Saturday, February 12, 2011

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?


  1. I want to agree with the eliminitavist, but I honestly do not think that this could work. I think this post has brought up many interesting questions. I do agree that we automatically stick to our groups, and on a racial stand point in America it is usually between whites and blacks. After reading this post the one thing I can think of, is white privilege. I am in an anthropology class on the races, and we have spoken several times about white privilege. The only way race can ever go away, is when whites become aware of the privilege they have and prepare themselves to give it up. Whites can be aware they have this, but even if they are aware sometimes they still can't do anything to change it. In America this idea is so set in stone, as sickening as it is, and this is one of the main blocks from eliminating race in America today.

  2. I think that eliminating the government-sanctioned use of race, especially in the census,would allow people who have been separated into races to finally be assimilated to society. I think the government should have a larger role and the census largely centered around race. I think culture is a more important concept, but I feel like eliminating race is possibley impossible, but your thought are beneficial in thinking about how to solve this problematic issue of race.

  3. The elimination of government data collection on race is something that never occurred to me. We really wouldn't be losing anything if the government stopped collecting data on race within the United States. As a Black man I can say that nothing sucks more than seeing all of the statistics that have come out about how low test scores are, how low graduation rates are, how high crime rates are, etc. Also, these statistics don't serve as motivation to do better, but rather as way to keep people down by implanting in their mind that the possibility of their success is dramatically low.

  4. Okay Trent, and everyone else, I'm going to be the devil's advocate. While I want to agree with you on some points its the points that bring up a million questions in my mind that I'm going to delve into.

    First, asking questions in the census like what culture do you identify most with (answers varying from Japanese to Italian to Brazilian, etc.) would not only undermine the push for an American culture (which some will argue doesn't exist anyway) but would also undermine the pride of a nationality because we would not have americans anymore, but rather a mix of different nationalities, still splitting the group of citizens.

    Second, onto the elimination of race in the census. I agree that this edit to the census could be highly beneficial, but again I'm going to be the devil's advocate...even though I don't necessarily think this. While race does cause the separation of peoples and the distinction between, class, crime, education, and more by doing so we have allowed for the research of how to better enable education systems that are not sufficing to national standards, or create job programs and community outreach programs.

    Also, we must understand that many secondary education outlets (such as financial aid) are based upon race, and the census education. My question would then be how would we get rid of race but maintain these systems of assistance, if our focus was to get rid of race?


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