A new study shows that physical characteristics such as skin or hair color don’t necessarily reveal a person’s race. People who appear white may genetically be mainly African, while people who look black may genetically be European or Amerindian.

“There is wide agreement among anthropologists and human geneticists that, from a biological standpoint, human races do not exist,” says researcher Sergio Pena. “Yet races do exist as social constructs.”

Much of the research was done in Brazil, where the population comes from three separate ethnic groups: the original Amerindians, Europeans, and Africans. These groups have inter-married and inter-bred, yet some Brazilians are regarded as white, others as black.

The researchers compared 173 Brazilians who appear white, black, or in-between, based on skin color, hair color, and nose and lip shape with 200 men living in major metropolitan areas who seem to be white. The results showed that even the “white” people had about 33% of genes that were of Amerindian ancestry and 28% African, probably because European men often fathered children with black and Indian women.

“It is interesting to note that the group of individuals classified as blacks had a very high proportion of non-African ancestry (48%),” the researchers report. “Our study makes clear the hazards of equating color or race with geographical ancestry and using interchangeably terms such as white, Caucasian and European on one hand, and black, Negro or African on the other, as is often done in scientific and medical literature.”

Lots of us dream about a world where race doesn?t matter. What are your dreams? Find out how to interpret them from Sarv Bluestone this Saturday on Dreamland and in The World Dream Book.

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