With the recent increase in folks’ throwing shade and swastikas on other people’s ethnicities, I thought I’d take a moment to remind us all that racial purity is as fictional as Draco Malfoy. Here are four reasons why race categories don’t mean what you think they do. There are No Clear Racial Divides: Like water, human genetics flow around the world, sometimes pooling up in isolated places but never really disconnected from everyone else. American genetics are no different. If there are pools of particularly briny water, or mosquito-laden water, or salt-free water, it’s because that water has been temporarily isolated from the free flow of water around the world. It is never completely disconnected, and it is never completely pure. Even the clearest flowing natural spring water has … [Read more...]
Casual Racism and the Problem of White Identity
My family is super white. We love brunch at IKEA, we have varying relationships with rhythm, and we feel slightly guilty about everything. Aside from our penchant for recording artists like Taylor Swift and John Mayer, however, our whiteness is hard to define. It is the great unmarked ethnicity, looming large but vague over more discernible ethnic identities. It is the lurking nature of white identity that makes it so oblivious to the oppressions and discriminations faced by other races. It’s what makes it so easy for us to inadvertently perpetuate them. And it’s what often pushes us in dangerous directions when we seek to define and celebrate whiteness. Indeed, the greatest sign of our whiteness is perhaps the fact that we are perpetually surprised by racism, even when it’s our … [Read more...]
The relevANTH Guide to Choosing a Culturally Sensitive Halloween Costume
It's that time of year again, when millions of Americans hit the streets dressed as terrifying celebrities, food items, and ethically questionable depictions of others' cultural groups. To prevent West Side Story-like brawls this Halloween, and to save you from seeing the looks of horror in your neighbors' eyes when they open the door and realize you and/or your children have absolutely no moral compass, here's a quick guide to how to judge if your costume is culturally appropriate or whether you need to dig out some cardboard from the basement and get to work on some sad, last-minute, duct-taped robot costume. And as a special seasonal service, feel free to post photos of your costumes on Twitter (@relevANTH_com) and I'll give my expert anthropological opinion on how offensive it is, … [Read more...]
There was “no racism before Obama”. Wait, what now?
Welcome to the (sur)reality that is the American election of 2016. The latest in a series of Perplexing Statements that People Believe Despite Immeasurable Evidence to the Contrary was uttered by an Ohio Trump campaign chair, Kathy Miller: “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this.” Miller, who has since resigned, went on to paint a picture of a nation whose streets were paved with gold, and whose history was as accurate and factual as that of the land of Oz: “If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” she said. “You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. … [Read more...]