Misrepresentation of "race"

by M.Ostiguy on September 13, 2016 - 2:32am

Although I had a general understanding of the concept of “race” before, I have learned a lot since the first day in this class. For instance, I learned that the main point behind the concept of “race” is that one group of people is different from the other based on a specific factor.

 

As a first class activity on August 25th, we, the students, were asked to define the concept of “race”. The answers varied from one person to the other. Some mentioned nationality, ethnicity, cultural background and even identity. However, the category that showed a pattern in the class answers was physical traits, mainly of skin colour. Interestingly enough, even though there is no clear meaning to the concept of “race”, more meaning is given to skin colour than any other physical trait or other categories in general (Diamond, 1994, paragraph 27). I found it interesting to hear the different perspectives of the people in the class. 

 

Moreover, the classification of people based on their skin colour is a complicated matter. For example, in another class activity, conducted on August 30th,  we, the students, had to classify people (their pictures) into “races”. The end result indicated the  “race” misplacement of so many people. This activity brought to light the problem of misrepresentation of people and their different “races”, and how easy it was and still is to misrepresent a person just by basing ourselves on the colour of their skin or even their facial features. In his article, Jared Diamond finishes with the idea that of all the necessary things in life, the last thing we need now is to continue codifying all the different appearances into an arbitrary system of racial classification (Diamond, 1994, paragraph 39), and I agree. 

 

In addition, his statement led me to reflect upon my own life, and the society I live in. For instance, the August 30th class activity helped show how easy it was to misrepresent a person in regard to their skin colour, and how it is also applicable in my everyday life. For example, I have a friend who is from Romania. The first time I met him, I thought that he was just another Canadian citizen like me. Since his skin colour is not very different, I did not think that he could be from somewhere else. Furthermore, it helped me notice the multiculturalism of Montreal even more than before. Everyone is different in Montreal, and yet they all share a common factor; they are all Canadians. Dividing the population into “races” would only separate us, instead of reuniting all the different people to form one main category. That category being the one of human beings, by any matter, it is stated in the article that “one cannot recognize any human “races” at all (Diamond, 1994, paragraph 5)”. So, with all that has been said, why are we still classifying people, specifically by “races”?

 

473 words

 

Reference :

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. Retrieved from: http://discovermagazine.com/1994/nov/racewithoutcolor444

Comments

As soon as I started reading this article I immediately connected; I did a similar activity as a junior in high school, and it certainly broadens your horizons immediately. I like how you said that so many students misidentified people and how easy it is to do so because these assumptions are made all day, everyday, by everyone. You have pierced the surface of an amazing idea, but I think you could take it so much farther if you
started to address the societal reasons why people do this. What drives people to associate with one physical trait with an entire race? More specifically to this activity, why do we feel a sense of guilt when we misidentify an individual with the wrong race? That is what surprised me most when I did this activity—not how wrong I was but the pang of guilt I felt for being wrong. We feel stupid, so why do we keep doing it? We keep doing it because it is human nature.These judgments we make, especially racial ones, are so engrained in our mines from the beginning of our lives due to cultural and societal ideals that we do not even know we are making them until they hit us in the face (aka this activity). This whole process of assuming race and making notions based upon that is a societal hindrance that has existed for as long as anyone can remember. I posted a link to an article that discusses how race is a social construct, which is extremely related to what you began to discuss. No matter where you live, different physical traits mean different things in every society. If you were able to successfully fuse these two ideas, you are on to something even more incredible than the amazing piece you already have.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/06/16/how-fluid-is-racial-iden...

As soon as I started reading this article I immediately connected; I did a similar activity as a junior in high school, and it certainly broadens your horizons immediately. I like how you said that so many students misidentified people and how easy it is to do so because these assumptions are made all day, everyday, by everyone. You have pierced the surface of an amazing idea, but I think you could take it so much farther if you
started to address the societal reasons why people do this. What drives people to associate with one physical trait with an entire race? More specifically to this activity, why do we feel a sense of guilt when we misidentify an individual with the wrong race? That is what surprised me most when I did this activity—not how wrong I was but the pang of guilt I felt for being wrong. We feel stupid, so why do we keep doing it? We keep doing it because it is human nature.These judgments we make, especially racial ones, are so engrained in our mines from the beginning of our lives due to cultural and societal ideals that we do not even know we are making them until they hit us in the face (aka this activity). This whole process of assuming race and making notions based upon that is a societal hindrance that has existed for as long as anyone can remember. I posted a link to an article that discusses how race is a social construct, which is extremely related to what you began to discuss. No matter where you live, different physical traits mean different things in every society. If you were able to successfully fuse these two ideas, you are on to something even more incredible than the amazing piece you already have.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/06/16/how-fluid-is-racial-iden...

By creating a connection between the classification of racial groups and your personal experience with misplacing individuals by their races, your article is easy to relate to and to connect with. You state that you agree that the last thing we need now is to continue codifying all the different appearances into an arbitrary system of racial classification. I agree and acknowledge that racial profiling can potentially be dangerous in our current society when done improperly. However, I believe in the classification of different ethnic and racial groups because in North America, along with most parts of the world, racial inequality hasn’t been attained yet, and codifying racial groups help us understand and acknowledge their unique struggles. This goes in parallel with gender inequality and having an intersectional gendered world view as well. The concept of intersectionality illustrates how different systems of discrimination other than gender, such as race, overlap and reinforce one another. To have a world view in accordance to intersectionality, it is crucial to acknowledge the existence of different identity markers and the struggles they come with. For example, black gay women are a more marginalized group in comparison to white gay men. Therefore, the acknowledge of the existence of different identity markers, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, is vital to understand the unique struggles of members of different systems of marginalization. In order to have a better understanding of what intersectionality is and how it relates to your article, consult this document by Olena Hankivsky, https://www.sfu.ca/iirp/documents/resources/101_Final.pdf.

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