and Jack Forbes[12] both argue that this classification is biologically invalid. However, as Telles notes, it is still of sociological significance. Irrespective of the actual biological differences amongst humans, and of the actual complexities of human skin coloration, people nonetheless self-identify as "brown" and identify other groups of people as "brown", using characteristics that include skin color, hair strength, language, and culture, in order to classify them.

Forbes remarks upon a process of "lumping", whereby characteristics other than skin color, such as hair color or curliness, act as "triggers" for color categories "even when it may not be appropriate."[12][13]

Ethnicity in South Africa

In 1950s (and later) South Africa the "brown people" were the Coloureds, referring to those born of multiracial sexual unions out of wedlock. They were distinct from the Reheboth Basters inhabiting Namibia, who were primarily of Khoisan and European parentage. The Afrikaans terms, which incorporate many subtleties of heritage, political agenda, and identity, are "bruin" ("brown"), "bruines" ("browns"), and "bruinmense" ("brown people"). Some South Africans prefer the appellation "bruinmense" to "Colored".[14][15]

The South African pencil test was one example of a characteristic other than skin color being used as a determiner. The pencil test, which distinguished either "black" from "Colored" or "Colored" from "white", relied upon curliness and strength of hair (i.e. whether it was capable of retaining a pencil under its own strength) rather than upon any color factor at all. The pencil test could "trump skin color".[16][17]

Steve Biko, in his trial in 1976, rejected the appellation "brown people" when it was put to him incorrectly by Judge Boshoff:[18]

Boshoff: But now why do you refer to you people as blacks? Why not brown people? I mean you people are more brown than black.
Biko: In the same way as I think white people are more pink and yellow and pale than white.
Boshoff: Quite ... but now why do you not use the word brown then?
Biko: No, I think really, historically, we have been defined as black people, and when we reject the term non-white and take upon ourselves the right to call ourselves what we think we are, we have got available in front of us a whole number of alternatives ... and we choose this one precisely because we feel it is most accommodating.

Penelope Oakes[18] characterizes Biko's argument as picking "black" over "brown" because for Biko it is "the most valid, meaningful and appropriate representation, even though in an individualistic decontextualized sense it might appear wrong" (Oakes' emphasis).

This contrasts with Piet Uithalder, fictional protagonist of the satirical column "Straatpraatjes" (whose actual author was never revealed but who is believed to have been Abdullah Abdurahman) that appeared in the Dutch-Afrikaans section of the newspaper APO between May 1909 and February 1922. Uithalder would self-identify as a Colored person, with the column targeted at a Colored readership, introducing himself as "een van de ras" ("a member of the race") and characterizing himself as a "bruine mens".[14]

Pardos in Brazil

In popular use, Brazilians also use a category of moreno m. [moˈɾenu], morena f. [moˈɾenɐ], lit. 'swarthy', from mouro, Portuguese for 'Moor', which were perceived as people with darker phenotypes than Indigenous Europeans, so a moreno or morena is a person with a "Moorish" phenotype), which is extremely ambiguous, as it can mean "dark-haired people", but is also used as a euphemism for pardo, and even "Black". In a 1995 survey, 32% of the population self-identified as moreno, with a further 6% self-identifying as moreno claro ("light moreno"). 7% self-identified as "pardo".[13]

A comprehensive study presented by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research found that on average, 'white' Brazilians have >70% European genomic ancestry, whereas 'black' Brazilians have 37.1% European genomic ancestry. It concluded that "The high ancestral variability observed in Whites and Blacks suggests that each Brazilian has a singular and quite individual proportion of European, African and Amerindian ancestry in his/her mosaic genomes. Thus, the only possible basis to deal with genetic variation in Brazilians is not by considering them as members of color groups, but on a person-by-person basis, as 190 million human beings,with singular genome and life histories".[19]

Hispanics in the United States

Judith Ortiz Cofer notes that appellation varies according to geographical location, observing that in Puerto Rico she is considered to be a white person, but in the United States she is considered to be a "brown person."[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b Stoddard, Lothrop (1920). The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy. Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. ^ Jane Desmond (2001). Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World. University of Chicago Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-226-14376-7.
  3. ^ John G. Jackson (1938). Ethiopia and the Origin of Civilization: A Critical Review of the Evidence of Archaeology,... New York, N.Y.: The Blyden Society.
  4. ^ Bernasconi, Robert. Race Blackwell Publishing: Boston, 2001. ISBN 0-631-20783-X
  5. ^ Joseph-Anténor Firmin and Antenor Firmin (2002). The Equality of the Human Races. Asselin Charles (translator) and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (contributor). University of Illinois Press. p. 17. ISBN 0-252-07102-6.
  6. ^ Mackenzie, Donald A. Myths of Babylonia and Assyria Montana:Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-4179-7643-8
  7. ^ "Early Classification of Nature". Understanding Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  8. ^ A. H. Keane, A. Hingston Quiggin, A. C. Haddon (2011). Man: Past and Present. Cambridge University Press. p. 478. ISBN 0521234107.
  9. ^ Cameron, Noel; Barry Bogin (2012-06-08). Human Growth and Development. Academic Press. ISBN 9780123838827.
  10. ^ Robert Needham Cust (1878). A Sketch of the Modern Languages of the East Indies. Trübner & co. p. 13.
  11. ^ Edward Balfour (1976). The Encyclopaedia Asiatica, Comprising Indian Subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Asia. Cosmo Publications. p. 315.
  12. ^ a b Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
  13. ^ a b Edward Eric Telles (2004). "Racial Classification". Race in Another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. Princeton University Press. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0-691-11866-3.
  14. ^ a b Mohamed Adhikari (2005). Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Colored Community. Ohio University Press. pp. 26, 163–169. ISBN 0-89680-244-2.
  15. ^ Gerald L. Stone (2002). "The lexicon and sociolinguistic codes of the working-class Afrikaans-speaking Cape Peninsula colored community". In Rajend Mesthrie. Language in South Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 394. ISBN 0-521-53383-X.
  16. ^ David Houze (2006). Twilight People: From Mississippi to South Africa and Back. University of California Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-520-24398-6.
  17. ^ Birgit Brander Rasmussen (2001). The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness. Duke University Press. p. 133. ISBN 0-8223-2740-6.
  18. ^ a b Penelope Oakes (1996). "The Categorization Process: Cognition and the Group in the Social Psychology of Stereotyping". In W. P. (William Peter) Robinson and Henri Tajfel. Social Groups and Identities: developing the legacy of Henri Tajfe. Routledge. ISBN 0-7506-3083-3.
  19. ^ "Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research – DNA tests probe the genomic ancestry of Brazilians". Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  20. ^ Pauline T. Newton (2005). "An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer". Transcultural Women Of Late-Twentieth-Century U.S. American Literature. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 161. ISBN 0-7546-5212-2.

Further reading

  • Alexander Winchell (1890). "XX. Genealogy of the Brown Races". Preadamites: Or, A Demonstration of the Existence of Men Before Adam. S. C. Griggs and company. xvii et seq.
Dark skin

Dark skin is a naturally occurring human skin color that is rich in eumelanin pigments and having a brown color. People with very dark skin are often referred to as black, although this usage can be ambiguous in some countries where it is also used to specifically refer to different ethnic groups or populations.The evolution of dark skin is believed to have begun around 1.2 million years ago, in light-skinned early hominid species after they moved from the equatorial rainforest to the sunny savannas. In the heat of the savannas, better cooling mechanisms were required, which were achieved through the loss of body hair and development of more efficient perspiration. The loss of body hair led to the development of dark skin pigmentation, which acted as a mechanism of natural selection against folate depletion, and to a lesser extent, DNA damage. The primary factor contributing to the evolution of dark skin pigmentation was the breakdown of folate in reaction to ultraviolet radiation; the relationship between folate breakdown induced by ultraviolet radiation and reduced fitness as a failure of normal embryogenesis and spermatogenesis led to the selection of dark skin pigmentation. By the time modern Homo sapiens evolved, all humans were dark-skinned.Humans with dark skin pigmentation have skin naturally rich in melanin (especially eumelanin), and have more melanosomes which provide a superior protection against the deleterious effects of ultraviolet radiation. This helps the body to retain its folate reserves and protects against damage to the DNA.Dark-skinned people who live in high latitudes with mild sunlight are at an increased risk – especially in the winter – of vitamin D deficiency. As a consequence of vitamin D deficiency, they are at a higher risk of developing rickets, and numerous types of cancers, and possibly cardiovascular disease and low immune system activity. However, some recent studies have questioned if the thresholds indicating Vitamin D deficiency in light-skinned individuals are relevant for dark-skinned individuals, as they found that, on average, dark-skinned individuals have higher bone density and lower risk of fractures than lighter-skinned individuals with the same levels of Vitamin D. This is attributed as, possibly, due to lower presence of Vitamin D binding agents (and thus higher bioavailability) in dark-skinned individuals.The global distribution of generally dark-skinned populations is strongly correlated with the high ultraviolet radiation levels of the regions inhabited by them. These populations, almost-exclusively, live near the equator, in tropical areas with intense sunlight: Australia, Melanesia, New Guinea, South Asia and, Africa. Studies into these populations indicates dark skin is a retention of the pre-existing high UV adapted state of modern humans before the out of Africa migration and not a later evolutionary adaptation. Due to mass migration and increased mobility of people between geographical regions in the recent past, dark-skinned populations today are found all over the world.

Ethnic groups in Asia

The ancestral population of modern Asian people has its origins in the two primary prehistoric settlement centers - greater Southwest Asia and from the Mongolian plateau towards Northern China.

Migrations of distinct ethnolinguistic groups have probably occurred as early as 10,000 years ago. However, about 2.000 BCE early Iranian speaking people and Indo-Aryans have arrived in Iran and northern India. Pressed by the Mongols, Turkic peoples subsequently migrated to the western and northern regions of the Central Asian plains. Prehistoric migrants from South China and Southeast Asia seem to have populated East Asia, Korea and Japan in several waves, where they gradually replaced indigenous people, such as the Ainu, who are of uncertain origin. Austroasiatic and Austronesian people establish in Southeast Asia between 5.000 and 2.000 BCE, partly merging with, but eventually displacing the indigenous Australo-Melanesians.In terms of Asian people, there is an abundance of ethnic groups in Asia, with adaptations to the climate zones of the continent, which include Arctic, subarctic, temperate, subtropical or tropical, as well as extensive desert regions in Central and Western Asia. The ethnic groups have adapted to mountains, deserts, grasslands, and forests, while on the coasts of Asia, resident ethnic groups have adopted various methods of harvest and transport. The types of diversity in Asia are cultural, religious, economic and historical.

Some groups are primarily hunter-gatherers, whereas others practice transhumance (nomadic lifestyle), have been agrarian for millennia, or have adopted an industrial or urban lifestyle. Some groups or countries in Asia are completely urban (e.g., Qatar and Singapore); the largest countries in Asia with regard to population are the People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Iran, Thailand, Burma, and South Korea. Colonisation of Asian ethnic groups and states by European peoples began in the 16th century, reaching its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (except in the former Soviet Union, which was dissolved in 1991).

List of ethnic groups of Africa

The ethnic groups of Africa number in the thousands, with each population generally having its own language (or dialect of a language) and culture. The ethnolinguistic groups include various Afroasiatic, Khoisan, Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan populations.

The official population count of the various ethnic groups in Africa is highly uncertain, both due to limited infrastructure to perform censuses and due to the rapid population growth. There have also been accusations of deliberate misreporting in order to give selected ethnicities numerical superiority (as in the case of Nigeria's Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo people).A 2009 genetic clustering study, which genotyped 1327 polymorphic markers in various African populations, identified six ancestral clusters. The clustering corresponded closely with ethnicity, culture and language. A 2018 whole genome sequencing study of the world's populations observed similar clusters among the populations in Africa. At K=9, distinct ancestral components defined the Afrosiatic-speaking populations inhabiting North Africa and Northeast Africa; the Nilo-Saharan-speaking populations in Northeast Africa and East Africa; the Ari populations in Northeast Africa; the Niger-Congo-speaking populations in West-Central Africa, West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa; the Pygmy populations in Central Africa; and the Khoisan populations in Southern Africa.


Mestizo (; Spanish: [mesˈti(θ/s)o]) is a term traditionally used in Spain, Latin America and the Philippines that originally referred to a person of combined European and Native American descent, regardless of where the person was born. The term was used as an ethnic/racial category in the casta system that was in use during the Spanish Empire's control of its American and Asian colonies. Nowadays though, particularly in Spanish America, mestizo has become more of a cultural term, with culturally mainstream Latin Americans regarded or termed as mestizos regardless of their actual ancestry and with the term Indian being reserved exclusively for people who have maintained a separate indigenous ethnic identity, language, tribal affiliation, etc. Consequently, today, the vast majority of Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are regarded as mestizos.The term mestizaje – taking as its root mestizo or mixed – is the Spanish word for miscegenation, the general process of mixing ancestries.

To avoid confusion with the original usage of the term mestizo, mixed people started to be referred to collectively as castas. In some Latin American countries, such as Mexico, the concept of the mestizo became central to the formation of a new independent identity that was neither wholly Spanish nor wholly indigenous, and the word mestizo acquired its current meaning, it being used by the government to refer to all Mexicans who do not speak indigenous languages, including people of complete European or indigenous descent as well as Asians and Africans.In colonial Venezuela, pardo was more commonly used instead of mestizo. Pardo means being mixed without specifying which mixture; it was used to describe anyone born in the Americas whose ancestry was a mixture of European, Amerindian and black African.In the Spanish system of racial hierarchy, the sistema de castas, mestizos/pardos, who formed the majority, had fewer rights than the minority elite European-born persons called peninsulares, and the minority white colonial-born whites criollo, but more rights than the now-minority indio, negro, mulato and zambo populations.

The Portuguese cognate, mestiço, historically referred to any mixture of Portuguese and local populations in the Portuguese colonies. In colonial Brazil most of the non-slave population was initially mestiço de indio, i.e. mixed white and native Brazilian. There was no descent-based casta system, and children of upper class white landlord males and female slaves would enjoy privileges higher than the ones given to the lower classes, such as formal education, though such cases were not so common and they tended to not inherit property, generally given to the children of free women, who tended to be legitimate offspring in cases of concubinage (also a common practice, inherited from Amerindian and African customs). In Portuguese India also, the mixed population was known as mestiços and the local Indian Christians as indiacatos.

In the Philippines, which was a colony of Spain, the term mestizo came to refer to a Filipino with any foreign ancestry, especially white, and usually shortened as Tisoy.

In Indonesia, the term mestizo refers to ethnicity which is a mixture of Europeans and native Indonesians. They are called as Indo people.

In Canada, the Métis people is a distinct community composed of the descendants of Europeans (usually French, sometimes Scottish or English) involved in the fur trade and North American Indigenous peoples of what is now Western Canada.

In Saint Barthélemy, the term mestizo refers to people of mixed European (usually French) and East Asian ancestry.

Olive skin

Olive skin is a human skin color spectrum. It is often associated with pigmentation in the Type III to Type IV and Type V ranges of the Fitzpatrick scale. It generally refers to light or moderate brown, brownish, or tannish skin, and it is often described as having yellowish, greenish, or golden undertones.People with olive skin can sometimes become more pale if their sun exposure is limited. Lighter olive skin tans more easily than does fair skin, and generally still retains notable yellow or greenish undertones.

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