Friday, January 21, 2011

Race? Racism? Myths? Kant.

The first week of class was very interesting. The day that we covered the ten race myths was the most interesting in my opinion. The myth that stood out for me was "race matters". Many times we walk around as if racial classifications are of the past and that race no longer makes a difference. Although we are striving to have a society of equality, we have yet to accomplish that. Racial discrimination is so deeply embedded into our social structure that it is almost impossible to disregard its existence. Institutional embedded discrimination is a constant reminder that race is still a factor that makes a difference.
The other myth that I thought was very interesting was the absence of a genetic marker for racial difference. Although people attempted to scientifically justify racial difference , there was never a successful finding that differentiated one race from another. In fact, there is more genetic variation among people of the same race than of different races. This further proves that race is a social construction which we have made reality in our minds. We are socialized to see similarities within races and differences among different groups even if they do not realistically exist. Rather we admit it or not, we all stereotype people, places and things prior to knowing anything factual. While we sometime fail to acknowledge this, it is considered functional in our society. We use stereotypes to try to understand that which is unfamiliar to us.

According to Immanuel Kant, we all have four racial seeds but only one is active. This is a very profound statement because we are all mixed with other races, no one is of a pure race. Although we are all mixed, onephenotype is usually dominant. This discussion alone raised many questions in my mind: How many families actually feel the need to conserve the purity of their race ? (I know this could be something that people choose not to discuss) I also wondered how people felt about the term "reverse racism" ? Do you believe that it is possible to be racist if you are part of a marginalized group or is racism only possible when it is from the group of privilege ? I have had this discussions with many people of different races and there is a wide range of stances. Although being racist in a marginalized group is less likely to affect the group of privilege , it is still possible to possess racist attitudes and follow through with racist actions.

This then brings up the question : What is racism ? What do you consider to be racist ? There is a variation of this definition according to who you ask.


  1. Well, those are some big questions and I hope that we get to answer some of them, even though they may be unanswerable.

    Being a white male, I have been privileged all of my life and will be for the rest of my days. I am quite thankful for this, but I am even more thankful to have a family and upbringing that emphasized the equality of race. From this upbringing I have gained some form of a definition of what it means to be racist. I would agree that any race can indeed be racist, but I also agree that the privileged race is more likely to be racist. To define what being racist entails, I would say that someone is racist if they believe that any individual of another race is inherently worse or better than their own race. The racist must also believe that the difference (for better or worse) arises from their being of a different race, and not some other factor.

    So there is my amateur definition of what it means to be racist. I hope I can have a better understanding of racism as this course moves forward.

  2. Wow those are some huge questions... bravo for asking them!

    I agree with you in your statement of saying "race matters" and think it is very important that we acknowledge this fact. This importance arises from the fact that for many people their racial background has a sense of pride attached to it, along with many cultural, social, and religious ties as well. It is important to many people to recognize their race throughout their daily lives, and because of this fact, race matters.

    Your point that you made about our society striving for equality is interesting and quite open-ended in the face that we have yet to accomplish this, social ideal. I would ask, is it possible for a society to ever actually achieve social equality? Looking through history I would say not. This is not because humans don't want to believe that each of us can be equal to one another, but rather that our institutions and practices don't allow for that level of equality to be reached.

    Your question on what families actually feel the need to conserve the purity of their race is daring and necessary! I would be curious to see how this question is received in class, because I agree, that it may not be a question that people feel "comfortable" discussing. Though, I think that through generations and education the idea of "preserving race" has been taught to be a negative idea. I know personally that older generations of my family, who are southern breed and born, may have negative views when it comes to interracial relationships, but when it comes to the younger generations we are the rebels and rioters according to the older generations, because interracial relationships, families, lovers, friends, and so on are common place in our world. So I think it is important that we consider this aspect of your question. For posing it generational, I think, will get vastly different responses.

    As far as "reverse racism" goes I must say that racism is possible for any human, no matter that person's racial background. In fact, there have been many instances where some of the most harmful and violent racism has taken place not between races, but within a single race. For instance, when Jim Zwerg got off of the bus first during the Freedom Rides, and was attacked by the white mob waiting. Also, in the below link is another example where the racism does not exceed the single racial boundaries, but rather festers within the boundaries.

  3. I am sure that there are still people in the world that believe that their race must be preserved, but I feel like that stance is not practical. A "pure race" does not exist, but there are certain groups that practice endogamy today in order to preserve their religious and cultural backgrounds throughout future generations. Some Jewish communities believe that they must marry within their group and I cannot fault them for that. There are certain instances however, when people have supported the idea that a bloodline must be protected from taint and have taken things too far like with the anti-miscegenation laws that began around the 1600s. In a short story called “Désirée’s Baby” a woman of unknown origins named Désirée who looked like she was of European descent married a man of stature. She was expelled from her home by her husband once they had their first child because the baby appeared to be of African-American descent. It was incredible to me when reading this story how deeply the idea of racial boundaries was set within each individual. So much so that the husband could no longer love his wife once it appeared that she resided within a separate racial category and he was able to quickly and easily dismiss her from his life without a second thought.

    In addition, I agree that racism can be practiced by anyone. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that less privileged classes of people can be racist. These classes can also experience intolerance of other races or possess the belief that their achievements are the direct result of their racial identity and that the failures of others of different races are the result of their having an “inferior” racial identity.


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