|Multi-Cultural mural at Union Station in LA-one of the most racially diverse cities in the world|
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I can hardly offer any answers. In fact, I left class feeling that many of my ideas had been crumbled. Dr. Mac said, “Let’s go outside of our ideas and see how conditions have shaped them.”
What is race? What is ethnicity? Is there a difference between the two?
Some say that race is biological and others say it is a social construct. Ethnicity is usually described as a cultural construct, which is very similar to a social construct. Is there even a difference between race and ethnicity then?
My book for my Critical Thinking class said that race describes, “physical characteristics”. Yet we can’t really define race in such simple terms, as I will discuss later.
Who creates racial categories and why do we have them? Is there a purpose to having racial categories? Dr. Mac said, “Think about the social and material things that make up racial categories.”
“Differences are fine, but we have to be careful when power comes into play.” We call mainly Blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, and Native Americans “minority groups”. So are Caucasians the “power” he is talking about? We are the majority; they are the minority. It’s white middle-class Americans who write the Census Bureau’s questions on Demographics after all.
Us and them. This is where racial categories begin. Dr. Mac lived in a neighborhood with many working class Mexicans. Nearly every weekend they would party till early morning. The non-working class families in the neighborhood would often call the cops on them, but Mac didn’t. One time, his middle-class Mexican neighbors came to his house and during their conversation they said, “We’re not like them”. Were they setting themselves apart as a different race?
What does it mean when we say that Will Smith is one of the whitest black guys ever? At my school, all the students look different, but we are not all of different races. We are primarily white. What does that mean? What does it mean that I am white, but I am also a quarter Asian? I am not really racially Asian, or ethnically Asian. I look pretty white, and I act pretty white (I don’t speak Japanese or eat Japanese food often, or wear kimonos), but I have Asian blood in me. What does this mean?
Furthermore, are Asians not white? They have white skin, why aren’t they white? Why were the Irish considered not-white in the nineteenth century? They are obviously white in color but they are not socially white. They were the drinking, partying, loud, brawling working class. Definitely not white.
Well then, I think we can conclude that race is not only physical characteristics. It has much to do with one’s economic status. I’ve heard someone describe their job title as a landscaper as simply “ a Mexican”. The Irish were the lower class in America during the 19th century. In the 20th century, the Chinese made up much of the working class. Of course, with slavery, blacks were the working class for long as well. Now it is mainly Mexicans, at least in the South West, who are the working class. They are the groups who do the dirty jobs that white people are often too superior for. At my job, it is the Pacific Islanders, Mexicans, Blacks and retarded who wash dishes all day, clean the cafeteria and the kitchen, clean dorm room bathrooms, keep up the campus landscape, etc.
These groups become what we call “minority groups”. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the
term “minority group” was coined around the time when Affirmative Action was implemented during the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, it was created, along with Hate Crime Laws, to create equality, or force it. However, in labeling groups, and feeling the need to protect them, are we just reinforcing their identity as “other”? Can we reach equality of races if we continue to treat them differently?
So maybe I just got you thinking. Discussing issues like this in Critical Thinking definitely made me more aware of my surroundings. We all put people in groups, and we like to put ourselves in groups. There is no problem with recognizing differences, especially differences in food, language, dress, etc. But we need to be aware or thinking about what and who created these racial categories. We also should be careful about how we talk about other “races”. Ultimately, regardless of the groups we create, we are all individuals, and racial or ethnic identifications are fallacious generalizations, taking particulars and creating general rules, or taking general rules and applying them to particulars.
But this brings me back around again to: What is a race? And what is the purpose of racial categories?
Go ahead, tell me what you think. I want to know.