Monday, June 21, 2010

A new perspective on Race

[The following is a summary of the discussion I had on 'the concept of race in a multicultural paradigm']

The talk was given by a professor from the department of International Relations at the University of Karachi. The focus of the whole discussion was a research dissertation written by two eminent American psychologists; the title of the research was:

"Race as biology is fiction - Race as a social problem is real."

The paper presented an anthropological and historic perspective on the issue of race in the United States. In the US, the black-men and white-men divide goes back in history. Slaves were brought in ship to the 'free land' and they were forced to work in new and harsh conditions. Africans were by law not treated as human beings. Slavery was also made kosher by the contemporary Christan church. This 'religo-political harmony' meant that there was no stopping to the slavery business. Blacks were caught from the African continents and were brought back to the developing United States, the free-world. They were not allowed to marry the whites and in some cases they even couldn't marry in their own communities. This might help in establishing a permanent family system. A family system never suited the whites and black men and women were often segregated. No great black revolt is record in the history. The most important reason is that when blacks seemed to disobey their new masters, they were severally punished. Punishment for the act of treason was in some cases equal to death. Due to this the black men never tried to disobey whites.

This was the history of the white-black divide. We can speculate that capital was the driving force behind this horrendous crime of slavery.

The American psychologists have tried to prove that the foundation of racism in the US is scientific. Previously, there was an idea that a taxonomy of supremacy exists in different races. Some races are higher than other, some normal and some below normal. The Asian race is at the top of the ladder, then comes the European and lastly Africans. This conception was very strongly promoted and naturally it allowed the exploitation of one race by the other.

The American psychologists have tried to prove that although racism has scientific grounding but no race is superior to the other. Supremacy of a single dominating race can never be proved.

The basic assumption made is that race has nothing to do with biology. Race and biology are inclusive in nature. These are two incomparable ideas which cannot overlap each other.

The new concept presented in the paper says that race is acquired through ethnicity. The normative position is now taken up by a particular ethnicity rather than the old taxonomic structure. This means that a person can change his race overtime. As a person travels from the African continent to the United States, he has changed his ethnic background. As culture is considered to be external, so does is ethnicity. This black African slave might change his ethnicity as he is now brought in a new cultural environment. Hence this proves that race isn't a static constant norm. It's a collection of ethnic traits learned overtime and passed from one generation to the other. If an African has major traits of an American, then he surely is an American.

Lastly, the psychologist also discussed that, in history, race is used as a political tool. Even today, around the world, electoral constituencies are divided on the basis of class, colour, creed, language and religion. This discrimination can be subdued if we consider race as a social variable rather than something external and never changing.

Just to conclude the whole topic. The three fundamental thought are following:
1) Race is a mean of enforcing social order.
2)It is a lens through which differential opportunities and inequalities are structured.
3)Scientific methods are problematic. Science with its emphasis on identifying immutable differences between racial group as caused racial inequality.

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