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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Race is not so easily defined

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Letter to the Editor

My current understanding is that my ancestry consists of Native American and European roots. If I can qualify for Native American benefits, can I identify as a Native American with my pale skin? What arbitrary percentage or skin tone allows me to socially identify as Native American? What arbitrary number was used against the former NAACP leader who had white skin but identified as an African American? The short answer is that there isn’t one. Race is a made up idea.

Many would disagree and account race as a way of identifying those of different skin color or cultural background. I would inform them that ethnicity is the term used to identify cultural backgrounds, and that race has no correlation to skin color. Let’s look to history. The Irish, who have even paler skin than the average American, were considered outsiders, job thieves, and a lower class than Whites, therefore were classified as a nonwhite race. The Irish were an example of race being used to categorize classes. Have we not heard the false slogan “they are taking our jobs” recently? Another example would be the Jewish population. Jews are a religious group, why are they placed in their own race?

My children will have Native American, European, and Hispanic ancestry, and their skin a light olive. How will they identify? How will society categorize them? What will make them Hispanic or White? Why am I White and not Native American? What arbitrary system places us in race categories? Race is constructed by man and bears no significance other than to divide.

Our generation is redefining gender through science and social understanding. Let’s redefine race, however, let’s not be colorblind. We must stay aware of the different experiences of different skin colors and learn from them. This understanding will help Whites become aware of the invisible role race plays in society via institutional racism.

Redefine race. We are the human race. Treat racial stereotypes as blasphemy. The actions of one person do not define the character of an entire people. Take time to learn about other’s experiences, because two people can experience the same thing, yet have different reactions.