On Africans and Dravidians
Posted on April 19th, 2017
The concept of ‘race’ has had a troubled history since both ethnographers and geneticists have difficulty in giving an objective definition of the supposed basic divisions of mankind. Certain human groups have clear-cut physical features that make their separation objective and socially acceptable. Thus the ‘mongoloid facies’ is very distinctive with such things as the epicanthic fold in the eye, yellowish skin pigmentation, the sparsity of body-hair, the high cheek-bones and the lack of ‘curling’ in head-hair. This complex of features makes it easy for even the non-expert to identify someone of Chinese origin. The same is true for the ‘classical’ Negro people of Africa – where the woolly head hair, the dense pigmentation of their skin, the everted lips and the long brain-case with occipital bulging are distinctive and readily identified. It must be remembered, however, that the peoples of Africa are very mixed and it makes no sense to speak of ‘Africans’ as a uniquely identifiable group. Thus the Nilotic Negros (President Obama is a mixed specimen of this group) are very different from the forest pygmies or the Kho-San People of South Africa. The majority Bantu People represent a flowering of a major line of Human evolution in Africa – but this distinctive black stock never left Africa until the famous (or infamous ) Slave Trade took hold in the 18th century. On that ‘beautiful’ race of Nordics or Northern Europeans, their physical excellence and mental prowess are legendary and there is no need to offend the natives by discoursing on this subject,
We come to the main point – are the Sinhala and Tamil people identifiable as ‘races’ in a strict anthropological sense? Can a Sinhala Man be identified correctly in a mixed crowd of Asiatics ? If so on what physical basis is this identification done? In this connection the terms ‘Indo-Caucasoid’ and ‘Indo-Semitic’ must be introduced. The basic truth is that India was not a centre of Human Evolution – it received and mixed people of diverse kinds. It was a ‘basin of attraction’ for diverse kinds of humans. The Horse-Riding Central Asian Caucasoids moved in from the North while Semitic People from the Levant and the Euphrates -Tigris region used primitive sea-craft to colonize the Eastern and Southern parts of India. The Tamils – more generally the people of Peninsular India – were Indo-Semites in their origin. A great deal of mixing took place because a Negrito element (not to be confused with the Negros of Africa) of East Asian origin (so-called Hill Tribes) interbred with the invading Semitic groups. To make matters even more complicated, a ‘Malagasy’ infusion from the East introduced genes of a mongoloid nature into the racial mix. In speaking of the autochthons of India or its diverse racial mixes, the ‘calendar’ is very important as the mixing of genomes was the key feature of evolution on the subcontinent. This is true – albeit on a smaller scale – in Sri Lanka where ‘Sinhala’ is ill-defined ethnographically until an embedding historical epoch is specified.
We must confront now the key issue of the Sinhala-Tamil difference. They (the Sinhalese and the Tamils) are not ‘races’ in the genetic sense – there are no unique physical markers that separate and distinguish the two groups. Indeed, the averaged intra-group variance (Genetic Diversity within a so-called race) is greater than the inter-group difference – a sure sign that genetically founded racial distancing is of negligible importance in group evolution. The highly heterogeneous nature of the Sinhala population is made evident by the high value of intra-family variance – where siblings differ markedly from each other due to the free assortment of allelic differences. It must be added, of course, that cultural differences can be monumental – and, indeed is reinforced by different readings of history in languages that are fine-tuned to promote self-identity and separation from aliens. The Tamils constitute a cultural group of great antiquity and resilience that must find a place in the world that is worthy of its heritage. This goal can be achieved only through an ethno-cultural symbiosis – not by armed conflict.