W1: Race Isn’t Real

What we define as race has come up in my previous classes. In my IAH class we had an exercise, anyone in the class could provide their interpretation of race, and we would find the flaws in their definition. Eventually, we came up with the meaning of “a group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution” (Ronen, IAH 210 Fall 2015). However, biologically, I define race as genetic traits common to their native geographical area. Socially, I think race is more a concept of values shared between persons of the same identifying community. I do not think that race has anything to do with skin color, because now these days people’s ethnicities are so diverse that race means nothing, it’s based solely on how the person identifies themselves. For instance, I found that the racial sorting quiz that we took was very difficult, especially because I can relate to racial discrimination. I am over 75% Native American, and I identify with my tribe, however I look Irish, in which only takes up 15% of my background. These days, it’s hard to define something so fluid.

As far as race in society, having a commonality such as similar life values and rituals can bring a community together and create a very strong bond. Their similar interests can become the structure of their community, therefore beliefs such as health maintenance can differ greatly from one racial society to another. For example, some cultures do not believe in Western Medicine practices, they rather heal holistically. Unfortunately, this can cause intercultural tension, in the case that one approach harms the patient. An example would be a case of a child dying from meningitis. This is a very serious illness and in most cases can not be treated holistically. If the child died from this, some people would be outraged and blame the parents for neglect. Although I would at first be outraged at the parents, this is a prime example of cultural one sided-ness because I am not taking into account that it is what the parents believe.

The example above is also similar to a true case that happened not too long ago. I remember reading about it online and was furious to learn that a loss of a child’s life could have been prevented if the parents had taken him/her to the doctor, instead of feeding the child a honey/sugar concoction. The state was considering prosecuting the parents due to neglect. But thinking about it now, if the state prosecuted the parents, it would be an intercultural argument in court, and could the parents really be punished for something that they don’t see as wrong?



Steinberg, Ronen. IAH 210 Europe and the World. MSU, Fall Semester 2015.

2 thoughts on “W1: Race Isn’t Real

  1. Wow, you bring up some very thought provoking points in your post. I really like that in another class you came up with a physical definition for race but that you also have your own social definition. I found your point about cultural tension when it comes to medical practices to be very fascinating. I think in the United States we have a tendency to rely almost solely on bio-medicine and see it as the “right” way to treat someone who is sick. However not everybody believes that and they should have the right to decide how they would like to be treated. I think your meningitis example was great. I also really appreciated the real world example that you use, but that is where I find myself getting kind of stuck. I sort of feel like people shouldn’t HAVE to subscribe to western medicine if that is not what they believe, however I think I get stuck when I think about the fact that the parents were making the decision for someone else (albeit their child, but the child should still have a say in what happens to them). I don’t know what the right answer is, and I think it is a very complicated situation that you really forced me to think about whereas I may not have given it a lot of thought before. Nice job!

  2. Mace,
    Good job on tying in numerous real world examples to explain your thoughts. The definition your previous class created for race is something that I would have agreed with before this weeks lectures. We learned that human race is the same as species when talking about animals. In order for an animal to belong to a specific species the animal must be able to interbreed with another animal and create viable offspring. If both of these conditions are met then the animals belong to the same species. Now let’s think about this in terms of people. You can take any person, no matter what color, what ethnicity, etc. and they can interbreed with any other person and create viable offspring. Therefore every person on this earth belongs to one race. There is no such thing as different races! To me this is pretty crazy to think about because we live in a world where “race” is very divided and “racial differences” are amplified. I wish that the world could learn what we already have thus far about how there is no such thing as races. I wish that different cultures that have different life values and rituals would be more accepting of differing values of another culture instead of always finding ways to criticize each other. Your example of the child dying from meningitis does a good job in clearly describing how these cultural differences can get ugly fast.

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