Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Why the "Race" Word is Wrong

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

We all know that "race" doesn't exist, so why do we keep giving the biological concept currency by using the word that denotes the biological concept? Aren't we perpetuating our own marginalization by engaging in what "Spit" calls "skin-color-based usage, interaction and experience" that has specific effect of convincing whites and us that we are fundamentally different biologically? We are fundamentally different in many ways, but these ways have NOTHING to do with biology and EVERYTHING to do with, principally, structural features and our position in society. It's not our "race" that explains our inability to integrate in America. It's whites' response to our skin-color and their treatment of people with our skin-color that most distinguishes our experience here from that of the Irish and the Polish. Continuing to use the word "race" encourages and enables whites who continue believing to insist that "racism" is mostly about biology rather than all about society.

As I said at Political Fleshfeast,

It will NEVER be possible to teach the public to separate the pejorative denotations of the word "race" from the more subtle but useful sociological denotations, about which there is very little agreement between, for example, Republicans and Democrats or Blacks and whites.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So, everytime you use the word "race" you give currency to the pejorative meaning even while good-heartedly endeavoring to explain the sociological. Political Fleshfeast
If you adopted a little boy whose given legal name was "Bitch," would you continue to call him "Bitch," arguing that it is the only name he has, or would you give him a new name that honors his essence and preserves his ability to make a place for himself in society. The name "black race" is like the legacy name "bitch." For so long as we are known this way, and called this pervasively, this negative propaganda against -- that insists that we are less than human -- is too great for any individual amongst us or all of us together to overcome.

It's true that the word "race" was given to us by others, and we have tried to make lemonaide out of linguistic lemons, by appropriating and intellectualizing this name. But, in the end, a boy called "Bitch" by everyone will be respected by no one.

The rationale given for the continued use of the word "race" is that it's the only word we have for a useful and pervasive sociological phenomenon. This is quite a lot like naming your son "bitch" and then insisting that when you call him "bitch" you are not referring to the pejorative sense of the word (the original sense), but you are only referring to the useful sense -- the only name you have for your son. The simple solution is to rename your son and remove all confusion before any more harm is done to his reputation, his self-esteem and his ability to make a place for himself in society.