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.

3 thoughts on “On Race

  1. I recently asked for clarification of this from a blog site that I follow and they sent me several links. The most useful one for me was the article that follows. The last paragraph reads “Thus the concept of human races is real. It is not a biological reality, however but a cultural one. Race is not a part of our biology but it is definitely a part of our culture. Race and racism are deeply ingrained…” http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I am so saddened that people don’t understand their privilege and abuse it. Many people are in complete denial of it and act as if they are the victims when it is pointed out.

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