Paul R. Lehman, Race usage continues to create confusion

February 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Posted in blacks, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America, U. S. Census, whites | 3 Comments
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Hope Yen, a writer from the Associated Press has written an article that gives us an up-date on ethnic marriages in America. The article, “Interracial marriage in US hits new high: 1 in 12.” To support the findings survey results from a variety of sources are offered from the 2010 census, a Pew survey, and the American Community Survey. The problem with the surveys and their results is that they are meaningless, especially when they show “a diversifying America where interracial unions and the mixed-race children they produce are challenging typical notions of race.” We need to be more specific here.

We must stop and ask what does ‘interracial” and “mixed-race” mean in that quote? If we rely on our general conception of race we will usually come up with terms that are equally vague like black, white, Mexican, Asian, and the like. As stated in previous blogs, since race has never been clearly defined, it can never clearly be explained or examined. The first term, “interracial” would suggest that individuals from different biological races join together in union. How can that be logically acceptable when science tells us emphatically that all humans belong to one race? The appropriate and correct term should be “interethnic” to underscore a cultural and/or ancestral difference. By using the word “interracial” we are accepting and promoting the misconception of multiple human races.

In addition, the word “mixed-race” is equally incorrect and confusing in that it also suggest the existence of more than one biological race. The idea would be laughable if it was not taken seriously by many Americans. How can a parent explain race to a child if the differences are only superficial if they exist at all? For example, what makes a person a member of a black or a white race? The answer cannot be color because too many exceptions exist. Little wonder many people “are challenging the notions of race.”

The article states that “The study finds that 8.4 percent of all current U.S. marriages are interracial, up from 3.2 percent in 1980.” When all so-called races are considered the article states that “more than 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were interracial.” The good news is according to Pew survey there exists a “greater public acceptance of mixed marriages, coming nearly half a century after the Supreme Court in 1967 barred race-based restrictions on marriage.”

The confusion with race continues anytime a word is associated with it because race is not clear. For example, we are told that “Due to increasing interracial marriage, multiracial Americans are a small but fast-growing demographic group, making up about 9 million, or 8 percent of the minority population.” Okay, who are the pure Americans? More specifically, who are the ones that fall out of the multiracial group? They do not exist! Using DNA, scientists say no biologically pure special race of humans exists.  The article continues, “Together with blacks, Hispanics and Asians, the Census Bureau estimate they collectively will represent a majority of the U.S. population by mid-century.”

In essence, what the survey information suggests is that so-called whites are a pure race, and that all the other citizens must find a category in which to put themselves. Of course, we know this is not practical, so how does one deal with race in the present situation? “Race is a social construct; race isn’t real,” so says “Jonathan Brent, 28. The son of a white father and a Japanese-American mother, Brent helped organized multiracial groups in southern California and believes his background helps him understand situations from different perspectives.”Unfortunately, Brent will never be able to understand himself or people like himself until he follows his own conclusion about race being unreal. As long as he sees himself as a member of a multiracial group, he will never be able to see himself as simply a member of the human race—no more no less.

As mentioned earlier, the problem with all this information is its meaninglessness. If an apple is referred to as a tomato without defining the apple, regardless of the number of references made relative to the tomato as an apple, the reference will always be incorrect because although they are both fruit, they belong to different families. Ethnic groups are member of the same family of human beings. As long as the word race is used to represent biologically distinct races of human beings, it will be incorrect. The primary differences among people are cultural, economic, religious, and geographical. So, when we are asked to define terms in a so-called racial survey for ourselves, the value and consistency of the information becomes a variable that will have little and different meaning to each person reading it. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that surveys and reports that continue to use the word race and its related words do nothing but promote and maintain confusion?

Towards the end of the article, Yen quotes Paul Taylor, director of Pew’s Social & Demographic project, who notes that “In the past century, intermarriage has evolved from being illegal, to be a taboo and then to be merely unusual. And with passing year, it becomes less unusual. That says a lot about the state of race relations. Behaviors have changed and attitudes have changes.” While all that change is good, the most important thing that needs to change still remains—the incorrect use of the word race! As long as that remains, society will be like the preverbal dog chasing its tail.


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  1. Very well said but in paragraph six, should not Jonathon Brent’s father be referred something other “white.” or is that how Brent classified his father? The practice will be a tough one to change but through persistence even small changes are important and bring about positive results.

    • Roger, thanks for the comment. The reference to “white” in the blog is made in a direct quote from Yen’s article. I would have referred to him as European American. I guess I could have used brackets to indicate the correct term, but leaving it in makes my points about a lack of clear meaning.

  2. So I went to the dictionary and looked up race. Definition #1: family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock. Using this definition the Lehmans are a race. Definition #2: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics. Under this definition Lutherans are a race. Amazing. We need help.

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