D. Liu-Week 2- Systems of Difference

In early times, people searched for differences in others across borders, believing they were superior and more evolved. Edward Tylor, who believed the advancing civilizations were evolving to become like white Europeans shows us how many Europeans tried to view others. There is no genetic marker to determine differences between race, as there is no set definition for defining race. However, physical characteristics can still be seen, such as skin, eye or hair color that people use to try to identify differences between themselves and others. These differences tend to cause separation and discrimination in the population. The video “Race: The Power of an Illusion, Episode 1, Part 1” has an interview with young athletes on their opinions between physical capabilities between blacks and whites in running, and they agree that certain populations have a genetic advantage. The variations we see in people, such as skin color or appearances are caused by mutations, natural selection, and genetic drift. These differences can  cause divisions between people, and in turn, create boundaries. In lecture 2.1 “The Production of Difference”, The Great Chain of Being and the Colonial other describes the hierarchy that many Christians believed to be true. God was the highest of all authorities, then Angels, then Various Celestial beings, and then Man. Under man was everything else, and man ruled over all else. Missionaries were sent to other countries to spread Christianity, and to make others conform with the same beliefs without trying to understand their culture themselves. People started to arbitrarily classify race with phenotype, with environmental adaptations such as skin color. The attempt to classify races were used to mistreat others, from lecture 2.2, we learned that people in the 18th and 19th century saw black people as “less than human”. Race was used to define citizenship and your standing in the community. Christen Smith’s article “Blackness, Citizenship, and the Transnational Vertigo of Violence in the Americas” describe the dangers of being black, particularly in Brazil. Most deaths caused by the police are registered as “death caused by resisting arrest” according to Smith. Black people are three times more likely to be killed in Brazil than white people. The belief that blacks are less than human and that they are inferior has caused some to justify their use of violence against black suspects. Differences in treatment of people can be seen with racial profiling from police and in turn cause a separation between groups. In some earlier times, race justified social inequalities as natural. However, according to PBS’s “Sorting people by Race”, in Ancient societies, people were not categorized by physical differences but by religion, status, class, and language. Race is a powerful idea that has given many opportunities and resources to whites, and often times less for everyone else. I would ask whether the physical capabilities of different groups of people be caused by their environment or is there no other explanation, such as in sports where black people are often the fastest in track and field. Why, in ancient times, did they choose to categorize, instead by physical differences but with religion, status, class and language? Were they more advanced and less judging?

2 thoughts on “D. Liu-Week 2- Systems of Difference

  1. I like what you post. There are variety reasons to cause distinguish between different races. The most intuitive difference is between appearances. This is because of genetic, environmental adaptation, which cannot be choose. From the biological point of view, all races are the same organism, no better or worse. In contact, people will be grading in the community, which based on their culture, religion or wealth. Colonial culture is a good example. Colonists considered that people live in colony are inferior. They should compliance with social rules that established by settlers, provide resources and cheep labor, meet the needs of life colonizers. In American, we can find related reports about blacks and white policemen. All reports show their relationship is tensions. Racial discrimination shows different race has different social status. In same situation, white people always have more shipping conditions than black men, even its not explicitly written. That why I agree with your post, good job.

  2. In a Sociology class I had on Race and Ethnicity, my professor mentioned that a country in South America actually had a different way of looking at race. They viewed it as a spectrum instead of categories. Many of the people that we put firmly in the “black” category, would instead be somewhere on the brown part of the spectrum. It was shocking to me to find out that our way of looking at race was not a worldwide definition. Although it had been hinted at many times, I also learned in that class that Jews, Italians, Irish, and many other groups of people that we firmly label as white had at one point not been classified as white. Things like this were what I found so fascinating.
    I also find it very interesting that in the Bible it both says that we have to love everyone, no matter what. But it also talked about Ham and how people with darker skin were seen as lesser than people with whiter skin. Taking these into consideration, there is a lot of conflict between these two messages. So how does one solve this deep conflict? Make it so those with darker skin are technically not human ], and therefore do not apply to the “love everyone” rule. I wonder if this had a lot to do with why they saw those with darker skin as beneath them.

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