People mean a lot of things when they say “social construct.” Mostly they mean “made up.”
Luckily for us, Google is very helpful:
Dear Google and the NY Times: Not only is that not the biological definition of race, it’s not even the biological definition of SPECIES. This is not what laymen mean when they speak of race, not what racists mean when they speak of race, not what blacks or whites or Hindus mean, and definitely not anyone who actually studies human biology and genetics.
The simple folk definition of “race” is “a group of people who look kinda similar and come from the same large area of the world.” This, of course, absolutely exists. Most people in the world look a lot like their neighbors, especially if they live in their ancestral homeland and their country hasn’t been invaded lately.
Now, the exact details of how you racially classify people–are Hindus Caucasian? How about North Africans and Iranians? What about mixed-race people?–are socially constructed. This mean that a word like “black” may mean something different in Russian than it does in the Dominican Republic than it does in the US.
This does not change the underlying reality–the humans referred to as “black” still possess the quality of looking similar to other people from their ancestral part of the world. Reality does not disappear just because people sometimes disagree on exactly how to use words to define it.
The scientific, biological definition of race gets a little more complicated, since it matters whether we are talking abut chromosomal races, fungal races, or humans. A couple of definitions:
- Geographical race
- A distinct population that is isolated in a particular area from other populations of a species, and consistently distinguishable from the others, e.g. morphology (or even only genetically). Geographic races are allopatric.
- Physiological race
- A group of individuals that do not necessarily differ in morphology from other members of the species, but have identifiably different physiology or behaviour. A physiological race may be an ecotype, part of a species that is adapted to a different local habitat, defined even by a specific food source.
Notice that neither of these include, “possessing a gene or cluster of genes common to everyone in the race but to no one outside of it.”
But if you don’t like the Wikipedia, here’s what Biology Reference has to say:
The biological definition of race is a geographically isolated breeding population that shares certain characteristics in higher frequencies than other populations of that species, but has not become reproductively isolated from other populations of the same species. (A population is a group of organisms that inhabit the same region and interbreed.) Human racial groups compose a number of breeding units that in the past remained geographically and perhaps temporally isolated, yet could interbreed and produce viable offspring within the species Homo sapiens sapiens.