Essays On Understanding Race

Essays On Understanding Race-28
...served as a highly visible label identifying the natives of a distant continent which 146 for ages Christians had known as a land of men radically defective in religion."7 Had some of these same dark-skinned, exotic strangers been indigenous to, let us say; a remote corner of Europe upon which Englishmen suddenly and inadvertently stumbled after their first visits to Africa, the difference in geographic origin alone would probably have led the English to attach significance to -- and therefore take verbal notice of variations in appearance that, in the context of the African continent, seemed to them insignificant.

TQ assume, by intention or default: that race is a phenomenon outside.

history to take a position within the terrain of racialist ideology and to become its unknowing – and therefore uncontesting -- victim.

They are not of a single physical type and they, too, come from different countries.

Adhering to common usage, it is hard to see how they can be classed as either a single race or a single ethnic group: they do not all share either a language or a culture. They do not look alike; they came originally from different countries, spoke different languages, and had different cultures.

The first false move in this direction is the easiest: the assumption that race is an observable physical fact, a thing, rather than a notion that is profoundly and in its very essence ideological.

A recent newspaper article about the changing composition of the population of Washington, D.They can no more be the unmediated reflex of psychic impressions than can any other ideas.It is ideological context that tells people which details to notice, which to ignore, and which to take for granted in translating the world around them into ideas about that world.It does not bother Americans of the late-twentieth century that the term "black" can refer to physically white people, because an ideological context of which they are generally unaware has long since taught them which details to consider significant in classifying people. Everyone knows, or at least every black person knows, that there are individuals who would be unhesitatingly classified as black in Louisiana or South Carolina and just as unhesitatingly "mistaken" for white in Nebraska or Idaho or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.According to a story that is probably apocryphal but nonetheless telling, an American journalist once asked the late Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti what per centage of the Haitian population was white.Elsewhere, classes may have struggled over power and privilege, over oppression and exploitation, over competing senses of justice and right; but in the United States, these were secondary to the great, overarching theme of race. l Today, chastened by the failed hopes of the civil-rights era and genuinely appalled at the ironic turn of events that has seemed at times to give the Ku Klux Klan as much standing in California and Michigan as in Georgia or Mississippi, many humane individuals would regretfully extend Phillips's dictum. Reidy, Richard Stites, Laurance Whitehead, and Harold D. 144 continue to live with their ugly and explosive consequences.The determination to keep the United States a white man's country, they would say, has been the central theme of American, not just Southern, history. Questions of color and race have been at the center of some of the most important events in American experience, and Americans I completed this essay while a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Smithsonian Institution. It would be absurd and frivolously provocative to deny this, and it is not my intention to do so.But surely other circumstances account more powerfully than the psychological impact of color as such for the fact that the English did not tarry over gradations in color.Not the least was the fact that with all their variations in appearance, these people were all inhabitants of the same strange and distant continent.Presumably, the fact that, while they share a language (no one, surely, would suppose that Hispanics all share a single culture), they do not comprise a single physical type and they originate from different countries.But, on that reasoning, black and white Americans constitute an ethnic group: they are originally from different countries, they certainly do not all look alike, but they share a language.* What about Asians?


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