Misrepresentation of "race"

by M.Ostiguy on Septembre 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

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