Saturday, May 19, 2012

Racial classification dilemmas

Race is back in the headlines with news that racial minorities are now the majority of births within the US (Census: Minorities now surpass whites in US births).  In the once vastly Caucasian state of Minnesota fully 30 percent of preschool-age children are now "minorities" (The changing face of Minnesota).

I wonder how conversations around race will change when the "majority" becomes the "minority".  I've had brief encounters of being in the minority, both while traveling abroad for a school year, and having traveled numerous times to Asia.  I think it would be a valuable learning experience for all who are traditionally in the majority to be in the minority for at least some amount of time in their lives, particularly in places where the primarily language spoken is not their native tongue.  It can be a most humbling experience not to be able to communicate fluently, or even to be able to tell a funny joke.  Experiencing the alienation while being a foreigner provides a brief glimpse of the life experience realized by many immigrants and refugees.

The classification of people by race is problematic. While on a walk yesterday I visited a friend who's son-in-law is from Belize.  He's of dark complexion with a short afro. Yet, when coming to this country US Immigration and Naturalization classified him as "white", as he is neither "African" nor "African-American".

Those who are multiracial often don't have a box that fits their racial complexity. Seems we should by now be moving away from the old slave rule that one drop of blood automatically classifies a person as black.

The latest racial expression within the US for "minorities" is "persons of color". This seems to infer that all white folk are colorless. Not long ago "colored people" was a pejorative common term used to identify black people. Ironically this term was popular by a very common breed of white folk, known as red necks.

With all of this confusion it seems crazy to keep trying to put people into racial boxes.  Since the genetic difference among races are insignificant I would be content with simply utilizing blood type as an identifier.  I'm an A+,  how about you?

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