What Is Race?25 comments
Debunking the competition metaphor.
Monica sent all the bloggers involved in the Race 2012 Blogging Project an email asking if any of us had an answer to commenter, Gregory Bagget’s, question:
What is race, generally, and what is the meaning of race in the title of this blog?
I’ll take a stab at it, Monica!
What is Race?
Race (n.) means both “people of common descent” and “an act of running” if you look it up in the dictionary. In this blog project, we are talking about both meanings. Plus all of the connotational meanings in which “race” is marinated.
Race makes me think of the prevalence of the competition metaphor in our American culture, so connected is it to self worth in both its literal meanings. Race defines people by the color of their skins, rather than what is inside their hearts and minds. We may have come far in 50 years, but we have long to go to eliminated it. Racism is still prevalent and dangerous, mostly we just disguise it differently. (For example, using blame.) The impact on one’s self identity and worth is beyond awful. To quote Totsy’s comment on my last post. “We’ve got a lotta work to do.”
In Western culture, we have been raised in dual thinking. Everything is black and white, good or bad, right or wrong. There is a objective “good enough” and if you don’t meet it, you have failed. Sometimes we are so preoccupied racing to be “good enough,” that we forget to have compassion for ourselves and others. We forget to see what makes us alike. We forget collaboration is a better way. If we are in the privileged group, we often fail to see the injustices we benefit from (maybe since we benefit from them.)
We put down others to feel better about ourselves. We are entirely too focused on who is better smarter, more qualified, prettier, richer, thinner, stronger, more popular, whiter, more qualified than who. No wonder we can’t get along with other countries, we can’t get along within our country. We are “us versus them” inside our own communities.
Comparison is the thief of Joy
These ridiculous social standards create the linear win-lose scale that invites competition. Competition is a leftover biological survival skill; in prehistoric times we needed to be faster and stronger. Having the competitive edge meant survival. In modernity, we no longer need this skill. We don’t need to be better than our neighbor to live. We may feel like we do, but we don’t. Instead “race” oppresses our spirits.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves to others, we can only win or lose. Everything is linear. There is only one line to stand on and you have your place, before or after enough. We race through life, constantly trying to win.
There are millions of people in the world who feel depressed, anxious, and angry due to being on the losing side of “enough.” This calamity has dire–sometimes fatal–personal, familial, community, and global consequences. As they internalize this experience–allowing it to define them–they conclude that their inherent worthlessness is the culprit.
Couched in an infinite number of contexts, not feeling enough is by far the biggest problem people suffer from. Some might say it is our only problem. (Ok, I might say that. But, think about it, feeling unworthy –or that someone else is treating you as if you are not worthy–is behind almost everything you’ve been upset about lately, right?) Imagine if institutionally, socially, culturally, economically, you are stripped of your worth.
The consequences are felt on every corner of this earth.
Race issues are infiltrated into everything we do, and we model competition in the highest office of our nation.
What kind of legacy are we leaving our children about race and race?
Jodi Aman / /