Wednesday, August 02, 2006

We're not color blind unless we can't see colors

Just as I think it's silly to deny that the men and women are biologically different, I think it's silly to deny there are races, or whatever you want to call, specific genetic characteristics that tend to cluster together. There are slight differences in biology beyond gradiences in skin color. However we're far more than our biology. I think the main ways race actually denote any differences of importance is in medicine. Even in anthropology and archaelogy, people are discovering that people are more interbred than previously thought. Like gender, race is mostly huge layers of cultural constructs layered on top of a thin layer of biology. So please don't tell me you're color blind unless you can't actually see certain colors, or I'll laugh at you.

These babies all look slightly different in terms of body shape, hair type, not just skin color.

Though people fail to recognise that many multi-racial people break their standard filters for determining race. Transgendered or intersexed people break people's filters for determining gender, but that's another discussion. And especially if you're a doctor, you had better ask someone's race rather than just assume you know, because it should affect how you treat them medically.

So I don't see anything wrong with identifying someone by race or ethnicity anymore than I see something wrong with identifying someone as a man or a woman. It's usually easier to tell someone's sex, than someone's ethnicity and you might be wrong more often, but it is an identifying attribute. However I do see something wrong with using race as the sole identifier to describe someone. I'm not the Anglo Burmese woman. There are others like me.

And then of course there's the problem that once you've identified someone as belonging to a particular race or ethnicity, what you do with that information. Small children like Special K don't understand race and ethnicity, but the construct is embedded in our culture and after a certain age, it becomes part of one's way of thinking like gender. Special K already understands gender. And unless you're somehow incapable of absorbing cultural norms, I just don't believe that people don't assign people to some category of race or ethnicity. Categorizing is what humans do. How we make sense of the world.

I would argue that a person who says "I'm color blind" actually assigns everyone to the category of white. People who are rude, or uneducated, or somehow don't fit zie's notion of whatever white means are then downgraded to whatever ethnicity they actually are. That way zie is free to comfortably keep zie's stereotypes about race or ethnicity, because these people fit the stereotype anyway.

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