The problem with race is the fact that we keep having discussions about race
Another opinion on Rachel Dolezal …
I have never really identified with a race. It always bothered me. I’m part Chinese, and I look Asian, so to some extent, that would be the “race” that I identify with the most, but not really.
See, race was something forced down my throat by my environment. It was something hurled at me with words like chinc. It was forced on me by everyone around me even though I don’t speak the language, even though my last name is Ramirez, even though it is as foreign to me as the other races that make up my “race”.
Rachel Dolezal identifies as black. Great. Good for you. In my opinion, you don’t get to choose your race. You get to choose your culture. You get to choose what culture you explore, and identify with. That’s different than race.
To me, race is something oppressive. It’s what everyone else around you forces on you. It shows the ignorance around you to these cultural norms of identity that are so vague, and so incomplete. White people are all white. They aren’t Polish, Russian, French, South African, etc. Black people are all black. They aren’t Senegalese, Nigerian, Haitian, Columbian, Dominican. I know, some of those aren’t black, but if you walked by them on the street and you had to check a box for them, you might check black. That’s just my point. It isn’t something that should be identified.
To me, it’s asking what’s a large box that I can throw this person’s name into that doesn’t really apply to anything.
When I was a kid, other kids would imitate Chinese sounds to tease me. It bothered me, because it’s really annoying, but it really offends me because it makes them look so stupid. If they had light skin, should I imitate French? Actually, if they have dark skin, I could also imitate French, because a bunch of nations whose people have dark skin use French as a primary language. As I would hear these noises, I would think to myself, “You don’t realize how stupid you look, and sound … and if I were to explain it, you wouldn’t even understand, which makes you look even dumber … it’s really sad.”
One of my bosses is Japanese Brazilian. I don’t think she speaks Japanese. She looks Japanese. Her husband is white. If they had kids, their kids would be called chincs. If you walk by them, you could throw their names into an oriental box, and what does that actually tell you? Nothing …Those kids would be so far removed from any Japanese heritage.
It’s really time that we let go of that word, race, as a whole.
The fact that we need to identify it is a problem. The fact that we aren’t talking about culture, and we’re talking about what physical attributes can define someone in non-specific terms based on a few obvious characteristics like skin color, eye shape, hair color, eye color, etc, is a problem. The fact that at one point, people considered it informative is a problem. It’s a word for white people in a white world to throw everyone else into buckets without understand who they are, and where they come from. And we still use this …
What race do I identify with? New Yorker … Is that a race? Half Chinese, half Portuguese/Native American … Is that a race? Hoppa? They call them that in Hawaii, but they called me Haoli over there. Is professional chef a race? Is biracial American a race? I don’t have a race, and I don’t identify with one. I don’t need to. I don’t check a box when they ask me to.
I’m not Chinese. I’m part Chinese. I know regional Chinese food, but I’m also a chef, so I know a lot of food. I know a lot of pieces of different languages. I know a lot about different cultures. I am not a race, and yet, race is always thrown into my face.
It’s comments like:
“Wow, this oriental guy speaks better English than I do!”
“No, you shouldn’t apply for the job because we’re looking for an Italian guy. After all, it’s an Italian restaurant.”
“How can this place serve Mexican food when it’s run by a Japanese guy!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Black American isn’t a cultural identity. It is, but that’s the point. It shouldn’t be called a race. It should be called a culture. You can identify with multiple cultures.
People might be saying that I should identify with Asian-American, but I don’t really. Often, those people have a family at home where they follow a bunch of the cultural norms of their culture. I don’t. We didn’t speak Chinese at home. I was aware of certain Chinese cultural things, but only on a very superficial level. Sometimes, we ate with chopsticks. I was aware that there was something called soy sauce for my entire life.
When people ask me what race I am, I tell them that I’m not a race. Funny, last time I told that to someone, they kept asking me why I decided to come to this country, and I just had to reply that I’m actually part Native American also.
If I were Rachel, and someone asked me what race I was, this is how I would reply:
I’m not a race. You can judge me on my physical characteristics, and try to put me in a box that doesn’t really say anything, or you can get to know me, and understand what kind of work I’m trying to do. If you understand that I’m trying to break down the walls of racism, then you might understand that insisting that race is significant is really part of the problem. People shouldn’t be judged on vague physical characteristics, especially in this day, and age, because of how much mixing there has been, and will be in the future. The days when racial segregation was easy, and it worked are coming to an end. I am a person, not a race. I identify with a culture. I am my own being, and when more people understand that they need to get to know individuals for who they are, and not for who the people might be who kinda look like them, then this race problem takes a step forward. So I understand the question, more than you do, and it doesn’t make sense. I am me, and you can take time to get to know me, and what I’m all about.