More than Just the Words "Don't be Racist"

by Pcapes on September 13, 2016 - 9:56am

I came into this class with very low expectations. I very much expected to simply hear fifteen weeks of the message “Don’t be racist” in as many variants as are humanly possible. Although it still isn’t my favorite class, I have been pleasantly surprised. My thinking on “races” has evolved, which is legitimately unexpected. I don’t think I was particularly racist to begin with, but this class really helped me put my thoughts on the matter more coherently. Particularly, the information on “concordance” has been enlightening (Diamond, J., 2016, para.9). Concordance gives us some more concrete guidelines on how “legitimate” subspecies are divided. That was fascinating to me because I had long wondered how scientists came up with the classifications they had. Clearly, as seen in paragraph 11 of Jared Diamond’s Race Without Color, this system is nowhere near perfect, but it is good to see that the classifications are not 100% arbitrary (2016). Another important thing about this is that it has helped me come to terms with the seemingly contradictory information coming from my two anthropology classes: in this class my teacher spent all her time trying to convince us that races are a social construct, while in forensic anthropology we’re learning to guess a skeleton’s ancestry by the shape of its skull. This class has helped me understand that certain ethnic groups can be more likely to possess a certain characteristic such as skin colour or skull shape which can make it more easy to identify a body without having to call that a “race”. Even in forensic anthropology it is clear that guessing the ancestry is never a definitive way of identifying, it can simply help give you an idea of where to look. Clearly, it’s not that we can’t separate humans into races based on their skin colour, or other traits that the average member of an ethnic group might have in common, it’s just that such classification is largely meaningless and totally arbitrary. And yet, if it can help solve a murder of give closure to the family of a missing person, classifying people clearly does have some small place in our society, which is infinitely more complicated than if it was just bad, because now a new question arises. When is it acceptable to categorize people based on their physical appearance?

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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. 

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