When Sexism Makes you Understand the Invalidity of “Race”
by Camille Cournoyer on September 10, 2016 - 5:17pm
Racism and the notion of “race” are two of the various concepts that contributes to divide humans into sub-categories. Some of our actions also help to keeping these terms alive. However, as a community, we should realize that such conduct engenders hurtful consequences.
Racism in our society is mainly caused by the socially accepted idea that humans are different from one another. This way of thinking results in discrimination between groups who think they do not belong to the same “sub-species”. The claim that there are various human “races” is false and should not be encouraged neither by the population or by anthropologists as this idea supports the belief that some classes of people are superior (Diamond, 1994, par. 6).
In class, I was first shocked by the exercise in which we had to classify people according to their “race”. Not only did I realize how hard the activity was, I also noticed that people had very different perspectives according to which traits determine whether a person would be Asian or Native American, for example. Indeed, as a class, we never all agreed on someone’s “sub-species”. I understood that an individual separates humanity according to his or her vision of the world, which is probably influenced by one’s environment, upbringing as well as many other cultural factors. Discrimination emerges from the persecutor’s feelings and points of view, not on biological legitimate facts. Also, I clearly remember the picture of Usain Bolt with Ellen DeGeneres on his back we saw the first day of class. I thought this picture was funny no matter the runner’s nationality. However, something happened to me recently that made me realize that, despite its innocent intentions, humor sometimes encourages the idea of “race” and that major differences exist between people, creating discrimination. A few days ago, my friends and I were having a passionate debate. My female friend and I, like the three other males in our little group, were particularly energetic. At one point in our debate, to make her stop talking, one of the males used as an argument the famous sentence: “Just stop with your hormones.” They all laughed, except the girls. As “everybody thinks this joke is funny”, should we have chuckled too even if this joke sounds sexist? That is when I realized that in our everyday life, we often accept behaviors and words that come close to disrespect toward what we consider distinctive groups based, for instance, on gender or skin color. Our acceptance of these actions makes us believe, as a society, that we are different from one another and that some groups (men, white people) are higher-ranked. In my opinion, humans are social animals and it seems to me that we tend to get closer to people who look like us and to protect that group as we are emotionally attached to it. If our eyes tell us that some individuals are different from us, do we feel menaced? Would we segregate only to protect our interests? After all, as mentioned in the play “Les événements” by David Greig: “Exoticism is appreciated. Diversity is considered a threat.”
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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.