Tag Archives: race-less sight

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race

imagesThere are some things that bear repeating.  The Apostle Paul thought it was profitable to do so and I agree with the church father and martyr (Philippians 3.1).  In order for us to rid ourselves of the social construct of race, we will have to repeat why it is not good for our identity to be left alone with it or its progeny, that is prejudice and stereotypes.

The California Newsreel produced a documentary series, Race: The Power of Illusion, that should be viewed by all of humanity and of course, more than once.  Here are some notes from their research that should be apart of our daily meditation as we work to change our sight not to colorblindness but race-lessness.  I pray that this prescription helps.

Our eyes tell us that people look different. No one has trouble distinguishing a Czech from a Chinese. But what do those differences mean? Are they biological? Has race always been with us? How does race affect people today?

There’s less – and more – to race than meets the eye:

1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even language. The English language didn’t even have the word ‘race’ until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.

2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.

3. Human subspecies don’t exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven’t been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most similar of all species.

4. Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent, athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone’s skin color doesn’t necessarily tell you anything else about him or her.

5. Most variation is within, not between, “races.” Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.

6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a unique set of historical circumstances, ours was the first slave system where all the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.

7. Race and freedom evolved together. The U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that “All men are created equal.” But our early economy was based largely on slavery. How could this anomaly be rationalized? The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.

8. Race justified social inequalities as natural. As the race idea evolved, white superiority became “common sense” in America. It justified not only slavery but also the extermination of Indians, exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of Mexican lands by a nation that professed a belief in democracy. Racial practices were institutionalized within American government, laws, and society.

9. Race isn’t biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social institutions have created advantages that disproportionately channel wealth, power, and resources to white people. This affects everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.

10. Colorblindness will not end racism. Pretending race doesn’t exist is not the same as creating equality. Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.

©2003, California Newsreel

Additional Resource

“Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race,” PDF

Race: How do you see it?

17180-The-Eyes-Are-Useless-When-The-Mind-Is-Blind~ An author unknown

Colored people.  Do we really see beige, black, brown, red, yellow,  and white people?  By this, I mean, do you see persons who’s skin is physically colored this way living with you, walking past you, standing in line or behind the counter at the grocery store?

If the answer is no and I assume that it is, then what are we seeing really?  What has race done to our minds in that we are not able to see people as they really are?  And how do we get our sight back, this race-less vision?

How are we able to see it?  How do we really know that it’s there?  What informs our stereotypes if not pride and prejudice?  How else do you see it?

Seeing is Saying

A young new plant growing from palm in two hands, isolated

“I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore.  What is reality?  Nothing but a collective hunch?”

~ Lily Tomlin

“Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization.”

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“All the world is window.  No material is opaque.  If we are willing to see– people, circumstances, situations, relationships– all is transparent.  All of this globe is but glass to God.”

~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Our reality and Reality are not the same.  We know this because Isaiah tells us so.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55.8).  So, when race says that our being, our identity, our purpose is tied to our earth, found in the skin made of dirt, it does not elevate us much, does it?

I believe that God’s thoughts about us are higher than those of race.  I believe that God has spoken something much higher than this social construct.  I cannot comprehend it though I know it to be true.  Race would attempt to quiet me with statistics, to shush me with history, to tell me to calm down for fear of punishment from “them” or perhaps members of “us.”  But, unlike many of us, race does not and will not tell me what to say.  It will not tell me what I see.

Race will also not tell me what I cannot see, what I don’t see.  It will not restrict my eyesight or assume to know the vision that God has given me.  What we are afraid to see, we are often afraid to say.  Our ability to see is in our saying.

Don’t tell me what cannot been seen; it just remains to be unsaid.  Because it is left unsaid, no one wants to believe that they will see it but I do.  I see it so I will say it: race-less.