Yet again in an Anthropology class, this time discussing race: The history of race segregation and eugenics and the quest to scientifically explain other races as inferior (particularly here in the U.S.). The current understanding of genetics showing that biologically, race really doesn't exist. It's all a social construct. We might as well segregate by eye color, or blondes/brunettes/redheads, or those who can curl their tongue versus those who can't. 


The trend I'm seeing, particularly from whites, is the progression: "Race doesn't exist, therefore Racism doesn't exist." From some, this ends up being a turning of a blind eye to issues of racism. One classmate (white), notorious for chest-beating and propping himself up as the exception to every rule ergo the rule is defunct, countered the discussion with the tried and true, "I am totally non-racist. I don't see color. I grew up in a multi-ethnic environment where everyone got along. Racism doesn't exist."


Well, that's great for him. But I countered back saying that I guarantee there have been dozens or hundreds of moments in his little life where he got a job, the bank loan, the apartment, not pulled over by the cop, whatever because he was white. We all get it, even when we're blissfully unaware of it. It sucks, it makes me feel dirty somehow, but it's a fact of the country we live in.


The other problem I see with this otherwise noble mindset of eliminating racism by refusing to acknowledge it is that the cause of socio-economic inequity goes back on some perceived character flaw of the individual. I recently saw this in a Facebook conversation with someone saying Native Americans get all sorts of tax and welfare benefits, and since race and social inequity between Reservation/Non-Reservation is an illusion, they have no one to blame but themselves for poverty or the Navajo reservation not being a thriving metropolis like Phoenix. It's incredible to watch someone claim that race/racism doesn't exist, and in the same sentence classify "them" as inherently lazy or inept or corrupt. 


This all culminated in a debate over governmental data collection. The race checkbox on the census form, or the college application, or the federal jobs I apply for. Most (all white) in the class decried these questionaries as perpetuating the segregation by race. On the one hand, yes. It's hard to make America "raceless" while still asking on a census form what race you identify as. On the other hand, the issue of racism remains real. Data collection remains important to recognizing and addressing those issues. That guy on FB doesn't get to claim racial inequity doesn't exist when we have the hard data to show that it does. If Big Ass Corporation X is conspicuously firing a disproportional number of non-whites without cause, we need to know that so we can address it. Because sad to say, it still happens.


So is there an easy answer? How does a society simultaneously address problems of racism while promoting the idea that race itself is an illusion? I always go back to education, education, education. I even see this as one more reason evolution must be taught thoroughly and early. Drive it into the kids early just how little genetic variation there is between you, me, and some random guy on the other side of the world; how tiny and petty is the genetic variation for how much melanin we each have in our skin. From there, perhaps we can ultimately reach a point where asking one's skin color on a census form is just as silly as asking whether or not you can curl your tongue. 


But we aren't there yet.

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Replies to This Discussion

Sunshine, I never use the word "stunning" but that is a stunningly bigoted thing for a college professor to say.  He's an asshole.  It also does not reflect a sophisticated understanding of US demographics, where the fastest growing group is people of mixed heritage. 


Well, actually it's becoming apparent from genetic testing that people's family trees are much more mixed than people used to acknowledge anyway.  Most of your classmates are probably mixed heritage as well, and don't know it.  Why that would be anything other than a fascinating human history is beyond me - we all have family histories that show how human we are.  If someone is totally African, or totally European, or totally anything else, cool, but if someone is Creole or polyracial or mixed heritage, equally and maybe even more cool.  If a family results from love despite artificial barriers, that seems wonderful.  If it is from not so loving interaction, then there may be some other tales of human courage and survival to tell.


If you haven't seen it, African American Lives on Netflix is an informative history by Henry Louis Gates jr, tracing family history and genealogies back to the Slave era and more.  Your classmates were wrong.



whoa, sounds like that is one professor that deserves a good pummeling, or maybe just a plain ass kicking. would you be so kind as to provide his contact info?


the funny thing is that you probably look mostly "white" so your looks triggered his behavior while Obama has black and white parents but looks "black" and probably would not trigger that behavior.

it will take a couple generations to clean up the color mess that white supremacy has made, for example the light colored african american families that would not marry / date darker colored african americans. And the impovershed connection between color and economic / educational / intellectual status that white supremacy has engineered and violently enforced all around the world

It's just sad to think that a person like that is able to keep a job where he can express his bigotry to impressionable young minds.
Do you know of any statistics about Big Ass Corporation X firing (or not hiring) a disproportionate number of non-whites? I'm just wondering, because in government jobs it's very difficult to fire a non-white person.



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