Throughout this class, I have come to question the concept of race. At the risk of sounding like a ridiculous “colorblind” advocate, I will try to explain why race once was, but is no longer a subject worth discussing.
In early times, individuals were defined by their regions or by their tribes. Race was developed at the dawn of colonialism as a way to make sense of the newness of the Americas and to organize what the white people understood to be a chaotic society. The tags and labels of whiteness and race were not scientific, but arbitrary. They were measures created with the purpose of creating castes and classes. Race was created to create a social hierarchy.
In the 1970s, at the (almost) end of government sanctioned racism in the United States during the civil rights movement, it was necessary to define race in order to impose and enforce racist laws of segregation. Race, again, was used as a means to address a problem.
Today, it is necessary to discuss race as it pertains to police violence, wage gaps, workplace discrimination, and other issues.
Race is a problematic term because race is used almost exclusively in relationship to conflict. Are there any benefits to identifying with a specific race? All of the benefits of defining race come from cultural or historical identification.
If you lump all black people into one group and assume that they have a similar cultural past, then a black woman from Africa and a half-black man from Pennsylvania are somehow supposed to find a way to connect because of the pigment of their skin. Somehow their experiences, upbringings, language, sense of music, tastes are supposed to align. That doesn’t seem to be a positive type of identification. It seems to me that the only way that race unifies people is when it is used to oppress them. For example, if those two people were both victims of discrimination due to their skin color, they would then be unified by their race.
In this day and age, with the amount of so called “racial mixing,” asking someone to check a box for their race strips them of their true identity and doesn’t truly paint an image of their heritage. In our literary studies, Helga Crane’s entire upbringing leaves her feeling isolated and alone. Despite her desire and attempts to fit into categories and stereotypes, she is unable to find herself particularly because of race.
It seems to me that race strips people of what makes them human: their uniqueness. Generalizations about race can be replaced with other metrics. Race only has a relevant purpose when it is being used, because it is alway spoken of when hate and division are present.