On Race, Gender and Difference.
NB: Below you can read my reply to a Project O’s fellow-contributor. Click on the link above for her article.
Thank you for a great post. I enjoyed the sarky undertone too. It suited the piece I think.
Regarding race. May I be so bold and agree with your PolSci prof? I don’t know what arguments she brought forward to support her position, but this is how I see it. Yes, people’s skin colour differs. It differs from person to person, region to region, continent to continent; and if there are humanoid aliens out there, perhaps from galaxy to galaxy too. We are not blind to those differences, and the French I think proved quite well that state-ratified attempts at such blindness fail to bring about equality of treatment.
However, I do believe that race is a social construct. To think in racial terms is not a ‘natural’ occurrence. The doctrines were invented by those who sought to justify rapacious private and state-led enterprise outside the limited confines of European territories. It is easier to rob peoples of their possessions if you do not think of them as your equals. You don’t need to come to terms then with your own failings as a human being or society.
Before that happened, attitudes did not differ towards people whose skin colour differed any more than they differed towards people using different hair-grooming products.
Race is a social construct in the same way in which gender is. Yes, there are two basic sexes: male and female, with many nuanced in-betweens when discontinuities between biology and psyche occur. But other than the strict biological differences that can be observed, all else is invention. It took two world wars to show Europe that at the end of the day there are no differences between what men and women can do work-wise, that equally well educated men and women are equally capable of rational argument, that politically engaged citizens are militant no matter what their sex.
However, I am also painfully aware that the above does not change on-the-ground realities. Just because something is imagined or invented, if it is adhered to, then it is as real as it can get.
I count myself fortunate in that I have always seen difference as an inherent good. I am fascinated by it, not in a “let me inspect you as if you’re some museum piece” fascinated, but as toddlers find the world around them new and wonderful and exciting, and everything they have not encountered before is another adventure: an explorer’s dream. Every person I meet, irrespective of background, gender, skin colour, nose shape and whatever-have-you, is to me a new world I am eager to discover. I wish it was the same for everyone.
Sadly, I know that not to be the case. But I hope that what you shared in your post will make at least one person think twice before they make another racist joke thinking ‘big deal’.
Thank you again. Look forward to more of your writing x
Should you like to peruse my original contribution to Project O, follow this link: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/ or alternatively, you can find it on Project O’s home-website at: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/03/project-o-article-12/
For more deeply held opinions, there is an interview with vicbriggs and OpinionatedMan coming up in October. Watch this space!
And thank you for stopping by 🙂