The Making of Race


Mongoloid, Caucasoid, Negroid: Whatever!

Cut by: Davita Cuttita

We’ve heard all the terms before either Scientifically, politely or in some sort of racial slur.

Mongoloid, Caucasoid, Negroid. All sounds kinda like “hemorrhoid” to me.

I watch a lot of Malcolm X clips and speeches and in one speech to the African American community, he asked “Who Are You?”. He asked where our true histories, mother tongues, sense of self worth and beauty have gone—he also asked who was responsible for taking them—and even destroying them–in the first place. Take a wild guess, Sherlock.

Because after all that is gone, all that’s left is the colour of your skin and physical features. Is that enough to define your race? Is that all it means to be Black, Asian, White, Indian or Latino? Don’t think so.

If you think about it hard enough, it’s evident that somewhere along the way though; somebody decided that simply calling things as they see it (brown skin, straight nose, etc) just wasn’t good enough. Everything had to be grouped.

So then we get race.

What is race and where did it come from? Who, what, when, where and why? How?

The other day I was at a post-Obama Inuguration/friend’s birthday party and I met a really interesting guy from Africa. The party was definitely a patchwork; if we were all wearing suits you might think it was a UN meeting. Everyone was all joyous about the Bless’ed President Obama-Rama making it to office as the first Black man, toasting champagne and gorging ourselves on food as debates raged on between friends on his policies and past assassination attempts. Debates on how fashionable his familiy’s clothes were, how good his speech was or how late he’d stay up that night attending inagural balls. Debates about race.

One guy who’d recently arrived from Africa had something very interesting to offer to our conversation, speculation and joking:

“You’re all so lost,” he said.

“Where I come from, people do not refer to eachother by race.”

We looked around in awkward silence.

“Well…” I said cautiously, “What do they call you?”

“A man,” he replied with stern dignity. He continued.

“When I came here, I never called myself or thought of myself as a Black man. I just thought of myself as a man from Africa. I cannot tell some Black people these things, they get mad at me and I am the one from Africa! I tried to avoid it because I am a man but my skin is what they call ‘Black’ here. However, it is a trap to come here [Canada] because if you do not buy into this idea of race, this idea that you must be Black or whatever, you will not survive. So after a while I just gave up because no one understands.”

I’ve really been thinking hard on his words eversince about what race is and as far as I’m concerned, it really is a social construct that somehow, has been associated with one’s skin colour and physical characteristics. It serves no particular purpose or benefit and is a relatively new concept. Race as we know it has only been around for about 300 years.

It’s an insane concept that makes little to no sense scientifically; a practical joke that instead of laughing at or side-eyeing, we got serious about.

I wonder what Black people used to call themselves because from all the historical accounts I’ve found thus far, Black people did not describe themselves as Black and all origins of the word “Negro” or concept of “Black” in regards to race have European roots and that is extremely disturbing to me. It gives the impression—or reveals the truth—that we did not define ourselves this way but were instead defined by others who initially; didn’t even like us based solely upon the characteristics they’re defining us upon.

It’s like going to get a name change and having someone that hates you or thinks you’re “eerie” fill out all the paperwork without your consent.

While we’re on the subject, when did Asian people start calling themselves Asian? When did Latinos start calling themselves Latinos? When did Indian people start calling themselves Indian? And so forth for the Natives, Mulattos and yes, even for the Whites. Because they didn’t originally define themselves that way.

The rabbit hole goes deeper! SCIENCE, CUE THE SCIENCE!!

Scientifically speaking, people can appear completely different on the outside (Black, Asian, etc) but genetically relate to Europeans! There are even more variations: naturally blonde-haired Blacks, blue-eyed Asians, where does one draw the line? You can’t; human genetic variation quite simply won’t allow you to.  Those people aren’t mixed some of the time. Their genes just decided to be different.

Also, if someone has a rare genetic variation for their group such as the aforementioned; or even to the point where they do not resemble their race physically; are they still a part of that race?

So, SCI-EN-TI-FI-CALLY speaking, skin colour and facial features being 100% definitive in what determines race is complete nonsense and fairy dust covered in unicorn piss. Race, quite simply, is not 100% physical.

Some people may want to argue with this and say that each race is more prone to get certain ailments or diseases more than others and I’m going to tell you now that while a bit of this may be genetic, the fact of the matter is that it has 50x more to do with thousands upon thousands of years of conditioning and evolution. Oooh! More spooky science, coming to fuck up your shit!! Science is so O.G.

Let’s take milk for example. Globally, the number of Coloured People who are lactose intolerant is significantly higher than those of European decent. Using your science, would you say this is so because:

A. The person is quite simply, the wrong colour! We all know humans digest food using their skin.

B. These groups of people or, “race”, for argument’s sake; did not incorporate milk regularly into their diets for thousands of years (unlike their European friends) so they’re systems are still adjusting or “conditioning” as some other non-White ethnicities who’ve also taken to consuming milk hundreds of years ago are also just as accustomed to consuming it, sans intolerance; much like the Europeans.

We can even get lazy and super-impose this science onto a whole bunch of other stuff; like smallpox. If the body hasn’t adapted to something yet, it’s not going to react well but in time, it may be able to build up a resistance.

Let’s grab some history to join the science now, shall we?

If you look back historically, people were never really referenced by race because the concept of race as we know it wasn’t even invented until the 1700s. Yes, it was fucking INVENTED. By a series of White scholars during slavery, colonialism and Europeans going around the world and freaking out at people that looked differently, behaved differently or even worshipping differently (hundreds of years beforehand though, those same freak-outs even included other so-called “Caucasoids”. Look it up!).

I will empty out all the millions of billions of shiny, internet dollars in my account for anyone who can find a historical document between the beginning of time until the 17th century that says anything along the lines of “Shakesphere, you know, the White guy” or otherwise for any other ethnicity.

The concept, quite simply; didn’t exist.

Before then, how were you called?

You were just named after whatever you did, what your ancestors did or where you were from. Some cultures even used your father’s first name or mix both your mother and father’s first names to make a “last name”.

So what is race? Lemme tell ya…

I have a friend who speaks, reads, writes and cooks Japanese: so does her entire family. Open up a passport and it’ll say they’re Japanese citizens. She grew up in Japan, went to school in Japan and has friends that are Japanese. She behaves and speaks according to what is socially acceptable in Japan.

Now you might say “OK. That sounds like a Japanese person.”

My friend and her whole family are Black. So what—is she Black or Japanese?

Is her race Black but her culture Japanese? What does that even mean?! My head hurts!!

According to the first concepts of race, she’d qualify as Japanese because race as defined in those terms, wasn’t about your appearance at all. It was purely based upon what society you grew up in and your adaption to its cultural norms.

Does anybody else feel a bit ripped off or even deceived here? Don’t worry; if you’re smelling shit right now you’re not going crazy it’s just what they filled the rabbit hole with in hopes that it’d deter us from coming down here.

So how do we get out? “Come with me if you want to live!”

Meanwhile I’m on this debunking tirade, I must also emphasize that I don’t want anyone thinking now we can cast off and not work towards racial harmony or try to serande me with that “being Colourblind” bullshit. You being Colourblind cannot, has never and never will ever help to alleviate racism or make things better for anybody but your dog-vision having self, so please, blow it out your ass. Not seeing my skin colour, why? What’s wrong with it? Why do you have to purposely ignore a part of my identity as a human being? I went through a lot of trouble for having this skin colour, lemme tell ya. If these pores could talk! I can’t be colourblind, I tried once when I was little but it said “White Only, nigger!” and promptly slammed the door in my face. If I can’t see colours then I’m just denying the truth. Colours are awesome, they make the world pretty–they make ME pretty!!

Finally: What is race?

Your race is MORE than what’s on the outside and when we forget that, that’s when we lose ourselves and start hating eachother. That’s when we go into colour-denial and annoy all the wonderful people we meet that don’t look like us. We’ve been tricked into believing that race is 100% outside and nothing more. The trick believes that all of our actions and feelings are based solely upon our melanin levels and I’m sick and tired of it causing riots, getting people killed and making little coloured children cry.

The point of this post was to prove those shitty, racist scholars wrong and give them a post-mortem finger for helping to ruin this world with their vile hate disguised as research not only for us, but for all those who’ve suffered because of it for hundreds of years.

Let’s review:

–The concept of race (emphasis on the word concept) was invented by racist White people during slavery and colonization. Probably in fear or in denial of hot sex with foreigners resulting in…more people?

–By all scientific, historical and linguistic standards; our definition of race doesn’t even exist nor is it reasonable to define someone or even a group of people based purely on appearance alone as physical variations and genetics skew and even debunk this. (i.e. Someone can look Black but genetically, be White)

–Race, as most people are prone to define it these days; is mainly based on social and cultural norms (ex: White Jamaicans, Black Japanese, Indian German, etc).

–Remember: Race is what you DO. You are NOT the skin colour or features most commonly found in a particular region or group of peoples. Race is HOW you are, not what.

So y’know, let’s fuck over those White, racist scholars and be whatever Black, White, Asian, Indian or Latino according to whatever we feel like or wherever we are but be ourselves at the exact same time. Pick a team (or two) and play hard. We’re more than our skin colour so relax.

We’re all from Africa anyway.

Happy Black History Month!


~ by davitacuttita on February 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “The Making of Race”

  1. My major in college (where, granted, i only spent two years of my life) was anthropology/archaeology. I had a prof who said that you could never be more distantly related to someone than their 52nd cousin. I thought that was kind of neat – partly because i come from such a small family, and partly because it’s just neat to think about.

    My own family tree is relatively “boring”, except for one branch. If you go up that one branch, i have ancestors who lived in the Ukraine. So am i part Ukrainian? Yes, but they were Jewish Ukrainians. But they’re from my father’s father, so by most Jewish traditions, i’m not Jewish in any way, shape or form. But previous conversations with Ukrainian-Americans indicated that they wouldn’t really consider me to have true Ukrainian heritage, either – because my ancestors were Jewish.

    I really think that people in America (specifically, in the USA) are some of the worst offenders when it comes to these sorts of issues. So many of our ancestors came here in hopes of finding a place where they all fit in (or could carve out their own niche), and it’s become so diversified that we don’t know how to self-identifty – let alone how to identify others. “We’re Americans!” …but so are people in Mexico – they’re in South America, right? “Okay, so we’re North Americans!” …but so are people in Canada. Except the Canadians i’ve known usually prefer to be called Canadians (can’t say i blame them). But what are we Americans going to call ourselves, if “American” doesn’t technically mean all that much?

    (Then again, i could be really overthinking this, given that “Asian” means Japanese, Chinese, Korean… but not Russia! Even though Russia is on part of the Asian continent. I can’t imagine the insanity that would come from me telling people i have Asian heritage.)

    So then we have to break it down by looks and “most obvious” heritage. So all people with dark brown skin are African Americans, right? Well, what about dark skinned people from Jamaica, the Middle East, or Australia? And hell, what do we call people who were living in America before Columbus? Native Americans or American Indians? (I’ve heard most people say that the former was more correct, but my old roommate and his family on the rez preferred the latter.) Or are we supposed to think of them by their individual heritage? And at that point, are we supposed to use our “Americanized” spellings? Is my old roommate Tsalagi or Cherokee?

    It gets so frustrating and confusing, it makes me think back to my old archaeology prof, who swore up and down that there was no such thing as “race” (all humans can technically breed amongst themselves, and different coloration is not indicative of anything more than species diversity).

    … But he was white. And American.

    *head asplodey*

  2. Hi Lindsay!

    In regards to your comment, YES; my sentiments exactly. Once we really sit down and start to dissect this race thing, it’s worse than putting furniture together with instructions written in Sanskrit.

    That’s why the only LOGICAL conclusion by any standard according to whatever scientifical and historical evidence I’ve found is that it’s just a word gone horrendously wrong semiotics-wise. To reiterate, race isn’t really physical–it’s HOW you exist not WHAT your existence is.

    Glad the post got your noodle boilin’. ^_~

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