To conclude, utilizing the term races to describe human biological variation is not accurate or productive. Using a select few hundred genetic loci, or perhaps a number of phenotypic traits, it may be possible to assign individuals to a geographic ancestry, but what constitutes a bounded genetic or geographical grouping is both arbitrary and potentially harmful owing to ethical and historical reasons. The discipline of biological anthropology has moved past typological frameworks that shoehorn continuously variable human populations into discrete and socially constructed subsets. Improvements in the number of markers, the genetic technologies used to study variation, and the number of worldwide populations sampled have led to more nuanced understandings of human variation. It is of utmost importance that scientists make the following points clear to the public:
Taken together, genetic analyses of human variation do not support 20th-century (or even-earlier) concepts of race. In discussions about human variation, these genomic results help clarify how biological variation is distributed across the human population today. Taking care to think about and debate the nature of human variation is important, because although the effects and events that produced genetic differences among groups occurred in the ancient past, sociocultural concepts about race and ethnicity continue to have real social, economic, and political consequences.
Beyond talking about variation in the university setting, it is important that teachers, researchers, and students of anthropology recognize and assume the responsibility of influencing public perspectives of human variation. Race-based classification systems were developed during the colonial era, the transatlantic trafficking of kidnapped Africans and the so-called “Scientific Revolution” by the first “anthropologists” and scholars of humankind’s variation. Unfortunately, some of their early ideas have persisted and evolved into present-day lived realities. Some of today’s politicians and socioeconomic bodies have racially charged agendas that promote racism or certain kinds of economic or racial inequalities. As anthropologists, we must acknowledge that while human “races” are not a biological reality, their status as a (misguided) social construction does have real consequences for many people (Antrosio 2011).
In other words, while “race” is a sociocultural invention, the treatment different individuals receive due to their perceived “race” can have significant financial, emotional, sociopolitical, and physiological costs. However—and importantly assuming a “color-blind” position when it comes to the topics of “race” and ethnicity (especially in political discussions) is actually counterproductive, because the negative social consequences of modern “race” ideas could be ignored, making it harder to examine and address instances of discrimination properly (Wise 2010). Rather than shy away from these topics, we can use our scientific findings to establish socially relevant and biologically accurate ideas concerning human diversity. Today, research into genetic and phenotypic differentiation among and within various human populations continues to expand in its scope, its technological capabilities, its sample sizes, and its ethical concerns. It is thanks to such scientific work done in the past few decades that we now have a deeper understanding not only of how humans vary but also of how we are biologically a rather homogenous, intermixing world population.