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Undoing Institucional Racism

This past Thursday and Friday I attended a workshop on Undoing Institutional Racism led by the Peoples Institute. It was an amazing experience that has given me plenty to think about. I am still trying to process most of it.

I think what struck me the most was the whole history of the birth of "Race." Historically there has always been reference to different people's nationality, but actual race didn't come into play until about the 1600s.

It all started with some dumbass finding a white large skull in the Cucasian mountains which he deemed to be of a white person who was obviously of higher mental capacity since the skull was larger than most others. This is the term where Caucasoid comes from. Along with these, other races were created, the Mongoloid (Yellow/Asian), Australoid (Red/Brown), and the Negroid (Black). The last of these is the only one that actually got its name from a color and not location, already being looked at as less than human. The term white is first used int the U.S. in a legal contruct in 1691. This is where all the slave stuffs is going on which most people are familiar with.

The thing I find the most unbelievable is that while I do not agree with this way of thinking that prevailed back then, I can see their "logic." However later on in the late 1800s early 1900s people that are Asian and Indian start to attempt to prove their "whiteness" so they can become citizens of the U.S. At this point the requirements for citizenship are to be "Free, White, and of good moral character" so there are a lot of free men of good moral character that are interested in proving that they are White. By definition then the White person was one of Caucasoid descent. In 1914 a guy by the name of Thind, born in the Caucasian Mountains uses this to argue that he is White. Case goes to the Supreme Court and the outcome is something like this:

"Wait, oh we are sorry did we say that White means of Caucasoid descent?? Actually what we meant was that White is determined by the 'common perception of whiteness.' You clearly are not commonly perceived as white, you are brown."

From here on the common perception of Whiteness has ruled and affected everyone's reality, trickling down to our very own....

As it was very well put by our trainer: "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can determine our reality for generations to come."

This is only one thing drifting through my brain at the moment.... maybe once I process more I will update again.

Anyway, PBS has a good website on this topic if anyone is interested: Race- The Power of an Illision


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 29th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
Yea I don't see it as a race but as a religion, and while they do deal with a lot of antisemitism, and it often intersects /w race, I think that it is not a race. However, I don't know the history of that assumption. All I know is that it mostly comes up when talking about race and White privilege and then suddenly every White person in the room isn't White anymore, they are poor, or gay, or disabled, or Jewish. While all these labels carry their own weight of oppression, it does not take away White privilege.

As someone posted in this thread:


I think that if you were to ask a White Jewish person about his/her experiences it would vary greatly from that of a Jewish person of color.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )



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