I’ve struggled for a long time with the idea of race / racism being “real”: I’ve said that it isn’t real, yet race / racism is pervasive and influential, the phlogiston of social interactions.
Someone (Sean Carter--and not that Sean Carter) said something that cleared it up for me: Race isn't real. Neither is money. Yet an imaginary construct is so valuable to us that it controls our lives, our societies, our worth, our histories, and our futures.
Race is simply used by one group with the guns to do a brilliant thing: make the power remain to keep one group up on top of all other group but without the guns. We’re like the monkeys in the room who have been taught that when someone tries to reach the banana the whole group is shocked, so that even generations later of monkeys they will still not go for the banana and they will claw the eyes of of any “new” monkey who tries.
Race is an entirely imaginary thing, but we have been so formed by our society that we cannot make our minds think of people without using it--and using it to categorize people as “the good race” and “all the rest of the bad races.”
I know that my conscious mind says this is foolishness, but six decades of being formed as a white man has made my mind think in ways that are desired by my white society, so much so that it requires significant, daily work to think outside the grooves. And even to see myself as a white man is a near-hopeless solipsism.
Yet I also know with my mind that race and race-superiority has blocked me from some of the most enriching parts of life: the social interactions and deep knowledge of others who are not infected (as I am) by white racist thinking.
I can't un-embody myself as a human. To do that is to choose death. We have to live inside these bags of meat that hold our very selves. And I think, in parallel with this, that for white people to leave race and race-based categorization is to be threatened by a similar disembodiment of our souls and selves: if we leave whiteness, then what do we have remaining? What are we as people if we are no longer “white” and must navigate the world as members of no group, especially a group that automatically benefits us, excuses us, forgives us, and welcomes us?
Thanks for your thoughts in this article. You’ve prompted me to do more thinking.