Thursday, January 1, 2009

Black People & White People

I'm one of those people that loves words, though I could not accept the title of a wordsmith, I am particular about words. I think about their meanings and the messages they convey.

White People.


Black People.

The "official terms" Black people and White people sound quite strange rolling off my tongue because they bear no literal resemblance to hue, thus it sounds funny. Also because if there are Black and White People there would also have to be Yellow, and Red and perhaps Orange, or Brown people. Yet no matter how silly it sounds it does to a certain degree define people and power relationships. I suppose the same could be said of the term 'race.' The term 'race' has no biological validity because, there is only one race. Race is therefore linked to ancestry, and other phenotypic markers like skin color and facial features. It is important to note that skin color is not the sole determinant of race; because there are many people of the same skin color that belong to totally different ethnic backgrounds. Neither could race simply be about facial features because I know "Blacks" with more asiatic features or Latinos with more Anglo features. Moreover, race is a result of all three factors. Regardless of how scientific race really is, its political ramifications are very real- racism is very real.

Race, racism and color seem to complicate everything because then they are treated as a scientific fact by which we can project information about who people are. We have these amazing brains that are always processing and analyzing information and it is a lot easier to use language to make sketches of people rather than treating each person as a blank slate. Indeed, this is a very valuable skill that we have to utilize but it becomes problematic when we make projections about whole groups of people or countries as if the are one monolithic group of people. Sure, these generalizations are great for comedic sketches but people are more than the 2 dimensional stereotypes that are assigned to ethnic groups. Now I am sure many of the people reading must think this topic of Race is not worth discussion because we live in a post-racial society. While I can agree there has been progress made in race relations over the last fifty years, race and racism are still very much alive around the globe today. I'm not even remotely referring to "Whites" that unashamedly promote White Supremacy, or any other people group that view themselves as superior to another group of people. The type of racism that I am talking about is not the overt statements made by bigots...... "Mexicans are lazy. Blacks are criminals. Native Americans are drunks. Jews are greedy. Arabs are terrorists. Whites are racists, ect."

Rather what I am talking about is the unexamined and subconscious prejudices of good people. Stereotypes have so colored our perceptions of people that it becomes easy to make sweeping generalizations about whole groups of people without even acknowledging these judgments as racist. Just like sin, I think we are all guilty of unknowingly holding prejudices in our hearts. We picked it up somewhere, regardless of how aware we are of it, it is wrong. However, this does not deny the fact that racism as it is classically, and rightfully defined centers on White Supremacy; race is more political than scientific, and therefore involves power relations. Due to time and the sensitivity of this subject, I'm gonna leave with this video clip and this one develop these thoughts further in later post.


Dolce said...

"Rather what I am talking about is the unexamined and subconscious prejudices of good people..."

You really made me think here Elliott. Exceptional post by the way. But I honestly had to look deep within my self and think about the stereotypes that I may hold... Ill write more on this later.

clayrobins said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this blog e! I also checked out the videos as well. It is my theory and probably based on fact, that during the slave revolt when both black and whites were treated unjustly, the idea of race was created. This has very serious implication because we are able to see how individuals in power were able to separate people.