Monday, October 23, 2006

Race: Fact or Myth? by christopher bowers

In Critical White Studies they talk about race as being much more a social reality than a biological reality. "Race" as a concept is not seen, even scientifically, as a biological reality. There are biological differences, obviously, but those are less than 5% of our genetic make-up. However, we attatch certain meanings to those minut differences and that meaning becomes more powerful than the reality of biology (that 5%). This means that two white people could have less in common genetically than a European-American and an African-American.

Race, as a concept, comes out of a political/social context, particularly in this country. People could be defined not by their biology but by a political definition of race. The whiter you were, the more likely you were to be offered citizenship, the more property you could have, acceptance... and often your race was determined by the amount of property you had (Mexicans were considered white on the west coast because they owned property). Still today, race manifests much more as a social reality.

This is not to invalidate body memory and racial pride. However, that scientifically this would be attributed more to an environmental experience manifesting through the body, not specifically to race. For example, Jewish people (of many races) may also have pride and genetic memory as a result of oppression. Identity politics is still necessary.

What is quite left out this discussion is culture. Cultural differences are huge, but still not strictly biological. This makes them none the less valid. The whole idea of race as a biological myth is intended to confront the long history this country has of oppressing people through a huge process of "othering" which often took the form of scientific inquiry (ie, Eugenics) or making the case that people are less due to INHERENT differences, that actually are not inherent, but percieved.