NNPA Guest Commentary
(NNPA) - The April 4th observation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bloody death in Memphis produced another round of speech excerpts of him saying his dream was to see people judged on the basis of their character, not their skin color.
But the color of one’s skin – 42 years after Dr. King’s assassination – is still a major issue in America. The notion that a person can look at another individual and know his or her race is an extremely flawed one. I know this from personal experience.
My mother is an African-American and my father is white. As a result, I am very light-skinned. So much so that people often confuse me with being white; some unsuspecting Caucians have actually uttered the dreaded n-word in my presence. When I informed them that I am biracial, they cringed in red-face embarrassment.
I am not alone. The late Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell’s was of a very light complexion. U.S. Rep. G.H. Butterfied (D-NC), secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus, is so light-skinned that he is often mistaken for being White. Motivational speaker George Fraser often begins his lectures by declaring, “I am Black.”
If this were not such a serious matter, it would be laughable. But biogotry and ignorance is no laughing matter.
Moreover, some people, especially in the political arena, try to exploit this widespread ignorance about race. Still, we need not be willing victims.
The concept of race is a concocted
“Today, scholars in many fields argue that ‘race’ as it is understood in the United States of America was a social mechanism invented during the 18th century to refer to those populations brought together in colonial America: the English and other European setlers, the conquered Indian peoples, and those peoples of Africa brought in to provide slave labor,” the American Anthropological Association (AAA) said in a statement on race. “…It subsumed a growing ideology of inequality devised to rationalize European attitudes and treatment of the conquered and enslaved peoples.”
The AAA said race evolved into “a body of prejudgments that distorts our ideas about human differences and group behavior.”
Interestingly, there are far more variations within designated racial groups than between different races.
“In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences,” the anthropology group said in its statement. “With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this country, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups.”
It concluded, “Conventional geographic ‘racial’ groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means there is greater variation within ‘racial’ groups than between them.”
The U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Project issued a statement that was even more unequivocal: “DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There is also no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity.”
Placing so much emphasis on the questionable construct of race is what Rev. Jesse Jackson calls majoring in the minor. By no means am I suggesting that disparate treatment of African-Americans over the years does not warrant corrective remedies, such as affirmative action.
In fact, I argue the opposite. All of us must face up to the reality that the United States is quickly becoming what political scientists like to call a majority minority.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, minorities comprise one-third of the U.S. population. However, by 2042, they are projected to make up the majority and rise to 54 percent of the population by 2050. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites will see their share of the population dip from 66 percent in 2008 to 46 percent in 2050. No single group will comprise a majority of the U.S. population.
Clearly, we need to come together if we are to survive as a nation. Divisive and misleading talk about race in the abstract doesn’t help us get there.
Michael McMillan is the City of St. Louis License Collector.
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