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May 16, 2008


Steven Augustine


As a guy from a family that's been "race"-mixed for a couple of centuries (with blood relatives of "Negroid", "Caucasoid" and "Mongoloid" stock, as it was once popular to put it), I stick by my long-time assertion that the concept of "race", itself, is racist. It exists for no other purpose than to codify a hierarchy; it's not scientific (if it were, there'd be *thousands* of "races"), and, if it's truly about acknowledging the very real physical bodily (and, perhaps, personality) variations between subgroups of people, there are just as many differences between various "asians", say, as there are between all the so-called races.

But who would claim that humans are rational?

Steven Augustine

Oh, and:

Considering the fact that so-called blacks, demographically, are outnumbered by so-called whites by about ten to one, in North America, I should think it'd be statistically more likely to see a black/white couple than a black/black one, eh? Unless, of course, some sort of Apartheid were in effect...

Steven Augustine

"physical bodily"

Ooops... forgot to remove the one after replacing it with the other! laugh

Brendan Wolfe


Thanks for the comments. I agree with you that race is an artificial construction, although I'm not sure what implication you mean for that observation to have on what I wrote. I will say this: I don't agree with your "long-time assertion that the concept of 'race', itself, is racist."

That race is artificially constructed makes it no less real, no less worthy a topic of social and historical scrutiny. For instance, it certainly isn't racist to observe that one person's skin is white, another's brown, and that this difference -- accidental and fundamentally insignificant though it may be -- has been at the center of one of the central dilemmas of our nation's history.

The freed slave David Walker, in 1829, issued his "Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World," in which he countered Thomas Jefferson's claim that black people, by virtue of being black, were "a distinct race" and an inferior one at that. Walker wrote:

"Are we MEN!! -- I ask you, O my brethren! are we MEN? Did our Creator make us to be slaves to dust and ashes like ourselves? Are they not dying worms as well as we?"

So he got it. But he also recognized that his "brethren" were the "Coloured" people. Was that racist? Or was that just a recognition of the facts on the ground, as they say?

I'm not convinced we totally disagree on this. Either way, the idea that it would make statistical sense for there to be more black/white couples than there are strikes me as an observation without a real point. So what? We don't live in that world.

Brendan Wolfe

I'm continuing to think about this, so let me add a couple things: You're right, Steven, that the physical differences between people can be such that skin color seems like a wildly arbitrary way of establishing a hierarchy. That arbitrariness was probably part of the point, of course.

But I wanted to get back to this idea of "race" as an unscientific "concept"; in other words, a social construct.

Something need not exist scientifically to exist. "All men are created equal" is a construct with no basis in science, either. As you noted, people are very, very different from one another in all sorts of ways, biologically and socially. Skin color is the least of it. Yet these particular words -- all men are created equal -- have meaning, and to the extent to which we all subscribe to them, they have real power and consequence.

The same is true with race, I think, although obviously that power and consequence has been near universally negative.

Steven Augustine


"The same is true with race, I think, although obviously that power and consequence has been near universally negative."

Well, that's the problem, isn't it? Any concept for which the consequences are "near universally negative" is about due for a re-think, I'd say.

What is the "one drop rule" but proto-Nazi nonsense? And yet, to this day, most American concepts of racial identity are framed by such obvious pseudo-scientific filters for keeping the "white" race "pure"; how is it that a child with one "white" parent and one "black" one... is "black" and not "white"? Or even a child with three "white" grandparents and one "black": black.

It's Eugenics, pure and simple.

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