Humans are a "species". Within a "species", there are "races". This ought to be agreed on as a basic, fundamental understanding of this reality. However, I keep hearing people say "the human race" all the time.

Now, I'm sure some of them have an agenda to push this bizarre idea that there is no such thing as human races, and others follow them without thinking about it, but I don't understand what the point is since you then need another word to refer to the different "sub-groups" of humans anyway. Usually, they "solve" this by using the synonym-ish word "ethnicity", but the sole reason for this seems to be to avoid the word "race", likely because they associate it with "racist", which is another concept which has also been warped completely.

Cats and dogs cannot have offspring with each other, because they are different species. However, different races or breeds of dogs (or cats) can have offspring, because they are still of the same species. (I've never heard "breeds" used for humans, and I bet it would sound even more offensive than "race" to the people who do this...)

It seems impossible to bring this up without having people assume (or pretend to think) that simply recognizing this biological/logical fact means that I must "hate" other races than my own. It's not the case; I'm simply very annoyed by how certain people try to warp the language into meaningless gibberish and dumbing it down to the point where you can no longer describe things in a way which doesn't sound like word salad.

Phrases such as "the whole human race" are nonsensical and ignore reality, regardless of what one thinks of this. Humans aren't (yet) a single race, so referring to humans in general as a "race" is objectively wrong. No matter how great one thinks it would be if there only existed one single, bland race, with zero diversity, it clearly is not the case in reality. So why pretend as if it is?

If they absolutely must avoid using the words "species" and "race", can't they at least use "humankind" instead? ("Mankind" is probably also "offensive"...)

  • 5
    Because it's idiomatic.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 13, 2020 at 23:01
  • 1
    I’m sorry, can you clarify your question? Are you asking about the etymology of race? Alternatively does this answer your question english.stackexchange.com/q/55606/191178?
    – Laurel
    Apr 13, 2020 at 23:02
  • 1
    See definition 1.5 in the second sense here
    – Barmar
    Apr 13, 2020 at 23:15
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Is *race* a synonym of *species* or is just a common mistake?
    – Barmar
    Apr 13, 2020 at 23:15
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    @kenyin Hello, and health! Could you give a link to documentation showing that some humans belong to different genetic sub-groups? Or if non-genetic criteria are used for sub-grouping, specify them and give links to documentation similarly?
    – Conrado
    Apr 14, 2020 at 5:38

1 Answer 1


Species is a technical term, and a technical term only. Race is not. It does have a technical definition, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't help.

In biology, "race" means "subspecies", which modern science denies the existence of in humans. The various "human races" are too genetically similar and too geographically integrated to count as subspecies. Even worse, following the clade model of taxonomy, none of the generally accepted races are monophyletic - the result, and the only result, of a single ancestor. And using the cline model, there are several conflicting clines - genetic or phenetic gradients - running crisscross through every possible way to divide the "races".

All this together means the natural sciences do not recognize any human races, with the sole exception of "the" human race. In other words, your premise is incorrect, at least as far as the natural sciences are concerned.

But what about the social sciences? To them, at least today, race is nought but a social construct, much like gender is. And while gender does have a real, underlying motivator, i.e. sex, it is just as shaky and wobbly as the concept of race - what counts as "woman's work" in one culture is "man's work", or even "third gender's work", in another.

That's the key. Different cultures have different concepts of race. And there are several cultures today that do not accept the concept of human races, other than "the" human race. But there are also plenty of cultures that don't - and each with their own way of dividing them - and that is why the concept of race still has traction. What you are witnessing is a culture clash.

TL;DR: The human species does not have distinct, natural races, and there are cultures that do not recognize the social construct of race as valid.

  • If you wanted another subspecies under homo sapiens, wouldn't that be HeLa, as that cell line broke loose and became a weed in the labs?
    – Joshua
    Sep 12, 2020 at 1:48

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