If you’re going to write, film, speak, etc. in an effort to stop racism, I’m thinking it’s a great idea to clearly define what it is that you’re fighting against straight from the outset. So as the END RACISM BLOG kicks into high gear here in late Summer 2014, let’s start with a clear definition of racism. First, let me throw a few hard-to-read and potentially annoying dictionary definitions at you – c’mon, it’ll be fun!
MERRIAM WEBSTER (online)
1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
2. Racial prejudice or discrimination
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
I joke about reading through those, but they’re actually pretty straightforward, and I will run with this excerpt:
“a belief that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”.
So to fight racism, we’re there, I think that definition of racism does a sufficient job of clearing up any ambiguities. Plus, at its core, racism is as simple as it is stupid, so there’s no need to over-complicate things when it comes to speaking out against it. There’s a very important 2nd piece to this, however, beyond just a simple definition. Beyond those words, it’s important to at least understand the basics of how we’ve even reached this point, because our modern society has walked a strange and surprisingly short road to get where we are today.
I’ll bet that surprises you to hear, but I think it’s critically important to understand what a complete load of hogwash the entire concept of racism truly is – current definition be damned.
When I say the road has been surprisingly short, if you aren’t aware, the term racism didn’t really exist as of about 300 years ago. Now I don’t mean the world was just one big happy place and that we have somehow devolved in recent centuries… I literally mean that the concept didn’t exist – largely because it was never scientific. Racism grew out of a social need, or perhaps more accurately desire – the desire to control certain groups for those in power to maintain power. That’s where the whole “racism can’t exist from a group that is not in a place of power” concept originates from, most certainly. In case you’ve never heard that argument before, it tends to fall under the term “reverse racism”. If you want to learn more about that, head over here to Reverse Racism.
In the past century, race, ethnicity, nationality… they’ve all been added under the study of anthropology, and I’ll give you some resources on that at the end of this entry if you care to dig any deeper. For our purposes now, however, please just keep this all-important statement in mind:
“race” has no intrinsic relationship to human biological diversity, that… diversity is a natural product of primarily evolutionary forces, while “race” is a social invention.
The entire race concept ran hog wild through the United States back in the late 1800’s, when southern landowners sought a rationalization for the existence of slavery. There were pseudo-scientific books written, studying brain size and whatever convenient differences crazy people could skew in favor of their superior race hypothesis (read a choice excerpt from the god-awful, 800-page mess that is TYPES OF MANKIND for a prime example). And understand, before this concept was ever looking at Africans, it was looking at Irish… it was looking at Indians… whichever segment of the population was most convenient for slave labor, slave peddlers rationalized that segment as inferior for the sake of enslavement. Always look for the WHY.
So when we talk about fighting racism, I believe the ideal perspective to hold is that race itself is complete drivel. We are ONE RACE, the human race, period. Different cultures across the globe, ethnicities, nationalities, etc… they are all just different flavors of the same popsicle (sorry, it’s over 105 in Phoenix today, a popsicle sounds great right now). All of the ingredients are the same, but a little flavoring, a little spice… that gives us our uniqueness across the rainbow of the human race. The whole concept that a few physical traits dictate intellect and a host of other pieces to humanity, well, it’s not a real thing. Biological diversity: real. Racism: not real.
So when fighting racism, we are essentially fighting against the argument that one popsicle flavor is fundamentally better than the others, and we are adamantly fighting for the rights of all flavors. Yes, that analogy sounds absolutely ridiculous, which is good, because that’s how ridiculous the entire issue of racism truly is. We, as humanity, should never have even invented the concept, so now we must engage in what’s essentially a childish fight to get the entire concept of race out of our mindset moving forward. A crazy popsicle analogy fits right in, don’t you think?
Now imagine a world where we’re focused on the problems facing humanity, instead of being hung up on someone’s skin color. Imagine a world where it’s no longer even a part of consciousness – think of the stress that would remove from humanity, and then think of where we could instead direct all that energy. The leaps our society might take if not for the weight of racism holding us back…
If you want to help make that world a reality, click here to download your free copy of The 3 Steps to Fighting Everyday Racism, the first of Hollywood 27’s 10-Minute Guides to help end racism.
Anthropology References / Resources: