Thursday, January 15, 2009

Race and Racism

Before I begin blogging on this issue I just wanted to state a short disclaimer. I know race is a touchy subject and I do not intend to offend anybody by my own personal beliefs on this topic. This blog was created in hopes of cultivating a forum where people can share ideas and have an open dialogue. Again I will reiterate that these are my own personal opinions on the issue. If you wish to challenge my ideas I gladly welcome that and you can do so in the comments section.

Race is a social construct that was created by mankind in order to divide human beings. Being that race is a construct, it is theoretical and abstract so technically it is not concrete and does not exist. It is merely another way of segregating society. From an anthropological standpoint there is only one race the human race. Being that we all originated in Africa and then disseminated to different parts of the globe, it is a testament to the idea that quintessentially different races do not exist. We all started out the same, then race was used to classify people according to their phenotypical traits. According to social psychology we as humans have the natural tendency to categorize ourselves. But not everything is black and white( pun intended).

The textbook definition of race is a "local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics." Race has three categories: Black, White, Asian, and Natives. For me Race has always been enigmatic. How can your skin color along with other physical characteristics define your race if other people within your race differ in that aspect. So it brings me to my next question, is race what people perceive you to be or is it how you see yourself. For example someone can see themselves as white but I may perceive them to be black. How do I know that I am in the right and he/she is in the wrong or vice versa. Theoretically there is a discrepancy between what people perceive you to be and what you really are. But often times we as humans let other people's perceptions of us dictate how we view ourselves as individuals. Is race confined to certain characteristics that undeniably distinguish me from the next person? If this is the case then my race cannot be negotiated and it is concrete. Although my race is definitive, this still doesn't stop me from opposing society on their beliefs about what my race is. Another factor that contributes to what your race is, is your personal upbringing and childhood. If you are taught from a young age that you are white, what people perceive you to be really do not matter as much because the people that have had the most valuable impact on you are the ones in your household. Your life experience in the world outside your home has significance in determining your "race". If you are treated like a black woman, chances are more than likely that you will grow up identifying with being black. How can something be objective but so subjective at the same time? This is a paradox.

Race becomes even more complex when you incorporate miscegenation. For example a white woman marries a black man and they have a black and white son. He is "biracial" so what is his race? Or a child that is half Asian half white. Does he have to choose a side in order to define his race? Latinos have an even more obscure racial dynamic. Latinos are one of the most if not the most heterogeneous ethnicity. There are Latinos that look more Asian than any Asian, more Native than any Native, more African than any African and more European than any European. Latinos are a mixture of Native, African, and European blood. The racial mixtures have names. A mestizo is a mix between a Native and a European. A mulatto is a mix between an African and European or (black and white). So in actuality a Latino can identify with whatever race they desire. Now you have one ethnicity with many different races? How can this be?

Racism is the main reason why I disagree with the concept of race. It is the discrimination of somebody due their racial background. It is responsible for a large amount of heinous crimes along with merciless discrimination. The current textbook definition is "the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races. Society has a sadistic way of using mental constructs to divide people. Racism has been implemented by different cultures in order to dominate, conquer, and subjugate people. The legacy of racism has been passed down from generation to generation. It has been perpetuated due to ignorance and miseducation. There are various ways in which racism has continued to be a cultural tour de force in society. Before we get into that I want to profess the belief that Racism is taught, THEREFORE YOU ARE NOT BORN RACIST! Being racist or partaking in racist behavior is a learned social behavior. One way it is cultivated is by how you are raised. If you are taught from a young age that all black people are evil you will grow up thinking it is true. Racism is then reinforced by factors apart from the home environment such as peers, schoolmates, life experiences and the media. Apart from the home environment the other main determinant on whether you will be racist or not and towards whom, are life experiences. The media does a good job of reinforcing negative stereotypes that you may have learned in the household. The same kid that was taught from a young age that blacks are evil also watches, witnesses race crimes and tv shows that reinforce negative stereotypes about blacks. These all contribute to the prospering of his racism. The same goes for a kid that is taught that all white people are evil. The child will grow up believing this. Then you combine the viewing of a show that documented hate crimes that whites have committed along with an experience of a white person calling the child a racial slur and you have fueled a flame that is hard to put out.

Racism against your own race is even trickier. This is called interracial discrimination. There are whites that are racist against each other. When Jews first immigrated to the United States they were denied housing and many other rights that any other citizen should be granted. How do you explain Race when you are racist against your own kind and you believe that your race is superior to the same race? There are also blacks who are racist towards other blacks because of the deep rooted self hatred and complex they may have. I find this very self contradictory. Racism is no more omnipresent than in Latin America. In the Latino culture the blacker you are the more you are discriminated against and marginalized. The whiter you are, the more stature, prestige, and acceptance you have. The racism is due to the brainwashing of European colonialism that is historically built into the Latino culture and imbedded in every Latino's head. A prime example of this is the Latino saying "pelo malo pelo bueno". This means good hair and bad hair. Bad hair is coarse hair while good hair is straight hair. What makes kinky hair bad hair and straight hair good hair? Colonialism brainwashing thats what. Anything that resembles a black person is considered to be bad. And anything that resembles a white person is considered to be good. Also in the Latino culture they will say oh she is black but she is a pretty black. As if to say that blacks who are good looking are not found that often. To me if you are Latino and are racist against any blacks you are being racist against your self. Reason being that Latinos are comprised of a mosaic of races therefore you are being racist against the black part of you. As a matter of fact if you are Latino and are racist against any other race you are being racist against your self. Again this is due to what we discussed earlier with respect to the mixture of races that is present within every Latino.

An ultimate cure for racism would be the eradication of the concept of race. But I propose some more plausible solutions. I know it is human nature to gravitate to your own race. For example in any given social environment blacks will always go to where blacks are and Asians will always migrate to where Asians are situated. I would encourage interracial dialogue. I think that interracial dialogue would be great in battling racism since the most direct source of racism is ignorance and miseducation. This would get people to understand other races and become more knowledgeable about other cultures while learning how to become more open minded. Another possible solution is the idea of interracial marriages and relationships. I encourage these types of interactions because it would get people to accept others for who they are not the color of their skin. In addition it would also allow the parents' and grandparents' generations (that have the most staunch racism and biases) to break down stereotypes, dispel myths about the opposing race, and ultimately reduce ignorance

After serenading you with this superfluous amount of information, people must think what is the point of all this. My mission is to get people to think differently from what society has taught us and to challenge our own beliefs. If we do not start to think differently and follow suit with our actions we will follow the same trends that have been dominant for centuries and we will not evolve into a better society. The insidious culture of racism must be disrupted. I will leave you with one of my personal quotes. "Perpetuating a legacy of ignorance is just another way of keeping the mind in shackles you must seek the truth in order to be liberated."

1 comment:

  1. This is a very heavy topic to deal with, nonetheless, very interesting. I think to me the most complex dynamic in "race" relations is the interracial conflicts that you raised in your discussion. Being someone from the Caribbean, the vast majority of my country is considered to be "black" or from that "racial origin". However I think that the idea of race does not apply but rather the idea of inter-ethnic conflicts. This has been one of the biggest cause of inter and intra generational conflicts not only on a local level but also on an international level. Take for example the genocide in Rwanda or even the Holocaust. As you mentioned this in itself is a major issue that is not at all addressed...But where does this hostility among ourselves originate from and why is it that we allow it to be perpetuated among ourselves???? I think that it is a struggle for power and prestige as with anything. Each person or group seeks to align themselves with that thing which is considered to be prestigious or superior as this is considered to be "good" or it brings that notion of accomplishment. Hence being raised in a society that associates skin color with success and opportunities, that social norm is being taught and it perpetuates the system of inter ethnic discrimination.