Paul R. Lehman,The phrases: “black people” and “white people” contribute to the system of ethnic bigotryMarch 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bill Nye Undeniable, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, Dorothy Roberts, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, freedom of speech, Human Genome, identity, justice, minority, PBS NEWSHOUR, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Penn., white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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So, what is wrong with saying “black people” and “white people” as part of our daily language usage? The answer does not include a right or wrong response, but one of understanding the significance of those phrases. Both phrases make references to the concept of race by color which is a social invention, not a biological fact. The phrase “black people” is not the same as “African American people” nor is “white people” the same as “European American people”; they are not interchangeable. However, with each use of these phrases the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority is maintained, supported and promoted. When people of note use those phrases, their usage gives the impression that the phrases are acceptable in our general speech.
We need to understand and acknowledge a fact of life: races of black people and white people do not exist on the planet. According to noted scientist Bill Nye, “Any differences we traditionally associate with race are a product of our need for vitamin D and our relationship to the Sun. Just a few clusters of genes control skin color; …and they are tiny compared to the total human genome.”He continued by noting that “We all descended from the same African ancestors, with little genetic separation from each other. The different colors or tones of skin are the result of an evolutionary response to ultraviolet light in local environments.”(Undeniable, p. 254-55)
Americans have been conditioned to view themselves and others as different through the spectrum of color when information to the contrary has always been present. Scientist, Neil de Grasse Tyson, was once asked the question “what are human beings”? He answered that we are all made of stardust. Before we take that response as a joke, remember what the Bible and other sacred books said of human creation: mankind was created from the dirt and clay. This information agrees with Neil de Grasse Tyson in principle but is emphatic in the Book of Common Prayer in the statement:”Ashes to ashes dust to dust” usually associated with the burial of humans. In any event, the skin color of a human being does not give favor or preferences to any shade or tone because as Nye stated: “Everybody has brown skin tinted by the pigment melanin. Some people have light brown skin. Some people have dark brown skin. But we all are brown, brown, brown. (Nye, p.255)
Because the system of ethnic bigotry is based on skin color, each reference to skin color reinforces the concept of European American (white) supremacy. However, the reference to black people and white people as racial identities have created problems for many years and can no longer be controlled. In an interview with two scientists discussing the issue of race in their works, Sarah Tishkoff noted that “We know people don’t group according to so-called races based purely on genetic data. Whenever the topic comes up, we have to address, how are we going to define race? I have never ever seen anybody come to a consensus at any of these human genetic meetings.”
A response was given by Dorothy Roberts: “That’s because race is based on cultural, legal, social and political determinations, and those groupings have changed over time. As a social scientist, looking at biologists treating these groupings as if they were determined by innate genetic distinctions, I’m dumbfounded. There’s so much evidence that they’re invented categories. How you can say this is a biological race is just absurd. It’s absurd. It violates the scientific evidence about human beings.” (https://africana.sas.upenn.edu)
So, confusion continues with the constant use of identities based on skin color in medical research as well as all other social areas.
Since we know that biological races are a false social concept, our continued usage of terms that underscore it’s existence only serve to maintain and promote ethnic separation and bigotry. The fact that the term “racism” continues to be used indicates a number of concerns; one, some people using the term are innocent or ignorant of its direct relationship to maintaining the system of ethnic bigotry; two, some people using the term are stupid and are simply following the conventions of a bigoted society; three, some people using the term are simply bigots and are well aware of its support of the system of ethnic supremacy and want to promote it; some people using the term know its social significance relative to the system, but are seemingly not fully informed or are not concerned with its impact on society.
While the phrases “black people” and “white people” are the primary focus of this text, other phrases serve nearly the same function of maintaining and promoting the system of bigotry. For example, people who identify themselves as bi-racial or mixed race actually lend support to the system of ethnic bigotry because by using those phrases they are underscoring their acceptance of the false concept of racial superiority of so-called white people. Much of the problem comes from the language used by the inventors of the system with American society not being aware of the system, just its effects. A system of bigotry cannot be replaced if knowledge of its presence is not known. Through the language, the effects of the system of bigotry could be very apparent while the system itself can go undetected, which is largely the case in America today.
The need for awareness of language was the focus and objective of House Resolution 4238, which amended two federal acts dealing with insensitive and/or outdated language. For decades the term “minorities” used in federal language referred to people of color: Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, etc.”President Obama signed the new bill that changed the language to “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto, Native American, or an Alaska Native.”(Obama signs bill eliminating ‘Negro,’ ‘Oriental’ from federal laws, PBS NEWSHOUR, 5/22/2016) Rather than being lumped into a group called “minorities” each ethnic group now has the opportunity to use it own ancestral or cultural identity which reflects personal self-worth and social value.
When phrases like “black people” and “white people” are used, they lack specificity because no one group of people on the planet represents either a black or white race. Their use only adds to the support of the system of bigotry. Confusion exists when those phrases are used because the reference is unclear relative to a skin color or a vague concept of a culture. So, if we are serious about replacing the system of bigotry, we can begin by using the appropriate language. Truth to the word!