Race Is Real

Race, should it even be considered real? According to Ijeoma Oluo’s 2018 publication So You Want to Talk About Race, she addresses the idea of race having no meaning in terms of science, but still “[being] alive”(Oluo 11) in todays economic and societal systems. This ideology is also supported in John Biewen’s podcast series Seeing White, while he talks with REI advocator Suzanne Plihcik.

While talking with Plihcik on his podcast, Biewen plays a clip of her presenting at a Racial Equity Inclusion workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina. She makes the interesting claim “there is more genetic variation within groups that have come to be called races than there is across groups that have come to be called races”(Biewen Seeing White). Plihcik then points at the crowd and states it is statistically more likely that she shares a closer genetic relation to a black man in the crowd than a white woman. This statistic helps shatter what we think we know about how race is categorized in society. It is so common for people to group others based off of appearance alone, and in regards to race skin color plays a crucial part in these groupings. But so what? The varying levels of melanin in skin is an easy thing to sort since color is easy to see. The problem lies when some of these sorted groups are perceived as being less or more “dangerous” than other groups. Plihcik makes the claim that anthropologists have now started to consider race as “anthropological nonsense” (Biewen Seeing White), but this does not mean it doesn’t exist, doesn’t affect the lives of millions of people, and mostly importantly it doesn’t give any justification for race to be a subject brushed under the rug. 

Oluo also addresses this issue of race being a very real reality especially for black and brown people in America. She makes the bold claim that race “was invented to lock people of color into the bottom of [a racially exploitative economic system”(Oluo 12). Thisconnects back to the history shared in Biewen’s podcast where they explained racially discrimination for those not considered white Christians was a westernized concept. Western civilizations purposefully enslaved people with the mindset the were “less human” by the color of their skin and religious affiliation. This has manifested itself into the disadvantages experienced by POC’s today. Not being able to acquire jobs on the basis of their names, being seen are more violent or scary without having committed any crime, which in turn leads to them being targeted.

Both Oluo and Biewen aim to shed some light on how past categorizations of race have affected modern views on the subject. They help us understand how history has influenced the underlying forms of racial oppression and discrimination towards black and brown people in our society, that put millions at a disadvantage for opportunities. 

Work Cited:

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.

Biewen, John, host. “Turning the Lens.” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 15 Feb 2017.

One thought on “Race Is Real

  1. The ideas you center your post about, “is race real” parallels with one of the points I also make in my post, “acknowledging race..”. One of the most effective moves you make is by acknowledging that race is economically and socially real which overlaps with the point I made. Deeper analysis of this shows that in today’s “societal systems” as you speak on, even though there is a lack in genetic differences, the categorizing of people based of skin color is what creates “differences”(Biewen Seeing White). This analysis diverges from mine because it goes deeper into understanding the scientific history of race or lack of, and what truly brings about racial categorizing. Another alternative implications from the one you stated is that this creates disadvantages for minorities in terms of class because the government historically has put legal policies like The Jim Crow Laws that subsequently disadvantage minorities and their opportunities to make legal money. The question I raise based of America’s racially intense history is and the argument of your post is, do we need laws or policies such as Affirmative action to digress from the racial stigma put on blacks or will that cause “reverse racism? Is reverse racism real? And how do we have conversations when it gets thrown around as the defense against affirmative action? I do not think reverse racism is real and affirmative action helps to digress from historical wrong doings.

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