I have been having an interesting internet discussion with someone over at one of my favorite sites “Anti-Racist Parent.” Though slightly off topic from the original post that I was responding to over there, “How Should We Refer To The Race of Our New Baby,” the brief discussion (which I sincerely hope to continue at the writer’s own blog, “Mixed Race America,” which looks to be quite interesting as well) dove into how important it is, or is not, to fight against the use of the term “race.” If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I believe that changing our language is one, if not the first, step to overcoming our insane focus on all things racial.
The point the blogger and I seemed to disagree on was whether it was possible to fight racism while simultaneously accepting the social construct that is race in the first place. And since I cannot fairly articulate another person’s point, please check out her site or our discussion at ‘Anti-Racist Parent.” While she and I disagreed on this issue I totally respect her comments and viewpoint. We have a lot of work to do to make the world a more accepting place when it comes to issues of prejudice and racism, so there is plenty of room for attacking the problems from many different perspectives. The good news is that there are lots of people out there who are doing what they can to make a difference.
In the end, it is certainly true that the concept of race is unfortunately very real to most people. Personally, one of my contributions to the fight against the racism that results, is hopefully to get enough of us to stop accepting the foolishness of the racial concept and to stop buying into even the language that contributes to our acceptance. Words do not do physical harm, and therefore may not be our biggest concern. But words can create realities that lead to very real and very physical and psychological harm.
Few words can compare to “race” in terms of the importance that has been placed on it. So much so that even those fighting against the results that flow from the concept, even accept its usage as something too big to get rid of.
I just can’t.
I am not foolish enough to think my bi-cultural kids will not have to deal with the siliness of “race” and racial identity concerns. But my wife and I also agree that what we will certainly do is teach them that dealing with the illusion of race does not mean they should continue using the language of “race” and racism. Whether that is a large or small step, is debatable. But what is surely not, is that the impact of that little word has come to mean so so much to so many people. How strange then, that it is a word that is biologically meaningless, with it roots in division. And yet it is uttered every day as if it is o.k.