Re: race and language

Wed, 6 Jul 1994 21:21:00 CDT

> This whole dynamic reminds me of the unmarked category in
>linguistic anaylsis.

This is certainly the issue in the construction of "multicultural"
educational programs. The unmarked category becomes the norm against
which all other groups are compared. I find it effective, tho somehwat
unsettling for the participants in our workshops to remind them that they
are EURO-Americans.

> Since Euro-Americans are unmarked we become the
>"norm". Certainly the term people of color is highly problematic as
>it also implies that "white" or people of Euro-American descent are
>not "of color" which is completely misleading and gives added weight
>to the feeling that Euro-Americans "have no culture" or ethnic

In fact, in our human biocultural variation workshops for students and
teachers, Euro-Americans often write in "White" when asked to label their
own ethnicity (we offer no suggestions here; just ask them to describe their
ethnic heritage).

In another part of the exercise, we use sample cards from colors of paint
to match to skin color. What surprises most "white" people, is that the
best match is no shade of white, but a variety of other colors -- light
browns and tans with shades of green, yellow, red, orange. It also surprises
them that "black" people have a variety of skin colors -- you guessed it, none
of them are BLACK, but darker shades of browns and tans with shades of green,
yellow, red, orange...

And the conclusion in this institute on multicultura science education is...

> In a recent course I took on Racism and Sexism in the
>U.S. the instructor argued that the terms "Black" and "White" were
>actually ideologies, not ethnic markers per se.

These concepts and terms are socially constructed!!

Anj Petto
Cntr Bio Ed
voice: 608.262.0478
fax: 608.262.0014