Articles philosophy

“The Truth is There are no Races”

 

“The truth is that there are no races” Kwame Anthony Appiah controversially wrote in 1985 launching him into fame and notoriety among his professional peers.

In this fascinating conversation between two of the most esteemed and provocative thinkers on racial identity, Appiah sits down with Professor Priya Gopal to unpack the philosophy of race, it’s historical development and why it’s not a ‘biological category.’

For both, race should be understood as a historical categorisation usually used to otherise people by physical characteristics or geographical location.

One of the most interesting talking points of the conversation is the question of “mixed-race” identity. Taking the example of Barack Obama, Gopal explains that despite having a white mother and black father Obama does not walk in the world as a white man. He is racialised as black and American society categorises him as if he had two black parents.

Similarly Gopal is racialised as “minority ethnic” in the West and as “upper cast” in India. The key point is that for both Obama and Gopal, historical categorisation not biology determines how they are racialised.

Appiah argues if we want to eradicate racism we must begin seeing race through this lens of constructed rather than fixed reality. Once we see that having different skin colour is as unremarkable as having different hair colour, we will undermine and immobilize those who wish to exploit imagined divisions between us. Is he right?

Further reading:

 

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5 comments on ““The Truth is There are no Races”

  1. 100% agree with you. This is fantastic. I hope I remember to write about this some time. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. IMHO the true divide that exists is about culture. There are people who have assimilated into Western culture and those who have not. Assimulating doesn’t mean that one gives up their traditional culture. Traditional culture is just viewed as a part of a person’s history.

    Like

  3. Pingback: “The Truth is There are no Races” – Swords of the Forgotten

  4. If you lined up representatives of all the various human facial and skin characteristics, you would simply not be able to find a distinct dividing line in which to say “this one is significantly different enough from that one” to create a separate category of person. Race indeed does not physically exist.

    Liked by 1 person

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