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Thursday, October 24, 2013

a brief Ontology of Race

"Race does not exist [biologically]"...
And in a (small 'l') liberal worldview, that is why we do not talk about Racism. Instead, we talk about culture, of language, of religion, of ancestry, of geography, of migrant status. We skirt around issues of Race and Racism, conflating the empty signifier of Race (i.e. its biologically indeterminable nature) with total non-existence.

I'd like to try...:
"Race does not exist [biologically], and yet..."
...Yet... it is ontologically real by virtue of its being a socially meaningful way in which we categorise one another. A lived reality for all of us. Race is a strange residue of the unfolding of human culture and history, the vestiges of power and a lack thereof imprinting themselves upon our bodies. Any recourse to "predictability" (as regard to a person's physical characteristics, assumed or otherwise, and their psycho-spiritual character) posits the meaningfulness of a person's body (and therefore their presumed ancestry) as an indicator of personality or behaviour. Even "unpredictability" is a falsehood, even if it is universally applied to both dominant and marginalised racial groups. Unpredictability itself assumes a blank-slatedness to human character, a non-relation between Bodies and Culture which is as much contingent on falsehood as racialised predictability is.

Presented with the empty vessels that are "Race" and racial categories, I choose to notice how they have been filled by language, by misnomers, by violent avoidance. I acknowledge that I see Race, though not clearly; Racial categories are ever-shifting... They come in and out of being... As non-existent yet hypnotising as waves crashing upon a reluctant shore...

Even in avoiding them, we give rise to new racialised terms... For example, "Ghetto" or "CALD" (culturally and linguistically diverse), which purport to primarily reference class and culture, but are, indeed, deeply steeped in racialised assumptions of normalcy (i.e. Middle-Class White Citizenship).

Race does not exist. Yet Racism is real, the lived experience of Race is real, and it is Racialisation which undergirds our avoidance. Some of us surf upon the proverbial waves of this ephemerality (of Race).

Others of us drown.

1 comment:

  1. Check this out as the explanation for "group" formation and worldviews based on them. ( Similarly, on your post on human rights, everyone will agree that human rights should be universal but there are some not quite-as-human beings out there who, perhaps should not be accorded those rights...