W1: What is “race”?

The term “race” means putting the same species of individuals into separate categories, as if we are separate species. Western Europeans and Americans believed that God created several different groups of humans and that these groups were different species that should remain separate because God created them separately. This assumption was intriguing to those who believed that slavery in America made sense based on the notion that God created certain people to be masters. In the American colonies around 1600’s and 1700’s, skin color started to create the understanding of race. In other places, like the Caribbean, England, and Brazil , slavery existed but it did not go off of your skin color. Slavery was not just for “African Americans”, but also for the “White”, the “Irish”, and much more.

Biologically speaking, “race” is nothing. It is nonexistent, us humans simply created it. There are genetic differences in humans, for example, attached or detached earlobes, straight or curly hair, whether you have a clasp in your chin, skin color, and more. Although, we do not usually categorize humans based off of their earlobes, hair, or chin, we do categorize individuals based off of color.  For an animal/human to be considered a species, both need to be true: members of the species can interbreed, and their offspring are viable. Therefore, it is true that humans are one species, and not subspecies of each other. Socially speaking, “race” does not mean anything, but racism does! Putting individuals into these categories takes a huge toll on one’s mental and physical well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity. Instead of defining health as the absence of illness, health is seen to be as a balance among physical, mental, and social well-being.

Racism affects an individuals mental and physical because they are treated poorly, solely from the assumption that they are different due to their skin tone, when skin tone is only based on how much UV radiation an individual can take in. Individuals that are non-white may experience discrimination, violence, job-loss, house-loss, and much more. In 1995,  the average white individual had 8x more wealth than the average nonwhite individual. Another issue with racism is that many health researchers think that there are racial differences and design many studies. The issue is not the “race” of the individuals, it is the environment that these individuals are occupying (mentally and physically). A film Becoming American, was a real-life story  of Latino immigrants. The family had a very tight kin and were healthy (mentally and physically), but after being accustumed to the American lifestyle, the tight kin and health status, started to disintegrate. They found that after five years in the U.S., Latino’s were 1.5x more likely to have high blood pressure and same for obesity; heart disease, and diabetes also increase. They also found that the longer you are out of your country, the more likely you are able to develop psychiatric disorders (Becoming American, California Newsreel).

After searching some articles, I came across one called, There Is No Such Thing As Race, where it further opened my lens into understanding that racism is very real and “race” is just a label that some use to categorize individuals. The article states, “It seems that the belief in human races, carrying along with it the prejudice and hatred of “racism,” is so embedded in our culture and has been an integral part of our worldview for so long that many of us assume that it just must be true. Racism is a part of our everyday lives. Where you live, where you go to school, your job, your profession, who you interact with, how people interact with you, your treatment in the healthcare and justice systems are all affected by your race. For the past 500 years, people have been taught how to interpret and understand racism. We have been told that there are very specific things that relate to race, such as intelligence, sexual behavior, birth rates, infant care, work ethics and abilities, personal restraint, lifespan, law-abidingness, aggression, altruism, economic and business practices, family cohesion, and even brain size. We have learned that races are structured in a hierarchical order and that some races are better than others. Even if you are not a racist, your life is affected by this ordered structure. We are born into a racist society (Sussman, 2014: 2).”  This truly broadened my lens into further understanding that racism is very real, and we need to end it.

Sussman, Robert W. The myth of race: The troubling persistence of an unscientific idea. Harvard University Press, 2014.

One thought on “W1: What is “race”?

  1. I agree with the statement you made saying that “race” does not mean anything, but racism does. I think this completely embodies what we learned about through all of the resources and activities that we did for class this week. Racism and discrimination have such vast effects on the health of the world’s population and this is something that I, too, chose to focus on within my blog post. Many of us don’t realize the effects that discrimination can have on health but like you said, it can effect things like hypertension and blood pressure, while also increasing the potential to be diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes. I found these facts to be astonishing while watching the film Becoming American, but I think it is something that our population has to become more aware of. I find it so interesting that we learned skin color has nothing to do with race, but only to do with the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Looking at the article which you referenced, There Is No Such Thing as Race, I found it even more interesting to understand the fact that “race” is only a label. The world has defined “race” solely based on differences in skin color because this differentiation has been a part of our worldview for so long, when we are really not all that different. Truthfully, we are technically all a part of the same race, the human race.

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