11 ways race isn’t real

11 ways race isn’t real


Jenée Desmond-Harris

It was surprising — and, to many, annoying — to learn that Raven Symoné, the brown-skinned girl who played the adorable youngest character on TV’s seminal black sitcom, The Cosby Show, doesn’t consider herself “African-American.” (In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said she thought of herself as “a colorless person.”)

Symoné ultimately responded to those who’d called her comments misguided or tone deaf, clarifying in a statement to theGrio.com, “I never said I wasn’t black.” But the most fascinating thing about the whole story is that, even if she’d flat-out rejected that label, none of us could, with any authority, tell her she was wrong.

The discussion surrounding the actress’s identity is just the latest example of how there’s no consensus when it comes to who should be called what — black, white, Asian, or Latino — in the United States. It’s a reminder that race is a social and political construct.

Most people have heard that concept by now. But what does it actually mean?

It means that racial categories are not real. By “real,” I mean based on facts that people can even begin to agree on. Permanent. Scientific. Objective. Logical. Consistent. Able to stand up to scrutiny.

This, of course, does not mean that the concept of race isn’t hugely important in our lives. Although race isn’t real, racism certainly is. The racial categories to which we’re assigned, based on how we look to others or how we identify ourselves, can determine real-life experiences, inspire hate, drive political outcomes, and make the difference between life and death. But these important consequences are a result of a relatively new idea that was based on shaky reasoning and shady motivations. This makes the borders of the various categories impossible to pin down and renders today’s debates about how particular people should identify futile.

If you have any lingering belief that the racial categorizations we use make any real sense, read this and change your mind:…

Read the entire article here.

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