Re: Writers needed for new electronic Black paper

Michael John Evans (g8726246@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Tue, 5 Jul 1994 12:24:59 -0400

On Tue, 5 Jul 1994, Cal Eastman wrote:

> >People of > >colour live > > Personally i find this phrase "people of
color" to be offensive as > hell. Ive never seen any0one who has no color,
of course if someone > had no color, it would be extremely difficult to
see them. > Why was it that we found colored people to be a racist phrase,
but > this bit of meanoingless verbiage is supposed to be OK?
..........Perhaps teh problem is with the entire concept of race. In
biology the > concept of "sub-species" has pretty much been abandoned, but
in * anthropology *we* hold onto this outmoded type of classification, as if
> it were meaningful* fact. People exist across a spectrum of physical >
types, not in discreet groupings. Cultures exist.. races probably do not.
{my emphasis: Hyl}

Who's this "we" whiteman? I've been in anthropology since 1975,
and the second lesson I learned, after grasping cultural relativism, was
that "race" was a term which identified nothing except other people's
racist perspective. Because anthropomorphic research failed to find a way
to scientifically and objectively categorise individuals and population
pools into distinct 'race' units, the concept was found to be
uninformative, and meaningless as a way of typifying people. The reason
there is no way to identify "race" is b/c the diversity within any
supposed 'pool' is as great (or greater) as the diversity between that
supposedly discrete pool and any other. However, knowing that 'race' is a
non-sequitor biologically does not mean that it is meaningless culturally,
as exemplified by contemporary problems with racist attitudes, racism,
xenophobia, and self-identity amongst societal members who find themselves
misrepresented, mis-typified, stigmatised, and sometimes invisible in
relation to some nebulous, undifferentiated 'majority' of society.
I agree with the first part of your statement, that 'of colour'
is no more polite or nice or kind or even accurate than coloured, 'black'
or afro-[your label here], but as I understand it, it is a term which 1]
attempts to avoid ethnic-nationalist and race labelings (so Japanese,
Korean, Thai, Singaporean, Hong Kong Chinese etc are lumped with
African-Americans, Sudanese, Aboriginal etc); 2] it is a term selected
"by themselves" as opposed to a label applied by the 'dominant society'
and 3] By its very broad, lumping nature, points out the discrimination
based on notions of difference from the 'norm' which is perceived as
being of Anglo-Saxon, Christian ancestry.
My problem with terms like "women of colour" and much of the
currently politically correct language and rhetoric about racism,
anti-racism, and analysis based on "race",class,gender (notice how that
has become one word?) is its essentialism: how the logical conclusion of
this form of analysis and this rhetoric is that "only women can do
research with woman" "only black women can do research with black women"
"only lesbians can do research with lesbians"....this form of
essentialist ideology, while promoting the notion that disenfranchised
groups take some of the 'power of research', create their own agendas for
research, & tell their own stories without the potential bias of an
intermediary has two logical ramifications: 1] that the notion of
cultural relativism, and the potential for valuing and understanding
alternative ways of social practice, alternative cultural ideologies is
doomed to fail b/c only "an aboriginal can truley represent another
aboriginal" and second [2], that the essentialism feeds right back into
and reperpetuates the very same racist, differentialist, seperatist,
isolationist perspectives that I thought we were trying to destroy.
I could go on, but I'll stop here.
Heather Young-Leslie