In my sociology class we watched a video called The House We Live In, and it claims that contrary to popular belief, race does not exist. While it may not exist in the biologically scientific sense of the term, it does exist in a sociocultural sense. Why? Because the people of our world have made it real, and therefore, race cannot be cast out as a fictional concept. The same argument could also be applied to the question of the existence of the Gods of religious faiths. If the Christian/Jewish God, the Islamic Allah, or the Hindu Devas/Devis are not biologically real, then do they really exist? Science cannot disprove the existence of a higher power, nor can it disprove the existence of the social and political concept of race, so we are at an impasse of sorts.
An interesting theory in quantum mechanics, describes this predicament perfectly: quantum indeterminacy or more commonly known as Schrödinger’s Cat (if you watch Big Bang Theory, you know all about this). Suppose a cat is inclosed in a box with a vial of radioactive poison. This vial is programed in such a way that it will randomly be broken, releasing the poison which will kill the cat. Because there is no way for us to know, without opening the box, when or if the poison will be released and thus killing the cat, the cat can be thought of as both dead and alive at the same time. If we apply this same concept to race, we can assume that race is both real and not real at the same time.
So where did race come from then? And why do we think the way we do about the different races? I used quantum mechanics to explain the existence of race, now I’m going use behavioral Psychology to explain why people still think the way they do about race. Take, for instance, Pavlov’s Dog. Show a dog a full food bowl (the unconditioned stimulus), and it will salivate in anticipation of eating the food (the unconditioned reaction). To reward the dog for salivating, we then give him the food. Next, we add the ding of a bell (the conditioned stimulus) along with the sight of the food, until the dog associates the sound with the food (conditioned response). Now the dog only has to hear the ding of the bell to salivate whether he gets any food or not. We are the dog in this scenario. The government and the media are the “scientists”, and they used the unconditioned stimulus of poverty, violence, un-intelligence, and ignorance paired with the race they wanted to repress to condition our responses and reactions to people of that race.
This is where things get sticky. Starting from the beginning of our written history up to our modern day leaders, human governments have taken it upon themselves to define race. Changing their minds as new threats allegedly arose that would negatively impact the control and the power and the wealth they coveted. Meticulously ranking each racial group in order of their own chauvinistic importance and perceived intelligence of others to secure their foot holds on thrones, in the pulpit, atop the judicial bench, or in oval offices. Our very own governments have given us the tools that encourage and facilitate racism with laws and policies determining who gets what, how much they get, and when they get it. And because of these laws, we think that it is OK for this to happen.
Who are we to judge what makes some people better than others based on the color of their skin? Who are we to say what religions and cultures are considered “good” religions and cultures? Who are we to justify the actions of previous leaders because they punished people for being different using these supposed classifications of race? Things are the way they are today because someone somewhere at some point decided that’s they way things were going to be, and no one challenged him (I am going to say “him” because let’s face it, white men started this whole thing) because he had wealth and power. And ever since then we have been conditioned by our leaders and the media to see race in a negative light, and to use stereotypes to make judgements about people without knowing them personally.
I think the bigger question the video is addressing is not surrounding scientific aspect of the existence of race, but the moral and ethical aspects of race. Not “does race exist?”, but “should race exist?” In my opinion, yes. The collection of racial demographics is important information for tracking purposes especially when it is pertaining to medical reasons, population censuses, and sometimes for cultural or historical documentation. This leads me to believe that mere existence of race is not the real issue, because it is only when race is used as a discriminatory factor against some and/or in favor of others that it becomes a problem, in other words, racism is the issue. Racism, and not just the existence of race, is the problem we, as a people, need to tackle.
What do you think? Should race exist?