Your Race or Mine
By Janers0217 on February 15, 2010
Race is commonly based upon skin color, facial features, and hair textures. There have also been groups designated as races based on religion, culture, social, national, ethnic, linguistic, genetic, geographical, and anatomical groupings. This makes one wonder what exactly makes a person a certain race. If it's religion, am I part of a Mormon race? That makes no since since I'm from a convert family. If it's cultural, then am I part of an educated race? Well, that sounds quite elitist. If it's social, am I part of a liberal race? That doesn't make much sense. If it's national, am I a part of the American race? Well, that kind of disregards the genetic input of my ancestors who came from various countries in Europe, as well as the contribution of my Native American ancestors, and it completely disregards the input of the original ancestors from Africa. If it's based on ethnicity, then it must mean I'm part of the confused or mixed race. If it's linguistic, does it take into account only the language I'm fluent in, or the ones I can understand as well? What about truly multi-lingual people? If it's genetic, then what part of my DNA makes me who I am? If it's geographical, do I become a different race if I move from place to place? And what exactly goes into an anatomical grouping? As for the common definitions, if I'm lighter than my parents, does that make me a different race from them? If my facial features define me, then what about my nose that no one else in my family has or my jaw? If it's hair texture, then what does my soft hair yet somewhat unruly and wavy define me as?
Many, if not a majority of, anthropologists disagree with the idea of races existing within our species. Does this mean that they are ignorant? Or do they see the world differently from the rest of society? Historians view race as a social construct, with Stephan Palmie calling it "not a thing, but a social relation".
So, if there is such disagreement among people about what a race is, then how do we define racism? Is it arguing with someone based on skin tone? Or is it violence against that same person based on skin tone? It is generally agreed upon that if a person physically assaults someone because of their skin color, that they have participated in a hate crime based on race. What about if they pick on someone because of hair color? If you were to attack a red-haired person because of their hair color, would that be racism? According to the British government, no. Why? Race is not defined based upon hair color, even though there is more than just hair color that goes into being a redhead. (Most redheads also have fairer skin, certain tendencies towards illnesses, fairer and more sensitive eyes [including a shade designated as turquoise, which is unique to them], etc. They also share a common pigment that is unique to redheads. There is even a shared history, since redheads have historically been persecuted.) Intolerance towards red hair is still not seen as racist. Even usage of slurs against red hair is not racism.
So, what defines race? What defines racism? What defines tolerance? What defines intolerance? Who is able to claim racism? Who isn't?
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