Categorization of humans according to physical or racial characteristics appear among very early human societies.Prehistoric cave paintings in various parts of the world and decorations on ancient Egyptian tombs refer to people of different racial origin.
Anthropologists have discovered that people make distinctions between groups according to observed or presumed biological differences.The concept of race or categorization according to physical traits is virtually universal as is the belief that the feature chosen for purposes of categorization parallel differences in behavior.
As European civilization spread across the globe,race became the subject of systematic scientific enquiry.It became an important issue as Europeans encountered people who differed so markedly from themselves as to raise doubts about their humanness.They developed universel classifications.These classifications were used to determine the political and economic statuses of people.
Race as a biological concept has come under considerable attack in recent years.Today few scholars agree on any general racial classification.For many the concept has proven to be too vague to be of any use.No fundamental biological differences have been found among contemporary races and race appears to be equally insignificant as determinant of behavior in a biological sense.This is not to say that race is not important - as a socio cultural phenomenon,it continues to be significant.Anthropologists now focus on how ideas about racial differences influence behavior and seek to explain why people continue to attach so much significance to such things as skin color and hair texture.
Race stands as a symbol for non biological differences - a reflection of cultural differences ,different religious beliefs and economic inequality and exploitation.Strains and tensions in society that may be the result of a variety of factors are often justified and rationalized in terms of racial distinctions.The racist beliefs and practices are constantly evolving in relation to the social,economic and political factors with which they are linked.