Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Colour bar or colour farce? How a persons's race can change.

Ths U.S. election has raised the issue of race, with the possibility of the nation's first 'black' president. It is an interesting thing to see how people are classified regarding their race. Barack Obama has one parent for each, African and European. He is what some have called 'biracial'. I heard that the same is truue of Colin Powell. In the U.S. and Britain and here in Australia, if a person is visibly part black they are just classified as 'black'. A person is either pure white or they are black. I'm told that in Liberia, in Africa, the same syndorme operates in reverse. A person is classifed as white if they are visibly part white. You are either pure black or white. In South Africa, under the apartheid regime, those people of biracial heritage were classifed as 'coloured'. Can you see the impication of this? The one person can be a black American or Australian, a white Liberian and a coloured South African. Incredible! Travel across a border and you change races. Does that make the whole issue rather ridiculous? I know that race also has issures of culture, but it is a flawed way of relating to a person, or expecting things of them, because of their race.


Anonymous said...

Insightful post.

Looking at the idea of race from an international viewpoint makes all of these race "rules" seem all the more erroneous. Will we even get to a place where someone's color is irrelevant?

N said...

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your comments on my blog. I tend to agree that race is something we should just stop referring to. I have a hard time believing that culture is strongly tied to race. All we'd have to do is take one race and try to describe the culture - that would be pretty hard to do.
Race is only useful today in the political sort of form. For blacks in the US it is a wedge issue because of the recent history of slavery in the US. In many countries, it is an issue because of colonialism. Suffice it to say, even without racial issues, people would find something else to squabble and be divisive about all the time. Race can be useful if it is applied very specifically; e.g. "black men in the state of GA in the city of Atlanta."
I'm still working out my thoughts on all of this.