I think I have found various informational articles and videos that have helped give different perspectives on race and racism. I think my focus for this research project is to analyze the question Is Race Real? Personally, I’m not sure if there is a solid answer to this question, however I think by using the resources I have found, I should be able to make a viable argument for the answer being no. Looking at the physical color of skin, DNA and genetics, cultural attitudes, political constructs, and social minorities/majorities I think it is possible to explain that race is not innate, but rather a social construct perpetuated by societies’ urge to categorize and label differences.
Race drives many social and political outcomes. Definitions of race in America adjust just as political priorities change. For example, in 1929 Mexicans were considered White, but in the 1930 census they were no longer considered White, this was done in order to limit immigration. However, Mexicans were once again deemed White in 1942 when the US wanted to increase labor force in World War II. Another example mentioned was the “One drop of African ancestry” rule which left people able to change their race just by crossing state lines. For some, racial identity is very clear and straight forward, however for others racial identity isn’t so clear and can very easily be changed. “Understanding that racial categories are made up, can give us an important perspective on where racism can from in the first place.”
This video does a great job in explaining the difficulty in defining different races. My question is If racial categories can be so easily changed, is there such thing as a true, clear cut and unchangeable definition of race?
This video is by a blind man, Tommy Edison and his views on racism. He explains his perceptions of people as he never thinks about color. Just like Martin Luther King Jr, he judges people based off the content of their character. He has noticed that he can’t tell race based off of what someone says or does, however there are some physical differences, for example black people’s skin is softer and more moisturized; skins/hairs are different textures (soft vs coarse). Continually, he mentions that he has always wanted to have a party with the lights off, where no one could see each other but just talk to each other, so that people cannot have the opportunity to judge based off of the color of skin. According to Edison, “Inside we are all the same color…If we all got rid of the skin, we’d all look the same…Being blind has nothing to do with character, just as the color of skin has nothing to do with character. It’s all about what’s in the heart and what’s in the head.”
I think this video does a fantastic job of explaining how racism cannot be viewed by someone who can’t see color. So my question is If we were all the same color, or if color was not a factor, could racism exist?
Today, the word “racism” and “ending racism” is being used without a functional definition, one which provides a realistic basis for understanding how it can be eliminated or contained. Its present use by most such African Americans would have the masses believe that racism is all a matter of “attitude.” The article attempts to summarize the findings of international scholars attempting to analyze the meaning for racism, discrimination, attacks on minorities, etc. Several reasons for racism are mentioned: It promotes the devaluation of minorities, some cultures idealize aggression which facilitates minority/majority conflict, humans can have an incapacity for empathy, poor self-concept and world view, racism is influenced by subservience to authority and the authoritarianism of culture. Mass media attitudes and images portraying negative stereotypes facilitate discrimination and victimization of minorities. There are also social customs, rules and standards – minorities who frequently fill certain devalued positions in society, are thus confronted with vicious circles such as: they are janitors because they are discriminated against / they are discriminated against because they are janitors. Race has been perpetuated through various systems and for various reasons. Changing societal attitudes may well require a focus on restructuring societal institutions; rethinking the rationalization of mass media programming, the contents of the education system, and the concept of justice guiding the output of our judicial systems; the reconceptualization of the goals of law enforcement, etc. This article makes me wonder how all of these institutions (education, media, government, etc.) combined to structure racism? And What if these systems did not have minority and majority distinctions, would racism still exist?
This article is a story published in the New York Times. The writer, Nicholas Kristof, tells about his findings upon having his DNA examined. To much surprise he has been found to be African American. He then goes on to quote various scientists and geneticists, questioning whether or not race is real. He brings about several points including “race is biologically meaningless.” He compares Caucasians, Indians, Pakistanis, African-Americans, Jews, and Japanese, eventually making the claim that we are all bound to be somewhat related through genetics. “Genetics increasingly shows that racial and ethnic distinctions are real – but often fuzzy and greatly exaggerated. Genetics will increasingly show that most humans are mongrels, and it will make a mockery of racism.”
If we share the same genetics, does that make us the same race? Can race be solely defined by genetics? or Is race comprised by more than DNA, i.e. social and cultural differences?
Researchers are trying to identify the factors that induce perceptual biases. In this article they examine two studies on unrelated biases of perception: the other-race effect (ORE) and categorical color perception (CCP). ORE research shows that people are usually more exposed to faces of their own ethnic group and hence become experts in processing and remembering their characteristics. Own-race faces are linked to proper names, whereas other-race faces are linked to the category label. In effect, people tend to see objects as more homogeneous when belonging to the same category and as more different when belonging to different categories. With CCP (when categorizing) people are faster in distinguishing two colors belonging to different categories than two colors belonging to the same category (i.e. blue and green vs two different shades of blue). Cultural labels create categories, which, in turn, guide individual perception. Perception is strictly linked to, and can be guided by, the linguistic and social framing of the categorical boundaries. Categorization and labeling are strictly linked to each other as labels make categories clearer and, in turn, categories help the language community, from which labels derive, to maintain a specific social system.
Why do people feel the need to categorize/label groups, colors, ethnicities, races, etc. that are different from their own? How do different perceptions impact categorizations? If race is just a category created by individual perceptions, then is race real?