More often than not, the first thing we notice about a person is their physical features; the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, and the placement of their nose. Why does the way we look at race matter? Well, to grasp the answer to this question, we must accept that different races between humans are not real. Science has proven that there is no black or white; there is simply the human race. “Race: The Power of an Illusion, episode 3 The House We Live In,” directed by Llewellyn M. Smith discusses the factual reality that race is not a biological reality, but a social construct. Additionally, the way we perceive race is determined by our cultural lenses, and claiming that racism is not real, or that you do not see color is not going to resolve anything. Race and racism must be acknowledged and spoken about. The privileges that come with being classified as white mustn’t be denied for any longer. Race is an idea that has negatively impacted how people placed into different racial categories are treated today.
To this day, our perception of race is clouded by laws and stereotypes. The history of racial categorization is one that continues to affect how americans of color live their lives. For many working class immigrants, whiteness meant citizenship. But how is this fair when the court decided who was white based off of physical features and geographic locations. Additionally, immigrants were associated with negative stereotypes that lowered their chances of being accepted even more so into American Society. As explained in the film, “whiteness was what the common white man said it was.” On the other hand, people who are placed into the category of white have many more advantages. Historically speaking, resources follow white people. People categorized as white reap the benefits of their privilege in the forms of wealth and much more. According to the film, the average black person has ? the wealth of whites. In the 1930’s, Roosevelt’s new deal reform excluded many people of color by denying laborers, which they made up the majority of. The 1940’s established a new deal housing program that resulted in the deep seated racialization of housing. White people, including many white europeans, were provided with loans from banks through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) so they could afford homes in the dream that was suburbia. Meanwhile, people of color were denied housing based off the belief that they would lower the value of homes. These ideas based on the concept of racial categorization created false perceptions on race that are not accurate to this day. People of color have to deal with being looked at through the eyes of those who believe in the labels enforced by the government of an entire country.
Assuming that race is a fixed concept and a biological reality is the first common mistake brought into the discussion of race. When in actuality, people’s definition of race is always changing. The categories move and what was once considered non-white, is now white. For example, Jews used to be pigeonholed in their own category, yet now they are added to the list of “white.” Important discussions such as the ones having to do with race must be approached with an accepting mind, and assumptions should be abandoned for the sake of progress.
Moreover, claiming to not see race will not solve anything since we inherited this ingrained system of racism. Instead, the issues associated with the history of racism must be acknowledged. Sure, we feel uncomfortable talking about it. No one likes to talk about the holocaust, but it must be taught to the younger generations, if only for the sake of avoiding the reoccurrence of such a tragedy. In the same way, the denaturalization of immigrants that happened in the 19th century is fundamental. After the United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind ruling of 1923, south asians were stripped of their citizenship and even their property. Because this was done in the past without consequence to its perpetrators, who says it cannot happen again? This is precisely why past misdeeds, such as the ones done by the government, cannot be repeated and must be discussed.
The government used the misconception of race as a “biological reality” to their own advantage as a way to separate people into categories. Race, as we know it, is a social and political construct.
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