Monday, October 14, 2013

Is there really a such thing as race

Janelle Kelty                                                                                       October 14, 2013


Race is a mucky and vague term. It is hard to determine a pure race. There are only lingering essences of what races used to be. The great Atlantic slave trade as well as colonization ensured that there would no longer be such a thing as race. According to Encyclopedia Britannica race is “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences.” (Smedley)

If this definition of race is adhered to, inherited differences would have to be proven to exist separately and unmuddled. “Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races, and scholars now argue that “races” are cultural interventions reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century” (Smedley) If this is true then there can be many races based on self-identified attitudes, beliefs, physical and behavioral differences.




            It is my contention that race is becoming more and more of a personally identified issue. The term race is defined differently especially between different generations.

When questioned about her definition and classification of race, a twenty-four year old student stated” I don’t know I get confused about race and ethnicity all the time. I think race is like, you can’t really change your race, if it’s white, black, you can’t change it. I’ve seen Asian Jamaicans. I consider my race to be African American. (Levine) I then questioned a 59 year old Master of Social Work whose response was a world away. “That’s a tricky question to a black person because our race and ethnicity are the same, I consider myself black and my ethnicity black, please don’t call me African American, because that is something that is shared and you don’t have to be black to be African American. We don’t have nothing else I’m Black and Black”. Experiences shape ones interpretations of self-identification. A student living in today’s America versus an older woman who has participated in Black Panther party events and can remember when Kennedy died.           


            When discussing the black race in America it is important to understand the logistics of the numerical importation of black slaves into America. “ Africans  brought to North America as slaves were a small minority, probably fewer than 6 percent, of some twelve million men women, and children shoved below the decks of ships lying at anchor off of Africa’s Atlantic shores between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries.” (Miller) That equation comes out to about 720,000. You are taking approximately 720,000 people out of 12 million people out of an entire population and then dispersing them into different colonies but somehow expect for there to be a particular race; and that is without even considering interracial breeding. You cannot maintain an ethnicity that way and certainly not a race.


            Blacks are categorized by skin color and little else. Black Americans can be a race but it is so broad because no person is “pure” Black and can usually trace the different type of lineage as close as a grandparent. If you follow the one drop of black blood rule a great many more people are black than care to be recognized. Are you black if you are the descendent of an African slave or a descendent of a person from Africa or if you are just brown skinned? There are too many interpretations to determine what race is and what race you are particularly if you are “Black”; it is almost a guess when you state your race. So I guess I am Black.












Smedley, A (2006 June 29) Race. Britannica .com Retrieved October 8, 2013 fr


Levine, N (2013 September 30) Personal Interview


Spencer, R (2013 October 1) Telephone Interview


Miller, J.C. (2000) Upon These Shores:  Themes in the African-American Experience 1600 to the Present NY, NY: Routledge


Baraka, J -The hard knock life- The bi-racial, mixed race, multi-cultural, hybrid races of the world, the future. Part I 2011 6 January Ten unacceptable cycles black people have to change





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