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.


  1. I agree with the fact that race is mindless, but I don't think that education would really change or alter race in society. Because race has been implemented into our history, its hard for us to go back and remove it from peoples minds all together. With education, there is a reason why we learn about black history, and the slave trade. Our history makes people more aware of what has happened in the past, and how we have changed from that past. I also agree that people should conform to hang around the same people who have the same interests as them culturally, and not those who have the same skin color. It is just the way it is that people conform to hang out with those of the same skin color because usually they have the same interests and have gone somewhat through the same experiences.

  2. I agree with Mae, I think that education may not be the answer if we are trying to change people's views. I think that plenty of people who have ignorant and stereotypical mindsets now have been educated, but refuse to accept the idea of eliminating race or do not think that what is being taught applies to them. I think in many cases, hanging around someone who has a similar culture is sometimes the same as hanging around someone who is the same skin color, but I think more people need to be more open to other cultures and understand the difference in cultures and be open minded to change and differences.

  3. Jordan,

    This post brings up a number of questions that I was thinking about myself. In regards to the debate between conservationism and eliminativism, I see conservationism to be the most realistic and feasible option. Eliminativism seems almost dogmatic in its rejection of race as unreal, whereas conservationism recognizes that race has real social and historical meaning - a meaning which affects us constantly. It seems that conservationism aims for a world that will one day be as "raceless" as possible, but it recognizes the facts of modern race relations.

    @ Mae & NeNe,

    I understand where you are coming from, but I must admit that I believe that education is the *only* cure for racism. Race is an idea; and how do we convey ideas and alter them? Through education, of course. Racism is an idea which is passed down from parents, mentors, and social institutions (including schools, if they are poorly run). Thus, in order to put an end to racism we must stop this transfer of racist ideas and replace it with the TRUTH. We must teach, for instance, that the majority of welfare mothers are white, of that the urban poverty which disproportionately affects minority Americans is due to a combination of historic racism, poor education, and the transformation of our economy from an industrial to a service based one, which means that the overwhelming majority of blue-collar jobs have left American cities. These are just two examples of the truth of race relations in America, which, if they could be universally disseminated, would do so much to eliminate a number of common racial stereotypes.

  4. Jordan,

    Something else that I've been thinking about...

    It seems that racial pride is sometimes offered as an argument in favor of conservationism, but I'm not sure that these sentiments are inherently positive. Granted, racial pride has often been a powerful source of solidarity for oppressed races, but this points to the fact that it is a feeling born out of oppression. Furthermore, racial pride certainly plays a part in all racial supremacy groups. I do not feel that racial pride is essentially negative, but we should remember that even when it is not the source of oppression (i.e. white supremacism), it is still a reaction to oppression, and therefore is part of the overall drama of racial oppression. An ideal world would be one in which racial pride is outdated and no longer necessary. Conservationism is the working for the ideal within the context of the real, and so racial pride does have positive value in the present. We should keep in mind, however, that it is a means and not an end.

  5. I believe that a combination of education and personal experience are necessary to work towards eliminating racism. We cannot expect change by education alone because people can read books all day but actually experiencing difference but understanding that it shouldnt be used to place people in social statuses is important. And yes as humans we always have a power struggle. Conflict interactionism is a perfect theoretical view to justify racism. Groups conflict with one another because they are competing over resources in our case social resources.


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