Monday, February 28, 2011

Response to Chloe's Post

Hi Everyone,

This was intended as a comment on Chloe's post but it grew too long. Thus, I'm submitting it as a post instead of a comment.


Chloe, thank you for continuing this very interesting discussion. You make a number of interesting points in your post, but I have to say that I still disagree with you.

I think that you are forgetting that colonies are always established and maintained with military power. Every colonial effort in history has utilized overwhelming military force in order to maintain its essentially unjust system. In every colony there is a large number of soldiers whose "job" is to maintain the status quo and keep the colony running as the mother country likes. Thus, your argument that American soldiers are soldiers and not colonizers is not logically consistent. Granted, being a soldier in a foreign country does not necessarily make you a colonizer, but it certainly does not make you necessarily not a colonizer. There is absolutely nothing about belonging to the classification "soldier" which precludes one from also belonging to the classification "colonizer."

Memmi does indeed define the colony as a place where "one earns more and spends less," and I will grant you that our soldiers do not benefit nearly as much or as unfairly as colonizing militaries have in the past. Unlike most historical colonial militaries, our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot participate in pillage and rape with impunity (although situations like what occurred at Abu Ghraib certainly happen more than we realize - no military can occupy a foreign country without somehow abusing the population, and to deny this is to naively ignore the inevitable fact of what happens when thousands of armed men and women are thrown into a situation of extreme power, danger, and stress). Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the great financial gains that companies like Halliburton or private military contractors have received because of our wars. And our desire for oil is almost too obvious for me to mention. If we really were after "liberating" and assisting foreign peoples instead of simply furthering our national interests (of which having a secure supply of oil is an integral component), we should have spent those hundreds of billions of dollars on stopping genocide in Sudan and fighting HIV/AIDS throughout Africa. No matter how you look at it, many American corporations are benefiting monetarily from our wars; and, incidentally, Memmi himself points out that it is always the richest members of a society who benefit most from colonization.

Furthermore, you can call it "liberation" if you want - Saddam really was a horrible dictator - but the fact of the matter is that we ARE imposing our political ideology on the Iraqi people. I'm sure many of them hated Saddam and wanted him overthrown, so by deposing Saddam we were indeed fulfilling the wishes of many Iraqis. But that does not at all mean that they want democracy! Overthrowing Saddam and creating a democracy are two entirely different things and are in no way necessarily related. We have mandated that the Iraqi people form a democratic government with democratic social and legal institutions. Do you think that we would ever let them not form a democracy? Granted, I haven't the faintest idea what it is that the Iraqi people "want", and I don't think that I'm a minority in that. We have been told over and over again that they want a democracy, but we have to be skeptical of such a claim because it is an oversimplification of the dynamics of incredibly complicated society and, more importantly, it is the exporters of democracy, i.e. our government, who are the ones telling us this.

You are certainly correct in saying that Iraq and Afghanistan are not colonies as Memmi defines them, because there are a number of large differences. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that Memmi wrote his book over fifty years ago and since then that breed of colonialism has died. It would be impossible to practice 19th and 20th century colonialism in the 21st century because it would (hopefully) be instantly recognized and stopped. Humans have always invented, and will always continue to invent, new ways of oppressing others for their personal benefit and we are only beginning to see what form this will take in the 21st century. We should remember that in the early nineteen hundreds there were many French who defended their occupation of Tunisia, Algeria, and other African colonies as far different from the backwards and inhumane colonization of the 18th and 19th centuries...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do You Only Love the Idea of It?

In Thursday’s class we discussed negritude and its essentialist views. Black people are emotional, creative, and intuitive. These qualities were for Aime Cesaire the essence of the black race. This also connected us to similar ideas that are still held today and are manifested on reality television shows like the Bad Girls Club and College Hill. These shows usually do include black females who are aggressive, antagonistic, loud, and proud. Usually they will also be overly sexualized. The black males also may be praised based on their sexual prowess, cool demeanor, or aggressive behavior. Such distinctions concerning the African American character manage to reach the majority of black people today. I feel that these depictions manage to convince our young people that this is how they should act if they are African American or that this is acceptable behavior. I did encounter such behavior often at my high school. It is as if adolescents are especially susceptible to the idea that they, as black people, should display the “essential” qualities of their character at every given opportunity by “being black” and proud of their African American heritage. This tendency for such high school students to desire to “display their blackness” in their heritage is usually accompanied by a nearly complete lack of knowledge or interest in their African American background and history. This is very much of interest of me when considering that the types of behavior perpetuated by this idea usually accompanies a sense of pride and confidence in themselves due to their African American heritage. There were also various jokes falling in line with the essentialist idea concerning the inherent qualities of the black or white soul. For example, a younger black student may have encountered a social situation where, during a conversation with other African American students, they may not have known about a particular fact, person, or situation, that it was considered common knowledge for them to know about within the black community. For instance he or she may not have heard a particular song that had been heavily in circulation for a while so they would then “jokingly” threaten to take away the individual’s “black card” thus putting forth the idea that being African American involves a membership package that apparently includes a card, accompanying characteristics, and a knowledge of all things “black” in pop culture. It seems that some African Americans treasure the idea of being black instead of the actual heritage and history that accompanies the sense of pride in indentifying with that group. I feel that such knowledge and awareness should accompany a person’s link to any cultural group.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Soldier's Place

In class, after the Memmi Group Presentation, the discussion of the place of Memmi's argument in the Iraq situation at this moment came up. I would like to perhaps pretense this post by saying that I would like to compare the design of Memmi's argument to the complex role of the Soldier in today's society. Perhaps then, we can discuss how different and complex the roles of soldiers are from the roles of a colonizer.

First, Memmi defines the colonizer as an individual that moves to a new land to attain an easier life and gain personal profit. By gaining economic gain, the colonizer automatically has inevitable privilege which lets the colonizer throw out laws and rules with no remorse. Also the colonizer will take the natives belongings and be a usurper with little to no regard to the natives. Second, another point that Memmi brings up is that there can be a colonizer who refuses but they will only have two choices when they refuse to take part in the colonizing. The colonizer that refuses can either stay in the colony and accept their privileged position or they can leave the colony and not be a part of it at all. Also, we discussed in class how the colonizer is often, if not always, pushing the ideology of the natives out so that they can become the ideological majority. This would include religion, politics, and other cultural aspects. Also, keep in mind that an overarching theme is that the colonizer is finding a NEW HOME in the land that they are colonizing.

Now lets look at the U.S. military in Iraq. I would like to state that first and foremost the U.S. soldier's position is a job and within that job there are, like all other jobs, duties that are not up for question. Also, by having a job as a U.S. soldier it must be respected that if you were not to follow your duty the consequences are arguable far worse than most jobs. First, unlike the colonizer Memmi describes that moves to a new land to attain an easier life and gain personal profit is not like a soldier. A soldier has no goal of attaining an easier life in Iraq or living there for their lifetime. Also, a soldier does not gain personal profit from being over there. While granted a soldier does gain more profit being deployed than being stationed at home (e.g. on U.S. soil) it is not specific to Iraq. Soldiers deployed anywhere are more profitable economically, yet it must be realized that this is because they cannot benefit their dependents physical. Also, under the prime directives of the U.S. military, the military units that are serving active duty are not allowed to impose on the laws, cultures, and national pride of the natives. While some would argue that by with stating the Hussein government the U.S. military was imposing on the laws and political institutions Iraq, UN and international law states that in a corrupt government outside forcing are not imposing on nations if they are liberating the nation's people; which is what the U.S. military did in the end by forcing Saddam Hussein's government out of office. Also, while some may argue that the US military has privilege and power over the natives I must say that this is not true. In fact, the only place this argument has plausibility for would be the green zone. This is the only land where the U.S. military has jurisdiction for their people and their operations. Yet, before you jump to saying this is a colonized zone I would ask you to look at the embassies that are scattered across the nations of the world that technically belong to other nations.
Continuing, Memmi states that the Colonizer that refuses has two options, to leave or stay and deal basically. Soldiers do NOT have a choice like this. This lack of choice goes back to the duties of the job and the consequences of not doing these duties. If a soldier were to refuse active duty because "oh well I don't really agree with the pretenses for going to Iraq" he would most likely be charged with treason, dishonorably dismissed, tried in a military court, and sentenced for basically "not following the norm". While you may say well he still has a choice. Unlike the colonizer who could remain in the motherland and still have a life and livelihood and profit, a soldier does not have a choice to remain at home and retain that life, livelihood, or profit because all of those ride on the soldier completing his or her job.

My last point I would like to make is that a colonizer would go to the new land and establish a new HOME! A soldier, no matter where they are deployed to, and in this case Iraq, are going there for an extended yet limited period of time. They are taking no livelihood, no family, no personal items beside those that can fit in the standard military issued backpack and duffle after the required items are packed. The few morals and values that they are allowed to bring and practice they cannot pass on to create a more comfortable home-like environment. To sum it up, our Soldiers do NOT call Iraq HOME!

The Practicality of Colonizer being Colonized

I would like to know, is it the case that a white, democratic male colonizer is eternally bound to his superior position in society, despite his mindset AND despitehis actions? It seems a bit ridiculous to me, that "it is not just enough to refuse in your mind" according to Memmi. If that was the case, then wouldn't it also be the case that the Moral Hero would never have acquired the title "hero"? This can be related to the Civil Rights Era as well. There was a number of white males that looked past their own forced superiority and considered themselves to be no more privileged than the Black people (renounce colonial privilege). These men took on the ways of the deprived peoples and marched with them (overcome feelings of alienation), while at the same time adopting their governmental practices and oppressions (resolve his inherent political dilemma). Those men, despite their whiteness, loved the Black people, which is why they fought for their rights, and, in turn, I feel like Black Americans accepted them...truly accepted them and loved them for the changes that they had chosen to make. With that being said, why is it that Memmi, along with some other philosophers, believes that it is impossible to even perceive someone in the colonized group as being accepting of a colonizer - who has denounced himself and his own privileges in order to join the colonized. I think that just refusing in your mind IS NOT enough, but refusing in your mind AND taking action may very well be enough. After all, once the colonizer leaves the colonizing group, he is considered an outsider of some sort. For him to be accepted into the colonized group should be proof enough that he is unanimously "loved" by its people, right? Plus, there are always going to be people who don't like Blacks and people who don't like Whites. Conflict is a part of human nature.

What about the quote, "We come to love that for which we freely suffer?" Could it be the case that the colonizer becomes loved by the colonized because they have freely suffered, psychologically, due to his oppression and in order to alleviate cognitive dissonance, they tell themselves that, in fact, he can become one of them? It seems possible to me anyway...

Being American, Being a Black American, Being a Female American

Brittany’s post from last week got me thinking. A few classes ago we were talking about W.E.B. Du Bois, I think, and were discussing what it is to be “American”. We discussed how being an American in a way presupposes being a white male. Due to this individuals must identify with not only being American but also with whatever it is that makes them deviate from the “norm”. This leads to a black male to identify himself as “black” in addition to being “American”, and a white female to indentify as both a “woman” and an “American”. If this is the case, women and non-white individuals must be aware of these roles with which they identify. White males, on the other hand, merely identify with being “American” and do not have to deal with the conflicting identities. This relates back to Brittany’s post because while maybe children aren’t aware of it, they might still experience the conflicts of identities that we described in class. While white children aren’t aware of racial injustice as they are not subject to it, black children see it more readily and experience it in some capacity. I think this difference persists into young adulthood to the point that white college students might disagree with what is the supposed “norm” of racial interactions while black students tend to agree with them. Whites, especially males, are just less aware of social inequalities and such because they are not on the receiving end. Whites who believe they don’t treat people different based on race (regardless of if they do) are always going to refute certain claims of how people act because they are not subject to social inequalities and identify with the race that is responsible for most social injustice, yet they do not participate in it. A black or female student might be more willing to agree with certain assertions because while they might not participate in it, they definitely experience being subjected. It can be very difficult for whites to recognize social inequalities when they are never subject to them.

The Implications of Negritude

Negritude poses some serious problems for me. I have trouble buying into the idea that there are racial “essentials” in the first place, because there is no science in the field of genetics to validate those claims. All of us in the class seem to agree with the idea that there is no genetic basis for race as we know it, but we also seem to gloss over the that fact often. Where I think this has the most impact is in our discussion of negritude. Senghor claims that black value expresses itself, “through primordial rhythms, synchronized with those of the Cosmos.” As stated in class, this initially sounds like something a mild-mannered racist would say. Perhaps it would be something you were more likely to hear in the drum circle at Overton Park and not something normally found in a philosophy text. It’s problem lies not in just its stylistic elements, but also in its foundations.

When Senghor states that these are the ways black values express themselves, he gives no reason as to why this is so. In a way, we just have to take his word for it. If we do indeed take his word for it, then it also follows that there are negative aspects that apply to all blacks. Blacks are humans and humans certainly have flaws, so blacks must have negative aspects as well as positive ones. This seems like a dangerous road to take, for negative racial essentials are what the Nazis used in their European racialism. Essentially, if one allows for racial essentials at all, then one must also allow for negative racial essentials.

Negritude also poses a problem for me in that it concentrates so much on the differences between races. The blacks have something to offer to the world that the whites can’t and the whites have something to offer that the blacks can’t. I really don’t see the separation of “offerings” as a way to eliminate racism as it exists today. We are all humans and therefore have the potential to offer the same thing. Of course, that last statement runs into trouble when considering figures like MLK. As Prof. Johnson brought up in class, his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was as a black man, and not just a man. I am not sure how to reconcile this idea with the idea that we shouldn’t concentrate on our differences. MLK himself argued for focusing on our similarities rather than our differences, which I think was what gave strength to his argument.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

1964 Civil Rights Bill vs. 1965 Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

. What I mean by asserting that structural racism is not recognized in American political discourse is that only the symptoms of racism are treated, and poorly at best. At the same time, the system is reproducing the power inequalities already inherent in it. To highlight this, read over and compare the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the UN resolution for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965. There seem to be some misconceptions about the civil rights bill's effective strength.

First, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 DID NOT:

- Title 1 did NOT outlaw literacy tests and other forms of qualification for voters to vote (even though this was the main focus of the bill). Instead, it required "equal" testing of all voters who turned up at the polls. This changed the American "right" to vote into another Jim Crow regulated system LEGALLY.

- Title 2 did NOT outlaw discrimination in "private" establishments, only in public places such as parks, theatres, and hotels. So one could construe this as saying "sure, we can look equal" when in reality most establishments are not public and could continue to restrict services at their discretion.

- Title 3 did NOT do anything to aid desegregation of public schools, which were officially desegregated in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education - but, because whites and blacks lived in such radically segregated areas, it in effect did nothing for those people who did not have the means to commute to a new (and sometimes hostile) school further away. This is because school busing was still reserved primarily for students who lived, you guessed it, in the "right" neighborhoods.

- Title IV did NOT force the government to withdraw funds from federally funded bodies which still practiced discrimination. Instead, it merely "authorized" the government to do so. Again, here is a huge loophole which magically made its way into what should have been a plain black and white text bill that denounced discrimination.

- Title V did NOT end racial hiring biases in all businesses. Only businesses which are over 25 people are even targeted by this provision. Now some may consider this to be plenty of businesses, but think about the aim of this bill. Is it to give equal rights to those who "wish to work in businesses with 26 or more people?" That is ludicrous.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was established in 1965. The Convention's definition of racial discrimination is:

"...Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

The United States government refused to ratify this (it was not ratified by the U.S. until the 1990's). If this doesn't stir some questions about the truth in American political discourse, then nothing will. The stark contrast between the farce of racial equity espoused in our laws and the real, blatant facts of it is stupefying.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

MCS/ County School Systems: Issue of the children or race

The school consolidation in Memphis has been a subject that has constantly been on my mind being a graduate of Memphis City Schools. While I am constantly torn in between the idea of consolidation as an issue or as advancement, I do believe that some of W.E.B DuBois' arguments are relevant for today. In the text we read for class, DuBois believes that we must progress on our own and not rely on others to help us advance ourselves. He also states that ""hated here, despised there and pitied everywhere; our one haven of refuge is ourselves". This can be applied to this issue with the school system in Memphis because many people believe that the entire issue of consolidation boils down to the issues of race segregation and class differences.

While Memphis City Schools’ student body is predominantly African American, Shelby County’s school system is the exact opposite. Many times Shelby County School are placed higher than MCS due to their higher numbers in test scores, less disciplinary problems, and a host of other reason. What many people fail to realize and embarrass is the differences in the student body’s of both school systems. People are comparing apples and oranges when considering the outcome of test scores and the number of suspensions that each school system experiences. In some ways, Shelby County does not want to be affiliated with MCS due to the stigma associated with the school system in the city. In my opinion, I see this as a form of assimilation because I think that we are giving up on our kids and surrendering a charter to a school system who is doing all they possibly can in order to stay separated from the city school system. In the words of Malcolm X, “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in the brotherhood of anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me.”

I think this blunt rejection of wanting to be affiliated with MCS should be inspiration to try and change those negative perceptions that come along with the city school system. DuBois said that we must change on our own and stray away form so much whining and complaining. If the schools consolidate, we will not be combining ideals from both systems but surrendering to the structures of the county schools which will not be successful with the city’s student body. Different children require different structures and rules. While I am not completely sure where I stand on this issue, I do think both sides have very beneficial factors. March 3rd is the day I will be voting, wish me luck!

How Do Children See Race?

We are first introduced to race when we are younger and it grows more complex as we get older as the stereotypes and daily encounters we see are reinforced. I blame our elders for any notions instilled in the current generation that impedes or even improves a child's idea of race, because we are first introduced to our ideas by our parents and they are reinforced by our encounters outside of the home.

I thought it was interesting in this article when it said:

"Relatively few studies have been done on how children of other races, including whites, become aware of racial differences. Those available suggest that skin color is not as salient an issue for white children at the early grade-school stage of development as it is for blacks. It is understandable that young white children do not tend to regard skin color as important, since racial prejudice is generally not a factor in their lives".

So how then is racial prejudice introduced to black children? Is it from their parents? Or could it be from these children who are unconcerned with racial prejudice at an early age? The article quotes, "Racism is not congenital; it has to be learned", when then is the idea of race learned? The author, who is black, converses with a young Australian girl completely oblivious to race. She asks the author about their skin color and lips as if they were carrying a normal conversation, but as it amuses the author, it creates discomfort with the other white adults.

By her parents' discomfort the child would clearly eventually see that there was a difference between her and the author. They make it seem like something is wrong instead of the letting the child discover on her own that there are others out in the world besides herself, but despite physical differences they are the same. They can have something as simple as a conversation and prejudices won't matter as the parents make it seem.

Could it be that because whites are more privileged than other races that are able to look past race than more inferior races? Are their parents trying to mask the fact that there are differences unlike blacks who make their children aware that they are different and that there are obstacles that they have to overcome and stereotypes they have to fight because history and society tells them that they are different?

How were you introduced to race?

The Definition of Race vs. our Our Perceptions of People as Races

In our discussion on Tuesday about "Conservation of Races" we started a class dialog about race as it would be defined by a person on the street and whether Dubois' definition was similar to the idea about race that most people have. During our dialog, I was struck by the presence of two seemingly conflicting ideas about defining race. Dubois gives us a scientific, non-biological, definition of race. He argued that race is a combination of factors not having to do with skin color or the way people look but factors such as a common history and shared ideals. Which launched us into answering the question, is that not what most people would define race as today. Here begin the conflict. I believe that most people would define race in a similar way today. Sure, some would still sight skin color or facial construction as factors, but I think that most would put cultural and historical likeness above physical appearance. But, how does the language of a definition translate into perception of the world? This is where most of the disagreement in class stemmed from, I believe.

First, I'm going to refer to the thought-out definition of race as the 'academic definition.' I believe that this definition is one that usually only through open-mindedness and education will a person arrive at. Perhaps not as much for our generation, but definitely for previous ones, the influence of racism and race creates and environment that fosters one to accept it, unless they enter into an environment of learning, logic, debate, and discovery, also known as academia. Therefor, most people who are asked to give an academic definition of race will give one that focuses largely on non-physical aspects of a people.

This however, is merely a definition. It is a creation of many factors, beliefs about one’s world, values about human rights, adoption of social and political ideas, and ones ascription to the arguments of writers and thinkers. How much a definition of race is actually accepted into one’s personal values is dependent on more then one’s public announcement of their belief.

Freud’s theory of the id, ego, and superego is perhaps the simplest way to understand this. Our superego is what society and external influences expect us to do and believe. This is the academic definition of race, or in the case of our class, the rejection of race as a valid category in itself. Either way, our superego tells us to think a certain way about race and present that to the world. Meanwhile our id, the subconscious expression of our desires, prejudices, and needs tells us something different. Granted, the id is a developed component of ourselves, mostly cemented during childhood through influences of our parents, teachers, and peers, but there are components of the id that are the result of biological responses. This is where our perception of the world, what we see in people when we walk into a room, is in conflict with our superego in our view of race. We perceive certain things about people through our sense; we see skin tone, facial features, body type, what they wear, we hear their language and dialect, and what music they listen to. From these perceptions our mind draws conclusions. We are wired to do this. Grouping and attributing people to groups is a technique for survival that is wired into our brains. It allows us to pick friend from foe, clearly not as much in todays world, but definitely in humans’ past history. It is a normally done by grouping people as ‘like us’ and people ‘not like us.’

So we have these two components of ourselves, the id and superego that are in conflict and our ego attempts to reconcile them. It is how our ego resolves this that creates in us a new value judgement and the ‘working’ definition of race among humans. This is why I argue that while the academic definition of race is good, and necessary to the advancement of discussion about race, it is not actually overwriting our reaction to people who we perceive as different from ourselves. We must understand in our exploration of race that race is labeling system for us to group people in; people are either like us (our race) or not (another race). As long as the label of race is recognized, in any capacity, we will group people based on our perceptions of them, on their ‘biological race,’ not based on their historical or cultural aspects. In other words, we can only escape our perceptions about race by eliminating the term completely and not giving us the ability to label the ‘out-group’ as another race. Whether we admit that we do this is dependent on the power of our superego and id. I have argued before that we must recognize these truths about ourselves, even if they are painful to admit, so that we can understand our subconscious ideas about race and thus learn to refute or change them.

From Subjective to Structural: Racial Power Dynamics

American Political Discourse has great difficulty coming to terms with the reality and gravity of racism. I believe a big part of this is because of the values which our society holds in such high regard: individual autonomy and responsibility. From our political theory, economic system and intellectual history to our cultural norms, everything centers around these concepts. Thus, remedies and analyses of racism rely primarily on an individual agent's culpability. Racism, so the story goes, is the fault of the bigot. Racist actions are only those actions which intend to harm members of a certain group. In this narrative, the enemy of racial equity is thinking in terms of groups, and judging people based on the perceived value of the group. Thus, by becoming "color-blind" a society can attempt to create a tabula rasa with respect to personal exchange, interaction and moral assessment. I argue that this "solution" which society has come up with is wholly unproductive for a meaningful progression of race-relations, and in fact could be the worst option.

This color-blind filter which is worked into society forecloses analyses and solutions which would consider collective outcomes of a people as significant, or one which considers the agency and culpability for discrimination as residing in something other than the subject. This lens places us behind a veil of ignorance, and wholly avoids the question of race - only becoming cognizant of racism when individuals show an explicit intent to discriminate. Our failure to recognize and engage the giant elephant in the room that is racism arises in part from a deeply ingrained philosophical sensibility, enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, firmly rooted in British empiricism and social contract theory, which takes the individual as the sole unit of analysis, responsibility, and justice. Within this context, it is impossible to articulate why (or how) it is that racial disparities that are not traceable to intentions of individual actors come about.

The realities of structural racism in America must be brought to bear on our theoretical discourse. Naively atomistic constructions of the bigoted individual as the sole actor and perpetuator of racism will not hold weight with even a mildly observant citizen. There is a structural component which is so deeply-rooted as to be nearly invisible to many. We must focus on the implicit logic and thought processes as well as institutions which foster such blatantly racist discrimination as abounds in America. For those of you who still do not understand what I mean by structural racism, Here is a PDF about housing in America.

Race is not real, but should we eliminate it?

DuBois’ argues that race is defined by a group of people who share a “common history” and a “common striving.” However, Appiah critically notes that such commonalities are a product of a group, not the establishment of a group. Thus, Dubois is committed to the biological/anthropological construction of race, especially when discussing the message that African Americans must convey. The reader is left to ponder, “what constitutes the African American race?” and “Who belongs to the common history of African Americans if biology is not a factor?” Such questions reveal the illogical nature of DuBois’ proposal.

Considering there is no scientific basis for race, Appiah is a proponent for the “eliminativist” argument. Essentially, Appiah believes that race should be eliminated because race is not real. I find this perspective to be frustrating, even borderline offensive. I admittedly am not tied to the sciences; I have neither taken nor desire to take courses in physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry and so forth. Therefore, perhaps I do not fully appreciate what is scientifically proven/disproven to be “real,” “true,” or “a priori.” With that said, I do not understand why something should be suppressed simply because it is not “real.” What eliminativists seem to wrongly negate are the consequences of race—the deeply engrained and enduring oppression that particular groups of people have had to face. Moreover, the idea of race is largely intertwined with cultural communities that people positively identify with. I believe that people who are not well informed about the philosophy of race would be opposed to eliminating their race, considering it influences their traditions, values, speech, etc. Although there is no biological and/or genetic component for race, our history has been greatly influenced by the pseudoscientific definition of race. If we want to learn from our history, then we must acknowledge race rather than eliminate it. In acknowledging “race,” we are responsible for clarifying the misconceptions and preserving the benefits.

I am hoping that we will further investigate the “eliminativist” perspective during the next few classes. I cannot wrap my head around how one would begin to eliminate race. Would such an active push for assimilation begin in early childhood education? Although I disagree with eliminating race, I want to know how eliminativists would realistically encourage people to do so. Or, is the eliminativist argument an ideal concept with no realistic intent? Answers to these questions may sway my perspective, but for now I believe one should conserve race.

Dubois: Definition of race

We spoke about Dubois, and the "Conservation of Races" this past week. His idea of conserving the races was very striking to me, but it was the "deeper differences" which he used as the separating factors in the races that were so interesting to me. Dubois states that these deeper differences like their spirituality was what defines a race, and separates one from the other. People are separated by groups "ideals of life." Dubois then states his own definition of race. "It is a cast family of human beings, generally of common blood and language, always of common history, traditions and impulses, who are both voluntarily and involuntarily striving together for the accomplishment of certain more or less vividly conceived ideals of life(110)." In terms of "ideals of life" what do you think Dubois means by this? Also do you agree with Dubois' definition of race?
Also his main reason for the conservation of races is in referral to the African American race. He says that they have not proven themselves as a race. Dubois basically is saying that the future belongs to the black race, but what if the African American race does prove themselves later in society, and they achieve this goal. After they have done this does Dubois feel that "race" will then disappear? I feel that once they would prove themselves, then the white race would fall out, and it would be a never ending process. Each race is constantly looking to prove themselves and top the other races. What do you think about this?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Scientific Reality of Race vs. Its Sociopolitical Reality

Last week I made a couple comments on the blog in defense of conservationism. It seemed clear to me at the time that while conservationism may not be as “intellectually responsible” as eliminativism, it was the more practical option. In other words, knowing that the idea of race still has enormous effects on daily life, I could not see the benefit in simply denying its existence. How would that do anything to solve the problems of racism in our society?

After discussing Appiah yesterday, however, my views have changed somewhat. Appiah demonstrates convincingly that any attempt to keep the idea of race for social and political purposes, but to redefine it without the old anthropological criteria, is bound to revert back to the anthropological notion. As Appiah demonstrates in his deconstruction of Du Bois’ definition of race, in order to realign the notion of race on a common historical background, for instance, requires that we first have the notion of a specific group identity to which shared historical events can be traced to throughout time. And where do we find this identity? In the idea of race as skin color or other “gross morphology,” i.e. in the anthropological notion of race.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong in noting differences in gross morphology between people, as has been pointed out many times on this blog and in class. The problems arise when we attempt to speak of race as indicative of special contributions or characteristics, because there is essentially no correlation between gross morphology and degree of genetic difference, between gross morphology and “special contributions.” Skin color does not determine a common history. The two are related, but not all blacks share a common African history, American history, Caribbean history, etc.

I understand this, but I still struggle with how this knowledge is to be applied practically. I recognize that in order to be a conservationist, one must support the continued use of a notion which cannot be divorced from its inherently flawed pseudoscientific history. I now see that this is the hidden foundation of conservationism, and this is not the correct path to take. But still, I sympathize with conservationism’s attempt to solve the real problem of racism through use of common vocabulary and conceptions. True, this goal is structurally unsound, and thus cannot be fully completed, but what are we to do otherwise? Skin color may have no correlation with genetic difference, but every day people are oppressed and stereotyped because of skin color. How do we reconcile the scientific reality of race with its social and political reality? Please let me know what you guys think, because I have no idea where to go from here.


It seems evident to me that race, much like religious or national affiliations, is nothing more than a socially constructed identity. We identify ourselves just as much as we identify everything else we can think of. Each classification we impose distinguishes objects from one another by exposing and dividing characteristics into haves and have nots. Speaking broadly, I may first distinguish all the ideas I can think of from those of which I am incapable of thinking. The former I may continue to pursue, while the latter I disregard for I would be wasting my time by definition in trying to think about them. Plausible ideas may still consume a seemingly endless air of possibility. Let us divide these ideas into ideas of particulars, that is, ideas corresponding to singular and specific objects, i.e. my car, Poplar Ave, and Gus's Chicken, and ideas about ideas, general categories or attributes that do not exist in themselves but rather describe object, such as "fresh" "busy" and "delicious". If I start with a particular, I can infer certain qualities or ideas related to that object. My car is white; it misses a hubcap and has a DOO WOP bumper sticker. These are qualities my car possesses but that are not exclusive to my car. You know what white is before you see my car, and so I can tell you my car is white and you can picture a white car. Conversely we may begin with a general category and from there derive specifics. In the category of Potent Portables, for example, I may include handguns, even my handgun.
But the original division between particulars and qualifying ideas might be a bit oversimplified. Indeed, while I cannot find the essence of greenness in nature, I can still conceive of its idea as being a specific idea. In this sense I can treat it as a particular in that I can form ideas about it. Blue and yellow dyes blend into green. Further, categories can arise from scratch. We’ve seen this with the creation of divisions of race. It is also the case that there was no such thing as Christians and non-Christians until after Christ. The Native Americans never identified themselves as American. This all leads me to wonder, if we make distinctions based on social constructs such as race, religion, and nationality, what sort of future distinctions might we anticipate? It seems to me that ideas necessarily precede their distinctions or divisions. Since we remain ignorant to ideas remain until they become manifest, I wonder how radically our perceptions can change? I’m reminded of the film Independence Day, and excuse me for flying into left field, but if an alien invasion ever did occur, I’m sure the difference between our two species would greatly undermine the racial variation perceived within our own.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Musings: Race and Racism

It seems impossible to discount the inherent nature of race and racism. Its presence is preordained, like the sun rising in the east. Concepts of race and racism exist within individual societies and nations. To deny that fact at this point in history is merely an attempt to either hide the problem in the closet or acknowledge a lack of insight into one's person. President Barack Obama, in his famous speech in Philadelphia, re-awakened this topic, one that America has tried to place back in the closet over the past several decades.

Race exists mainly because the colors of our skin are different (there are obviously other, less pronounced or identifiable physical differences between the races). Someday in the far future that distinction may not continue, but that day cannot be foreseen at present. Why is the color of our skin important? Skin color is one of the most easily identifiable traits of the human race that allows us to divide people into groups. Since it seems to be an inevitable human trait to judge people, it follows that our judgments become more efficient if we can group people. Thus, a second musing is that racism, or the judging of people as one might define racism, developed because it was easy to use the physical trait of skin color (race) to group people.

Once people are grouped, in this consideration by the color of their skin, and judgments assigned to the group based on individual observations, then stereotypes follow. The essence of racism is judgment and the application of stereotypes. If i know person X (regardless of his/her skin color) and make observations about his/her intelligence, athletic ability, etc. that is not racism. Racism enters into the equation when those observations are stereotyped to the race or skin color. A third musing centers on stereotyping of the races.

One should remember that racism, as broadly defined, is not necessarily positive or negative. Once can be considered racist for thinking African-Americans have innate basketball skills that other races don't enjoy. Since we place high economic value on basketball skills in the United States, this is certainly a favorable trait, if it exists. However, is is not accurate to make these judgments or stereotypes to all African-Americans. Thus, making judgments (racism) may not always be negative, but they are almost certainly not correct when applied to races.

So, how do we avoid being racist? We obviously cannot avoid being a member of a race.

We should have comfort and be able to acknowledge and embrace our race without fear of prejudice. What we need to do is avoid judging others or placing stereotypes on them. That serves no purpose, whether it is in the context of the color of their skin or through some other arbitrary measure. We should be able to embrace the color of our skin and realize that people will be attracted to different skin color like they are to blue versus brown eyes or blond versus red hair. Throughout history people have rarely (if ever) been judged by the color of their eyes or hair. The same can certainly not be said for the color of one's skin. To know this, all one has to do is ask any African-American presently living in the United States.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Explorers and Scientific Racism

Here is a interesting NY Times blog post about 19th century scientific racism and the French-American explorer's Paul Du Chaillu's travels and writings about Africa. As we have been discussing the legacy of scientific notions of racial difference, this is an interesting example of some of the questions at hand in our study of race, such as the problem of objectivity in scientific (or pseudo-scientific) enterprises, and the patterns of production and dissemination of knowledge about racial groups.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

the mindlessness of race

Ashley Montagu, by negating that race has any biological basis, makes an argument that it should be a non sequitur in the classification of humans. This ideology is known as eliminitavism. I follow this thought process, but wonder about its implementation. It seems awfully hopeful to completely ignore racial divisions after thousands of years of conflict. Would conservationism, or the idea that certain positives of the racial system should be preserved, be more attainable? I wonder if conservationism could eventually lead to Montagu’s ideal society in which race is no longer a defining factor.

In any case, I don’t necessarily see conservationism as a largely negative thing. Obviously, discriminating based on race is wrong. On the other hand, we all find community in myriad sources. For example, when I left the South for a boarding high school in Massachusetts, I immediately bonded with students who were also experiencing a culture shock. To preserve the sense of community that comes along with not race, but perhaps a shared cultural heritage, may not necessarily end poorly. I believe one can be proud to share the traits of an area to which they feel loyal.

As far as its actual implementation, I wonder what would lead to this change. Frankly, I wonder what could possibly convince the narrow-minded and ignorant people that I’m sure we have all come across to finally stop using racial slurs and stereotypes for the sake of social betterment. Every race, even in the nuances within a country, may feel anger toward another for historical or totally inexplicable reasons. I have a friend that lives in Hong Kong and she explained that they tend to discriminate against the mainland Chinese, taking on an air of superiority because they were formally a British colony.

 To be human is to participate in a frenetic scramble for power. I think education is the only way to learn to channel these energies and stop trying to own one another all the damn time. The only way race can be eliminated or preserved only in its patriotism is to teach people that it actually, in practice, makes no sense whatsoever.

Why no French race?

Psychology Today - Why isn't there a French race?

Just and interesting article that got me thinking. Check it out.

How We Talk About Race

I think the way we talk about race can perpetuate racist ideals or ways of acting, even without individuals realizing it. The concept of race isn’t racist in itself, however it is the way we interpret race and appeal to it in our lives that creates racist tendencies. When we talk about how people react to things etc. we need to be careful what we present and postulate because it can be misinterpreted on both sides of the issue. I don’t see what necessarily wrong with describing someone as acting black or white, but problems can arise when we take these ideas more seriously. A lot of the texts we read are old and put forth ideas that are outdated and have since been disproved. I don’t think that we should necessarily stop reading these texts, however we have to be careful how seriously we talk about them and let them rest in our brain scheme.
I also think we are too quick to discredit the experience of the individual. We keep holding on to things that “most people do” etc. that, when we consider the individuals in the class are not what “most people do”. We are the upcoming generation; we were the children of the late 90’s and early 00’s now growing up. If we suggest that we aren’t more in tune or adjusted than the previous generation than we should just give up this whole race project now. With each generation, the problems related to race are going to fade, to a certain extent. When we keep playing with outdated ideas and buying into what old people think, then we will be no better than they are now. However, if we can talk about race in relation to our own experience then maybe we will overcome the obstacles our ancestors have put before us.

Eliminate Race? Change the Census?

I want to touch on the debate between Eliminitavists and Conservationists, but first I want to describe what I believe to be the most detrimental aspects of our political and social environment and the way they reinforce racism. I know, nobody likes to here that our media and political and professional influences are doing little to eliminate and are arguable cementing prejudice in our minds. Well, I suppose it is unfair to claim that those influences have the most impact on us and our racial inclinations, because I do think that when people reason, when they engage themselves in honest dialogues between people from different cultures and races, changed attitudes and ideas about race emerge. Look at our class; in less then two months we have engaged in more respectful debate about race then, I would venture to claim, the majority of our parents have in their adult lives.

Two questions arise: what has maintained the discriminatory ideals and prejudices among the majority of our citizenry, and what are we and our peers doing differently, or what can we do differently that will result in some change.

I'm going to take a eliminativist stance in this post. There is psychological evidence showing that among a collection of people who are split into groups, what influences who persons favor is dependent largely on what group they are assigned. People favor their group and the other people in it. In a study of 12-year old boys who were randomly assigned to two groups in a summer camp, 90% rated their best friends as being in their group even though previous 'best friends' had been assigned to other groups. We, as a society, create this same scenario on a much larger scale and with much greater repercussions then lost friendship.

I believe that eliminating race is a monumental, and possibly impossible, task. I
do think hoever that there is a chance it could work given the time. And I believe that it is for humanity to set aside race so that prejudice and discrimination can be better reduced necassary. That being said, it is impo
ssible to ban race. How do you do it? Passing a law saying that race is not allowed to be used in everyday life is, to say the least, unrealistic and a violation of free speech. But, I think that you can eliminate the institutionalized creation of race by our government, and in doing that, persons would lose the group-favoritism they once felt. I'm talking about the Census.

Keep in mind this is just an idea I had, and I'm going to focus on the census because it's the most important data collection, and group forming, function in our nation. Every ten years, we collect data, requiring citizens to select a race (or ethnicity as we have started terming race for the sake of political correctness). The data is published, the statistics about our racial makeup in the country, where races reside, and other statistics related to
them such as income and family size, are released. This is assigning groups to a nation of people. Our government is forcing people to select a race, and then they are publishing statist
ics on those races, creating the ability for people to not only feel they are in a group, but also feel they are being excluded from another. This is a government sanctioned mechanism that forms conditions that make racism and race-grouping possible.

So, let's imagine we stop asking questions about race or ethnicity. What have we lost? Are these measures really as important as they seem? Is there is reason t
hat most census statistics are separated by race? Wouldn't other criteria for separation of people be just or fine; or why even report statistics based on group differences in our one nation? What happening is we are being grouped and pitted against other groups, compared, evaluated, told we are better or worse. Of course, the argument for keeping race in the Census is that races have different cultural histories they want to maintain. Culture is not race based as far as I can tell. Assuming blacks in America are bonded by like cultures is ridiculous. Take a group of blacks from the south and from the north and I guarantee there will be differences in their religions, family dynamics, moral expectations; even within the two groups there would be vast differences. Wouldn't a better question for the census be, what is your primary language, or what language did your parents speak? Those are questions that could be used to help our school systems better implement language. Or what about actually asking what culture people do associate with - is their family Italian, do they consider themselves of Japanese culture, or what about French Canadian. These are at least questions aimed at grouping people not by an abstract color, but by their family roots and lifestyle.

So what can we do, if we choose to take the eliminativist stance? I'm not actually totally sure, and I'm sure class discussions will delve into this, but it seems that we, as individuals, have to start regarding people as they actually are. Race is artificial and inefficient if one in mental grouping people (which is an unconscious function of our minds to handle vast numbers of people without have to relearn every single person that we meet). So we need to recognize differences, not take the ignorant stance of color-blindness. In referring to someone as an American, instead of 'a black,' is a start. dark skin is still a description, but it's not a category. And referring to someone as having African culture makes much more sense then claiming they are black raced, or African-American, which is a terribly misguided PC term that groups people of different cultures and locales, such as the Caribbean, into a one-culture race group from Africa, and also doesn't allow them to feel assimilated into American culture by reminding them in their very 'category' descriptor that they are not American, but African as well.

Well, this has been a rather lengthy post, and I'm sorry if anyone is offended by anything I wrote. Arguing a side and listening to dissenting views is exactly what I'm hoping to do here, in this post and on this blog. So let me know what you think. Would eliminating the government-sanctioned uses of race, especially in the census, allow for people who have typically been separated into races to finally assimilate into an American society of varied cultural influences?

A Brief Comparison between Race and Gender

Race and gender; these socially constructed ideologies are responsible for the oppression of millions and the power of a few. Humanity has been so deeply engrained in the socialization of these two concepts that we don’t even notice their influence. How have we allowed society to accept these skewed perceptions of humanity? Why is it okay to pay women less for the exact job that a male is being paid more to do? Why is it acceptable that we will hire someone solely because they are white, despite the fact that their black competition is equally qualified? There are aspects of our society that we cannot logically explain because of the stereotypes and injustices that the ideas of race and gender have ingrained in our society. Race and gender are not naturally occurring- they were invented by humans. Unlike sex and the "racial" diversity*", race and gender are abstract constructs invented with the intention to explicate and categorize certain diverse and misunderstood characteristics. Further, it seems that the invention of these terms was backed with the intention of exploitation. 

Wikipedia defines gender as, “a set of characteristics distinguishing male and female.” So, instead of the biological terms “man” and “woman,” we get “masculine” and “feminine.” Anyone who fails to meet up with society’s expectations for their gender faces alienation and ridicule. Men who choose to stay at home with the children are going against centuries of belief that men should go out to work and women should stay home and care to the home and kids. Women who play professional sports challenge the notion that they should be careful, dainty, and looking their best on all occasions. 

Race’s entry on Wikipedia is defined as “classifications of humans into relatively large and distinct populations or groups.” “Classification” is such an interesting choice of word; do we really classify each other? There would be countless ways to do so- hair color, height, colors of our shirts-the list goes on. Yet our forefathers decided that it would be the color of our skin. And the fad caught on. People bought it. No scientific facts, no extensive research, just convincing arguments. And thus, the world was changed.

Why? Well, we do know that those in power benefit from exploiting the exploitable.

There is no natural law stating that men have to hide their emotions or that Caucasians are the leading race, but for some reason, society has tricked humanity into believing that there is something inherently wrong with challenging the norms.  We’ve admitted that people on a whole would be more afraid of a black person than they would be of a white person. There’s something illogical within our societal norms. Sure, there might be some evolutionary explanations as to why some of these norms have formulated, but those explanations do not hold the same relevancy as they might have a thousand years ago.  The modern era has only made it more obvious that everyone is capable of doing great things, so why haven’t our societal norms completely caught up?
*I had no clue what was the correct terminology for the "legitimate""precursor to race." What do you think is the best explanation for race? Should there even be an explanation? 

I cut this post down significantly, so sorry if parts sound awkward. I just took out large chunks of text and hoped that it all made sense. 

Where does responsibility lie?

Considering DuBois' status as very prominent American intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it was jarring to realize the extent to which disagree, and was deeply troubled by, his views. Although there are many objections I could make, I will stick only to a few.

First off, DuBois ascribes to the idea of "the function of race," or the essential activity or contribution that each race has to add to the development human history. Through the development of the American negroes as a race group, through the creation of Black Institutions, Dubois argues that "we can work out in fullness the great message we have for humanity" (112). One could easily object to DuBois's dismissal of Africa, or his replication of eurocentric discourses of civilizational development, but I think the larger issue is his equation the value of a human life with the contribution of its racial group. One way to make a person more, or less, human is by placing humans in a spectrum of civilization. A contemporary example of this is seen in our public discourse about the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq; American soldiers, as the product of the free, democratic and most powerful American nation, are assumed in political and public discourse, and in military strategy, to be more valuable than the lives of Afghani civilians, so frequently associated with tribalism and non-progressive social, religious and sexual mores. DuBois clearly sees a link between the American negro as a non-contributor to human history and their assumed moral debasement. I would agree in saying that outside environment and forces affect the morality of an individual, but I think that DuBois' location of moral and intellectual development only within racial categories replicates racial oppression rather than works to erase it.

In DuBois' account, social ills (immorality, crime, lazniess etc.) among African Americans are the legacy of slavery, but he believes that only a longterm and extensive effort by black people as a race group will be able to solve these ills. Returning to our class discussion about reparations, and the question of culpability in terms of instances of racial exploitation and oppression, Dubois comes down firmly on one side of the matter. Although the condition of the Black person in America is a product of slavery, it is the responsibility of Black Americans alone to better these conditions. It is a position which on the one hand, is empowering to a marginalized group. The problem is the condition of Black Americans, or any American for that matter, is not simply a product of one historical event. While the legacy is slavery is tantamount, nor should the ways in which racism was built and maintained in the institutions of American life be ignored. Although DuBois hopes to create autonomous cultural institutions, it remains the case the Black Americans would still subject certain institutional forces (i.e. laws). While there is a certain value in the development which DuBois describes, because the social conditions which he hopes to improve are not only questions of individual, or group choice, but rooted in institutional forces his plan does not ask enough of American society as a whole. Of course, this was written in an era in which mainstream white society's violent disregard for Black Americans was well-entrenched, and perhaps should be best understood. But placing all of the responsibility for social change with Black Americans, I think DuBois answer is deeply flawed.

Race is Immortal

The elimination of race is impossible. In order to fully eliminate race, one must erase hundreds and thousands of years of history. In a perfect world, this might be possible to do, but in a world with billions and billions of individuals with their own independent thoughts, it is impossible to get everyone from thinking a certain way. Unlike the example of witchcraft that was used in class, race is a social construct that cannot be hidden nor can a person be falsely accused of being a certain race. One thing that those who wish to eliminate race do not understand, is that the elimination of race means the elimination of historical time periods where race played an important roll in events that occurred. For example, in order to eliminate race at this point in time, one would have to completely forget the times of slavery and the Civil Rights movement in the United States alone. That is a history that a lot of people, for generations to come, will never want to forget.

One thing that is important to remember is that there is a difference between wanting to eliminate race and actually being able to do so. There are a lot of people who believe that they have successfully transcended race and no longer make any assumptions about a person based upon the color of their skin. I would argue that unless that person has been living under a rock for the entirety of their life, it is impossible for them to not make a assumption about a person (no matter their skin color). I have plenty of friends who claim that they no longer view people as being different colors, but in the same day will make a joke to me based on the color of my skin. Although this isn’t done to be malicious, but rather just funny, the point is still made: it is completely impossible for us to ignore race.

I would venture a guess to say that if we had the choice, most people wish they could eliminate our ability to acknowledge race without necessarily getting rid of the history of race, but unfortunately race is something that goes hand and hand with its history. The best that we can hope for right now is that years down the road, as more interracial mixing occurs, the history will still exist, but everyone will be mixed to the point that it will be hard to tell what racial background a person is from.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Eliminitavism vs. Conservationism

When Dr. Johnson mentioned that we will be discussing the difference between eliminitivism vs. conservationism for the rest of the semester, I thought it would be a good idea to hammer out what those both meant to me in order to see how my perception of the two change as the semester goes on. For now, I am certainly an eliminitivist.

From Bernier to Gobineau, we have generally agreed (as a class) that race is an artificial classification of peoples. In the case of Herder, we also saw that trying to define another term such as "volk" has almost as many problems as "race." Side-stepping the problem of "race" by the use of other terms such as "ethnicity" gives rise to generalizations that are debunked by the science of genetics. Montagu uses the analogy of the omelet to demonstrate this point. There are no omelets in nature, only the ingredients which make one up. Because of this, "race" as we know it has been deemed scientifically unsound; there is no race gene or set of well-defined race genes. Certainly different phenotypes exist, but they exist in such variety amongst the "races" that they carry no inherent meaning. To take this even further, these phenotypes certainly do not lead to characteristics of the individuals of that group such as ethics or civility.

Eliminitivism takes this evidence to make its point: race, as we know it, should be eliminated as a term of significance. Montagu states that not only it is false, but it also "leads to confusion and the perpetuation of error." As with all other meaningful ideas, once we know it is false, we should get rid of it. Keeping the idea around only leads to more falsities and harm. For example, once we understood the microbial model of infection, the old thoughts of blood humors and spirits were done away with in the medical field. One would be hard-pressed to argue nowadays that we should have kept those old models around.

Of course there may be other systems in which we would like to keep around falsities, but I am not familiar with them. I hope that the comments of this post could address this issue.

In contrast to elimintivism, there stands conservationism. Conservationism wishes to keep race as a meaningful term although it acknowledges that race is not a scientifically sound idea. As discussed in class, some peoples feel a sense of pride in their race. These individuals find a sense of community in their race, and thus gain something from their acknowledgment of race. A problem arises though, when that race sees themselves as different from other races and treats other races accordingly. Admittedly, my view and understanding of conservationism are not the strongest they could be, but that is why I am posting this. Hopefully as this course proceeds I will gain a better understanding.

Society's Strong Hold

In Du Bois’s Conservation of Race, he asserted that African Americans needed to have a sense of self-worth in order to overcome the boundaries of predetermined destinies. He realized that the expectations of others could and often did serve as a hindrance on the progress of his particular culture group and he sought to remedy this problem. African Americans are not the only group that must overcome the boundaries presented by social stigmas.

Research has continually supported the idea that the beliefs of individuals can affect their progress in life. In psychology a phenomenon referred to as a self-fulfilling prophesy occurs when negative expectations cause individuals to consciously or subconsciously act in accordance with these beliefs and thus cause their manifestation in reality. This has proven to be true in various cases where the performance of particular groups of people has been under scrutiny after they had been presented with the reminder of racial stereotypes during research studies. This occurrence does not merely affect the performance of minority groups. In one instance two groups of European American students were presented with a standardized test and one set was told that the purpose of the study was to determine whether it was true that Asian American students scored higher on mathematical reasoning tests while the other group was not given this motive. The outcome of this study showed that the control group scored much higher than the group that had been presented with the racial stereotype. It seems that when the European American students were presented with this social convention, they encountered stereotype threat. They did not want their performance on the test to confirm this stereotype, but due to the pressure they felt to strive for a certain outcome, their scores were negatively affected. Society has an immense power over the majority of individuals, no matter what social or racial faction they subscribe to.

Cultural, economic, and social factors affect the manner in which we think of ourselves and how we think of others. I believe that part of the issue with each separate group is that they are settled in the belief that society and social expectations hands to them. They allow themselves to hold that they cannot be greater than the unwritten laws that limit our country. It does seem to be an immeasurable task to want more than society allows and to break out of expectations, but it is impossible to break free of these social constraints when you, yourself, do not have the desire or the mental fortitude to do so. It is not true that all people are created equal, but to believe that all people are created according to the dictates of a biased society is an equally artificial claim.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's the Point??

Upon initially reading DuBois’s argument on the Conservation of Races, I thought that it seemed to be a pretty solid argument. I was impressed by the fact that he brought to the light the real problem within the Negro community. He believes that every nation (group of people) should be working on establishing some ideal to present as a message to society, and furthermore, that Negroes have not established themselves as a people yet because they have no message to present as a unified group. While this all sounds like it may work in the scheme of present-day things, I must challenge DuBois’s rationale. At the beginning of this class, Dr. J mentioned that we shouldn’t think of things in terms of being racist yet because we may all be racist. DuBois mentions that everyone maintains some form of prejudice because there is always a difference in aim between two races. The resounding question in my mind, then, is why, if we are all in some form prejudiced towards other races - even if it is not in an actively negative way – does DuBois think that we can all come together and work towards one universal ideal? I think it makes sense for each group to be working towards their own ideals because ultimately, each dominant race group does have their own beliefs, feelings, and aims or goals in life as a whole. However, if we were to work together, in our different “race groups,” in order to establish and work toward achieving our own respective aims in life, then how would we come together under one huge racial umbrella and work toward this “universal” aim that God has supposedly meant for us to achieve? Wouldn’t we then be recounting our own values and personal aims in order to fit into the scheme of premeditated things?

Furthermore, DuBois says that “any striving that is against natural law is in vain” (Bernasconi 109). I understand that African American people should be striving towards the enforcement of the Negro Academy as to better themselves as a people and therefore become established in history as a nation. However, why strive toward achieving these goals if we know that it will be in vain according to DuBois. The natural laws of this country are overtaken by embedded stereotypical boundaries and are written to “fit” those who are of the dominant class, leaving behind those others with un-established racial identities. So, what DuBois is saying is a paradox within itself. Why strive for something that has implicitly already been denied by law to a group of people? How do we gain respect after we as a people have established a history of debauchery? This could go for any minority group…What’s the Point??

Monday, February 7, 2011

Zimbardo's Prison Experiment

For anyone who read Elli's post and my long comment, here are some interesting links giving more details about the Standford Prison Experiment and how role-playing becomes reality.
Prison Experiment
Just food for thought really. Interesting from a social psychology perspective, especially when considered in conjunction with racial atrocities such as slavery.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Racial Apathy

Nene's link to the article about people harboring less than virtuous attitudes towards races which they may not consciously or publicly espouse brought up an interesting point. When speaking about theoretical scenarios, people often attempt to give a politically correct and evenhanded response as to what their theoretical response would be. However, this response is often different from the way that a given person actually responds when things are actualized.

As an example, it seems fitting to invoke the Kitty Genovese case. On the morning of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was sexually assaulted and murdered over the course of half an hour - outside of her Queens, NY apartment complex. In addition, no fewer than 38 of her neighbors actually saw the attack or heard her screams. Over the course of the half hour her assailant left twice, frightened that the neighbors were going to intervene. However, upon seeing that no one stepped outside to help Kitty, he resumed his violent attack. How is it that scores of people could witness a gruesome assault and yet do nothing to help? The answer is a unique effect called the Bystander Apathy Effect , in which bystanders do not react because of a few major factors. The first factor is that often bystanders take their cue from others around them, and thus do not act differently. Another factor for the apathetic bystander is a basic feeling of diffusion of responsibility, in which a given individual feels that since there are so many people to help, his personal aid is not required (and thus not given). Obviously, these two factors culminated in a gruesome manner for Kitty; however I believe that these factors are also at work aiding tacit racism which still carries on today.

The apathy of bystanders greatly reminds me of an idea which has gotten so big in America, that of a "post-racial" country. This is because of some good spinning by corporate media and playing up of various buzzwords. I believe that NeNe's article shows exactly why it is that racism is so thorny: it doesn't negatively affect most people, and certainly not to the extent that something would actually be done about it. Those who benefit from white privilege have no real inclination or incentive to step in and help out by being vocal about racial issues. People espousing racist views who happen to be white are often simply written off as "rough around the edges" or a bit crude, but the truth is that the comments which people are comfortable enough to make in public are often only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racial views. And yet there is no general push by the "good and decent" of America to clear up these misconceptions about race and attempt to keep an open dialogue about it. It is quite interesting that things such as genuine race relations are never on party platforms, rarely talked about in schools, and probably can't even be clearly articulated because there is a barrier of convenience which has been built up around the topic. This is the bystander apathy effect, as applied to a people in denial about what truly goes on in America.

You may be more racist than you think

CNN article.

The article linked above caught my attention because of the title. But after reading the article, I found the results astonishing. I thought that this related to our in class discussion about the hypothetical walking down the alley situation and seeding a black man and a white man. Even if the black man is well dressed, studies have proven that most people, black and white, will be more frightened by the black male. Why is this the case? Why in the article did most people still choose the white person as a partner directly after hearing them call a black person a "nigger."

Why do you feel like people are more willing to tolerate racism than to stand up against it? Besides the obvious fact that it is easier, what does this toleration say about us as individuals? Are we being racist or are we behaving in the way that our culture, American culture, has shaped us to be?

Alain Locke introduces the term cultural relativism in “The Concept of Race as Applied to Social Culture,” which is the principle that says an individual’s human beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s culture. Therefore, each individual is considered a product of his or her distinct culture. Besides the fact that we all are affected by living in America, but we are also affected by our individual culture which depends on our personal beliefs and activities. If I had actually been walking down a dark alley and was attacked by a black man then I would have reason to be afraid of every black male I saw if I happened to walk down the alley again. But would I have this same fear if the male was white and I had been attacked by a white male?

Also, do you think there is such a thing as one identifying with ONE culture? If the idea of cultural relativism is a product of the individual's experiences and activities, which may vary, does this mean that no one can officially claim one culture, without dismissing another?

I was also interested in the definition of the word "thug." We talked about the perceived definition to be racialized and the definition
(presently and historically) isn't. This is another example of how experiences in our culture have shaped us.

thug [θʌg]
1. a tough and violent man, esp a criminal
2. (Historical Terms) (sometimes capital) (formerly) a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims


Regardless of our individual views, personal beliefs, or different worldviews we are all affected by society’s values. We are all products of our environment to an extent. Although we may not consider ourselves the people who “associate race with the term thug” or “avoid the black guy when walking down the street rather than the white” those thoughts and actions have been engraved in our psyche. The social theorist, George Herbert Mead expounded on this “I versus me” theory. I is the person who exists before being affected by the social forces that impact the shaping of our worldviews. Me is the person who is a complete product of society, Mead says that we “play the game” of being the functional social being while the person that we are aside from the coercive forces is only shown in our personal , private sector.

While I do believe this is true for us, I think sometimes we refuse to admit that we are affected by social forces and stereotypes that are engraved in the media. We sometimes want to act as if we are beyond societal forces and we are barely affected by them. I think we do this because we are afraid that we may appear to be another naïve person who is a result of a society who bases of thought and belief is only a shallow rocky foundation not grounded in facts. I really think this is common behavior for whites simply because they are a part of the privileged group in universal existence. By serving as a member of a group of privilege , one is not forced to see things from but one point of view.

By acting as if one is immune to the social stigmas and stereotypes that we associate with certain groups, I believe this makes one feel as if they are superior or beyond the majority of individuals. In social measures, I think the term white privilege is so ironic because it is a privilege to be white as far as social status but it is so much pressure being white when one wants to rise above and beyond the social stereotypes and stigmas associated and constructed by white people.

While in class on Thursday I was thinking about how hard it has to be to come from a history of ancestors who have pretty much taken everything from others in some shape or fashion. While we are all entitled to our own personal opinions, this is mine.

Also , I am excited about our class coming out of our shells . FIIINNNAAALLLYYYY now its going to be a funnnnn semester ! See ya Tuesday!