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Author Topic: Racism v Colorism - A Wrong Headed Debate  (Read 7686 times)
Posts: 1531

« on: November 21, 2003, 01:07:17 PM »

Some points in this article are worth considering and debating.



Vernellia R. Randall
Professor of Law

Recently, I have been asked to stop using the term race and racism. The rationale is that there is only one human race and the use of the term race and racism perpetuates the problem. It was suggested that we would make significant movement in eliminating the problems of prejudice and discrimination if used the terms color and colorism instead.

I reject the proposition.

The use of term race and racism does not perpetuate prejudice and discrimination because the concept racism is not embodied in the words race. The impact of white privilege will continue to exist - whether you call it colorism or racism.

Of course, there is only one human race. Let me make myself clear. THERE IS ONLY ONE HUMAN RACE. But saying that is about as meaningful as saying there is only one world. Countries are geopolitical, social construction that have meaning and consequences even if there is no geographic reality that make countries.

Similarly, the social construction of race exist even if there is no biological reality. The problem of racism is focused on one group (whites) thinking that their privilege and power is inherent in their race/color.  The feeling of superiority continues without regard to how you label it.  Eliminating the word races will not result in less discrimination, prejudice against persons of different race/color.

A look at human history shows that intolerance and hate is as fundamental to human nature as is love and that no matter how you label it people will categorize "THE OTHER" as different and inferior whether it is race, or religion, or sexual orientation or national origin or color or  something that we haven't thought of yet.

The reason "race" or "colorism" endures is because the basis "skin color" is something that cannot be "hidden". "THE OTHER" cannot assimilate. Case in point, the Europeans don't have"races" as we define them. They don't collect data about "race". When I was lobbying at the World Conference Against Racism to have data collected about discrimination in health care based on "race",the response was - "that it was impossible to collect such data because there was only one human race". Nevetheless, I met African Descendants from all over Europe who told story after story of discrimination against them "as a group". I met European health care providers who talked about the discrimination in health care.

Of course, categorizing those that are different into the "THE OTHER" category and then maintaining a belief of superioity over the "THE OTHER" is fundamental to human nature. It is a fundamental survival instinct. It is a way of maintaining privilege and power.  We do it in so many ways on a daily basis with very few exceptions - race/color is just one. The fundamental problem is how to change the basic human nature to discriminate against those that are different.

I respect attempts to impact racism by any means and I encourage everyone to take up the fight in whatever way they think is appropriate. However, I refused to be drawn into the "One human race" approach.

My concern with the "one human race" response, is that it allows people to think that if they reject the concept of race, they have rejected the concept of white privilege and power, rejected racism (or colorism if you will) merely because the expouse a belief in "one human race".  In my opinion, instiutional racism will continue undaunted.  Some people (in my opinion many) will be happy to adopt the new language without making any significant (or any) change in their fundamental belief system. While maintaining that they can't be racist or colorist because they believe in only one human race. Look at Brazil.

Changing terminology - from race to color - from racism to colorism; will have negligible, if any, impact on white privilege and power; negligible, if any, impact on discrimination and prejudice. I really cannot see, how talking about blacks, browns, reds, whites, and yellows and talking about colorism will cause people to categorize less, stereotype less, discriminate less. I can not see how talking about colorism will lessen white privilege and power. The fundamental construct - "you are different (color), my people are better remains".

Thats why I will not engage my efforts in attempting to change terminology and will continue to use the words race and racism.

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