Socially Deconstructing Race

Socially Deconstructing Race

The notion of acting white or black is always subjective and never clearly defined because race is a social construct. It is a completely made up concept. However, it is made up of real characteristics and shared experiences. It is mutable. It twists and changes because we twist and change. A race is a construct of very real biological, psychological, philosophical and sociological factors. It also creates real consequences we are all affected by. Because of this, it is hard to define what makes someone a certain race without argument. The confusion of race is most evident in mixed race people and in regions of the world where history has blurred race lines (North Africa, The Middle East, Eurasia, Latin America).

I can speak 'proper' English, dye and straighten my hair, dress a certain way, get a certain education, consume certain things, use certain mannerisms and have certain cultural experiences, but I'll never be white. I can check off all the boxes on the "whiteness" definition sheet and still won't be accepted as white. This is especially clear in instances where people sued the US government and tried to prove their whiteness in order to buy property. In the eyes of society, that makes me less than.

I grew up in Oregon, so I've been told I sound/act white a LOT because my blackness didn't line up with that person's notions about blackness. But even a white person who thinks I act or sound white doesn't SEE me as white. And neither does society. That affects how I function in the world.

This concept of whiteness has been constructed as the ideal. We live in a world dominated by white supremacy. At the crux of this are anti-blackness and exclusion. This is evident in myriad ways including the fact that India and Nigeria are the highest consumers in the multi-billion dollar skin bleaching market. Proximity to whiteness is a priority in entirely black and brown nations. That's wild. Especially because nothing I do or say will actually make them white.

I think the solution is two-fold: individual + systemic. I've got to work hard, do my best, seize opportunity etc. (my individual responsibility), but we also have to change societal thinking and systems. We have to affirm each other's worth individually and through our systems. I would posit that "equal" = equality of opportunity, in other words, doing what we can as a society to give everyone their best shot. Everyone has to do their part, but we must also remove barriers, (do our best to correct societally induced hardships).

Too often the race conversation is oversimplified to being all about systems or all about individualism. No, it's both.

White people, you're probably racist. I don't think less of you and I'm not saying it's necessarily your fault, but check yourself and see how you are part of the problem, then grow. When you learn, do something about it on an individual level and a systemic level.

Black people, we have hella prejudice too. We have to check our privileges too. Same thing: be kinder to individuals and fix or dismantle systems that are within our power to change.

I think the kinder we are to one another and the more we celebrate each other - differences and strengths - we'll get closer to equality.

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