Friday, March 30, 2012

Is race a social construct?

Many scientists now believe that all people can be traced through their matrilineal heritage to a single African woman, Mitochondrial Eve. Additionally, many of the links between characteristics like intelligence and race are now thought to be tenuous or non-existent. These and other factors give rise to theories of race - outside of physiological issues - being a purely social construct.

It's a difficult question to answer, essentially one of nature and nurture. How does one consider race outside of society? One way is to look at race in different societies.


In North America, Asians are thought to do better, on average, in school. FALSE. Living in Japan, I can tell you there are kids who crash and burn. They are not good at any academic subject. It's probably not for lack of trying either, this is the land of the Cram School. And also the land where one tries to be as much the same as one's colleagues as possible.If you're failing here, I believe it's because you can't do any better.

There's also the idea that Asians are hard-working. TRUE. They are hard-working over here, too. My Junior High kids don't get home until around 10, between club practice and cram school. And then they've got their homework to do. But even though the stereotype matches up with the truth over here, it's hard to tell why. Is it that Asians are naturally inclined to do the best they can? Or have they just been pushing themselves, and honouring their families with their successes, for so long that they don't know any other way?


Despite only being 166 square miles, and only having 280,000 people, we're a first world country. We have a great education system which is free through university, up to specific Masters' degrees. Free health care. And we're 90% black, and have been run by a black person for at least 40 years.

Barbados proves all the negative black stereotypes wrong.

Black people can thrive in academics.
Black people are not all criminals.
Black people are capable of working at all levels in all fields.

Everything white people do in the major developed nations, black people do in my country. 


There is one thing that, more than anything else, suggests to me that there are non-physiological connections to race. That is black music.

Black people were taken from Africa hundreds of years ago. They were scattered all over the world. They were forbidden from playing drums. And yet hundreds of years later, without going back to Africa, they manage to develop music with centres on beat and rhthym. Where white European and American music centres on melodies. It makes me wonder if anyone has ever researched the connection between melanin and rhthym.


I agree that many parts of race are mere imaginings of society. All of the things I pointed out in the Barbados section, for example. But I also believe that the genetics of race go further than we imagine. I mean, maybe we were all once a part of the same woman, but we've come a long way from that - 20,000 years - and like any other siblings, we've become more different as we've grown.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Marsha Sigman said...

I think stereotypes and cultural ignorance is a serious problem with a lot of people, at least over here.

I never thought about melanin and rhythm...but I'm pretty white and I can jam so I don't

In my current wip, I wrote in a sort of love triangle (complicated)...and one of the characters is black. I didn't even realize it until I finished the story. It just came out that way. I love it.