Defining People (Race)

There have been several incidents in recent history that have opened the dialogue for the discussion of race. The Rodney King beating. Rodney Denny being attacked following riots in Watts. The riots were a result of an unheard people expressing their frustration. 22 years after the acquittal of white police officers in the Rodney King case, America is still dealing with police brutality.    Police brutality has become more extreme with police shooting unarmed African-American men without consequence and the homicides being justified, due the American acceptance of generalizations, stereotypes, and myths about black males.

The discussion on race leads to clarifying questions before we can get answers.  The first question is what is Race? Cliff notes define race as groups of people who have differences and similarities in biological traits deemed by society to be socially significant, meaning that people treat other people differently because of them. What is the difference between Race and  Ethnicity?  Ethnicity refers to shared cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions that set apart one group of people from another. That is, ethnicity is a shared cultural heritage. The most common characteristics distinguishing various ethnic groups are ancestry, a sense of history, language, religion, and forms of dress. Ethnic differences are not inherited; they are learned. (From Cliff Notes)

Previously I tried to understand race and its social significance. I realize race has no significance, but ethnicity does.

When I was in college, I wrote an article for The Collegian about all the different names that have been used to refer to people of my ethnicity.  The feature talked about how the terminology to describe my ethnicity has changed throughout history During slavery African-Americans were referred to as Negro.   After emancipation, the term was colored used until the end of the Jim Crow Period.  I learned from reading about Ida B Wells-Barnett   I learned that during the turn of the century the turn Afro-American was becoming popular, but some dark-skinned women thought the term offensive. Others supported Afro- American because it was a name people of our (black culture) picked. Colored was a word that whites used to define the race.

There has always been that offensive name, Nigger.  In the 70’s Blacks tried to define themselves as Afro- American. In the 80’s Jesse Jackson embraced the use of African -American because he believed it was important that the culture describes itself instead of being defined by others.

Now we African Americans are debating about the term nigga to describe our ethnicity. The term has been embraced by those that are a part of the hip-hop culture. Personally, I do believe nigga does define a subcultural of African-American ethnicity.

African-American is not an accurate reflection of my ethnicity because of slavery our ties with the African culture where broken.  We have attempted to create our on culture in this country.  I think Black is the best descriptive term because we have absorbed from other cultures.

We should learn to respect different ethnicity.

Sociologists …no clear‐cut races exist—only assorted physical and genetic variations across human individuals and groups. Since race doesn’t exist. We need to stop focusing on appearance and using appearance as a reason to be judgemental and create differences that don’t exist.



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