Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Race Matters...II

Is it not evident that many people will quite often find it easier to empathize with those of their own race? When we see a person suffering, do we find it easier to picture ourselves in their position if they happen to look like us? Do we find it easier to see ourselves helping them if they have the same skin color as us? Or the same religion as us?

I remember watching a program on disabled people and their struggles in our society and was sitting in a classroom next to this black woman. When we saw a few white people with disabilities I heard the black woman say nothing. Then the program had a section on some black people with disabilities and she started signing and making noises of empathy and concern. I'm not in any way saying she only empathizes with those of her own race but I think she was able to at least in this particular case, to more easily identify with the other black people on the program dealing with their disabilities.

I think there is a basic natural instinct in ourselves because of our tribal nature, to identify with others who are of the same race, or religion or gender. There are of course exceptions to this, and those exceptions are good for the sake of humanity and racial unity. It's one of the reasons why I think it is important for those of us to have friends of other races and to stray away from the idea of racial segregation. Jews and Muslims who attend religious schools are often separated from the other religions and groups of people. They do this to keep their people and religion pure, but it has the effect of turning those children into adults that might be the kind who will empathize and maybe lend more help to those suffering who only look like them or worship as they do.

Race matters, yes it does. It is the title of a book by the black intellectual Dr. Cornel West which I haven't read. I agree at least with the title, that race does matter and that it is very hard to not acknowledge race when dealing with issues with other people. We need racial unity to help move our society forward. I hate the mentality of those, of all races who want to stay only with their own race. If they want to do so, so be it. We are dealing with the aftermath of European imperialism. Europeans moved the races of people around the world and we have to be real and acknowledge this and try to make the most of it. I myself am biracial, but I consider myself raceless. I don't identify with any one race and I think it helps me take a neutral perspective when dealing with issues of race. I believe all our ancestors came from Africa and we all essentially are brothers and sisters. I find myself having a special connection to the continent of Africa where my ancestors left some 40-50 thousand years ago.

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