Thursday, June 08, 2006

RACE

Genetically there is only one--the Human Race. There is not genetic difference between those of us here in the cushy US and those indigenous people of rural Africa, South America, or Indonesia. Yet our society acts as if there is. A Race Literacy Quiz was posted on one of the ethiopadopt message board--http://www.newsreel.org/guides/race/quiz.htm. It was very enlightening. I have always said the only thing that separates the races is our outward skin color. It was nice to know that scientifically I was right. In my Anthropology classes in college--I was required to take 2 in my liberal arts education--there was never talk about race, it was always about cultures.

Currently in our country there is a push by the right to pass an amendment to the constitution that takes away the right for certain people to marry. I catch myself off guard by this as I always believed that the constitution was there to protect rights not take rights away. But the Constitution was born out of the declaration of Independence--which was the biggest contributing factor to the way that we treat blacks in America. It was designed to guarantee rights but not "all men". The writer of the declaration of independence--the esteemed Thomas Jefferson--claimed that there was a chance that blacks were inferior.

What causes this "us" and "them"? How do we go from being one race--the human--to be classified by our ethnic heritage. It shouldn't matter if I am white/Caucasian, black/African-American, pacific islander, native American, Latino, etc... I have professor whose husband is South African and white. He is completely perplexed by forms that ask for ethnicity/race--I will get to those two words becoming synonyms a little later. The first time he filled out one of our American forms he had to ask his US born wife what to check--He really is African and American but he doesn't fit the American idea of what African-American is. Interesting how we here in America have taken an entire continent and turned it into a designator for an entire color of people. Not all black people are of African descent. Any group that lives near or on the equator is going to have darker skin and less hair than those who live farther away from the equator.

From Wikipedia: Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30,300,000 km² (11,700,000 mi²) including adjacent islands, it covers 5.9% of the Earth's total surface area, and 20.3% of the total land area.[1] With more than 840,000,000 people (as of 2005) in 61 territories, it accounts for more than 12% of the world's human population.

The US is not nearly as big, we are quite small compared to Africa and we recognize the differences within our own local population. We hold on to our heritage and wear it with pride. I am from St. Louis and from the Midwest--that says something about me. We care where each other are from and acknowledge the cultural differences of being from the West Coast, East Coast, South, Mid-West, etc. Yet we lump everyone that is black--together African--Africa is a continent not a race or even an Ethnicity. My son is Ethiopian, my good friend is Nigerian. We lump everyone that is Asian together--again a continent not a race or even an Ethnicity--the Korean culture is very different from the Japanese, ChineseVietnamesese, etc.

This whole need for American to classify people and judge them based on this classification is tearing apart the fabric of our society. It will affect my family and my children. It affects all of us. I don't see how we can change it. It has been a part of how the American culture has done things. My husband pointed out something that I find interesting--at work he has noticed that all of the black employees great each other in the hallway, whether they know each other or not. There is comfort in those who look like we do, but also those who are similar not only in looks but in status. I am not sure what this means yet, I will post more about this when I think it through more.

Race vs. Ethnicity. What truly do these words mean. It is difficult. Race has about 6 different definitions--this is part of the ambiguity of language. I will have to check out the OED and see the origin of the word, as we have a tendency to change words and their meanings to suit our needs.

Ethnic by definition is Of or relating to a sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage. or it means Relating to a people not Christian or Jewish; heathen. These are loaded definitions and seem to be slightly inspired by ambiguity.

I am constantly perplexed by the desire and need of our society to define people. We are all so very different. There is more genetic variation in a localized population than there is in different populations. There is more genetic variation between me and my neighbors than there is between me and my son. Yet our family will be different because my son's skin has more melonin than mine. By grouping people together and labeling them together we build a community that fosters hate and not love. We pit groups against each other. And by we, I mean white middle class americans. The middle class has managed to demonize certain groups and then a new group comes in and then we demonize that group as if it is ripping apart the fabric of our country and our values, then the previously demoninzed (or demeaned if you wish) group joins our group in disliking the new group--the old group is just happy not to be the old group anymore. It is a viscious cycle that appears to have no end in sight as our society moves on to hispanics and homosexuals.



I could speak on this topic for days but there are many ideas I brought up that deserve further research on my part before I pontificate on them further. But I must say I am left with the though that if Scientifically there is no difference between us, why do we treat each other so differently? Why can't we see past the apperance and just see the person?

3 comments:

MP2 said...

What an awesome post, Dawn. -MP

MP2 said...

Me again - I'm just not leaving your blog alone today! Hubby took the kids fishing, so I had time to take the quiz you linked in this entry. Thanks so much for including it - I didn't know very much about the history of housing discrimination in our country. How disgusting.

Dawn said...

Thank you for asking the questions but more importantly thank you for seeking the answers. Many people are content to overlook these things.