The American Anthropological Association’s statement on race says, “Physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.” I say we’ve put some real doozies on the variations.
Skin color, hair, and facial features are the most visible variations among us. They have historically affected the manner we interact with one another. Those visible cues have been the basis of a long saga of abuse in such ways as slavery and colonization. These events defined the establishment of major groups and minor groups.
The physical variations are further defined by different traditions and practices according to ethnicity of people. We notice cultural aspects such as behavior, language, and religion. These are further defined by economic status and gender.
The current form of racism is rooted to the early industrialization of Europe and the colonization of territories on other continents in the 1700s. The era was marked by relatively swift European technological and scientific development. The cultures, religions, and behaviors of non-European civilizations were seen as somehow inferior to those of the European colonizers and explorers. Europeans used this perceived lower status as justification to practice cruelty and exploitation of the people and lands that were invaded by the European powers.
These perceptions and practices continue to some extent everywhere on Earth. They are most notable in countries where forced immigration, aka slavery, was used to improve the economic development of European based nations be they in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia, or Asia. This has led to many nations being culturally diverse.
Today, we add to this diversity the people who freely choose to immigrate to different countries. There are also the diaspora and forced displacement of peoples away from their original homelands causing instances of refugee crises. Meantime, the ethnic and racial identities are defined by the dominant culture that also controls the nations’ institutions. It’s from these institutions that representations and stereotypes are generated and maintained.
At the same time, ethnic and racial minorities create and define their own culture according to their own traditions and family histories. This leads to areas having multiple cultures in each geographic vicinity. These variations often come in conflict with the organization and power of dominant cultures, traditions, religions, and behavioral norms.
The friction between various ethnicities and cultures leads to such ingrained problems as racism, xenophobia, racial profiling, discrimination, violence, and increased police scrutiny.
It’s important to remember these basic reasons at the heart of racism and discrimination. Knowing why there is the problem can lead to solutions to help deal with the problem. In other words, knowledge about the diversity of ethnicity and diversity of the human race is the key to better understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of each other.
As global citizens, it is everyone’s responsibility to inform ourselves and commit in solidarity to a more harmonious world.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance, and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all–victim and perpetrator alike.”