CNN has always frustrated me with their "Black in America" series. Their ability to identify the "black" race as unique is supported by contemporary quips like, "it's a black thang, you wouldn't understand." They are not alone. On any news outlet on pretty much any day, there will be a discussion of some issue or topic with "race" as the theme; whether it is a police officer shooting, a court decision, the reporting of statistics for certain communities or the comparison of
unemployment numbers. "Race" is everywhere. Sadly, most people use the term and few have ever contemplated the origin of the term and what the term actually means. So before you start having "race" discussions, you should first figure out what "race" is.
Britannica online states that "race" is the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences. This notion was refuted by genetic studies in the late 20th century, nevertheless the concept continues to carry biological implications with many. Most scholars now argue that “races” are cultural inventions used to reflect specific attitudes and beliefs that began in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century.
So when we choose to discuss "race" do we realize that it was an invention reflecting the historical attitudes of those who furthered the transatlantic slave trade. Their aim was to foster the belief that humans did not have a common ancestry; an idea that has been refuted and condemned by science and religion? To use "race" today means that we are starting discussions about "race" with terminology that intentionally puts us in a context from a time period when "blacks" were three-fifths of a human or seen as having derived from some other non-human life form.
We shouldn't start a discussion about "race," but instead we need to start the discussion about why and how to end "race" and come up with jargon or terminology that is both scientifically and sociologically sound. Ideas about people groups has changed to comport with science which contradicts the notion of "race." The worldwide mixing of people groups has impacted all western societies to the extent that none of us fits neatly into one "race" or ethnicity anyway.
So before we start a discussion about "race" we should first know why its use is problematic and why the only discussion we should be having on "race" should be about how to deconstruct this insidious construct and in the process, as Rodney King hinted, learn "to get along."
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