Re: Ethnicity

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Sat, 30 Sep 1995 12:18:32 -0700

Robert Johnson wrote on September 15:

> I would suggest that those anthropologist's who do not
> know how to define racism, ethnicity, racialization, and
> other facts of human existence get themselves some classes in
> ethnic studies.
> Afro-American's, Chicanos, and other peoples excluded from many
> aspects of justice and basic human needs have been grappling with
> these definitions and how they exist in the real world for years.

Possibly, the historical experience of African Americans and Chicanos
differ even from each other in certain respects. For example, the forbears
of Chicanos did not experience slavery. On the other hand, oppression, in
general, has been the fate of many groups, and oppression has general
features which are not neccessarily distributed along ethnic lines: the
oppression of women world wide, and the oppression of the differently abled
everywhere come to mind as examples. Although in the last five centuries,
Europeans have definitely led the pack in being oppressors, some Europeans
have also had their share of having been oppressed, think of the Celtic
speaking inhabitants of the British Isles and France, or the non-Germanic
peoples of Central Europe and the Balkans (oppressed in turn by Ottomans
and Germans). Without belittleing the suffering of North Americans of
non-European ancestry, I think the fate of the Tibetans or East Timurese is
worse, not to mention my distant Finno-Ugric cousins in the former Soviet
Union who are on the brink of extinction. Finally, there is the
oppression by the elites of an ethnic community of their fellows, in the
name of nationalism, as is happening in Burma, (in addition to the genocide
against national minorities).

In short, when I wrote that I think that dispite over a century of study,
we still don't get it (whatever 'it' is) I meant us, anthropologists. But
I could have included all the fellow 'suffarahs' in Black Studies, Chicano
Studies, Native Studies, etc. because while they may know more about the
experience of being oppressed, even they don't know *why* oppressors
oppress, nor *how* they are able to. Most of all, noone knows *how to stop

As someone in the Mothers of Invention (I think it was Jimmy Carl Black,
the Indian in the group) said, "I am not black, but there is a whole lot of
times I wish I could say, 'I'm not white'".

Keep the faith,

Tibor Benke