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 Regional Ethnicities and Their Features

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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror

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Age : 46
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Regional Ethnicities and Their Features   Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:30 pm

This may be one of those touchy topics in today's atmosphere of Political Correctness (ick), but here goes.

So I just got done watching Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior on the Disney Channel. Why? Because I really like Brenda Song. She's pretty, she has that distinctive voice of hers, she always seems to be smiling and she makes me laugh, particularly when she does her London Tipton laugh on the two Suite Life series.

So the movie itself is about a girl who's descended from a long line of Chinese warriors and is set to inherit that responsibility, even if she'd rather just go to her Homecoming instead of training up and fighting evil spirits. Now, Brenda Song can easily pass for someone of Chinese descent because she's half-Chinese (or half-Hmong, to be precise) and half-Thai. But when I saw her costar in the role of Shen--the Shaolin monk who's supposed to train her to be a warrior and ends up teaching her China's ancient history as well--I took one look at the actor and immediately thought, "Wait a second...that guy looks Japanese." So after the show was over, I got on IMDb and sure enough, the actor was Shin Koyamada, who happens to be a native-born Japanese man descended from an old samurai clan.

But how did I peg his nation of origin? What fed my gut feeling back there? Was it an inherent recognition of his accent, or was it more of a recognition of his facial features? Or was it just a lucky guess?

Now, there are too many Americans who think that all Oriental people look alike, that all black people (or African people in particular) look alike, that all Native Americans look alike, and so on. But if you're really observant, or if you're more familiar with foreign cultures (like people from our Armed Forces tend to be), you start to notice those little differences in regional ethnicities. For example, did you ever notice that people from the nations of French Indochina (Laos, Vietnam and so on) tend to have more of a bronze or copper tone to their skin than people from China and Korea do? They also tend to have shallow cheekbones, whereas people from Tibet or the more mountainous regions of China tend to have stronger or more pronounced cheekbones. Though I'm loath to use the term (because of all the bigots tossing such words around), the Tibetans and the mountainous Chinese do also tend to have narrower or "squintier" eyes than the lowland Chinese do. Thais and Burmese also seem to have brighter or "rounder" eyes and fairer skin than Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese do, despite their proximity. And Chinese people, Koreans and Japanese people generally have skin which is roughly the same tone as mid-toned Caucasian skin, but for some reason the Chinese and the Koreans seem to have brighter eyes than Japanese people have.

But then you go further north into Mongolia, and you might find that for some reason, Mongolians have darker skin and stronger cheekbones than the Chinese, the Japanese and the Koreans do.

It seems reasonable to expect that, the closer you get to the Equator, the darker the people's skins are; more sunlight means more melanin means deeper tans, right? The Mongolians seem to throw that idea right on its ear. The nations and regions of Africa seem to do the same thing; people native to Kenya, Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt seem to have lighter-hued skin than people from southern nations like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo or, yes, South Africa. Why is that?

On the other hand, people from southern Africa seem to have considerably less hair than people from equatorial Africa. This seems to follow Europe's model, where people from northern European nations like Denmark, England and the Scandinavian nations have less body hair than people from Mediterranean nations such as Italy, Greece or Turkey.

You might also notice other physical differences among the European populaces; southern Europeans tend to be shorter and darker-skinned than northern Europeans are. I'm not sure how the cheekbones and eyelid shapes vary among Europe's regional ethnicities, but as it is with the nations of Oriental Asia, mountains and regional windiness seem to be factors behind these ethnical features.

The Native American tribes have certain ethnical differences as well. The Apache and the Kiowa from Mexico and the southwestern United States have darker skin, shorter builds and stronger cheekbones. Go further north through the United States and you start running into peoples like the Cherokee and the Lakota, who have fairer skin, taller builds and shallower cheekbones. And then you go all the way into Canada and find the Inuit, who have broad faces and strong cheekbones like the Apache do. The Inuit also tend to be shorter people, like Apache are, but their skin seems to be fairer than an Apache's yet darker than a Cherokee's...except around the coastal regions of Canada, maybe. Those Inuit tend to be really dark.

Indigenous Australians seem to be pretty dark-skinned, too...about on par with tribal Africans. But unlike Native Africans, Australian Aborigines have wavy hair, heavier noses and more pronounced brows. The Native Australians also have lighter-toned hair, with some of their people having light brown hair and even the occasional blond. By my understanding, the sight of a swarthy person with naturally blond hair is a sight that's pretty much unique to indigenous Australians. (But I must defer to Wraith in all things Australian, seeing as she's our expert on Australian folk. Wink )

And then we have the Indians, who have considerably darker skin than their Pakistani, Iraqi and Iranian neighbors to the Northwest. Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis and Iranians all seem to have similarly ample facial hair (including the eyebrows) and body hair, however. (And yes, that hair thing applies to the women too. Middle Eastern women tend to have bushier eyebrows compared to women around the rest of the world, and I've seen my share of Bollywood movies and Indian porn; some Indian women can become very hairy if they don't trim, shave or wax themselves. Shocked )

And then there's the Number One reason why I disagree with people who use the word "Asian" when they mean "Oriental": Russia. Russia is a huge nation (thanks to the efforts of all those old conquerors, tsars and tsarinas like Catherine the Great, Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible), it's mostly Caucasian and it's big enough to see the same sorts of ethnical differences from one part of Russia to the next. The Caucasian Russians from Kamchatka and other parts of the Siberian Peninsula, Northern Russia and Northeastern Russia have fair skin (like Scandinavians have) and broad faces with strong cheekbones (like Mongolians have), while the Russians from Moscow and its vicinity--as well as other parts of Western or Southwestern Russia--could pass for English or German people with their fair or mid-toned skin, bright eyes and subtle cheekbones.

So am I on to something here? Could someone who is sufficiently familiar with all the world's ethnicities be able to take one look at a person and be able to instantly and accurately tell which part of the world that person's from*? Or am I completely off base?

* The Americas don't count, of course, aside from their Native American populations. These continents haven't had Caucasian or Negro people for more than four or five centuries, which certainly isn't enough time for people of specific regions to develop telltale evolutionary traits or mutations. Besides, those Caucasians and Negroes were imported from all over Europe, Asia and Africa, and they've really gotten around since coming over on the boats. We're all mutts here. Wink
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Lady Illusion

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PostSubject: Re: Regional Ethnicities and Their Features   Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:41 pm

You do seem to have a valid point there Ainsley.

I see it more in the 'asian' population. Probably because I more exposed to this. Though I am currently having trouble distinquishing between Japanese and South Korean people. That's slowly dissapating though Smile

As for our own indigenous population, I have to say I am unsure.

There are a lot of factors in today's Australia. Most 'pure' indigenous people I know are very dark skinned and have that characeristic heavy brow and flatter nose. However, as you said there are some lighter skinned and even blonde aborigines.

I'm not entirely sure, but this could be because of the White Australia Policy back when. In our infinite wisdom, we tried to breed them out... blech!

(You can see what I think about that!)

So yeah... I think its entirely possible you can tell from look, mannerism and speech pattern. Though I think you're more going for the 'look' thing. LOL.

Interesting topic Smile

I clawed my way back from the depths of Hell
just to piss you off
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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror

Male Number of posts : 2139
Age : 46
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Re: Regional Ethnicities and Their Features   Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:28 pm

Thank you. I do occasionally try to roll out something thought-provoking. Wink

It seems like practically everyone alive harbors some kind of prejudice or another, but I never could understand the sort of extremism which advocates the eradication of entire races or ethnicities. We see it in such malignant sorts as the bygone white supremacist groups, the not-bygone-enough white supremacist groups, Edmund Barton and all the other politicians behind the White Australia Policy, Louis Farrakhan (a reverse example who has publicly encouraged black people to interbreed with white people specifically to eliminate the Caucasian race), and so on. And I have to wonder if any of these bigoted sorts have ever read up on anthropology, because all of the world's races and ethnicities clearly illustrate to us exactly how adaptable the human animal is, how the planet's climates and environmental forces affect us and how capable we are of finding a balance with our surroundings. I believe that we need all of our world's ethnicities because all of those ethnicities put together have the potential to tell a rather incredible story about the human race as a whole.

It also makes me wonder exactly how mutable these ethnical changes and differences are. We haven't had today's level of intercontinental mingling for more than a thousand years; before that point, there may have been a few handfuls of visitors between Europe and Africa, or between modern-day Russia and modern-day Alaska, but there were never any large migrations until recent centuries. So now we have plenty of Caucasians in Asia, Africa and the Americas, plenty of Orientals in the Americas and Europe, plenty of Negros in the Americas, Asia and Europe, and so on.

So what would we find if we put together a time machine and jumped forward in time about 100,000 years? Would the black population in England lose their deep skin coloration and become more Caucasian in appearance? Would the Caucasians in Japan develop narrow eyes with almond-form eyelids and the more slender builds of the Japanese? Would an Indian population transplanted to Norway become as tall, willowy, hairless and fair-skinned as today's Norwegians if they lived, bred and evolved in a Norwegian village for a hundred millennia? In short, is it possible for our races and ethnicities to be unmade and remade by changes in our climates and surrounding topography? Is ethnicity etched in stone or is it written in water?


I guess we'd better get to building that time machine so we can find out. Or we can just sit here and speculate, I guess. Wink

(Also, good point about cultural habits, mannerisms, speech patterns and other cultural differences marking our ancestral origins as well. Remember that part of Inglorious Basterds where Hicox gives himself and the rest of the infiltrators away because Germans don't count on their fingers the same way that Englishfolk and Americans do? Classic shibboleth stuff there. Wink )
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