Sunday, May 20, 2007
This is what Francis Holland has been theorizing for a few days now on the web, and a question he has posed to me via comments on this site, and through e-mail. I have been holding off about addressing this interesting and thought provoking post from my fellow AfroSpear blogger, Mr. Holland, but I have given it some thought, and I think I am ready to give it my two cents.
First, let me give you the gist of what Francis is saying: The essence of his argument is that we as human beings should not categorize each other based on our race. He argues there is no difference between black and white since we are all from the human race, which should make us one.
As a result, he says race does not exist and the word race is a false construct which tends to distort the entire debate on matters of race in this country. He gives the analogy that "all cats whether spotted or not, are from the same-'cat'" family, and thus the same should hold true for humans. Francis eloquently reasons that we should use the words "skin color" instead of race, and when referring to a racist or racism we should refer to that condition as "SCAA, or (skin color aroused antagonism)"-I think that's his own words. ( The guy should be a college professor at some Ivy League college)
Fascinating stuff indeed. But I have to disagree with Francis, if not in theory, then certainly in principal. Let's look at one description of race: "A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically physical characteristics. ~The Free Online Dictionary~ The key word for me in that description is distinguished. Because even though we may all be from one human family, we can still be easily distinguished by our characteristics, and physical features. Given what has transpired between black folks and those in the majority in this country, I do not think that we can just simplistically dismiss the dynamic of our distinguishing features and characteristics in this debate. To simply say; we are now just one tribe of humans and our differences in terms of how we look, might work when we all get to heaven, (if there is such a place) but it ain't gonna work down here. I am a student of history, and I have seen what happens to races of people when they buy into this pie in the sky Utopian way of thinking. (Think native Americans in this country) So I choose to take a more realistic look at racism and its place in our society. Also, what about the thinking of those on the other side. Especially those with f****d up pathologies when it comes to race. I think it was Jean Paul Sartre that seemed to be saying in his book, "Black Orpheus", that "Racism is the social evil of human psychology, borne of fear of the human condition, a form of bad faith." How do we deal with those that are still viewing us as a separate group of people when we are embracing the philosophy that we are all one? For instance, to stay with Sartre a little bit. In a brilliant thesis by D.A. Masolo, he further sums up Sartre's reasoning in "Black Orpheus" like this: "If the Jew did not exist for the anti Semite, he would have invented him". Racists, he theorized that Sartre seemed to be saying; "find escape in the hatred of the Negro."
Francis says that the word race, "is a badge and mark of inferiority", I don't believe that. I think that although our race is a badge, and it is one that has caused us great hardship and struggles-at least in this country, it is a badge we should wear with pride and a consciousness that comes from our life experiences. I agree with Sartre, when he says; "we are defined not only by who and what we are, but what others think we are." But we should not let others "subjective image" of us define us in a negative way. So that badge of race that we wear was not necessarily put there by us, it was put there by others to label us more easily. But we must now accept that for what it is and move on. Not by simply saying; let's do away with the words race and racism, but by becoming so empowered and strong as a race that how others view us will become irrelevant.
So thank you Francis for raising this issue, it certainly raises some interesting points. I also understand that when it comes to race and racism I am probably more cynical than most people.
For instance, I am probably one of the few people that takes issue with one my heroes from the past, Franz Fanon no less, when he talks about one of the paradoxes that racism creates. Fanon says that racism affects both friends and foes alike. He says that some will say: "I dislike you, but it is not because you are black, others will say, I like you despite the fact that you are black. Either way, both remain fixated on race as an important factor which clouds the lens they view from." For the most part I agree with that, except I part company with Fanon when he implies that the first example in his paradox is a friend. No, that individual, just like the second one, is a foe. Because were he a friend, he would not have considered race in the first place. "..but it is not because you are black". I guess this is where Francis wants all of us to be, where we don't consider race at all.
Sorry, I think I will have to be like one of those bad guys in the movies. You know the ones you always see in the stare down scenes. Both brandishing weapons, both refusing to budge. One telling the other; "drop your weapon", while the other says; "no you drop yours first." Maybe if white folks drop their weapons first I will consider it. But until then, for better or for worse, I think I am sticking this black thing out.