Thursday, August 2, 2007

Difference is in your dreadlocks?

I'm looking for interesting websites, and I run across this blog on race. It's not updated, but I still browse it, to see what people have been talking about. This one totally gets me:
White. People. Should. Not Wear. Dreads.
...It is not an expression of the unity of all mankind.
It is not getting back to the most natural state of things.
It is not any of these things, because you make them look dirty. You take it as an excuse not to bathe, as if there is no water in Africa, or Jamaica. You take it as an excuse to appropriate a culture you probably know next to nothing about, so you can look liberal, socially conscious, politically aware. You don't look liberal. You look stupid...

The post got 46 comments (while most of the others got some 7-10 comments). People reacted in various ways. But what puzzles me is how a particular way of understanding difference in relation to ethnicity/ race permeates this post. To each race, its hairstyle. When we see difference, we see it in racial terms. We see it in national terms. It is this juxtaposition of difference and race within the context of racism that I find simultaneously repugnant and dangerous. It may be the case that race has no meaning nowdays except in relation to racism, which - we need to be reminded - has not always been the case in human history.

2 comments:

Alex said...

You said

"When we see difference, we see it in racial terms. We see it in national terms. It is this juxtaposition of difference and race within the context of racism that I find simultaneously repugnant and dangerous."

Interesting idea, it should be developed. I will try to clarify it , see if I got it right. So, you're bothered by the fact that when we perceive people that are different (and here you need to clarify - different from ourselves, or different with respect to the norm? - they're not the same) we attribute these differences to their belonging to a certain group (by group I mean gender, nation, abilities, race; really, any property that can generate groups in an interesting sociological sense). For example if I see an Asian guy solving a Rubicon cube in a mall in less than one minute, I say to myself: "Of course he can do that, he's Asian!" thinking at the same time that Asians are smart(er?). So what I've done is to see a difference (that guy's outstanding ability to solve the Rubicon cube) not merely as a difference - hence isolated from other facts -, but as something related to his race. Or, as you put it, I fall prey to the "juxtaposition of difference and race", which you find simultaneously repugnant and dangerous. Is this what you mean?

About me said...

hm, never invite a philosopher on your blog ;) i guess i accept the fact that we are all different from each other, but i question the way in which we are grouped by racial or national or ethnic or religious etc. lines. or, to put it in other words, i have an issue with seeing the difference (e.g. shape of the eyes or spitting on the street) in terms of national/ racial/ ethnic belonging. i think you got it right anyway.

 
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