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I've been reading quite a bit about racism in the various blogs over the last few days.  It's all been interesting, however, I have a major issue with the word "racism" and its accompanying term "racist."  Both are old words, archaic terms, and terms that are misused and quite inappropriate in establishing an honest dialogue about social relations in these United States of America.  Racism is a word that carries with it lots of baggage from bygone days, Medieval days, pre-Scientific Revolution days, pre-Enlightenment days. It, and the term racist, ought to be banished from any and all debates about social relations.  Both terms, racism and racist, do more harm than good in any discussion about social relations.  We need to stop using it, both of them, if we truly wish to advance into the 21st century as an enlightened and progressive society.  

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On this planet we call Earth, there is only one race, the human race.  No matter our individual appearance, our language, our customs, our religion, our food, we as individuals have more in common than we have differences.  This is due to all of us being of the same species, Homo Sapiens.  The sub-species of Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongloid are essentially defined through physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair type and color, eye shape, et cetera.  In modern day terminology, we call these sub-species, ethnic groups. Regardless of one's ethnicity, one is still a human being first and foremost.  We are not Martians nor any other galatic specie.  Should any of these galatic specie arrive on planet Earth, then perhaps we can talk about different races and use the term racism.

The term "race" came into general usage as ethnic groups extended beyond their natural habitat.  Initially, natural barriers, such as mountain ranges and oceans and deserts, formed natural boundaries, keeping ethnic groups apart and within their own territories.  While some members of a society would leave and travel long distances for trade, more often than not, early societies tended to remain separate and viewed the traders as suspect, somehow no longer true to the ethnic group, tainted so to speak due to their involvement with others who were not like them.  Traders often had a low status within their respective societies.  Still, curiosity about "the other" led to a dialogue which defined other societies in oppositional terms.    Traders spoke of people who did not dress like them, who were not "civilized" like them, who had "barbaric" customs, or who were "savage" or "devious" in their interactions.  They spoke of "races" of people in color coded terms, the black man, the yellow man, the red man, the brown man, the white  or pale man. They were people, but they were of a different "race" than that of the trader, a difference based purely on the color of skin.  For "other" societies who shared the similar if not the same color of skin, the trader defined those societies by territorial locations, i.e., the Gaul (Germanic), the Saxon (English), the Viking (Nordic) or i.e., the Powhatan (Atlantic seaboard), the Huron (eastern Great Lakes), the Lakota (North American Plains).  The degree of "otherness" depended upon physical characteristics, but mainly on skin color.  

The innovation of seafaring technologies allowed for greater contact between ethnic groups, to include diaspora families, families who would live with "the other" society for the specific purpose of trade.  Yet, these foreign traders were often restricted to a specified area to live and do their business and were not allowed to live within the host society. All major trade centers in the 16th century had international districts, specifically for the foreign traders and their families.  This validates the mindset of "the other" as opposed to "us." It also indicated, on a very deep subconscious level, that "the other" was less important, were less privileged, than the people of the host society.  The trader was the Chinaman or the Mongloid, and not Mr. Chang.  He was the Jew or the Arab, and not Mr. Rozen.  It was an extension of the color coding established by the early long distance traders.  Religion, colonization, and warfare, in particular the enslavement or indentured servitude of war captives, furthered the degradation of "the other" within a society.  

Today, we no longer have strict international districts nor do we only have foreign traders living besides us.  Particularly here in America, many of us have a lineage which comes from abroad, but we are the (X)th generation born here.  By birth, we are American, and we may maintain the ethnicity of our ancestors to varying degrees.  But, in talking with each other and about each other, we still use the same terminology as the 11th century long distance traders in defining someone from a different ethnic group.  We say race when we should be saying ethnicity.  We are all of the same race, we just belong to different ethnic groups.  We say racism when we should be saying ethnocentrism.  We say racist when we should be saying ethnocentric.  We say black, white, brown, red and yellow.  Color coding maintains a dialogue that pits "the other" versus "us."  It is a dialogue that continues the separation of people, maintains privileges and designations that are arbitrary in essence and based purely upon skin color.  It is a dialogue that demeans all of us, not just the other.

Unlike the word racism, ethnocentrism is a neutral term.  It can be positive or negative depending upon one's thoughts and actions.  The same is true for the word ethnocentric.  Honoring one's heritage the same as you honor someone else's heritage is positive ethnocentrism.  It becomes negative when one perceives their heritage as being better than someone else's, when one imposes their ethnic beliefs and its customs upon others, when one degrades or demeans or dismisses another's ethnicity.  

Our society has left-over issues from centuries past.  They are embedded, people say, they are ingrained.  To me, that is a cop-out.  We do not live in the 11th, 16th or the 18th century. Things are known to us that was not general knowledge back then.  We each are responsible for our own actions, our own thoughts and our own being.  Being negative ethocentric is a choice one makes, just like one can choose to be an asshole.  The thing is you do not have to be either.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very Good Diary, but... (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure what we can do to change the hearts of people.  So many hearts are hardened.  And ethnocentrism is exacerbated by difficult economic times which creates even more splinter groups. I don't believe things will get better, because I don't believe our world will ever be stable in the economic or political sense.

    Then Senator Obama was correct when he said, in difficult times people cling to religion and guns.  Those two things are both aspects, to a large extent, of culture which is directly related to ethnicity.  

    Racism or ethnocentrism. Pick your ism.  It's not going to stop.  And that is a sad fact.

    •  Obama failed to go far enough (not a surprising (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deward Hastings, JBL55

      thing in a politician these days) and did not mention that the current national religion is patriotism and the current national patriotism is religious in nature.  I have observed a good many patriotic displays in the past week and what is striking is the religious content of many ostensibly secular displays and the amount of patriotic fervor evoked in churches regarding the religious mythology surrounding the founding of this nation.  

  •  Well said. (0+ / 0-)

    Yes, the concept of "race" is a fiction, except for human race.  People made it up from the need to categorize.

    Warren/3-D Print of Warren in 2016!

    by dov12348 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 03:09:43 AM PDT

  •  I completely disagree (17+ / 0-)

    I appreciate your intent, but there's a lot factually wrong in this diary.

    Ironically, even though you are trying to overcome the legacy of "racial talk," you've inadvertently perpetuated one of the more pernicious racist myths, which I would urge you to edit out of your diary:

    On this planet we call Earth, there is only one race, the human race.  No matter our individual appearance, our language, our customs, our religion, our food, we as individuals have more in common than we have differences.  This is due to all of us being of the same species, Homo Sapiens.  The sub-species of Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongloid are essentially defined through physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair type and color, eye shape, et cetera.  In modern day terminology, we call these sub-species, ethnic groups.
    On the one hand, you are arguing there is only one race. Then you make the error of saying that there are different subspecies.

    There are not different subspecies of existing humans, that is, homo sapiens sapiens. The only subspecies of homo sapiens that have ever existed were Homo sapiens idaltu and according to some scientists, Neanderthals.

    To give you a sense of how wrong you are to call different ethnic groups, "subspecies," all dogs (canine familiaris) are the same subspecies -- from the little Yorkie to the giant Irish Wolfhound. Dogs are a subspecies of wolves. You are saying "negroids" and "mongoloids" are as different from white people as wolves are from golden retrievers -- which is obviously wrong. Subspecies are much more substantially genetically different than races.

    Also, "Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongloid" are not "ethnic groups." Afro Americans and West Indians are both Negroid, but are different ethnic groups. Zulus and Yoruba are Negroid but different ethnicities. Chinese and Japanese are mongoloid, but different ethnic groups. Even closely related Irish and Scotts, or English and Welsh are different ethnic groups. Ethnicity is defined by culture, not by phenotype.

    But my bigger disagreement, aside from your inaccurate use of various terms, is that I think you fundamentally misunderstand race and racism.

    I find it ironic that it's usually someone who is not affected by racism, who is not a member of a racial minority group, who asks that we stop using terms like race and racism because they don't exist (although I have no idea what your race or ethnicity is and don't claim to -- just making an observation about the usual correlation).

    Just because a society uses a term vaguely and with no scientific basis, doesn't mean that it doesn't have social, economic and political force.

    You may think there is no such thing as "racism" because you disagree with the definition and etymology of the term.

    But if you were a young black male in Brooklyn subject to the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy -- about 700,000 people almost all black and latino stopped and frisked and harassed, with the mayor claiming recently that the police should be stopping and frisking even more blacks and latinos and even fewer whites -- you would damn sure know that race and racism exist.  It doesn't matter that there's no genetic basis (or even criminological or sociological basis) for it; it exists as a social phenomenon.

    If we use "neutral terms," and eliminate the term, "racism" then we can't combat the reality of racism. That is like the plea of moderate whites in the south in the 1950s that if southerners just stopped talking about segregation and stop listening to trouble makers like Martin Luther King "we" could all get along better -- but of course we wouldn't have been able to end segregation.

    While you correctly point out that the idea of race has changed drastically over time and therefore is vague, you miss the point that it nevertheless has a distinct meaning in the US. In the past, race generally meant nationality, ethnicity or tribe. So Europeans talked about the German race as opposed to the French race, even though today we would include both in the white race.

    Modern notions of race are closely connected to two phenomena of the 1700s and 1800s and give race a specific meaning.

    First was slavery. Africans became a distinct "race" -- regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or tribe, like Igbo or Yoruba, who all could be enslaved on the basis of their color, phenotype and African origins.  That may not be scientifically, genetically accurate, but it's very real.  Following that came colonialism, and the conquest of Asia, and the designation of Asians as inferior "mongoloids." Of course, the conquest of Native Americans had began earlier, but before the race concept was as fully articulated. Native Americans were at least at first conceived of as nations.

    Second was Darwin's origin of species. Many apologists for racism misinterpreted Darwin to argue that "negroids" and "mongoloids" were separate species or subspecies -- which is why your initial error is so offensive, ie you are using language right out of slavery apologetics in calling different races different subspecies. Race became an entrenched concept with a pseudo scientific gloss. It justified the belief that various races were inherently inferior and deserved their inferior treatment.

    So this is clearly wrong:

    ... word "racism" and its accompanying term "racist."  Both are old words, archaic terms, and terms that are misused and quite inappropriate in establishing an honest dialogue about social relations in these United States of America.  Racism is a word that carries with it lots of baggage from bygone days, Medieval days, pre-Scientific Revolution days, pre-Enlightenment days.
    Race and racism as used today are not archaic, are not derived from the medieval or pre-scientific or pre-enlightment; they are the result of the enlightenment and scientific eras. They also are not "inappropriate" for an "honest dialogue" about social relations in the US

    However scientifically inaccurate "racism" may be in its origins, the groups that were targeted in the 1700s and 1800s are still targeted for unequal treatment and unspoken assumptions of inferiority. There is no way to talk about this phenomenon let alone battle it without using the language society uses.

    Therefore:

    Both terms, racism and racist, do more harm than good in any discussion about social relations.  We need to stop using it, both of them, if we truly wish to advance into the 21st century as an enlightened and progressive society.  
    No they don't. And no we shouldn't.
    Color coding maintains a dialogue that pits "the other" versus "us."  It is a dialogue that continues the separation of people, maintains privileges and designations that are arbitrary in essence and based purely upon skin color.  It is a dialogue that demeans all of us, not just the other.
    No race language does not pit us against each other or separate us or maintain privileges. Racist institutions and racist practices pit us against each other, separate us and maintain privileges. Talking about it is one method for undoing the damage.
    •  I must admit I struggle with (0+ / 0-)

      the terms used myself. But they are what we have, and they do have real meaning and affect real people's real lives.

      Think I wrote a diary along these lines once myself.

      "Let them all suffer in poverty, pollution, and war." - My recommendation for the 2014 Republican campaign slogan.

      by just another vet on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 08:03:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ethnocentrism is a separate matter. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aji, HamdenRice, Gooserock, Kevskos, Mortifyd

    If the problem were ethnocentrism, a white Irish ancestry person would be every bit as likely to act in bigoted ways towards a white German ancestry person.  Your average bigot isn't going to distinguish between black people who have had their ethnic heritage ripped away from them and those who still retain a separate ethnic identity.

    The bigot is does not recognize ethnic differences or similarities, he only sees skin tone.

    •  Bullshit. Accent and Language Use Come a Close (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      freerad, Darwinian Detrius

      2nd which is why the 1st 2 Black entertainers to become fully mainstream stars in the civil rights era were the distinctly dark skinned Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier.

      Open your ears, to this day you'll hear these 2 accepted by many whites who'll switch off the radio or TV on the 2nd syllable they hear from Jesse Jackson.

      The bigot also has ears and other culture-related senses.

      We don't live in Flatland; bigotry and acceptance are multi-dimensional.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:33:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  no. dear G-d no. (0+ / 0-)

    This is so... wrong and white I don't even know where to begin.  Read HamdenRice's comment until it sinks in.

    And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

    by Mortifyd on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:34:37 AM PDT

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