H.Rajput-Week Two-Systems of a Difference

Part of the need to separate was initially based on survival (prehistoric era), but that has evolved, more or less, into separating a supposedly superior group from group(s) lacking certain qualities to qualify for the realm of superiority. Simply put, it’s the reason that during the period of the enslavement of African Americans in the USA, lighter skinned slaves were kept as house help, while their darker counterparts were left to tend the fields. It’s the same reason that women in many Asian countries are encouraged, many times pressured, to pursue skin lightening treatments. There are many more examples of this, but ultimately the point is that these social, entirely man-made, counstructs have defined nonexistent standards of beauty, intelligence, and civility. We have, over time, accepted many of these racially-based classifications. In Christen Smith’s “Blackness, Citizenship, and the Transnational Vertigo of Violence in the Americas”, the author outlines this sometimes hidden discrimination, “There is a breakdown between legal, written inclusion and state practice of national inclusion. The evidence for this is the indiscriminate manner by which black people are killed, beaten, tortured, and violated by the state with impunity. This practice has become common sense, to the point that even those seeking assistance from law enforcement are killed for procuring such assistance.” She argues that black people are legal citizens, and legal citizens all should be allowed equal protection. This, however, is not the case and that has led not only to a shocking number of black deaths, but also the oftentimes shocking nature of the moments preceding the death. The way some victims are apprehended (many times, when they have no cause to be, like Jonathan Ferrell of Charlotte, NC) who was shot to death running for help for a passenger in his car during a wreck. In the time that Ferrell left his car to run toward the police for help, the shooter had already identified him as a threat. Because he was armed? Shouting threats maybe? No, it simply came down to the threatening nature perceived due to many factors in the situation, chief of which might have been the color of Ferrell’s kin. The idea that young black men are generally a danger to society, is one that has crept into the stereotypes of the black American community, and has proved to be fatal. That idea has been  very old one; it’s the entire premise of the court trial in To Kill a Mockingbird. This brings into the spotlight the question of the relationship between race and culture. It’s the reason that, growing up as an Indian girl, I was perceived as bookish, sharp, well-behaved, and literally voted most likely to succeed in high school. To everyone else’s credit though, being valedictorian didn’t help the stereotype. But the reason I played so easily into the preconceived notion is because my culture, the community I was raised in, had nurtured me to be that way.

Ultimately, these ties between race and culture are partially ingrained since the beginning of globalization, but some have evolved. Some, like the assumptions automatically made about young black males, have proven to be fatal. My question, is if race has always been the foundation of culture, then how do, for example the Dresnok brothers exist? Two sons of a White expatriate in Korea were born and raised in North Korea, follow the nationalistic ideology of the Kim family, and even speak English with a Korean accent. The culture seems not only to accept them, but to suit them. If they, however, emigrated to America they would benefit from many privileges of being white males whereas a Korean male in the same position might not have the same experiences.  Similarly, why does culture, something with roots since the beginning of humanity, not surpass the power of race? Why are we so quick to judge the colors, sounds, and sights of a person before we examine their characters and experiences?

One thought on “H.Rajput-Week Two-Systems of a Difference

  1. The first thing I would like to applaud in your efforts this week is your incorporation of real and fictional examples of the human divisions rooted in the socially-constructed notion of race. I found that your examples of light-skinned slaves gaining privileges, Asian women seeking skin-lightening treatments, and of the premise of To Kill A Mockingbird to be strong pillars of proof for your well thought out assertions about race. Also, including your own take on stereotyping adds to the authenticity of your assertions, while at the same time validating them.

    And to partially respond to the questions you brought up at the end of your post, I think in the first questions case you need to understand culture not as a function of race, but rather, the other way round where race is a function of culture. As Boaz and many anthropologists since have concluded, there are way more cultures than there are races, and therefore race is not the definer of culture. For the second question it is necessary to look far back into history and understand the human condition when the primary mission was to survive and procreate, which lead people to understand their environment through their immediate senses, and not through an abstract conceptualization of humanity.

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