Race is social construct made only for racism
Dr. Kendi starts off his book with the premise and the core belief that all races are equal. The definition of racism that he uses is the belief that one race is superior or inferior in any way. As he starts going through the history of racism, he starts off describing slavery and the justification for slavery. The justification first started off having the right to control people as a result of conquest. The 2 major groups of slaves were slavs (Eastern European) and africans. Slaves came from the term “slavs”. The slave trade was started off by Muslim slave traders based on the belief that once you conquer that country, you can own those people and do whatever you wish. As the slave trade evolved, slaves became increasingly more African because it was getting more difficult to acquire slaves from the slavic regions while exploration into Africa was increasing. In order to make slavery more acceptable, the idea of races was introduced and the color of one’s skin was used to identify sub humans. Slavery switched from conquering people from that region to kidnapping people under the pretense of racism that these people were subhuman based on their skin color. The other reason why the slave trade increased was because they needed more labor. Their difference in skin color was explained through climate theory, proposing that their skin color was dark due to the hot environment and if they were moved north, they would “turn white”. Also during this time, stories were spread that these people who were dark were considered savages. They identified a group of people that they wanted to enslave, people from African, they picked an identifying trait which was their skin color and picked varying stories to help promote this. One being climate theory, the other being they were savages, they were subhuman, or a curse from the Bible. They had all these ideas and justifications similar to classifying them as animals.
Before the slave trade, there was no notion of races. Races was created purely just for justification of treatment of other humans. Throughout history, they created laws based on these beliefs. The beliefs being that people of darker skin were less intelligent, more savage, and had less impulse control, and other factors that would deem them subhuman. Another example of physical trait being used to classify people was Rwanda, the Sunis and Tutsis, based on their type of noses.
Further in the book, Dr. Kendi discusses 3 groups of beliefs towards racism, two of which helped spread racism. The first group Dr. Kendi and I subscribe to, is antiracist. This described that all humans are equal and there is no group of people that tis inferior or superior to others. The second group are the segregationist that believe there are different groups of humans and that we can keep them separate and provide equal access (“separate but equal”). But this core belief is that there are different classes of humans and cannot live together. That in itself is racist. The third group is the assimilationists. The assimilationists believe similar to climate theory, African Americans can become more civilized or more cultured by becoming more “white”. The core belief being that one group (white) is more superior than the other group (blacks) and the whites have a duty to convert black people. This happened throughout history by converting them into Christians.
Continuing the story into current times. We are still classifying and grouping people by their skin color/race. With the advent of statistics and studies, what is happening, people are using these statistics in order to perpetuate the belief that people with darker skin are less intelligent, more violent, and less motivated. We now understand that the core issue is poverty and unequal access to education. Because of the prior racists policies and active discrimination against people of darker skin, we now have communities of people with darker skin that are disproportionately in poverty. In areas of poverty, we know that there is greater incidences of violence and other criminal activities. So the current crime statistics break down crime based on race, black or white. So reporting just by race does not tell the full picture and perpetuates the idea that just your skin color makes you more violent and more prone to criminal activity or less intelligent, which certain groups are using as a racist manner. We know people of darker skin are not less intelligent or more violent. They are just being grouped with a population that is more affected by poverty which affects those statistics.
Race is a social construct just as gender is. We know that humans are on a spectrum and know the dangerous effects of creating arbitrary groups such as male and female and the affect it has on individuals. By having just two groups, it has artificially created a definition of what is normal and what is abnormal, It has led to the prosecution of people that do not fall within these categories, such as homosexuals, transgender, asexual, and intersex. Just like their is a spectrum of genders, there is a spectrum of races such as mixed race individuals. Just like it no longer makes sense to keep just 2 arbitary genders, such as male and female, it no longer makes sense to keep the classifications that we call race.
Religion was originally created to control populations but that is not to say that it has had positive effects, such as spreading the idea to be a good human. But act is clearly no enough justification to keep religion around which is still being used to discriminate other people. Any positive views on race, do not justify keeping the construct around. There are other ways to celebrate differences in culture that don’t promote bias.
By keeping these groups, we have created arbritary categories on physical characteristics that make no impact on an individual’s intellectual capabilities and humanity as a whole. By keeping these groups, we are allowing for the justification of discrimination and implicit bias. By grouping people by physical characteristics such as their skin color, we are teaching people at a young age to categorize and create associations and stereotypes. By eliminating the idea of races, that can eliminate the foundation of implicit bias. In society, we have done a lot of work to eliminate explicit racist laws such as Jim Crow and slavery based on their skin color but we still have evidence of implicit bias in society since we are still grouping people into these groups. We don’t discriminate people based on hair color and don’t report crime on hair color. The only reason to keep races around is to keep racism alive. The purpose of eliminating race is not to discredit historical and current discrimination of people, rather to eliminate the basis of that discrimination.