Francis Holland On The Non-existence Of Race…

By Maxjulian

May 17, 2007

Category: Uncategorized

25 Comments »

Stolen from Field’s briar patch:

I think it would behoove us to stop using the word “racism” entirely, if only because the word presupposes the existence of “race,” which is a delusional “scientific racism” concept. There’s just as much evidence that the world is flat as there is that race exists. “Race” is based almost entirely on visual cues and similarly we can “see with our own eyes” that the earth is flat, not round.

Fortunately for science, we have integrated other information that tells us that the world is NOT flat, even if it seems to be. We have also integrated scientific information that contradicts the “different species” theory, like the fact that our blood and organs are interchangeable regardless of skin color and depending more on other factors that have nothing to do with skin color.

But obviously there are a lot of people who are very invested in pepetuating our believe in the fallacy of race. Even worse, every time we use the word “racism” we enable those liars by conceding that “race” exists and that we are from a different “race.”

If I say, “You hate me because I am a vampire, then I am implicitly asserting and conceding both that vampires exist and that I am a vampire. Likewise, if I say, “You hate me because of my Black “race,” then I am conceding both that Black “race” exists and that I am an example of that different “race.” Once you concede that you are of a difference race/species from white people, you will find it impossible to convince them that our species is anything similar to or as good as theirs. And you also invite endless comparisons of one “race” to the other. And that is the merry-go-round on which we find ourselves, with even Black people insisting that the delusional concept of “race” is central to our reality.

Unfortunately, that means we’re just as sick as are the “racist” because we, too, are “racists,” by my definition. I believe that a “racist” is simply a person who believes, in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary, that “race” exists in the first place.

My skin color, facial morphology and hair are different from that of many other people, just like I am taller and shorter than some, fatter and skinnier than some, more muscular and less muscular than some, regardless of skin color. But that’s ALL color is biologically: one of many physical characteristics.

I will NEVER, EVER concede again that “race” exists, because to do so facilitates and enables that which we most hate – that which we incorrectly and misguidedly call “racism.”

The English language is certainly variable enough that we can describe that phenomenon with a word or phrase – ANY OTHER WORD OR PHRASE – that does not concede a priori that we are from a different species than white people. As much as we might want to disown them, the similarity of our biologies and our common origins in the Fertile Crescent simply do not allow us to disown whites (or them us) any more than we can disown our own parents.

As a matter of biology, when we are born into the human species, we must accept our shared familyhood with all others who share our species, regardless of color, like it or not.

This makes too much sense…So what the hell am I arguing a bankrupt concept for?

25 Responses to “Francis Holland On The Non-existence Of Race…”

  1. Umm…no. This is bad.

    Race is an arbitrary and ill-defined concept. I grant that. But we can’t eliminate its existence because in many cases it’s directly related to the ills and the position we occupy in society. It is not a biological concept, but it is a very real and pervasive cultural/sociological one. Its influence doesn’t die with the entanglement of DNA and biological evolution. We can’t get rid of “racism” and “race” until we get rid of the harms such labels created. And we can’t get rid of those harms without using the designations that brought about the harms.

    😦 I don’t know if that makes much sense, but I’m going back to study.

  2. Sylvia, why is this bad, particularly as a way of reconceptualizing our individual and group identities?
    The concept of race certainly has global influence; but if it does not in fact exist, what is the REAL process that is going on? How does the race lie serve this REAL process, conceal it? Or is race real, does it really exist?
    If my man is right and race does not exist, yet the concept is shoved down our throats (like the Santa Claus myth) what and who does this illusion serve? And does it serve us to abide by that mythology, or should we deconstruct it and expose the truth beneath the lie?
    Race is, among other things, a tool to divide and conquer. Could our staying stuck on our race concept keep us visually impaired, unable to see how it shackles us to outdated, wrongheaded, superstitious beliefs?
    The insane gradations that we so-called black people adhere to: octoroons, quadroons, redbone, high yella, blue-black, crystal black, blue-veined, dark Gable seem to have paralyzed us, done incredible harm to us. We develop race pride to counter racism, but its a box, isn’t it, a trap of sorts? Aren’t we validating, by our reactions to it, an illusion, one that doesn’t tend to serve us? I mean, we have to REALLY follow the logic of this and be willing to discard sacred cows in pursuit of the truth.
    The “harms” of racism are real; that they are based in race is surely false. They are deeper than color, though color is the surface reasoning. Racism is a pathology, a mental illness. We can show its affects without adhering to its fallacious reasoning, can’t we?
    If the wolf in sheep’s clothing is a killer, does it behove us to – once we recognize this – maintain the illusion that there are killer sheep? Or do we unmask the wolf and his duplicity?

  3. Because I think it’s dangerous and not really reconceptualizing anything. Until we eliminate the system that makes race relevant, the concept of race as a cultural/social construct is the best way to conceptualize the problems we’re trying to escape.

    The larger culture can use race as an excuse to divide and conquer amongst different groups; those people living within the groups who can identify the similar treatment and experiences have no excuse. In that way, I do think we cling to a sacred cow; but there’s not much denying that being coded into these racial categories have affected our history and our experiences to the point that clusters of people share a link, and that cultural and social link is what unites groups of people. I think you may agree with this assertion because of what you say here:

    Racism is a pathology, a mental illness. We can show its affects without adhering to its fallacious reasoning, can’t we?

    It is possible to have a positive reconceptualization of race, which is countering that fallacious reasoning, and I think that reconceptualization’s necessary until the system creating racial divisions is removed. Within a positive self-identification of race, we can explore intersection. I fear using race as a total concept as a crutch for less integration between people of color because it is possible to foster cooperation between people of color if we are actually and fully reconceptualizing our identities in relationship to this oppressive power structure. There, between races, we are more alike than unlike. We face the same pain under different labels. The powerful thing about the race label is in some ways it unifies as it destroys. We need to concentrate on those unifiers — largely history, culture, shared experiences — and eliminate the destroyers. In some ways, race would be broadened if we conceived it in this way.

    Racism, on the other hand, is the system that needs to be eradicated, and thinking race in general is bunk won’t make it so until that system is totally and fully gone.

    It leans too closely to colorblind politics to me, and the very real problems people face because of racist constructs make any dismissal of those core concepts seem unrealistic until we make inroads to scrap the racist system. It dances too freely in the theoretical realm, and that worries me.

    And I have a friend, and he and I argue constantly about who race serves and why — I agree with him to some extent that power associated with economics and accumulation has a large part to do with it. The false theory of meritocracy, and the need to have groups of people born into a disadvantaged position on this flawed and false merit structure.

    Plus:

    The insane gradations that we so-called black people adhere to: octoroons, quadroons, redbone, high yella, blue-black, crystal black, blue-veined, dark Gable seem to have paralyzed us, done incredible harm to us.

    I think there’s a difference between eliminating race-coded inferiority tropes and eliminating race altogether. There are entrenched and damaging flaws in the race system as we know it; we call that system racism. I don’t think it does much good to do away with racial conceptions in general if that system remains in place. It seems like a perceptive delusion that could stand in the way of countering the effects of the racist system.

  4. Sylvia, you said at first: “Race is an arbitrary and ill-defined concept.”
    If this is true then we must reconceptualize it or abandon it. To stick with a concept that you acknowledge is arbitrary and ill-defined doesn’t serve anyone.
    “I don’t think it does much good to do away with racial conceptions in general if that system remains in place.”

    Well, if the racial (mis)conceptions are the foundation of the racist system, challenging their basis in reality is warranted. By challenging the racial conception, its logic/illogic, that critique could be useful in challenging the basis for the system itself. And as the victims of that system, we owe it to ourselves to challenge the concept of race in our own heads.

    Could it be that the delusion is to maintain our current attitudes/orientation to race, and NOT doing away with racial conceptions that are at the root of our troubles?

    Does race exist? What is it? Who created race? How does race as a concept serve us and/or harm us? How can we be so attached to something that we consider arbitrary and ill-defined?
    Also, the idea is not to promote a we are the world “color-blind-motif;” its about letting go of our programming and getting to the underneath, being willing to discard everything to get at the truth.

    I mean, does color=race? What is the difference? How do they converge/diverge? How have they been used and confused? How has race/color come to be defacto synonymous with species, as Francis suggests, which also suggests a hierarchy of races? Difference exists, but how much of it is real and how much has been encouraged, manipulated, promoted, the better to control myopic, race obsessed folks?

    Questions, questions.

  5. Race is as real as a sports team. If you can work with the concept of the Philadelphia Eagles then race should be a no-brainer.

  6. This is a very interesting topic and both of your viewpoints raise some intriguing points.

    Racism has managed to group us in a type of international football Premiership league where we are all just playing…no, fighting in matches so we don’t get relegated into the bottom leagues. The problem with racism is that is automatically biased against non-white people because it was built to benefit them. Can we tear down a structure like this and still push the black cause intact? I don’t think it can happen until the fractures within the black community are repaired and that ranges from colourism to domestic violence to sexism. Frankly, I am not sure that most of our own will be willing to tackle elephants like that because it has becomed too programmed.

    I knew that racism existed in the South of England but it was always so covert and quiet towards black people(always those ”looks” but never called names as far as I knew). However, the more times I visited the US, I learned that racism is a social concept that is determined by what has happened in history. The US’ history with black people is dramatically different to that of Britains yet one thing has struck me about racism in Britain: if you are part of the team, ie, you state that you are English first over being black, that is your chance to be off the bench. Is that wrong or right?

  7. I have been saying this for years.

    Guess how many people want to hear it, believe it, coming from a white male?

    We are all just human.

    If we did away with all the lies, all the stereotypical programming, we would be more apt to integrate to a point that we all looked the same.

    What would we do then? With no discernible differences in physical appearance, what divisive scientific bullshit would remain to claim that we are “different?”

  8. Well, if the racial (mis)conceptions are the foundation of the racist system, challenging their basis in reality is warranted. By challenging the racial conception, its logic/illogic, that critique could be useful in challenging the basis for the system itself. And as the victims of that system, we owe it to ourselves to challenge the concept of race in our own heads.

    I get that, but when I read what you shared from Francis Holland, he appeared to be dismissing the entire system of racial delineation — meaning constructions about biology and sociology and history and culture — because of the arbitrariness and the poor definition of race as a biological construct. Most of those definitions are becoming more and more irrelevant; using someone’s skin color and hair texture as an indicator of their collective inclinations and worth is ineffective — and I agree there’s a need to destroy those tropes that have been so entrenched. But that post portrays those tropes as the whole of what race is, and the issue’s way more nuanced than that.

    While I agree there’s a need to reconceptualize and to challenge racial definitions, I don’t think the analysis is that simple or biological constructions of race would lead to a full-out rejection of racism. Only a rejection of a symptom of it.

    Could it be that the delusion is to maintain our current attitudes/orientation to race, and NOT doing away with racial conceptions that are at the root of our troubles?

    I’d argue that to maintain those attitudes in the face of believing its contradictions is the root of the troubles. Dismissing biological racism would do everyone a great favor. But I think it’s important to characterize it that way — biological racism, in all its forms, is a problem. That’s where race leads more aptly to dehumanization, to false senses of valuation, and to a series of perceptive delusions. That’s when lines become blurry and arbitrary. But I don’t think it’s as arbitrary to say that because of that pathological delusion about biological racism, there are groups of people with shared cultural experiences harmed by those perceptions that through actual or perceived biological characteristics, they are not as human as one dominant group. I think work’s being done to get rid of this mentality, though since it’s been around for a couple hundred years and it’s built into this day-to-day system we face and our perceptive schema, tossing biological “race” away won’t have much of an effect because there are so many social conditions and dynamics that bring its specter back into the debate.

    So to keep it as a false frame of reference to shut down some of those conditions and dynamics would serve more of a helpful than a harmful role. And part of that would happen through reconceptualization and reeducation. It’s one thing to use its falsehood as a weapon against the system of racism; it’s another thing to throw away the power of that dismantling falsehood entirely and work from the hip. It’s yet another thing to use the falsehood of arguably one aspect of racial definition to toss away racism entirely.

  9. P6, I think its interesting that you said that cuz I was reading this quote by Chomsky yesterday where he was talking about sports teams. (Where, I don’t know)

    He noted that he followed some sports but a part of his critique was that sports developed the ability of people to maintain “irrational loyalties.” I believe he said it that way. People care more about the Redskins or Cowboys, are more passionate and invested, have more intellectual knowledge about their ball team than they do about their block, their state, their country. Sports acts to siphon legitimate anger, agression, concerns from “real” circumstances – poverty, oppression. People wear their colors, their teams jerseys, are committed, are MORE committed to their sports team than they are to the “reality” happening around them.

    Teams aren’t real in Chomsky’s equation. They exist to make people think they are “real;” meanwhile, real shit that could use that energy goes begging.

  10. If there is one thing we all concur, it is the arbitrariness in race conception as a distinct sociological category. It is a subjective concept. But it is also a material force in the mind of those who have internalized the concept of race. As a force, it moves people to action or apathetic non-action. As a force, it becomes a formidable obstacle toward resolution, reconciliation, cooperation, and compromise. When it becomes the basis for social decision-making and political strategy, it must be successfully challenged and unseated in the minds of those who carry the notion. Otherwise, such decision-making, strategies, and actions are based upon an unscientific view of the world.

    We Black Panther Marxist always disagreed with W.E.B. DuBois as far as the problem of the 21st century being the “color line”. It has always been a struggle between the “haves” and “have nots”, a class struggle that persists today.

  11. the thing is it’s a duality. race is both real and illusion. it’s real based on the tangible lived experiences of people but it’s an illusion because there aren’t actual clear, biological facts which consistently define racial categories…it’s a social construct, duh, this isn’t new news…but the social construct carries REAL meaning in society so we can’t pretend like it doesn’t exist…sure, it’s relevant to keep mentioning that race isn’t real…but you can’t leave out the other half of the equation…

    you realize that would be the Ward Connerly colorblind argument – yes let’s eliminate all racial categories in collecting data because we don’t want to reinscribe race…but um…because health disparities, wealth disparities, and other disparities have developed as a RESULT of falsely categorizing people by race and then TREATING categories of people in a particular way…it is relevant to NOTE the racial category in order to both address current realities AND in order to not attempt to erase history!! Think about it – if you can’t identify “race” then there would be way to identify racist practices in hiring, home loans, police profiling, etc…all these things would have unquestioned justification…race has MEANING….even though it’s not biologically founded, it’s entrenched in our institutions lived experiences…

    And yeah – it’s the whole white colorblind argument too – “we’re all human, no such thing as race” – that would be a powerful statement if it was connected to an analysis and affirmation of social realities …and racial inequalities… but if lacking that component, such a statement serves as an ERASURE, a MASK for a history of oppression which is all too often dismissed and yet all too necessary to make sense of the present…

    i think the point is to connect the two…to be able to understand race not as one or the other but both…recognize that race, and hence the differences we see and experience…came from particular constructed origins…helps us make sense of both the past and present…so we point out race as it functions and carries meaning right NOW…and connect it to history and the past…to understand where it came from (i mean this is why it doesn’t actually get OLD to talk about slavery…we don’t understand the PRESENT if we don’t talk about slavery and all the people who say “that happened 200 years ago, give it up!” don’t actually comprehend their own present existence because they don’t understand the past…

    here’s some relevant stuff: http://raceandgenomics.ssrc.org/Goodman/

    also book I think it’s called Racial Formations by Omi and Winant speak to a lot of the questions you were raising….

    -Elizabeth

  12. Sylvia, I had a response for you this morning, but then I had to go to work early…I’m gonna get back to you though a little later.
    Elizabeth, I’m not for colorblindness at all. I was thinking about the phrase that Dr. Frances Cress Welsing uses: “people who classify themselves as white…” These people classified themselve as white in order to distinguish between themselves and those who they want to oppress. What I’m saying is, we need to spend time, in addition to exposing how race/the false concept of race damages all of us, to getting at the underlying “psychological” infrastructure of the concept of race.
    The psychological underpinnings of the race concept may be even more important. There’s a book called “Escape From Freedom” written by Erich Fromm about the psychology of the German people prior to Hitler came to power. His aim was to figure out how the German people co-signed Hitler’s madness. His position was that, rather than him hoodwinking the masses of people, Hitler provided a form of security to the people through his rhetoric, through his organization of the society, through the country’s militarism.
    Yes race defacto exists; beneath it, there are other factors which, to me, really drive the race concept, racism. Welsing says its fear of genetic annihilation. Could be. But we need to, not go colorblind, but drill down into the core of what that shit means.
    In digging deeper, we have to be willing to see things anew and discard everything that doesn’t work or work anymore.

  13. And yeah – it’s the whole white colorblind argument too – “we’re all human, no such thing as race” – that would be a powerful statement if it was connected to an analysis and affirmation of social realities …and racial inequalities… but if lacking that component, such a statement serves as an ERASURE, a MASK for a history of oppression which is all too often dismissed and yet all too necessary to make sense of the present…

    This makes a lot of sense, but only to a point. How is it a “white color blindness” when people like Francis H. are denying the validity of race?

    The whole of history is an “erasure, a mask” for what really happened. This is the hidden agenda of our educational system. The pilgrims weren’t pilgrims, and the Indians weren’t Indian. Slavery has been going on since one human was able to exert coercive force over another human. Whether it’s emotional, physical, mental, passive, aggressive, economic, religious… mankind has sought to subvert mankind since the dawn of bipedal interaction, and it has had nothing to do with “color” or “race” until 300 years ago.

    When people in today’s world deny the validity of a scientific “race” concept, they are not trying to cover up the past, they are trying to move forward into the future. Refusing to give the concept of “race” credit could very well be the first step towards reversing all the wrongs that have come about as a result of its inception.

    Why do we insist on being different? We cling to this like we will cease to exist without the presence of ethnic autonomy. We need to evolve. Mentally and physically. We need to embrace a shared culture, and we need to advance our thinking to where we do not allow ourselves to fall victim to racially based social propaganda!

    I understand the need to fight within the system, if you want to reform the system, but some people will tell you the system cannot be fixed. You know, there are people who are still unwilling to admit this is a class struggle, how can you expect people to admit that it is a human struggle?

    So long as we are using terms like “color blind,” I have one: 99% of humanity is “reality blind.”

  14. Sylvia said, there are groups of people with shared cultural experiences harmed by those perceptions that through actual or perceived biological characteristics, they are not as human as one dominant group.

    Let me tell you what I see going on. There are people (most of us unfortunately, to varying degrees) who have Color-aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior. This comes in various degrees of severity, from the mild to the moderate and the extreme. In Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder (ECEIBD), people believe they are much better than others (or much worse) and they have all sorts of other ideation and resulting emotion that vary with the person and the circumstances. The reason we cannot agree what “racism” consists of is that ECEIBD it is actually just as variable as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depending on the particular circumstances in which the illness arises and manifesting itself in ways that depend upon the circumstances and challenges of the person in the present time. So, there will NEVER, EVER be one single description of what it consists of! The desire for childish simplicity has, for half a century, frustrated scientific knowledge.

    Instead of asserting what the pseudo-scientific “racism” is, we need to accept the challenge of discovering what it is in each person and what can be done about it. If we agree that it is based on delusional beliefs and often involves paranoia, irrational anger, obsessive compulsive behaviors like segregating all Black people from all white people, then we have to conclude that we are talking about a mental illness. It is a mental illness that has symptoms of various other mental illnesses, like obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoia, and often includes behaviors that are anti-social and extremely lacking in compassion, like discrimination, internment and genocide, rape, lynching, mutilation of genitals and dragging strangers behind pickup trucks. That’s the Extreme Behavior part of the ECEIBD mental disorder.

    This analysis has nothing at all to do with the phrase “color-blindness” which I personally have no use for. Our problem is not that we can perceive color. Our problem is the ideation, emotions and behavior that follow after our perfectly natural perception of the colors that exist in the universe and always will exist. The solution to the ECEIBD illness no more lies in “color-blindness than the solution to alcoholism lies in tearing out the taste buds. That’s just more childishly simplistic and unscientific silliness.

    Just as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is diagnosable and treatable, ECEIBD can be diagnosable and treatable IF we become willing to distingish between, identify, measure and treat its ideational emotional and behavioral components, in each person affected, just like we do with any other mental problem. As with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we also need sound societal solutions, because every new war and failed response to a hurricane creates new cases of PTSD. Likewise, we need to look at societal influences on individual color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior and we need to deal with that as well.

    So, I think Sylvia is going in the right direction when she offers a descriptive definition of what pseudo-scientifically has been called “racism.” However, the assumption that we know what it is can prevent us from discovering what it is. For example, I see a lot of evidence that, rather than whites feeling superior to us, they actually are deathly afraid of competing with us because, in many cases, they will discover that they are INFERIOR to many of us and cannot beat us on a level playing field. So the assumption that what we call “racism” is based on a belief in superiority may well be wrong in some cases. Some whites anger, hostility, envy and jealous, hyper-vigilance and violent acting out may be manifestations of the belief that they cannot successfully compete with us.

    There can be no generalities. Either we accept that each person has a peculiar set of experiences and challenges at any given time that exacerbate or quell these thoughts, emotions and behaviors, or we will never be able to make any progress at understanding the disorder or helping individuals to overcome it.

    So, I am all for adopting Sylvia’s descriptive approach to a sociological definition instead of continuing to rely on a 400 year-old word and concept that was developed to rationalize the slave trade. But the definition must be based on observation and description of what is actually occurring, and not based on well-meaning but anachronistic ideology that itself was based on a starting point of white supremacists concepts.

    The Afrosphere, for example, is a manifestation of the recognition that the blogosphere is divided and redlined by skin-color. We don’t need the word “race” to make this critical observation and we don’t need the word “race” to build the Afrosphere. We just need to recognize, as we have, that – to a large degree on the basis of our skin-color – we are a “group of people with shared cultural experiences” distinct from those of the “dominant group.” With so many excellent descriptive words at our disposal that don’t involve reliance or complicity with any white supremacists fantasy words like “race,” where is the need for the word “race”? We can certainly have descriptive concepts without being forever beholden to the slave-name that is the term Black “race.” We are Black PEOPLE of the human race!

    When police stop us on the highway at a rate three times that of whites, they do not stop us because of subtle genetic differences and biological differences. They stop of because of our obvious difference in skin-color. That’s not “racism” that’s simply color-aroused animus and antagonistic behavior, which may be engaged in by individuals and/or groups, communities, organizations and society. So, where’s the need for the loyalty and fealty to the degrading and subjugating term “racism” when the English language offers us so many highly descriptive and more specific ways to describe our reality.

    The term racism teaches nothing when we use it, accept that Blacks are of a different species. The phrase “color-aroused animus and spontaneous or highly-organized antagonistic behavior, which may be engaged in by individuals and/or groups, communities, organizations and society” teaches people what we are opposing and teaches people to recognize it and describe it with specificity when they see it.

    We need to understand and describe our Black reality in the context of white America. But we DO NOT need the words, white supremacist enabling words “race,” “racist,” or “racism,” which presuppose a fantasy that is propagated only to our detriment.

  15. Wonderful Discussion…

    When I was 19-years-old, I took an African American history class at my university. One of the concepts that I remember my prof introducing us to was that “race” was a social construct that did not exist before slavery. In my ignorance, limited understanding and knowledge of history, and my immaturity, I immediately thought that my prof was crazy. “Of course, race is real and has been real from the beginning of time.” I thought.

    I’m so glad that my willingness to learn more and to grow has helped me better understand what my prof was trying to teach us. After reading and paying close attention to the history and the process of social construction, I agree with my prof and somewhat agree with Frances.

    Let me clarify… I think that Frances is absolutely right about race being a fantasy created by white supremacy. But I think that Elizabeth is right in her argument that we must pay close attention to the disparities that racial categorizing created.

    I’ll continue to chew on this subject though. As I aforementioned, this is a wonderful discussion.

  16. I want to thank everyone, including the Free Slave, Sylvia, Eddie, Elizabeth, P6, Dave and EVERYONE for being willing to reconsider this issue and help us to deconstruct it and decide what our positive options are.

    “I use the term “Extreme Color Arousal,” whose acronym is (“ECA”), which is pronounced “EE-cah” or “EH-cah,” instead of the conceptually faulty and denigrating term “racism.” “EE-cah” sounds bad, right? And it should, because this is a very destructive illness, particularly in its most extreme forms. “

    Now that many of us are acknowledging that the term “race” is a pseudo-scientific white supremacists’ fantasy word that stigmatizes Black people and other people of color every time is is used, we are also coming to accept that all words that are based upon and that presuppose the fallacious existence of “race” are equally damaging to our struggle for equality in America. This is so precisely because they teach us and white people, every day, that we from a separate “species” than white people. The US Supreme Court declared in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” is inherently unequal. Now, we are coming to realize that for so long as we concede that we are from a separate “race” we will continue to receive separate and unequal treatment in America.

    And so the question immediately and anxiously arises, “If we don’t call our difference “race” and we don’t call antagonism against our difference “racism” then how WILL we refer linguistically to these fundamental facts of our existence? Won’t we necessarily discard our analysis of the problem if we discard this fallacious word? Will we have to trade our hard-won deconstructive understanding of our position for denial and childishly simplistic solutions like “color-blindness”?

    Absolutely not! We need a new vocabulary that accurately describes and helps us and others to deconstruct, what actually exists in the sciences of biology, sociology and politics, using the renaming process and our new understandings as a starting point for powerful social change.

    Today, a reader e-mailed me, saying, “With human nature being what it is, I think a new terminology to replace the words “race,” “racist,” “racism,” etc. would catch on faster if it were concise and catchy. Maybe we could ask for suggestions. Something along the lines of “colorist,” “colorism.” It’s just a thought.”

    Below, I explain why “colorist” and “colorism,” although well-intentioned suggestions made elsewhere, are terrible alternative terms scientifically, linguistically, politically and strategically, and I propose alternative solutions. I think this discussion is useful because it helps us to see what criteria we should apply when looking for an alternative to the biologically fallacious and denigrating “race” term.

    We do not need a new synonym for an old and false concept. We need a new understanding that can lead to positive and even revolutionary change in America’s thoughts and its social order. What we need, in my humble but insistent opinion, is not merely to change the fallacious words but also to change our entire way of thinking and analyzing the problem. We need not just a new word but a new solution.

    It may be right that a simpler terminology would catch on faster, but I’m not sure that would be better, particularly if it – once again – leads to a misunderstanding of the nature of the problem, or if it relies on the simplistic solutions and denial implicit in proposals such as “color-blindness” (which, thankfully, the reader did not propose). So below, after sorting through this problem scientifically, linguistically, sociologically and politically, I propose some linguistic solutions that are both catchy as well as scientifically, sociologically and linguistically accurate.

    The easiest part of this linguistic and analytical problem is naming the visual cue that elicits the negative response in what we used to call “racism.” When Blacks are on the highway and are stopped by police at a rate two or three times that of whites, the police cannot see our “ethnicity” and have no access to sublime genetic analysis that would allow them to target a fallacious “race.” From sixty or one hundred yards away, the police cannot even distinguish our African facial morphology very well, if at all. And many of us, like Barack Obama, don’t even really have strictly African facial morphology.

    So, what police perceive visually and what arouses the negative behavioral response in them is, quite simply and uniquely, our “skin color.” In this case, there is no need to embellish or complicate a phenomenon which is really quite simple. When police perceive that a person’s skin is darker than white skin, be the victims Latino or Black, there often occurs within police officers’ brains a series of thoughts and feelings which are then manifested in behavior, like stopping us, searching us, beating us and/or arresting us.

    Although white people would like to insist that they are responding to our “race” in such instances, partly because it allows them to imply that there are a series of important but imperceptible qualities that they are targeting beyond our skin color, the hard fact is that it is simply our skin-color that that arouses their attention. When aroused by perceiving the color of our skin, they then often also are aroused to dislike anything in us that is associated with our skin color, even if these cues would be acceptable in others who do not have our skin color. (For example, if the Irish, Jewish or Russians were Black, every aspect of their culture and their persons would come under sustained attack in America, regardless of their “ethnicity.”) Therefore we should replace the insulting misnomer of “race” and simply use the more accurate and relevant term “skin-color” instead.

    But, if we discard the word “race,” then what term which will use for that which we historically but incorrectly referred to as “racism”? Obviously, once we agree that “race” does not exist as between human beings who are all of the same species, we cannot logically continue to use words which depend for their meaning of the fallacious existence of “race.”

    The alternative term “color-arousal” properly and appropriately focuses on what happens inside the color-aroused person’s head at the moment when s/he perceives the color of another, in combination with an awareness of the person’s own color, identity, beliefs, ideation, emotions and behavior. And in the head is precisely where the focus of our analysis should be: on what happens inside the head.

    Consider this analogy: No “eating problem” like anorexia nervosa or bulimia can be resolved until we consider what goes on in the brain (thoughts, emotions) and mouth (behavior) of the ill person, because those physical areas within the body are the locus of the eating “problem.” Over-eating and under-eating involve a decisional process that occurs in the brain and is manifested in the behavior of the mouth. So, to help a patient, doctors study the emotions, thoughts and behavior of the patient. While overeating also involves food, the locus of the problem is not the supermarket; the locus of the problem is in the persons mind, and so it is a “mental problem,” not a “food problem.”

    If you call bulimia a “food problem” (analogous to a “color problem”), then your focus will eternally be on the outside stimuli (food) rather than on what occurs in the head of the person who chooses to binge and purge. When people binge and purge, the locus of the problem is not in the food itself, but in their minds. Ask yourselves this: Could we ever solve the problems of bulimia or anorexia nervosa if we defined the problem as a “food problem” and went looking for the causes and solutions in the supermarket?

    We can only discover the causes of anorexia and bulimia by studying the ideation, emotion and behavior of those who refuse to eat or who binge and purge. Likewise, the problem of color-arousal is not in our “race” but in other people’s perceptual arousal in response to perception of our skin-color, and then the emotions, ideation and behavior that follow within those subjects heads.

    Some few psychiatrists are now studying “racism” (sic) and we should read what they say, as well as the new and revolutionary Position Statement of the American Psychiatric Association. studyingIn the problem of what we used to call “racism,” the locus of the problem is actually “color-arousal.”

    So, “color-arousal” is the preferred term because it focuses our attention precisely on what happens when the perception of skin-color arouses extreme emotions, ideation and behavior in sufferers of extreme color arousal disorder (ECA).

    To begin to identify, diagnose and treat cases of Extreme Color-Arousal (ECA), “color arousal” or “ECA” is also the preferable term scientifically, because we need to begin to measure quantitatively the level of arousal, the particular circumstances in which it occurs and the ideation, emotion and behavior that follow.

    It is impossible to identify or measure “racism” in any individual with any even minimal degree of scientific agreement. However, it is actually quite easy to measure “skin-color-arousal” and many studies are based on this successful measurement. Unfortunately, until recently the psychiatric profession and other professionals had almost completely ignored and discounted Extreme Color-Aroused Emotions, Ideation and Behavior Disorder (ECEIBD) as an area in which patients are in need of diagnosis and treatment.

    It is important to note that not all thoughts and behaviors aroused by the perception of skin-color are antagonistic thoughts or are necessarily dysfunctional or negative. When we see someone with exactly our mother’s skin color, we may feel good inside without knowing why. The problem occurs when subjects perceive the color of another and this arouses unrealistic thoughts, powerfully negative emotions and dysfunctionally antagonistic behaviors. I call this Extreme Color-aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder (ECEIBD). But this term can easily be shorted without losing anything to Extreme Color Arousal (ECA), which is pronounced EE-Cah.

    Here’s another reason why the term “colorist” is a poor substitute for Extreme Color Arousal (ECA): When you add the suffix “ist “to a noun in the English language, the meaning becomes “a person who does or specializes in a certain area,” for example a “biologist,” a “gynecologist,” a “therapist.” The BBC. Are people who experience extreme color-arousal the “specialists” in the disease that ails them or are they people in need of specialists? Isn’t extreme color-arousal characterized by the subject’s extreme denial and ignorance of what is going on within his head and why?

    Do we really want to exalt the status of people who are extremely color-aroused, and create a new linguistic and conceptual fallacy, by calling them “specialists in color-arousal”? To the contrary, the specialists in color-arousal ought to be the “psychiatrists” who examine what goes on in the heads of people who experience extreme and dysfunctional color-arousal.

    There are also important political and psychological reasons NOT to use the term colorist. The suffix “ist,” when added to a noun in the English language, becomes an adjective that modifies the description of the person being referred to, for the purpose of signifying that that person advocates or approves of the noun to which “ist” is applied. For example, “Marxist,” “Leninist,” “monopolist,” “capitalist” e “leftist” are examples of placing “ist” at the end of a word to signify that the person referred to propounds and advocates these theories.

    A person who feels extreme color-aroused animus is clearly not someone who “advocates or approves of color” in the way that a “capitalist” approves of the aggregation of capital. The truth is exactly the opposite. People who have extreme color-aroused disorder often hate others’ skin-color (or their own) and feel intense phobia, fear and anxiety when they perceive skin-color and their feelings are aroused.

    Linguistically, to simply add the suffix “ist” to the word “color” would denote precisely the opposite of what is intended, by implying that “colorists” are either experts in or advocates of color, when the exact opposite is true. This would have the effect of further confusing and retarding efforts to better understand, diagnose and treat extreme color-arousal. The same is true of the word “rac-ist.”

    “I use the term “Extreme Color Arousal,” whose acronym is (“ECA”), which is pronounced “EE-cah” or “EH-cah,” instead of the conceptually faulty and denigrating term “racism.” “EE-cah” sounds bad, right? And it should, because this is a very destructive illness, particularly in its most extreme forms.”

    I refer to people who experience extreme color arousal and who engage in extreme behaviors as a result as “ECA sufferers,” “ECA patients,” and, when they commit crimes or civil offenses, “ECA perpetrators.” There you go! This is a simple two-syllable term that is also descriptive and accurate and that can serve as the basis of empirically-based studies, diagnosis and treatment.

    The “ECA” acronym, when pronounced “EE-cah” or “EH-cah” also has the advantage of sounding very undesirable. Meanwhile, it would be politically and linguistically ruinous to use a word like “colorist,” which sounds like it could easily refer to a desirable art-form, like “cubism.”

    The term “ECA” (“Extreme Color Arousal”) directs us in the right direction linguistically, politically and scientifically for our efforts to define, diagnose, and treat the disease and it societal manifestations and sequelae.

    Once you agree that conditions that affect and impair the emotions, ideation and behavior are “mental” illnesses, then you must logically accept and embrace the fact that Extreme Color-Arousal is, indeed, a “mental illness.” Like other mental illnesses, ECA necessarily has some serious and pejorative effects in society, but those effects are manifestations and sequelae of the mental illness. You cannot have a problem of alcohol fetal syndrome in society unless you also concede that you have a problem of alcoholism within individual patients. Likewise, you cannot have Extreme Color-Aroused Injustice in society unless you have Extreme Color-Arousal disorder (ECA) in individual members of society.

    Everyone perceives color, at least having the ability to distinguish between Black and white. People who cannot distinguish between Black and white are not “color-blind,” they are entirely “blind.” So, color-blindness is no solution to the problem we face, even if it were surgically feasible and advisable. Surgically disabling our ability to perceive the difference between Black and white (making people blind) is unlikely to be a feasible or politically tenable solution to extreme color-arousal.

    Once you acknowledge that ECA is a mental illness, you must begin to use the analogy of other mental illnesses to understand what societal approaches will advance and retard the treatment of the disease. One of the strongest deterrents to treatment both in patients and clinicians is “stigma.”

    From the moment scientists identified HIV and AIDS, social responses of fear, denial, stigma and discrimination have accompanied the epidemic. Discrimination has spread rapidly, fueling anxiety and prejudice against the groups most affected, as well as those living with HIV or AIDS. It goes without saying that HIV and AIDS are as much about social phenomena as they are about biological and medical concerns.

    Across the world the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS has shown itself capable of triggering responses of compassion, solidarity and support, bringing out the best in people, their families and communities. But the disease is also associated with stigma, repression and discrimination, as individuals affected (or believed to be affected) by HIV have been rejected by their families, their loved ones and their communities. This rejection holds as true in the rich countries of the north as it does in the poorer countries of the south.

    . . . By blaming certain individuals or groups, society can excuse itself from the responsibility of caring for and looking after such populations. This is seen not only in the manner in which ‘outsider’ groups are often blamed for bringing HIV into a country, but also in how such groups are denied access to the services and treatment they need. Avert.Org

    If the first step to making progress with the AIDS illness was reducing the stigma and increasing accurate public information to encourage sufferers to seek diagnosis and medical treatment. Although complex and difficult, any realistic solution to the problem of Extreme Color Arousal in individuals and society will require the same mindset.

    With ECA as with AIDS, we need more information, more destigmatization, more diagnosis, more treatment and, eventually, a cure. We need social support for those seeking to confront their illness, not reject or ridicule. But, when you refer to Extreme Color-Arousal using a misnomer such as “racism” or colorism,” you create precisely the sort of stigma that has dissuaded the American Psychiatric Association from wanting to acknowledge and treat this mental illness. Resolution Against Racism and
    POSITION STATEMENT of the American Psychiatric Association: Racial [sic] Discrimination and Their
    Adverse Impacts on Mental Health.

  17. Good Sunday morning, everyone!

    A couple of people in the Afrosphere, bless their well-meaning hearts, have asserted that the word “race” may be correct after all, because although Blacks may not be a “separate but equal species” of humans, it may be scientifically correct to assert that we are a “sub-species” of humans. (If I could remember where I saw this, I would provide a link.) I would like to convince them otherwise.

    I will NEVER, EVER, refer to us as a separate “race” or a “separate” “sub-species,” because (1) it is not scientifically supported and (2) IT IS NOT IN OUR POLITICAL INTERESTS! In fact it is diametrically opposed to our political interests.

    My mother, the late Dr. Rachel V. Holland, who died in 1997, was college professor who taught Sociology for 20 years. She focused on teaching about what was then called “racism,” but is now coming to be called Extreme Color-Arousal.

    Throughout her twenty years of teaching, my mother taught me and all of her students this fundamental principle of Black existence in America, paraphrasing:

    “For hundreds of years, whites have perpetuated an argument that Blacks were from a separate and inferior race for the purpose of justifying our enslavement and segregation. Every argument about what “race” Blacks are from and what are the “inherent biological characteristics” of the “Black race” is a politically-motivated attempt by white people to demean Black people, and so you should NEVER engage in arguments about the genetic content of the Black race.

    You cannot win this argument, because as soon as you concede that there is ANY scientific reason to engage in this pseudo-scientific “genetics” battle, you have already lost the political war.”

    There are more whites than there are Blacks in the United States, and many of them have endless energy to discuss and debate the genetic basis of Blacks’ inferiority. The discussion itself maligns Blacks and so the white supremacists win for so long as the public believes there is any reason to have the discussion at all. Thankfully, many white now accept the fact that “There is only one race – the human race!” Let’s not go backward politically, with Blacks looking to defend the word “race” just so that they can continue to call others “racist” instead of adopting the more scientifically descriptive term “Extreme Color Arousal.”

    Whites (and Blacks) will NEVER, EVER believe that a separate Black race in nonetheless equal.

    So, although biologically we could argue over whether Blacks are perhaps a “sub-species” of humans, it ought to be apparent that that is not our best argument for equality! Language matters. When you concede that you are “sub” you linguistically concede that you are “lower-than” on a hierarchy, even if you could (and will have to) argue for thousands of years that this is not what was intended.

    The answer is simple. We must insist that the reason that whites discriminate against us has nothing to do with “race” and everything to do with “skin-color.” This linguistic struggle is as important as insisting that we are Blacks instead of Negroes and Colored. Words matter. Defining ourselves instead of being defined by others matters. The way that we choose to define our struggle with whites matters precisely because we assert the right and the power to define our struggle.

    We can make a huge step forward in decolonizing our minds if we stop using the term “racism” and instead use the term Extreme Color-Aroused Antagonism. The word “extreme” in this term also makes it clear that we are not calling “everybody a racist,” but are clear-headedly acknowledging gradations among those who are color-aroused.

    The word “race” is not our definition, it is a white definition that we have passively accepted. To the degree that we have made it our own and let it define us, it is like the slave name that Asabagna rejected when he assumed the name Asabagna. The word “race” is politically analogous to the slave name that Cassius Clay rejected when he insisted on being called “Muhammad Ali.” Muhammad Ali no longer wanted to be defined by the badges of inferiority sub-humanity created for Blacks during the time of slavery. When he insisted on being called Muhammad Ali, it was revolutionary in America, just as insisting on being called “Black people” rather than “the Black race” will be revolutionary awakening for Black people as well as white people.

    Muhammad Ali did not become “the greatest” simply by winning in the boxing ring. He became the greatest by insisting on defining his own reality in relation to white American.

    If Muhammad Ali had the courage in the 1960’s to abandon a slave name and insist on defining himself and his relation to white people, surely we can find the courage to insist that we are discriminated against because of our “skin-color” and not because of our “race” and “racism.” We can put the locus and focus of this problem back where it belongs – on white people’s Extreme Color Arousal rather than on Black people’s “inferior “racial” characteristics.” In any case, like the name Cassius Clay vs. the name Muhammad Ali, it’s our choice to make.

  18. Wow. Incredible, excellent dialogue and points from every view. This topic is, in fact, huge. It is also wonderfully and beautifully idealistic (which I find very attractive, being such a dyed in the wool idealist, myself). It seems to me that we humans are terribly insecure and curious beings. Even at our very best, we try so hard to classify and organize in order to feed our illusory necessity to “understand” or “define”. All of these “definitions” or labels fall far short of describing a thing or person. Nonetheless, we persist.
    I am a woman (gender/sexism?) I am a lesbian (sexualityism?) I am a non-white, non black, non hispanic, non- (and on and on) person of color (racism).

    While we as humans continue to have this overwhelming need to classify and sort and separate and “understand”, there will be generalizations based on those labels that will continue to manifest as “isms”.

    Perhaps when/if the time comes that we identify and meet with another sentient species from another world, we as homo-sapiens will be able to unite under a species-ism by virtue of our need to classify and sort ourselves from our xenophobia (ism?).

  19. I admit I have not read the comments above, so I do apologize if this has already been raised.

    just because a concept, such as race, is socially constructed and arbitrary and ill-conceived and subjective and not based in any biological reality of the matter, does not mean that it does not exist.

    while I am sympathetic to Mr Holland’s arguments, because I believe what he says about the concept “race” to be true, I don’t think it is necessarily productive to say that because a thing has no objective basis then it does not exist. It’s asking people to give up a huge part of their identity, and that isn’t productive.

    I am leaning more and more to separatism from the dominant class/system and generating knowledge from alternative locations than simply from within the dominant system. And I acknowledge and support that “race” is a concept that has not been chosen by those it affects (while white people get to think of themselves as ‘raceless’). However, I still think that asking people to give up a concept that is so deeply intertwined with personal identity and group identity denies those people something – a history, a shared point of struggle, a source of solidarity. It denies that racism exists, and that millions of people have been stomped and brutalized and killed by it. It erases that history. and that is no point from which to move forward.

    thanks.

  20. TG: Glad to hear from you. At one time, African slaves were considered beasts. Was it important for us to give up that “identity?”

    I’m not saying that people don’t respond as if race/racism exist because they most certainly do. However, I am certainly asking people to “intellectually” give up, in a hypothetical sense, their identity and ask themselves if it and how its working for them. What’s encoded in those definitions; how much of the ‘beast,’ the subspecies idea still resides in the words we define ourselves by/or are defined by? Including the word race.

  21. There is a difference between the biological findings (which from all accounts are accurate) and the situation of “race” in the social arena. It’s true that there are few differences biologically speaking. But socially, the visual differences created by slight genetic variations are enough to cause this social division that humans suffer from.

    Being biologically the same is all well and good… but getting the average Joe to understand that is hard. Especially when they are not exposed to other people or other cultures at a young age or taught as kids that we are really not that different.

    Humans have exploited physical differences since the beginning of time. It’s human nature for us to gravitate towards groups of people who look like us… that goes for white, black, asian, etc. And it’s more than just physical features that divide people. People are also divided by language, religion, culture, etc. But physical features play a big part in it. When these things are added together…the divisions are that much more pronounced.

    I will agree that race doesn’t exist biologically speaking. But socially, racism and the concept of race are alive and well…whether race as a construct is a myth or not… the consequences are still there.

    If race doesn’t exist at all then what have we been dealing with all this time? Classism….a mislabeled form of Classism perhaps? There does seem to be a correlation between class/ status and discrimination…with the more affluent demeaning the less affluent. That seems to be the case the vast majority of the time.

    Even within races and cultures you have racism. Look at the Hindus in India, and the Caste system there. The poorer… often darker skinned tended to be locked at the bottom rungs of the social & economic ladder. Or you could look at the Creoles of early New Orleans… who tended to be the more affluent Blacks at the time…had more priviledges, etc. In these cases you have the same race… but different classes.

    I think today we are in more of a class war than a race battle…although racism is still alive and well.

    I don’t know if we will ever get people to stop putting others in categories or discriminating based on race…physical appearance, or whatever label you want to use. Physical appearance has been exploited since the beginning of civilization… because humans fear other people who look different from themselves. As long as we have the physical diversity, religious diversity, cultural diversity, and class/economic diversity that we have, there will always be some sort of discrimination by one group against another. And you find it in every part of the world. Even people who have the same skin color will find SOMETHING to use as a basis for racism & discrimination…. look at the Hutus & Tutsis in Rwanda for example… I don’t know why humans allow themselves to be divided in this way.

    I think that it may be possible someday to de-program folks and get them away from this human tendancy, but we would have to catch them early. It has a lot to do with upbringing IMO. Humans are already predisposed to highlighting physical difference and dividing & segregating themselves based on those differences…so it doesn’t take much influence from parents to get young people to be racists…. Most racists became so as a result of influence from their parents, their elders, their household, family, etc.

    Check out a post that I made last year….it is about Jane Elliotts famous experiment. There is a documentary available from the link provided… it is called “A Class Divided”. You can watch it online. Amazing documentary. I am sure some of you have seen it…. but for those who have not….watch it again… and those who may have seen the documentary years ago… it’s worth watching again.
    Follow Link

  22. I agree with Holland on that last point… that we are not a Sub anything…. that would not be in our best interests at all.

  23. I’m looking back at this discussion after a couple of year and the emergence of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

    Since Barack Obama had a mother whose skin was “white” and a father whose skin was “Black” (even skin color is a social constuct), he could just as easily, logically, have announced to the press that he was white as announcing to the press that he was Black. But, what it the likelihood that the press would have referred to him as whitee:

    In fact, adherence to the “one drop rule” and the rule that “if you don’t look white then you cannot be accepted as white” guaranteed that Obama would be perceived as “Black. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m saying it’s arbitrary and irrationnal and part of the ideation disorder symptomaaatic of emotion, ideation and behavior disorder.

    The truth is that genetically President Obama is probably just as “white” as he is “Black.” And so, for the press to call him “Black” is just more of the “one drop rule” in action.

    Now one might argue that the press calls him Black because he identifies as Black. Let’s test this hypothesis: If Barack Obama tells the press that his mother is white and so he wants to be called “white” in press articles, or he doesn’t want his skin color referred to at all, as would be the case with a white politician, would the press willingly accept this. Of course not! It would be the greatest political polemic since Cassius Clay demanded to be called Muhammad Ali and Malcolm Little insisted on being called “Malcolm X.” It would draw as much attention as Prince’s insistence that his name was now a (Chinese?) alphabet letter.

    The press and America are willing to accept that Barack Obama is Black, because the “one drop rule” requires that he accept that he “is” Black. But the press would NEVER willingly refer to Obama as “white”, even though genetically there is as much support for that positiion as there is for the other.

    This is NOT an argument that Obama is “white” or that he should be called white in the press. This is an argument that our definitions of ourselves and others are still determined by the white men who shacked and enslaved us four hundred years ago, and who did not have our best interests at heart while doing so.

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