Thursday, March 29, 2018

Race and ethnicity

Just about through the April edition of National Geographic, an issue devoted entirely to discussing race and ethnicity.  The issue touches on all the hot topics, how race divides us, how race effects our actions and perspectives, white majority angst, the growing acceptance of interracial marriage, the disparity in occurrence of something as simple as vehicle stops by the police, and how the advances of science, especially in the areas of DNA and human genome research may help us individually and collectively evolve our understanding of race, and specifically ethnicity, so that it might become a uniting force rather than an area of conflict.

Of course, reading such a magazine requires one to acknowledge the hidden, yet powerful effect that racism has had throughout America's history.  And it requires an acceptance of the science of our evolution which indicates that we are all descendants of ancestors that came from Africa.  That skin color is an adaptation in response to the need for our bodies to absorb certain benefits from sunlight or to reflect the damaging effects that too much sun can cause.  That, light skin in humans evolved from the dark skinned humans who were the original color our species.

A particularly interesting observation in this edition was the admission by the current editor of Nat Geo that this well regarded magazine was just as guilty of promoting racial stereotypes as most other publications during the first half of the 20th century.  From its depiction of isolated tribes in Africa to its omission of the thriving black middle class in place like Harlem, added to its white readership's beliefs that the black race was one dimensional, different from us.  This example of admitting past wrongs, owning those sins of overt racism as well as hidden racism, sets a wonderful example, and a much stronger starting point to have the necessary discussions about race in America.

It is an encouraging, thoughtful and challenging issue.  Something that is sorely lacking in most of the rhetoric and vitriol that encompasses the majority of discussions about race.

I encourage those of you who might encounter this post, to purchase this issue, or find it at a local library or perhaps even borrow it from a friend or family member.  And for those who do read it, use it as a basis for your future discussions about race, encourage others to read it.  Finally, perhaps if someone among you has access to President Trump, you might encourage him to read it as well.