the absurdity of racial categorizations (a glaring example)

 

 

In a previous blog post

 

“this isn’t racism?”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/03/this-isnt-racism/

 

I wrote:

… what is white, anyway, and what is black? When it comes to racial categories, that is.

Whites are not really white and blacks are not really black. Were my skin white, I would probably scare a lot of people. … There is such diversity in ethic groupings that it seems nonsensical to me to sort them into ironclad groupings. The groupings were made up by someone or other who manufactured them out of thin air, bureaucrats; they ignore many ethnic groups and sort them almost willy-nilly.

 

 

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Consider the following news item about Prince Harry’s new fiancée, Meghan Markle.

 

She was born Rachel Meghan Markle in Los Angeles in 1981 to a white father and black mother.

Her parents — lighting director Thomas Markle and clinical therapist Doria Ragland — divorced when she was 6, but she has said they remain a close-knit family. …

In an essay written for Elle magazine in 2015, Markle discussed coming to terms with her racial identity and how conflicted she felt in seventh grade when forced to check a box indicating her ethnicity.

“You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other — and one half of myself over the other. My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. ‘Because that’s how you look, Meghan,’ she said,” Markle wrote.

“I couldn’t bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn’t tick a box.”

When she came home, her dad said, “If that happens again, you draw your own box.”

 

“How Meghan Markle went from minor celebrity to English royalty,” by Danika Fears, The New York Post, November 28, 2017

 

 

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To me, this story is indicative of the absurdity and the harm done by the present system of racial categorization, and racial categories, existing in the United States.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  November 2017

 

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Addendum: I have been thinking about this some more.

Ms. Markle’s seventh grade teacher told her that she looked Caucasian, so she should check the box for white.

All of the news accounts of her and Prince Harry’s engagement noted that she was of “mixed race.”

I know what this is supposed to mean, but aren’t almost all humans a  blend, genetically speaking, of races and ancestors? Someone might say, echoing Orwell, that some are more mixed than others. But how about all the mixing of races and ethnicities from different nations and continents? If Prince Harry were engaged, say, to a woman with an American father and an Asian mother, would the press have taken much note of it?

The government and many institutions such as colleges  and universities think race is important. They require it to be designated on census forms, applications, and such. How is one to keep track of it all? Should everyone be required to submit the results of an Ancestry.com DNA test?

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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