Tearing Down Race

I’ve been thinking for a few days, why do we have a category called “Race”? I started by looking up the definition of race, using the definition designed for kids:

Race as a noun:
1 :to go, move, function, or drive at top speed
2 :to take part in a contest of speed
3 :to cause an engine of a motor vehicle in neutral to run fast
Race as a noun:
  1:a contest of speed
  2:a contest involving progress toward a goal
  3:a strong or rapid current of water
Race as a noun:
  1:any one of the groups that human beings can be divided into based on shared distinctive physical traits
  2:a group of individuals who share a common culture or history
  3:a major group of living things
       the human race

How can we ever be unified when we have a word such as race which for all intensive purpose carries with it the idea of competition? Scientifically, there is no such classification as race. In fact, science rejects the idea of race:

“This dialogue on race is driving me up the wall,” said Jefferson Fish, a psychologist at St. John’s Universityin New York who has written extensively about race in America. “Nobody is asking the question, ‘What is race?’ It is a biologically meaningless category. It is a cultural term that Americans use to describe what a person’s ancestry is.

“But biologically the human species does not have categories. It just has variations as one travels around the world.”

Maybe part of the reason racism and division is still alive in America is because we still support it. Look at this list of Ethnicity in all the countries. Notice anything unique about the United States? Just so you don’t have to click, here are a few examples:

Canada: British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, indigenous Indian and Inuit 2%, other, mostly Asian, African, Arab 6%, mixed background 26%

France: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Southeast Asian, and Basque minorities

Germany: German 91.5%, Turkish 2.4%, Italian 0.7%, Greek 0.4%, Polish 0.4%, other 4.6%

Mexico: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%

United Kingdom: English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%; Northern Irish 2.9%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6% (2001)

United States: White: 211,460,626 (75.1%); Black: 34,658,190 (12.3%); Asian: 10,242,998 (3.6%); American Indian and Alaska Native: 2,475,956 (0.9%); Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander: 398,835 (0.1%); other race: 15,359,073 (5.5%); Hispanic origin:1 35,305,818 (12.5%)

There are a little over 200 countries but less than 30 use the color of someone’s skin to define ethnicity in their country. Some of those are: Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, South Africa.

Why are we among those?

Do you know why the classification was created?

Until the 18th century the image of Africans was generally positive. They were farmers and cattle-breeders; they had industries, arts and crafts, governments and commerce. In addition, Africans had immunities to Old World diseases. They were better laborers and they had nowhere to escape to once transplanted to the New World. The colonists themselves came to believe that they could not survive without Africans. …

The term “race,” which had been a classificatory term like “type,” or “kind,” but with ambiguous meaning, became more widely used in the eighteenth century, and crystallized into a distinct reference for Africans, Indians and Europeans. By focusing on the physical and status differences between the conquered and enslaved peoples, and Europeans, the emerging ideology linked the socio-political status and physical traits together and created a new form of social identity. Proslavery leaders among the colonists formulated a new ideology that merged all Europeans together, rich and poor, and fashioned a social system of ranked physically distinct groups. The model for “race” and “races” was the Great Chain of Being or Scale of Nature (Scala Naturae), a semi-scientific theory of a natural hierarchy of all living things, derived from classical Greek writings. The physical features of different groups became markers or symbols of their status on this scale, and thus justified their positions within the social system. Race ideology proclaimed that the social, spiritual, moral, and intellectual inequality of different groups was, like their physical traits, natural, innate, inherited, and unalterable.

Thus was created the only slave system in the world that became exclusively “racial.” By limiting perpetual servitude to Africans and their descendants, colonists were proclaiming that blacks would forever be at the bottom of the social hierarchy. …

We are tearing down statues because they symbolize slavery, but no one is trying to get rid of the one thing we see on almost EVERY application we fill out which is a reminder we are different and was used to indicate status differences between the conquered and enslaved peoples. A term instituted by Proslavery leaders proclaiming that blacks would forever be at the bottom of the social hierarchy!!!

This is something which has been brought up even in our government clear back in 1995, “Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.”    [UPDATED 1997: Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity]

To end the collection of racial and ethnic data for these purposes, repeal of these statutes by Congress would be required.

If a baby is born to an bi-racial couple, they are told the race of the child and it is whatever the minority race between them is. Why?

What would it look like if we, the American people, stop supporting the classification of race? It may be a scary concept for some, but what if we did it?

What if we were only defined by our country of birth? No hyphens. And if a hyphen is used, it would indicate your parental heritage/birth country. So a birth certificate would show you simply as American. It would also show your parents country of origin as well. Hyphens would only indicate parents born outside the US. If you are born in America to a mother born in Mexico and a father born in Canada, you would be a Canadian-Mexican-American. You marry an Irish-English-American, your children would be America, no hyphens. You were American, your spouse was American, thus no hyphen needed.

Barack Obama was born to a Caucasian (American) and a Kenyan, but somehow became the first “Black” President. He was half Kenyan, there is no “Black” classification in Kenya. The “Black” definition comes from American Racism. He wasn’t even the first African-American President. Technically, he was the first Kenyan-American President based on his parent’s ethnicity. Kenya is the country, Africa is the continent. That would be like all Americans and Canadian’s saying, we are all North American’s. We are, but we aren’t, people born in Canada are Canadian, and people born in America are American. President Obama was American of American and Kenyan decent. If you hyphenate his ethnicity at all, it would be Kenyan-American.

There were several other Presidents who had parents born outside the US.  Thomas Jefferson was the first English-American. Andrew Jackson the first Irish-American (note BOTH his parents were Irish). Hoover the first Canadian-American President. Do you see a pattern here?

We could also have classifications for citizenship status: 

  1. US Citizen by birth: born in the United States, or whose parent is a U.S. citizen.
  2. US Citizen naturalized: A former alien who has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen
  3. US Citizen: born in Puerto Rico.
  4. US Citizen: born in Guam.
  5. US Citizen: born in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  6. Compacts of Free Association
  7. U.S. National
  8. Alien: Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
  9. Alien: Nonimmigrant – class of visa
  10. Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Maybe it’s too simplified, but we should just wash the whole race category away. People should be able to identify with whatever heritage or culture they want to, but should not be required to identify simply with the color of their skin. I don’t know, maybe there are many downsides to it, but if we want to get rid of racism (prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.), we have to get rid of race first.

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