“How did the idea of race begin in America?” The video provided below offers the answer. It is resources like this that inform my understanding of race and its designation as socially constructed. It is important to know and repeat again and again that race is not divinely inspired. The father of race is not God but Johann Blumenbach, who created a race- based classification of human beings. Race was and is not a part of the plan of God but in this video, you can see how the idea came into being, how scientists and politicians encouraged its life and maturity in the United States for economic and political reasons. Race was “discovered” not because it was true but because it was profitable.
Do not just accept race without understanding it, without questioning it. Don’t give it that much of your faith. When it comes to our identity and society’s offerings to support it, it is important to question, to critically interrogate what gives our lives their meaning, worth, dignity and purpose.
This video documents the tragedies of the attempted genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia during the Second Reich. Through these historical records, it is my hope that we would acknowledge and accept the collective oppression that all people have endured and the crimes that we have committed against each other, as our sufferings are not to be compared but mourned and forgiven. It is not a matter of who started it but the lamentable fact that it has not ended.
What is genocide?
Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur, (R.R. Donnelley: Harrisonburg, VA, 2007).
Luderitz Concentration Camps
Benjamin Madley, Patterns of frontier genocide (1803-1910): the Aboriginal Tasmanians, the Yuki of California and the Herero of Namibia, Journal of Genocide Research 2004 6(2), June, 167-192.
Jurgen Zimmerer, Annihilation in Africa: The Race War in German Southwest Africa (194-1908) and Its Significance for a Global History of Genocide, GHI Bulletin No. 37 (Fall 2005), 51-57.
“Race is so deeply imbedded in our lives it appears to be the natural order of things. We must challenge that notion with all of the power of our science and society.”
~Yolanda Moses, Anthropologist
Once upon a time, there were no human races.
How we talk about race is important to me. Unfortunately, the stories that I hear about race sound much like what’s left after playing the childhood game telephone. What was whispered in the ears of our ancestors hundreds of years ago is now a muddled message mixed with biblical, biological and cultural rationales for the belief in and the necessity of human separation according to races. We really don’t know what we believe about race and we don’t really know how the story goes.
RACE: Are We So Different?, a project of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), answers the question: “How did the idea of race begin in America?” The American Anthropological Association (AAA) tells The Story of Race and provides a timeline that traces the the concept of race and the development of the idea through the influences of science, government and culture. It can never be told enough as there are multiple and competing stories as to the origin of humanity, its cultures and their differences.
Telling and retelling the story of race humanizes it and strips it of its divine appearance. It reminds us that this “social construct” is a part of us, formed with our minds and passed from generation to generation not because of a “genetic inheritance” (also known as eugencis) but because we have made it a part of how we talk about the human family. It is my hope and my goal to change this character’s role and the means by which we talk about how race came to be. So, repeat after me: “Once upon a time, there were no human races.”
Art Munin, White Privilege 101 Timeline, an Annotated bibliography
Race: The Power of an Illusion, Race Timeline, www.pbs.org
Dr. Shelly Tochluk, Witnessing Whiteness: The Need To Talk About Race and How To Do It (2010).