promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

The illusion of race

In racism on March 3, 2010 at 12:42 am

The notion of race is a ridiculous one.

As a person with red hair, blue eyes and pale skin, It is impossible to be categorized as anything but white. Its taken hundreds, if not thousands, of nations and tribes to create the person I am. And yet my unique blend of European, Native American and possibly Jewish ancestry is all merged into one single, definitive category — white. A color of all things.

Race has less to do with actual differences and more to do with perceived differences, such as skin color. Its definition and boundaries are not absolute. There was a time in America when Italians and Jews werent considered white by the U.S. government as they now are — evidence that race is nothing more than an arbitrarily assigned category.

But the real question is why societies insist on grouping people by race rather than nationality, region or tribe. Why, when there exists a seemingly infinitive variety of skin tones, do they prefer to reference unyielding colors?

Because race divides us. It puts millions of genetically unique individuals into broad groups and positions them against one another. Black vs. white, yellow vs. brown, logic vs. illogic.

In actuality, there is such a thing as race. But it is singular, not plural. It is the race of all persons: the human race.

VIDEO: Time Wise, author of White Like Me, discusses the newness of the concept of race and how it has been used in America to divide and conquer. 

  1. Jessica,

    My first thought on this matter is “progress but not perfection”.

    I am currently reading a Pulitzer Prize winning novel “People of the Book” about the history of a real and very old Jewish book. One observation (hope) of the author is the time when the human race has coexisted long enough that we will (racially) blend into “one”. That sounds like a great dream or hope, but for sure is not yet reality. Thus what do we do for now?

    At least in the US we have legally moved beyond race in terms of laws. One CANNOT, legally, discriminate based on race and now a lot of other human characteristics which go far beyond race. Gender and sexuality are dominant topics today, at least legally.

    Someday, but for sure not today, it may come to pass that no one would even THINK about calling you a c… or a black person a n…. Most people today would never do so but others will and frequently say such things and THINK they are correct in such disparagement. It is not “right” but it happens, too much, in my view.

    You are evidently taking a whole senior semester class on changing THINKING about gender disparagement, from both side hopefully. But it takes a long time to move from the ideals of a college classroom to the reality practiced and experienceed by humans of all sorts.

    I grew up in a racially segregated southern town. My actions and to a great degree my thinking has changed dramatically since then. But I am not perfect for sure, nor do I expect you are either, at least in the thoughts of your own mind. That is being human, not a monster. We are at the point where great pressure is applied to those that ACT on “stinking thinking”.

    I wonder when we can eradicate the thinking itself? Good luck.


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