Tag Archives: race-less teaching

Five Scary Things About Race

2009-10-29-ghostsToday, persons are celebrating Halloween.  I’m not one of them and I have heard arguments for and against it.  That’s not the point of my writing.  Whatever the purpose, I just don’t see the point.  I can buy my son candy anytime and he doesn’t have to dress up for it.

Nevertheless, I thought that it would be a good time to address some truths about race that continue to haunt us (Insert ghost howling sound here.).  Like Halloween, we are very much informed on race, its beginnings and social meanings; still, we continue to entertain it.

It really is scary to believe that we could know that race is a social construct and not a biological reality yet continue to behave towards one another as we do.  While you are choosing which homes and businesses to target, I mean visit, take a moment to consider this list.  You may not be able to read it later because you won’t be able to sit still after eating so much sugar.  Trust me, you should read it now.

  1.  Race is a lie and human beings made it up.  Still, we use it to justify all forms of abuse and death, oppression and privilege.
  2. Race is matter of pride.  By this, I do not mean racial pride but personal arrogance hidden under the cloak of this social construct.  We simply think that we are better than others and race is used as a means to this belief.
  3. Race is a scapegoat.  Race is not the real issue but our relationships.  We have used race to avoid the real work of forming cross- cultural communities for hundreds of years.  There is no excuse for letting our skin prevent us from getting close to each other.
  4. Race has a life span.  It is kept alive by our mouths.  It is not eternal.  If we do not give voice to it, it cannot survive from generation to generation.
  5. Race is not a mystery.  It is not some spooky ghost that invades our lives when we are born.  We need only close the book and stop telling the story.

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

There’s no such thing

There is no such thing as a good or true stereotype.   A stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  It is “an image perpetuated without change” that may or may not be based in an actual experience.  It is a “solid impression,” which is derived from the Greek words, στερεός- stereos and τύπος- typos).

Stereotypes attempt to confine entire cultures to one image, behavior, ability, aspiration, action and/ or experience.  The belief is that if we have seen one, met one, experienced one, then we have seen/ met and now know/ experienced all people.  They all look, think, behave alike.  They are all the same.

Stereotypes provide us with the false belief that we can know all that there is to know about a group of people.  It is an attempt at godlike power.  Strangely enough, we don’t seem to possess this same ability when it comes to knowing ourselves, our spouses or family members.  There are parts of us and those we love that we do not understand despite our attempts.  Still, we pretend that we know how they are.

The trouble with stereotypes lies in the word all.  There is no person or people group that is all of anything.  There is no cultural group that is all good or all bad, all powerful or all powerless.  Only God knows all, possesses all and is in control of all.  That word and ability is reserved for Him alone.

So, no, all Asians are not good in math and all do not own beauty stores or nail salons.

No, all Indians do not own grocery stores.

No, all socially colored black people are not good dancers or the best athletes.

No, all socially colored white people are not rich or successful.

No, not all “first people” (i.e. those indigenous to what is now the United States) are owners of casinos.

No, not all Hispanic persons are landscapers or housekeepers.

You may have seen one or two but you have not seen all people from every cultural group.  Only God has done this because only God has made them all, fearfully, wonderfully and individually (Psalm 139.14).