Arbitrary Divisions and Upsetting Thoughts

by AlisonD on September 13, 2016 - 7:48pm

In the article “Race Without Color,” Jared Diamond (2016) argues that the concept “race” is not scientifically valid since it is based on subjective variables decided by the dominant group of society (para. 5). I agree with Diamond that the term and concept of “race” is a social construct, meaning there is no biological evidence that we should even have them term.

I come from a small farming family that are from European descent. My mother is a French Canadian, and my father was born in Switzerland. I have not experienced or seen much racism in my life. Growing up, most people around me were white. However, my best childhood friend was black. Her family is from Kenya. She was the most talented and intelligent person I knew; I wanted to be her. Visiting her in Montreal allowed me to meet more ethnically diverse groups. For me, race was not an issue, or even a thing. Once I began CEGEP, I became friends with people from very different backgrounds, such as the Philippines and India. These are some of my closest friends today. This is when I began seeing how the social construct of race can affect an individual. I began to understand that some things my family members on my mom’s side would say would probably hurt them. For instance, when encountering a non-white person, my uncle will sometimes comment, “they should go back to their own country.” He does not seem to understand that most of the people he is aiming this to come from Canada, like him. Being in this class opened my eyes even more. I initially saw race as another term for ethnicity. Now I understand that race is a social construct based on the physical appearance of an individual; whereas, ethnicity is the sharing of cultural traditions. After reading “Race Without Color,” I began questioning how humans can simply classify individuals into groups based of the colour of their skin, their eyes, and the texture of their hair. There is a hierarchy of distinctiveness when it comes to deciding what race belongs in which classification which creates many issues, especially for humans, due to lack of agreements and arbitrary decisions (Diamond, 2016, para. 11). I still do not quite understand why some people do this and why they see those who are a different skin colour as inferior or superior. I understand how scientist wish to create sub-species or “races” for different species. However, humans, as a group, are quite competitive. Therefore, classifying individual due to physical appearance does not seem like a proper way to divide ourselves.

All in all, this has helped me reflect on my family and what they say that I have not considered before. It upsets me deeply to know that my family members think this way. How can I help them see that what they are saying is wrong?



Diamond, J. (2016, Winter). Race Without Color. In A. Nouvet (Ed.), Anthropology 381-101-LA: The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism. Saint-Lambert, QC: Champlain.


Calling races arbitrary divisions really made me stop and think how that is such a good way to describe it. As there isn't enough biological evidence to support it and it honestly can be tough to tell just based off appearances that it just does become arbitrary. But also my parents did come to America from Cambodia and I once saw a guy tell my mother that she should just go back there so it really does hit home for me when you mentioned that your uncle will sometimes make those comments. As in my parents case they literally moved due to poor living conditions due to the Khmer Rouge genocide so saying something like that can sometimes be as bad as telling someone to risk their life everyday for survival. Not only daily necessarties like clothes, food and clean water an issue in most parts but there are also things like unmarked landmines still prevalent. But luckily now that they are here in America they are a contributing part of society and also now they don't have to worry about daily survival so honestly its a win win.

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