"Race": A Questionable Concept
by msalah on September 12, 2016 - 9:42pm
Through these past weeks’ lectures and discussions, I was able to improve my understanding of the concept of “race” and the impact that it has on our modern society. In today’s generation, people will often associate various races to specific things; from Arabs and bombs, to Mexicans and illegal immigration, these affiliations, meant as jokes, show how much the concept of race has become omnipresent and is part of our everyday life. I have the bad habit to sometimes use these stereotypes unconsciously, I may not mean any harm by doing so, however, I now understand that contributing to such racial jokes demonstrates that I am not only accepting the social construct that race is, but I am also encouraging it. A concept that is scientifically erroneous and invalid since, after studying the matter for many years, anthropologists concluded that “race” could be influenced by natural selection, sexual selection as well as someone’s environment.
I usually identify myself as being in the “Arab” category of race; not only because of my cultural background, but also because of my Arabic traits, such as my: skin color, brown eyes and curly hear. However, I now understand that physical characteristics are simply a genetic trait that is not greater than any other trait. Such a statement can be confirmed by Jared Diamond who, through his article “Race Without Color”, explained how “the problem with racial classification is the lack of concordance; humans could be classified by various other biological genes that would put them in completely different categories than if we use the traditional classification. Such a method, which puts emphasis of skin colors, can be ambiguous since there is no clear factor that gives us the ability to classify humans in races and sub-races that are proportionally distinctive” (Diamond, 1994, page.7, para. 4-5). I completely agree with the statement above, I believe that society is using skin color to define someone’s race only because it is external and more visible than any other trait. This makes it seem more meaningful, however, “race” is too broad of a term to take such an important place in our society. Based on my personal experiences, I found that an important source of racial stereotypes attributed to different culture, ethnicity or skin color, came from mass media. I have witnessed, in various movies and TV shows, numerous racial stereotypes; from the “nerdy” Asians, to the uneducated and violent Black person. These racial prejudices have a major influence on the audience watching and a direct impact on how we, as humans, view each other and ourselves. Other medias treating worldwide information can also enforce racial stereotypes through the association of crimes with certain racial groups such as terrorism with Arabs, or violence against the police with Black people. This can trigger fear among the population and potentially increase racial discrimination.
A major change concerning “race” should be made in our society, this particular concept has had a heavy impact on history and is the roots of numerous conflicts. However, before finding a rational definition that holds all the elements of race, society should not put so much meaning into a word that can be so questionable.
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.