Saturday, May 2, 2009

Continuing the Conversation

After talking with some of you and reading your posts, I decided to make this somewhat of a mini-series:-)

Some points of clarification:

Race, as a physiological difference between human beings, does not exist (there is no scientific basis for it, and that is a fact). It only exists as a social ideology so we can label people and justify our reasons for discrimination.

Racism does exist, because we've taught ourselves to put value on race instead of humanity. It is a form of discrimination. Discrimination has always been a part of the world's history, and that will not soon end.

The biggest point I want to stress with the last post is that we need to be conscious of the fact that race does not truly exist, and be conscious of the fact that it's a creation of society, not science. Be aware of how you view race and ethnicity. Be aware of how you teach your kids to think about these matters. Simply being aware of this is the first step to changing the way you think and act.

For example, instead of thinking in terms of race, think in terms of ethnic groups. Ethnic groups are categories of people who are distinctive on the basis of national origin or heritage, language, or cultural practices. What ethnic groups do you consider yourself to be a part of? This is different than the idea of race. No matter what race you are, you can belong to any ethnic group. In America, we tend to think that your race determines your ethnic group, which is so limiting.

I think a big reason why we view each other in terms of race is because of the fact that as Americans, we've lost touch with our ethnic backgrounds. For African Americans especially, this can be a challenge, since there are often no records of where their families came from due to American slavery. For others, like me, my background is so varied that it's hard to embrace it all. I'm a European mutt, but the ethnic group I cling to the most is Irish. Both sides of my family are very much into genealogy, so I know that somewhere in the record books I can see where my family originated, but through the years there has been so much intermarriage that it all seems insignificant at some point. I know that my last name (my maiden name) is Irish, so I know that someday I'll go to Ireland and feel like I have a special connection there. When we can't identify with an ethnic group, we default to just being "white" or "black". I think there is a strong case for and against "American" being an ethnic group because there are so many ethnic groups that make up America.

After reading these last two posts, have you begun to think of your ethnic identity differently? Which ethnic groups do you feel you are a part of? How can making the distinction between race and ethnicity help you connect with people?

For my next post, we'll be departing from this topic to discuss TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR FERTILITY! WhooHoo! And yes, this applies to you even if you aren't interested in having children soon, if ever. You can follow my updates on Twitter!

1 comment:

  1. Hi there! Great topic. I'd like to throw in my two cents as food for thought to contribute to the conversation about race. My program at CU strives to use social justice as a lens through which to view American education, and so we are in the midst of having numerous discussions about issues of race. As you might surmise, many of these discussions have been intense and emotional, and it is very easy for lines of communication to break down. So please forgive me if I am unclear, or if it might seem that I have misunderstood something. One concept that has been challenged in our dicussion is that of colorblind-ness. While this mentality ultimately attempts to eliminate discrimination based on race, skin color, outward appearances, etc., it can also lead to the denial of the importance of differences. Race, culture, ethnicity is so engrained in our identity that we almost do ourselves a disservice by attempting to take race out of the conversation when we say that race doesn't "matter." Race, whether we can truly define what we mean by race, does matter. We are all beautifully and wonderfully made, and I feel that it is very important for us to recognize and celebrate our differences. I feel that it's also important to approach the subject through a historical lens, recognizing the injustices that have been so prevalent in our society because of race. While racism might not be quite as overt as it was some 50 years ago, it still exists in more subtle, systemic, and structural ways, and some folks suggest that it exists in the form of colorblind racism. I should pause to say that I have SO much to continue to learn about these issues, and I carry with me experiences of "white privilege" that can profoundly impact my perspective. I would guess that ultimately all of us want to achieve a sense of unconditional love for others, but we all have different ideas and experiences that influence how we might go about it. So, again, I am learning, changing, and hoping to toss some ideas around that I myself have been wrestling with of how to show that kind of love. I think it's awesome that these sometimes sticky topics are on the table because they are so important. Thanks for letting me contribute!