I grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It's no teeming metropolis, mostly suburban but it's far from a rural community.My schools were always at least 50% African-American (in junior high it was 90%). I must say that I think I was lucky. I was an intelligent white boy in the poverty-stricken inner city...well as much as you can call Spartanburg a city, that is. I never in 12 years saw 2 people fight or not get along because of their race. Asian, whites, blacks, latinos-all had their friends of all "races". I never felt an affinity with people of my own race. I felt much closer to those in my year, who got along with me and laughed with me and caused trouble with me (I wasn't an angel sometimes in junior high haha).

So why do we still use "race" at all? We now know, from the decoding of our genetic code, that humans cannot be meaningfully subdivided into any group below the level of species. That means that race is an entirely social and cultural construct. I have recently started feeling very strongly about this because once we realize that race has no basis outside of our own minds, why should we keep the concept at all? People have used race in the past so often for bigotry, slaughter, slavery, division, and violation of the dignity our of HUMAN race. Once we stop labeling each other and ourselves with this false categorization, we remove our own capability to use it to divide us.

The fragility and inefficiency of this concept of race is so evident. Our president has a "white" mother and "black" father. But Obama is "black". Well he's just as much "white" and it makes no sense to pick one of those over the other. And what about Asians? Are people from India the same race as people from South Korean? They're both Asian after all. And the Middle East! They tend to be lighter than Indians and darker than Europeans, are they their own racial group? The Jews...are they are a race? What about latinos, who call themselves "blancos". Lots of Anglo-Americans don't say Latinos are "white", they say that they're "Hispanic". So is Latino/Hispanic a race or not? You get my point.

Now when I fill out forms that ask me to identify my "race", I have begun to refuse to put Caucasian. I either leave it blank or put "prefer not to say". The census doesn't ask me what color my eyes are, why should it ask me what my skin color is?

Feel free to comment. Am I being unreasonable in being so adamantly opposed to labeling myself and others with a race?

Well I can't say that I refuse to categorize myself in a race. I do in fact do that. My race is homo sapiens.

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Comment by Tom Thompson on February 5, 2010 at 8:23am
"because I don't recognize race, that means that racism can't exist any more"

Because I don't recognize race that means that racism doesn't exist for me. I call bigotry and intolerance by their real names. You may despise me for my skin color and assume that my ancestors must have owned slaves because I have the same skin color as some slave holders did but that is foolish and will not cause me to believe that we are fundamentally different. You may expect other people to despise you because your skin color is different than theirs and it is true that they may. The reason that people do this is because they are naturally inclined to. We all prefer people who look just like us and have the same cultural traditions as us, not because there is such a thing as race.

Because I don't recognize race you can not play the race card with me. I won't let you.
Comment by Eric R. on February 5, 2010 at 12:01am
That's a good point the Nerd. People are still going to use race to discriminate, even though it has no basis. Just like radical Muslims killing each other and us. Their entire premise is unfounded (that Allah gives them this right), but that doesn't stop them from still thinking they're right and acting on that.
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on February 4, 2010 at 11:52pm
I am a pan-european north american ... there has never been an 'appropriate' box for me. My father grew up in Port au Prince, my mother in Canada. I have Scandinavia and North Africa in me.

What the HELL is Asian, anyway - that's frikkin' ridiculous. Some Egyptians are from Africa while others (on the other side of the Suez canal) are Asian. Some Turks are European and other Asian. Israelis are Asian. Persians are Asian.

Africa is a huge land mass as well. And it is now known that if your ancestors live in a certain climate for a mere 8,000 - they will develop traits of melanin density in the skin, hair texture, etc. commensurate with what we call 'race.' Hell - the Belgians divided the people of Rwanda into two races that led to a genocide - completely arbitrarily constructed and recorded - the whole process.

Nevertheless, the implications are now deep in the culture. In England, it is just beginning to change that your accent doesn't determine your opportunities and economic class. So, when it comes to easily identifiable physical attributes you can't change even if you're Michael Jackson, it's going to take quite a awhile longer before we can, realistically say we've put that bad chapter behind us.
Comment by Tom Thompson on February 4, 2010 at 11:12pm
"So where do you draw the line in the distinction between culture and race?"

A sociologist would say that race is a cultural construct. There is no biological basis for race. The line is drawn by whoever is doing the dividing between us and them. Whether you choose to base your bigotry on skin color or cultural tradition or religion it still comes down to the same us and them divisiveness that harms society.

Sure, value your cultural diversity. Just don't use it as a means to distance yourself from those around you. The world isn't getting any bigger.
Comment by Eric R. on February 4, 2010 at 10:38pm
I use those words to refer to the races. The cultures are different. I cannot help the fact that our language uses Asian as a word for the race and for a culture. But there are many cultures in Asia, and they have many physical differences between them, which just shows how invalid it is to call them a "race" of Asians.

I said "Asian" because people would understand what I meant when I said that. I could have said "people with slightly yellow-tinged skin who live in the continent of Asia". I chose to be succinct.
Comment by Eric R. on February 4, 2010 at 10:21pm
But Mayokitty, Eastern Europe and Sweden are cultures, not races, and I think Tom was talking about race when he said "African-American", because that's just the euphemism we use for "black person". Cultures are based on values, practices, language, identity with a geographical location, etc. You may indeed consider your race to be Eastern European instead of Caucasian, in which case that just highlights the invalidity of the concept of race, or the variability of the word itself.

Pride in your cultural heritage does not mean pride in your skin color. However, most societies in the past have been of course all of the same skin color (Europeans, Chinese, Indians, e.g.). I have no problem with pride in culture. I'm proud of my American culture and it's close European ties. But my culture includes people of many different "races", and that's the thing. Unlike societies of the past, culture and race are not equivalent.
Comment by Tom Thompson on February 4, 2010 at 9:40pm
Good for you Eric. I came to this conclusion some time back. The notion of race is cultural baggage, just like religion, that people use to divide themselves with.

What does African American mean anyway? Should I label myself European American because my ancestors lived in Europe some ten generations ago? Or am I African American as well because my ancestors ultimately came from Africa long before that? I have seen DNA study participants with dark skin who were surprised to learn that their ancestors came from Eurasia, and not from Africa as they thought. Race is an illusion and skin color is as useful for determining cultural identity as a book cover is for determining the quality of the words inside.
Comment by Eric R. on February 4, 2010 at 8:40pm
Mayokitty, I do agree with you that many Saudi Arabians would consider it preposterous to think of being in the same race as an American. I am thinking mostly of this within American and European culture. Saudi Arabia has much larger issues to tackle than race, such as misogyny, rampant homophobia, and religious intolerance.
Comment by Eric R. on February 4, 2010 at 7:56pm
Yes I definitely agree that it is a hard habit to break and it's rooted in our evolutionary past. Tribal solidarity did not extend to other people. They were the enemy usually, especially if they looked different. That's why people still cling to religion despite its overwhelming irrationality and the evidence to the contrary. But that's changing a little now thankfully.



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