Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rethink “race.”

“Race” is one of the most intractable and troublesome concepts we humans have ever created. Many of us the term regularly, but it is rarely and poorly defined. The definitions, when they do exist, are fluid and arbitrary. And racial terminology is often used when we mean something else. It is perhaps no surprise that the concept of race often considered problematic. As I see it, we have two central challenges:

→ To recognize and live the fact that there is no biological or genetic basis for our social understanding of “race.”

→ To recognize and eventually move past our social and biological notions of race without losing or devaluing groups and group membership.

I don’t claim to have done or even know how to do both of these, but I am working at it. I arrived at these goals through my study of genetics and through life experience, and I find them liberating. They are another way I strive to “Be the change I want to see in the world.”

This work is hard, but all the evidence I see points in that direction. The following resources offer additional insight, and should be read and critically evaluated by anyone wanting to rethink "race."

* Race – The power of an illusion - The companion site to the 3-part PBS documentary.
* Understanding Race - An interactive website from the American Anthropological Society.
* Use and Misuse of "Race" in Biomedical Research - My most recent academic work on the subject.

The last article is particularly useful if you want a thorough explanation of the first paragraph of this post. There are of course, many other useful resources on the subject. If you have a favorite, please let us know.

“Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” - W E B DuBois, 1903, in The Souls of Black Folk

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