Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who's Winning this Race?

As I've discussed before, I don't understand what race means.  How do we decide what our race is.  Do we go by color alone? Because basically all the people I've seen are on a continuum of the brown family.  Somewhere between ecru to dark mahogany.
Is President Obama Black or White? Well, he's brown, too.

 I don't think African American is a very accurate descriptor either for most dark brown people in the US.  The term African American makes sense to me if someone moves here from Africa and becomes a citizen.  Actually, it would make more sense in that case to say Kenyan-American or Tanzanian-American.  What if an ecru person moves here from South Africa and becomes a citizen.  Is he then an African-American, Caucasian, Aryan?  My ex could be called New Zealand American or an Australian American because he came from Downunder and became a US citizen.  My current husband is a Canadian, not a Canadian American because he is not a US citizen. But they are both usually just considered White.

An old beau of mine is considered African-American, but he nor his parents have ever even been to Africa, and due to some relatives somewhere along the line, he has medium brown skin and gorgeous green eyes.  He hasn't traced his family tree back to Africa.  I haven't either, though if anthropologists are correct, we all technically could.  I guess the consensus now is that humans started somewhere in Africa, so that would make us all African-Americans, eh?

No one refers to me as Scots/German American.  Takes too long to say.  They do call me White.  In fact, they call me very white since I don't tan at all.  But I'm actually light tan. Sometimes bright pink.

Of course, it's illegal in the US - and it should be - to discriminate on the basis of race.  Yet one of the first things asked on any government form is race.  I usually mark "other." Who can claim just one race? Who even knows what all the choices are? There are some neonazis who claim to be pure, but I reckon if one dug  deeply enough, they'd find some great, great uncle who wasn't completely Aryan and probably couldn't define Aryan.

 Some show on the History Channel explained that though the Nazis had a very clear definition of how Jewish someone could be - I think it was at least one great, great grandparent of 16 could be Jewish and one would be considered a Jew, but don't hold me to that - Hitler himself probably was a Jew by that definition.  Or at least he had to doctor his heritage to pass for "pure Aryan." 

Certainly in the US we see every conceivable shade along that ecru - mahogany continuum.  In Sunday School I sang a song about "Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight. . . "  People aren't red, yellow, black, or white. We are all colored.  We are brown.

I have a friend I sometimes call Negro.  Once someone overheard me and thought I was very, very wrong.  She can call me Caucasian, I don't care.  It would make more sense to call me Fay.  She could call me woman, human, tree-hugger, old hippy - all of those things would be partially descriptive of me, as is Caucasian.  It would make more sense for me to call Tiffani woman, mother of my would-be grand babies, professional, nursing student. . . . but hey, I don't always make sense.

When I am filling out a form about someone, I always ask them their race.  I've never had anyone get upset, which in itself is something amazing since some clients get upset when you ask them what day it is.  Some people are mildly amused when I ask them their race, but very often people like to talk about their heritage.  If they say "My great great uncle on my sister's side was 1/5 Japanese and Grandma was born and raised in Ireland, so I usually just say, American Eskimo."  I'll write down American Eskimo.

So here's what I propose we do.  Be creative with your race the next time you have to fill in a form.  Answer brown or green or yes or Formula One or Rat. These answers make at least as much sense at the questions.


  1. Barb, you could answer that question "bouncin'"

  2. I find this topic interesting also. At the end of the day nobody can say they are just one colour or another. We are all mixed really.

  3. We are one race. The human race. Only we simply like to pigeon hole those around us. Human nature is very complex, and not one of us will ever win a race against those who insist on dividing us by our colour.

    Interesting post.