Our eyes tell us that people look different. No one has trouble distinguishing a Czech from a Chinese. But what do those differences mean? Are they biological? Has race always been with us? How does race affect people today?
There’s less - and more - to race than meets the eye:
1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even language. The English language didn’t even have the word ‘race’ until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.
2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.
3. Human subspecies don’t exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven’t been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most similar of all species.
4. Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent, athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone’s skin color doesn’t necessarily tell you anything else about him or her.
5. Most variation is within, not between, “races.” Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.
6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a unique set of historical circumstances, ours was the first slave system where all the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.
7. Race and freedom evolved together. The U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that “All men are created equal.” But our early economy was based largely on slavery. How could this anomaly be rationalized? The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.
8. Race justified social inequalities as natural. As the race idea evolved, white superiority became “common sense” in America. It justified not only slavery but also the extermination of Indians, exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of Mexican lands by a nation that professed a belief in democracy. Racial practices were institutionalized within American government, laws, and society.
9. Race isn’t biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social institutions have created advantages that disproportionately channel wealth, power, and resources to white people. This affects everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.
10. Colorblindness will not end racism. Pretending race doesn’t exist is not the same as creating equality. Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.
RACE - The Power of an Illusion was produced by California Newsreel in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Major funding provided by the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Diversity Fund.
Excellent, excellent article by retired MLB player Doug Glanville on how he was racially profiled while shoveling snow out of his own driveway in Hartford, Connecticut. Worth the read. (via leeandlow)
Yes, please read the whole article. It’s really is excellent.
A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”
All of my homeowner confidence suddenly seemed like an illusion.
It would have been all too easy to play the “Do you know who I am?” game. My late father was an immigrant from Trinidad who enrolled at Howard University at age 31 and went on to become a psychiatrist. My mother was an important education reformer from the South. I graduated from an Ivy League school with an engineering degree, only to get selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft. I went on to play professionally for nearly 15 years, retiring into business then going on to write a book and a column for The New York Times. Today, I work at ESPN in another American dream job that lets me file my taxes under the description “baseball analyst.”
But I didn’t mention any of this to the officer. I tried to take his question at face value, explaining that the Old Tudor house behind me was my own. The more I talked, the more senseless it seemed that I was even answering the question. But I knew I wouldn’t be smiling anymore that day.
There is so much of this stuff in my ask box, and most of it not even anonymous, but I don’t want to call out any particular user because I know they’ll then get a lot of hateful asks and the cycle will just continue.
First off, there’s a comma splice in your ask. I just have to let you know that, on account of how I’m a pretentious prick.
I hope that I’m not transphobic. I’ve been public and vocal in my support for the rights of trans people for years, and I’ve tried over the years to amplify trans voices, from T Cooper to Stephen Ira Beatty, rather than pretending to be able to speak for them.
Look, I am a person, and I am not a particularly good one. I am screwed up and make a lot of mistakes. But I am not a piece of trash. I would imagine that you are also screwed up and make a lot of mistakes, but you aren’t a piece of trash either.
But it is still hurtful—very hurtful—to hear people call me a piece of trash. It just makes me sad to hear, the way I think it would make most people sad to hear. The certainty and lack of nuance in that characterization reflects a broader lack of nuance in online discourse these days that just bums me out.
Stuff like this? It’s not activism. It’s hate mongering.
And it’s not even correct. Just because you levy an accusation at someone doesn’t make you right about it.
This is the kind of stuff that will ruin the internet, if we let it. I hope we can get ourselves together and end this so we can have good things.
I always find it so funny when people bitch about ‘forced diversity’.
because, like, once you work retail you start to see just how different everybody is.
for example, the other day I greeted a woman I was ringing up and started asking her the usual…
Everyone has seen the Windows XP desktop image called Bliss. It’s been ubiquitous for 13 years. And you’ve probably always thought that the serene hillside is kind of corny and probably fake. Nothing is that idyllic. But apparently it’s real! And to commemorate the end of support for Windows XP,…
PW examines the current state of children’s publishing with a look at who’s buying, what they’re buying, where they’re buying, and in what formats.
What I find really interesting is that only 21% of YA book buyers are high schoolers. 34% are 18-29 and 26% are 30-44.