Saturday, August 4, 2012

"Seeing" Race

I'm reading a beautiful book called The Truth About Stories by Thomas King. I highly recommend it. In one section of the book, King discusses the conception of "race" - how we think we see it, how we want to see it, how if it's not there, then we comment on how very un-[insert race here] it is. It's a brilliant wake up call to look beyond the skin we're in, and recognize the flexibility and constant change of culture and of people across time and space. Just as our 'white' North American culture is constantly changing, so are the cultures of every other across the globe. We must be sensitive not to 'characterize', 'stereotype', or create 'race', but to embrace people and let them come as they are.

Here's a quick segment from his book:

"All of this... are reminders of how hard it is to break free from the parochial and paradoxical consideration of identity and authenticity. Owens, in a particularly wry moment, notes that "few looking at [these] photos of mixedbloods would be likely to say, 'But they don't look like Irishmen,' but everyone seems obliged to offer an opinion regarding the degree of Indianness represented.

In Curtis' magnum opus, Portraits from North American Indian Life, we don't see a collection of photographs of Indian people. We see race. Never mind that race is a construction and an illusion. Never mind that it does not exist in either biology or theology, though both have, from time to time, been enlisted in the cause of racism. Never mind that we can't hear it or smell it or taste it or feel it. The important thing is that we believe we can see it."

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