Human and Race
Race is a complicated issue in our society today and many people can get “race” and racism confused. The word “race” means something different to everyone, and is such a common topic that it affects everyone from all walks of life on a daily basis. In Kwame Anthony Appiah’s essay “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections” he believed that there should be no “race” and that there is no concept of correctly looking at it in a single, specific way. Ultimately in my eyes, “race” is based on much more than just someone’s color.
When someone changes how he or she views someone based on their “race,” that is when people form racism. This brings me to Tommie Shelby’s essay “Social Identity and Group Solidarity,” in which he talks about thin and thick blackness of racialism, as well as black solidarity. We all aspire to have a utopian view when it comes to “race”, however through our society, history, and cultural backgrounds these things have made it imperative to ignore the concept of racism so that the only positive approach to “race” is to be practical and agree with Shelby.
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Due to the fact of “race,” we have racism as well. When people first meet someone the first thing they are going to remember is their appearance. As much as people want to deny and ignore that fact, it is extremely common to put stereotypes to people right away. That being said, people’s common physical features and nationality characterize race. When Appiah talks about “race,” he claims that there should be no “race” and that all-social groups have their own meanings and outlooks of “race. ” Appiah states that “the only human race in the United States, I shall argue, is the human race” (102).
Not every person will have the same precise definition of “race. ” Appiah basically ignores that our society has “race”, or at least wants people to ignore it. He believes that there should be no “race” and in my view I agree to an extent, but through history and cultural backgrounds, it is just not logical. Throughout the years “race” has brought a slight amount of change, so we must be reasonable about the issue today. Shelby takes a different approach and acknowledges that there are races, and thinks “blacks should unite and work together because they suffer a common oppression” (584).
He feels as though blacks have had a similar motivation and background so they should embrace black solidarity for greater freedom and equality. I think Shelby proves a very valid point that races should stick together because even though everyone is different, we all seem to constantly attach ourselves with who we are most comfortable and have the most commonalities with. Shelby is very straightforward with his views and makes some credible points on “race. ” He understands that racism is happening throughout society and how there are different cultures among blacks, unlike Appiah, who disapproves “race” all together.
Racism is a very delicate subject for some people to discuss. There is an extent from which people will change how they are looking at “race” to when they are characterizing and facilitating racism against others. Racism is treating someone a certain way based on his or her “race” which can include making decisions and having attitude and behavior adjustments towards others. If someone is valuing a person more for being a certain type of “race,” or if he or she is devaluing someone because they are not a certain “race,” then they are showing racism.
Shelby describes a lot about the modes of blackness, which transforms into the “thickness” and “thinness” of blackness. Shelby defines “thin blackness” as “…having certain visible, inherited physical characteristics and a particular biological ancestry” (588). He is taking into account skin color and facial features when he mentions the physical characteristics of thin blackness. Shelby also mentioned “thick blackness” through the five components, which consist of the racialist mode, ethnic, nationality, cultural, and kinship.
The component that stood out to me the most was the racialist mode which Shelby described as “an underlying cluster of genes, transmitted through biological reproduction, accounts not only for the relatively superficial phenotypic traits that satisfy the criteria for “thin blackness” but also explains more socially significant traits, such as temperament, aesthetic sensibility, and certain innate talents” (589). I agree with Shelby for the fact that he is reasonably trying to prove that the different modes of blackness show how each individual has their own identity and personality within the modes.
Think about how fast we categorize blacks into one group without a second thought, as if its second nature. On the other hand, in Appiah’s essay he mentions Matthew Arnold who talks about racism and how it is not always about physical appearance. “That we could divide human beings into a small number of groups called ‘races,’ in such a way that the members of these groups shared certain fundamental, heritable, physical, moral, intellectual, and cultural characteristics with one another that they did not share with member of any other race” (Appiah 118).
That being said, appearance alone should not determine someone’s “race” but rather someone’s personality or individuality should be the main focus. To apply the idea of “race” ethically, we should look at the whole picture, and not just someone’s outer appearance. When looking from all angles of what Appiah and Shelby have discussed, it is easy to debate that Shelby has stronger key aspects to his essay. Because of “race,” we have racism and they both bring out solid facts to back themselves up.
Even though they both make effective arguments, agreeing with Appiah would be close to impossible for the fact that racism will always be in our society whether people like it or not. Not only has racism been apart of our history from the beginning extending back to the period of slavery but will also persistently follow in our cultural backgrounds. Race is so common that it makes it extremely difficult to completely agree with Appiah even though he has the right mindset in how people should truly view the meaning of “race,” which is ultimately no “race” at all.
Shelby took a different approach that was much more realistic on the view “race. ” He understood that racism is going to happen so he believed that blacks must embrace and preserve their distinctive black identity and stick together. I think that no matter how much people want racism to come to an end it will continuously be a problem to occur if it has not already happened by now in society. With people still categorizing others into different races, racism will still be there as well.
Therefore, I am of the opinion that doing away with these categories will help to strengthen and further our society away from racism. Even though I agree with Shelby, it does not necessarily mean that people should rule out Appiah’s advice because in some aspects we should never give up on trying to have no “race. ” In my personal judgment Shelby is being rational about the meaning of “race” and understands that individuals are diverse, but at the same time that is what brings these so called groups of “race” together.