On Race

On Race

They say race doesn’t exist
And this is true.
They say race is real
And this is also true.

There appears to be a contradiction here.

So what is going on? It is a matter of definitions. Humans as a species have a single place of origin in Africa. Adaptation to reduced levels of ultra-violet in sunlight has caused skin pigmentation to reduce in populations that have developed away from tropical regions, but humans remain a single species with these separate populations perfectly able to interbreed. On this basis, equating race with species, race does not exist.

I find it hard to believe that any person of color would agree. Race is a social construct similar to nationality, a shorthand to define a group based on shared heritage, shared culture. Those who deny that race exists might have good intentions but what they are doing is erasing peoples’ identities.

Many people, myself included, take pride in their identity and feel comfort and strength from belonging to groups who share that identity. This is true for me as an autistic person, it is true for me as a trans person, it is true for me as one who was born and raised in the North of England. That pride is a positive thing. It brings a sense of community, of belonging. It helps us feel that we are not alone in the world.

But there is a negative side to this, one that fuels the evils of hatred and oppression. One intrinsic attribute of any group is that it is exclusive: there are those who are a part of it, and then there are the others. Those who are not in. This leads to judgment of those others and illusions of supremacy.

It is a comfortable fiction to believe that whatever groups one belongs to must be superior simply because one is a member of them. Groups that are in positions of power are seen to abuse that power to maintain their status: they abuse their privilege to promote themselves at the expense of others.

When the groups are defined along lines of race then the result of this is racism. How can race not be real when it has been used and continues to be used as a reason to disadvantage whole cultures, to restrict and deny their rights, to oppress and otherwise harm them simply because they are other?

The inequality that results harms those who lack privilege, but it also harms society as a whole. It creates deep divisions like festering wounds that unless treated will cause our society to sicken and die. Real equality is the only cure. This means not only the visible, vocal bigots but also the ones who are not even aware of how they perpetuate their privilege by subconsciously favoring their own group, their own race.

Become aware. Be conscious of your actions. Recognize your prejudices and fight to overcome them. Accept your mistakes and work to correct them. The road to equality has many steps and the journey starts with you. Start it right now.

I Don’t Know What To Say

I Don’t Know What To Say

My daughter turns 18 in a month’s time. I’ve not been part of her growing up, not been there as a parent to her. There are reasons of course but I’m not going to go into that now. What matters to me is that she recently chose to get in touch.

She sent me a message via Facebook which I didn’t see for nearly a week because it went into my Others folder. I have no idea what she thought as the days went past and I didn’t respond; I replied as soon as I read it. We established that we’d both like to keep in touch which makes me happy.

That was two weeks ago. I keep thinking about starting a conversation with her but I have no idea how to go about it. I realize I know next to nothing about her. I don’t know what her interests are, what she studied at college, places she likes to go, food she likes to eat. I don’t know how she feels about me.

The last time I saw her was at my mother’s funeral, a cathartic day on which I was finally able to move on from the pain I felt since my breakup with her mother. I think I’d like to see her again, face to face. I have some anxiety because I can’t predict how it would go.

Writing this has helped me gather my thoughts. I guess I could just start by asking about the kind of things I’ve mentioned here. This social interaction business sure is difficult — I’ve got so little experience and in this case it means so much to me that I’m terrified of getting it wrong.

Here goes… Wish me luck!