When I was in high school I took an accelerated class that was constructed by Tuft’s University. It was called the EPIIC program, or Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship. My year the topic happened to be ‘Race & Racism’. We read, reviewed, debated and wrote about articles on race and racism from all different sources, all different viewpoints.
We reviewed the scientific aspects of race. Everything from modern DNA analysis, to heavily racialized studies of the past that studied the bone structure, body measurements, brain weight, and all sorts of stats from native Africans, native Asians, white Europeans, etc.
The use of science to somehow prove one race was more or less development, was perhaps closer to the neanderthal then other races, or perhaps had a bigger or more dense brain was a little disturbing to all of us. There is so much body-type variation from one person to another in any particular race I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. But apparently, if you take a lot of measurements from a huge array of samples there are common things that make us different from one race to another. In those days they used those differences and the scientific data collected about those differences as ways to prove one race was superior or inferior. But, in modern-day science, we’ve discovered that the DNA is barely different from one race to another, and those physical differences are just part of the spice of life.
But racism keeps on in this world. Close minded, culturally homogeneous, isolated people are hard to root out. I think it must just be part of the human psyche to want to be better than others, want to be more of a center of attention than others. Some people just find the outlet for those needs in Racism. Others find it in blogging about random crap =D
Some folks want more ways to identify themselves racially. I recently read an article about a group of white, southern Americans who wanted to start a grass-roots “write-in” campaign for ‘Confederate White American’ on the Census. The US Census offers an ‘other’ line where you can write in whatever you choose.
Our Census doesn’t have a lot of options for race. The only race that has a lot of ‘racial variety’ choices are Hispanics, who can choose from about 4 sub-sets or define their own. Asians and Pacific Islanders have about 9 choices, most of them along national lines, not actual ethnicity. I’m not sure everyone from China would want to be ethnically lumped in with the rest of the Chinese People. If you don’t fall into those 13 slightly more defined categories, you must be either ‘White’, ‘Black, African Am., or Negro’ or ‘American Indian or Alaska Native’ (you can name your tribe). If not, you’re ‘other’ and have to fill it in yourself.
Now, if you’re talking about using this census as a way to properly divide resources amongst communities that are in need, I’m not sure I am OK with being lumped in with ALL other “whites”. I’m not even entirely sure what White is.
Take me, for example. I was adopted at birth, so I have an actual biological racial identity, as well as one I grew up with.
As far as biologically, we know I am at least half Irish. The other half we’re not too sure about, if I had to guess, I’d say I’m either full Irish, or part Irish part German (with an emphasis on ‘Hun’ Germanic ancestry). But that’s pretty much based off of my own assessment of my facial and bodily features. We really have no clue what my other ‘half’ might be.
As far as the family I was basically born into, raised in, spent my whole life with and who had caring enough hearts to adopt a boy at birth… well, that’s a whole other hodgepodge.
My father was born and raised in South African, however he’s not African, dutch, or even British, he’s Lithuanian and Jewish at that. My mother has both Italian and Sicilian ancestry, and is Roman Catholic – which is much less of a ‘racial’-type identifier than being Jewish, but worth inclusion. So what exactly does that make me?
Personally, although I wasn’t raised along strict Judaic lines and religious schooling – didn’t even have a Bar Mitzvah… I pretty much consider myself a Jew. Mostly out of respect for my father, out of respect for some of the trials and tribulations he went through, some of the hate he experienced for being Jewish. I also went to a school with predominantly Jewish kids, went to a camp that was mostly Jewish, with a scant amount of exceptions I’m closer to the Jewish side of my family. While, in a religious sense, I’m more Agnostic/Spiritual, I feel I have enough right in this world to call myself a Jew. Others probably disagree, but that’s their problem.
If there’s anything else from that hodgepodge I identify with, it would be Irish, because that’s what I AM, at the very least partially. What does that make me, an Irish Jew?
That might seem pretty crazy to most, but there is actually a surprising large group of Irish Jews in the US. Not a ton, but enough to be considered an ethnic group.
Maybe I’ll fill out my Census this year as ‘Irish Jew’ and see what happens. Maybe I’ll have to wait out the mail-in period and get the person to come to my house and do the Census Interview and when they say ‘You’re White, correct’, I’ll answer, ‘No, I prefer you check other and enter ‘Irish Jew” and see what reaction I get =D
So, I guess in the most abstract sense I have to agree with those folks that want to write in Confederate White Southerner. They have every right to not want to be lumped in the general category of ‘white’. And I CERTAINLY don’t want to be lumped in with any of them.
Brazil, for all its other problems, is usually touted as one of the most racially inclusive countries, a REAL Melting Pot. Brazil’s Census has something like 150 racial classifications, various types of ‘whites’, many types of mulatto’s, native Africans, native south Americans, other Hispanic, etc. On top of that you can still write in your own classification.
I don’t think that some of the more hard-headed “Whites” in this country of ours are going to really ‘get-it’ that America isn’t just for them until you show them exactly how diverse ‘White’ can be, and that there probably is no such thing as a ‘pure’ white person. Granted, I’m sure they’ll find some new way to justify their racism and reclassify themselves into some race that is ‘divine’, or whatever it is those folks believe. But change always breeds more change, so perhaps adding a little gray to ‘White’ would be good thing.