Well, I will certainly delve into controversial waters today dear reader.
I do think it’s important though, perhaps especially because it’s so hard to discuss. 
The concept of “Race” as a human categorization is all the rage. It’s something that filters the media, the arts, permeates our culture and is seen to affect our work, education and our very way of thinking…You can’t spend five minutes online without seeing the word “race”, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that keeps increasing. 
And yet “race” is so modern, such a new concept – we rarely stop to think about the premise itself. 
In fact, “race” was used to describe national affiliations and it wasn’t until the 17th century that it was ascribed to phenotypes. 
Nowadays we have very vague pseudoscientific definitions that appear to arbitrarily collect billions of people into arbitrary silos. 
At current estimate, there are 650 ethnic groups in 190 countries…. And yet we have, what? 4 or 5 races? (Anyone who has read Jared Diamond will not forget the Pygmies!)
Like the abstract lines that border nations and create wars, we have randomly chosen some folks to belong in one category and not another. Race is like the delineation of Chad… completely unnatural. 
But let’s look at examples, shall we? Take the two women below. They are thrown into the Caucasian category (the first) and the Asian category (then second) because… why exactly?

If we are going by phenotypes, then to be honest, it’s pretty hard to tell them apart. Even though one is Mexican and the other is Indian. 
And then we group together people who really have nothing in common, either with regards to their religion, language, culture…or even phenotypic characteristics.
These two women, for instance, belong to two different categories:
But if we are grouping them by today’s absurd categorizations, then they should be compared to… 

BLACK: Ethiopian first, second Nigerian
ASIAN: Japanese first, then Indian
Heck, as someone who has spent time in places like Kazakhstan – that expansive landscape that literally and figuratively spans the east and the west… ‘Race’ blurs through the imagined boundaries of nations and categories alike. 
Perhaps you have a few million people sticking out at the extremes…. From West Africa to the very northern corners of Norway… but the vast majority of the world’s population is a tiny point on a beautiful spectrum somewhere in between. 
A world of Eyes
And then to add an entirely new, and yet completely necessary, layer of confusion: The world is now so international, with ethinic groups blending at never before seen rates, that the spectrum of phenotypes is even more nuisanced. 
I have a friend, for instance, who told me people often mistake him for either a North African or an Indian… he happens to be… German-Bolivian. Phenotypically speaking, he literally could be from ANY CONTINENT, except Antarctica.
Oh, and he married a Croatian and lives in Mexico…
So where do you draw the line? And perhaps much more importantly… should a line be drawn? 
Now before we continue, I should clarify that I’m not saying Racism doesn’t exist…. Or that the history of racism hasn’t had a huge impact on societies and cultures around the globe,
The United States (with its tragic past of ‘race’-based slavery), South Africa (Apartheid was lifted only 30 years ago) or Australia (where Aborigines were legally listed as ‘fauna’ until the 1970s) are just a few examples just from the Anglo-speaking world.
Similarly, this has occurred throughout every inhabited continent (Chiang Kai-shek and the Taiwanese aboriginals, the colonization of Okinawa, the Dzungar genocide, the Maranhão in Brazil and the Mayans in Guatemala, the Congo civil war and the Mbuti pygmies).
Sadly, there is still ongoing violence against ‘racially’ different ethnic groups the world over… (Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Chakma people).
Obviously it does. People very horrifically and stupidly have and continue to judge others on their phenotypes. My point is that doesn’t make sense… because at the premise, the categorizations don’t make sense either. 
Now, if at this point you are wondering what all this has to do with the classics… fair enough, because this is a classical newsletter after all! What are we talking about race for?
Obviously the current western world’s media and discussions are heavily focused on the impact of ‘race’ – so as good philosophers (and I like to think that’s what we are), it’s only natural that we should wade in and first determine the terms. 
How can anyone discuss what to do about racial issues, if they haven’t defined race in the first place? 
Further, this inquiry continues the conversation we have been having of late about the need for categorizations at all. We know we have a human tendency to do this and the likes of Aristotle is a perfect example. Just because we enjoy making lists and trying to find order, doesn’t we should… doesn’t mean it’s virtuous… or does it?
Statue at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – the man who loved lists…
There is, sadly, yet another reason to discuss this topic… and that is because the study of the classics itself is often drawn into question because of a perceived lack of racial diversity. 
Essentially, it’s considered totally fine to cancel the classics because it’s a bunch of dead white guys… 
The fact that race and racial differences were not part of the ancient world (or really any world pre-17th century) makes it a pretty stupid reason to cancel them… Adding to the argument is the reality that the ‘Classical’ period, which lasted over a thousand years and included a territory spanning from England to India was, in fact, extremely diverse.
Nonetheless, we would like to address the question at hand. 
What is “race”? Does it really exist? Is its concept useful? And should we continue to use it? 
 As always you can write to me directly or comment below.