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Your ethnicity is not "white" 

You may have been told that it is, but it is not. "White" is not an ethnicity.

White is a social construct. Our notion of "white people" is nothing more than an outdated concept, created for the purposes of oppression and division. The entire idea of race is no different, and stems from imperialism. It has no valid scientific basis whatsoever. It's divided humanity for centuries, and still does.

There are 87 distinct European ethnicities, like Basque, Faroese, Croat, and Dane. There is no single group called "white".

But you know what kind of people use terms like "ethnically white"? Nazis.

Breaking down "race" 

Race is a nonsensical concept at the best of times. The closer you look at it, the less sense it makes. Take the views of race in North America, for instance.

Like... Spanish people are considered POC but Italian people aren't. Spanish people are "Hispanic" which also includes some people from across the entire continent of South America, I guess? Chinese people are "Asian" but Indian people aren't. Iran is in Western Asia, but Iranians aren't "Asian" either. They're Middle Eastern, like Egyptians, even though Egypt is in Africa. "African" is used synonymously with Black. Zulu, Shona, and Igbo are all just "African". And "Mixed" can mean virtually anything in any combination.

I really look forward to the day when everyone can just agree that the whole concept of race is outdated imperialist garbage which serves no purpose in our society.

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On a personal note... 

I am "mixed". That's the grouping I usually get put into. Alone, this says nothing at all.

My family is from Singapore. It's a diverse place. I carry 4 ethnicities in my recent ancestry, and probably more if I look back further. Of those 4 ethnicities, 3 are from Asia but only two are typically considered "Asian". One is from Europe, but if I say I'm a quarter "European", many people would ask me to be more specific.

The whole thing is absurd.

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unlearning outdated concepts 

I guess what I'm saying is, maybe we should all try to get rid of the concept of race from our minds. All of us. Focus on ethnicity and culture. That feels like the most important part to me.

Maybe then we can unlearn outdated ideas based on skin colour and facial features. If we did, I think the world might feel a lot more comfortable. These things are only holding us back.

Leave those concepts with the white supremacists who love them so much. The rest of us deserve better.

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unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan
Speaking as a Malaysian, I'm sad to say that white supremacists aren't the only people whose social circles are embedded with outdated ideas on race and religion

Entire organisations and institutes in Malaysia have been pushing myths of racial superiority as truth. Even a racist preacher from India has been granted asylum and audiences in this country, the last I heard

and separating ethnicity from religion has been difficult since the religion received state power and was granted further enforcement abilities

But then there are whole histories and cans of worms to unpack with regards to one marketed-as-multiracial country alone

unlearning outdated concepts 

@flootist Sadly, you're quite right, these attitudes aren't restricted to western countries. India itself also has similar problems with Hindu-centric nationalism right now.

There's a lot of harmful stuff to try and unravel. And as you say, large scale institutions do uphold these harmful ideas. 😕

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan

I have heard wealthy, white people in the United States make statements like "we need to get rid of the concept of race from our minds" throughout my lifetime (I'm 50+), but never once has the person saying it been able to explain exactly what real-life steps could be taken to make that genuinely happen in white American culture.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@raye This is a matter which needs to be considered with some care, I think.

Because, coming from those people, it's more likely to be the problem of "race blindness". Which is just as bad as all those people who say that they "don't see race". It attempts to invalidate past injustices by wiping them away, while continuing to benefit from the systems which racial inequality has already put into place.

Which, I hasten to add, was not what I was trying to say at all!

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan

When it comes down to it, what we call 'race' is actually a really wild, active expression of 'i can tell just by looking that you are different,' and the ability to notice those differences was at work for thousands of years all over the planet, in every culture of every people, before we had a unified name for it.

That recognition of difference wasn't always a problem throughout history but it is regularly, and it has been noted by science that chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative on the planet, predominantly respond to outsiders entering their community by killing the unknown chimp(s) in fairly short order if they can't run them off.

We're trying to shift some stuff that's more hard-wired than we want to talk about as a species, and I agree we really don't take the care with it that it requires.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@raye This is very true. We may have evolved with these things because it was a survival strategy at one point to favour those of our own group and distrust others. And though it's safe to say, this hasn't been necessary to our survival for some time, we need to make more of an effort to move away from it.

Sadly, this kind of thinking is reinforced by our respective cultures. In western thinking, for example, there's a strong emphasis on dichotomies and us vs them attitudes. This kind of cultural reinforcement isn't necessarily true elsewhere. Unfortunately, colonialism spread attitudes like this too.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@raye @InvaderXan I don't want to get rid of race; I want to get rid of racism. Race is not a valid genetic concept, but that's not actually the problem. The problem is that people are often judged for the color of their skin. That has nothing to do with intelligence, honesty, etc. It's time to stop looking at skin color as anything other than a quirk in our gene pools, and absolutely not a defining characteristic.

Disclaimer: I'm "white" but nowhere near wealthy.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan Every time I get one of these questions about race for statistical purpose, I check “other” and add “I'm French, and racial statistics are not allowed in France”. It feels bad because I usually don't think with races, but such forms forces us to. Sometimes it's someone else who fills a form for me, and I can see that “white” has been checked. I usually don't complain because I know that such statistics can be of good use sometimes (like detecting biases in the hiring history of a company), but it just feel wrong to do it that way: these statistics can also be used in a terrible way 😕 It feels even wronger because I'm clearly not being oppressed because of my skin color or anything like that (my spouse has had a very different experience on that, for instance): I don't feel any confidence that this is actually the right thing to do.

All that to say that I fully agree with you: the “white race” is definitely not a thing and we have to unlearn this concept.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok Yeah, the corporate world forces us to put ourselves into boxes, and that never felt quite right to me. We often have no choice but to go along with it.

Incidentally, I had an ex (who was also mixed race) who did something similar with the forms – she'd tick "other" and write something like "not relevant".

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok @InvaderXan are racial statistics really disallowed in France?

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin I'm not a lawyer, but I think so. Races, religions, and possibly other things. At least in theory: every time a politician asks for one, there is a scandal because it breaks the law. There are ways to circumvent it, though: one of the known ways is to do statistics on names like Mohamed who are mainly given to people from a particular community.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin A source in French: liberation.fr/checknews/2018/0
It's forbidden to do any racial or ethnical statistics. A lot of right-wing politicians tried to remove or circumvent the interdiction, but the law is actually quite clear on that: they were judged as unconstitutional.

However, it is possible to get a special authorisation by the CNIL (the independent organism that ensure that laws about privacy are respected) in some specific situations.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok has this been beneficial for racial relations overall in your opinion?

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok I sometimes watch or read political news from USA news organisations, and they are ALWAYS doing racial polls.

They can never say "This person is the most popular at the moment" they have to say "... most popular with black voters while the other guy is more popular with white voters".

Even if there is only a few % points difference the issue always gets racialised.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok I say always. It's not always always, but very very often. Almost always.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin Wow. That's the kind of things that I would never had thought about 🙁 That's quite an impressive example of statistics trying to divide people by focusing on their differences 😢

A lot of polls in France are done at the national level, with no division. Sometimes a division by regions, or by city vs countryside. Official statistics are given by town. Rarely, an age différenciation is shown, but it is not frequent at all. I don't remember having seen any division by gender. And I definitely never saw a division by ethnicity (I'm not even sure what ethnicities would make sense in France: it's basically a country of bastards as every European army crossed the country at some stage of history 😅).

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok In the UK, age is a much bigger factor in how people vote than gender or ethnicity. I can't remember seeing a poll based on race or religion here. There may be some but not many.

why America isn't done talking about race 

@InternetKevin @MartinShadok Racism has been baked into American society and laws for its entire existence and deliberately used to confuse class interests. Poor white people are sold on the idea that "at least i'm better off than those blacks" so the rich whites can convince them that they have more in common along racial lines than class lines. Black americans still haven't recovered from segregation because the material impact is generational and ongoing.

And today, a) the con is still running, most of the news is owned by billionaires and corporations literally invested in maintaining existing economic relations, not challenging them, and b) you have to track the effects of racism in order to change racist policies. Political ideas are affected by race bc people of color are harmed more by a LOT of policies, so to find out what changes will actually help and why, you have to ask people of color.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin It's difficult to say. I think that overall it is a good thing.

I do think that it helped people not to think about ethnical origins. For instance, I was chocked the first time that I saw a US police TV show where a policeman described a guy by its gender and ethnical origin: this is just not the way I think of people 😕

In practice, the only politicians that want to break this law are anti-immigration: they are trying to look for excuses to close the border. So I guess that this law prevented them from getting too much power?

As a scientist, I however have this “more data can only be beneficial” way of thinking: preventing such statistics may prevent us from realising that there is a huge bias in a bunch of areas against some ethnicity without us even realising. Although I guess that we already are more than aware of some of these biases and don't do much to prevent them: it's unclear whether having the fact as precise data would change anything.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok yes it's fairly complex. Ideally I would like see the world abandon the whole concept of race. Unfortunately it's not possible to be aware of racial biases unless it is measured in some way.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin I fully agree. Sometimes statistics can be very useful.

By the way, there is quite a large taboo related to the word « race » in French (at least in France): using it basically makes the speaker racist in the eyes of the audience. There are equivalents (like ethnical origin), but they are not short/informal enough to be used in every day speech. This taboo possibly helped as much as this anti-statistics law.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok that is interesting, where did the taboo arise from? I guess there must have been various historical events that contributed to it.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin I'm not sure, but I would bet on the second world war. I do remember hearing in my history courses radio snippets from between the two world wars saying « Les congés payés contribuent à l'amélioration de la race française » (“payed leaves contribute to improve the French race”, with all the nationalism that we can guess behind that 😢): it wasn't a taboo back then. I remember quite precisely this particular sentence: it must have been a strong emotional realisation for me on how people tended to think back then.

Another good bet could be the terrible management of Algery? That was another moment in the history of France where they realised that colonialism really isn't the way to go.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok @InvaderXan this thread has completely changed my understanding of race and ethnicity.

I used to think of them as largely interchangeable terms, with ethnicity usually being at a more detailed level.

I now realize that they are fundamentally different. Your ethnicity is about how you self identify. Race, by contrast, as it is typically used, is a casual labelling system that allows anyone to be easily categorised at first glance

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok @InvaderXan it's not always easy to tell whether someone is Russian or Ukrainian, Indian or Sri Lankan, Trinidadian or Jamaican, Cambodian or Vietnamese. Those distinctions are very important to the individual but the concept of race as it is doesn't try to address that because it involves actually knowing the individuals in question.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@MartinShadok @InvaderXan I hope that this question doesn't offend anyone because I am only trying to get a better understanding of this issue. What is the correct racial term, if there is one, for an Israeli person? I appreciate that this is a little complicated.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin @MartinShadok @InvaderXan Israeli is a nationality, not really an ethnicity. Do you mean people who are citizens of Israel and/or Palestine? people who live there? people who have family history there before the formation of Israel (Palestinian people, who are mostly ethnically Arab)? Ethnically Jewish people in Israel?

unlearning outdated concepts 

@chillgamesh @MartinShadok @InvaderXan Well, (*takes deep breath*) people from Israel tend to be Jewish, which is an ethnoreligious group. Jewish is sometimes said to be a race, and sometimes not said to be. Israel is in the Middle East. Generally people from the middle east are described as middle Eastern. But that usually seems to apply only to ethically Arabian people. Israel is also part of Asia. Generally people from Asia...

ethnicity vs nationality vs geography 

@InternetKevin @chillgamesh
I feel like it's best to explain this with a slightly less contentious example. Consider people who live in Scotland.

Scotland is on the island of Great Britain, part of the country of the UK, which in turn is part of the continent of Europe.

Scots are an ethnic group, descended from celtic people with their own distinctive culture. They are also British by nationality, and European by geography. In this example, Scot is the ethnic identity. But that does not mean that everyone who lives in Scotland is a Scot. There are plenty of others who also live in Scotland.

Ethnicity is not the same as nationality or geography. The demographics of every country are more complicated than that.

ethnicity vs nationality vs geography 

@InvaderXan @chillgamesh yes they are different concepts but they are usually mixed together. I am half English and half Irish. When I have to fill in a form that asks me for my ethnicity I look for a "prefer not to say/ mind your own business" checkbox. But if that option is not there I say "White British" but that is only half right.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@chillgamesh @MartinShadok @InvaderXan so those are three options, but if I met say Benjamin Netanyahu somewhere and didn't know who he was or where he was from, and then someone asked me to state his race, I would just say "white"

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin @MartinShadok @InvaderXan That's my point, Israel was established in 1948 largely by European immigrants. They assimilated most Jewish Palestinians into citizenship, and excluded most Muslim Palestinians. A substantial proportion of Israelis today are first or second generation immigrants and not "ethnically" tied to the region the way Palestinians who have lived there for generations

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InternetKevin @MartinShadok @InvaderXan So it really does depend on what part of someone's identity you're talking about, to determine what would be the correct language to use.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan
I think it would be best to appeal to culture, because ethnicity itself can entertain physiological and aesthetic divisions, and because access to ethnic identity is not universal. I'm a bastard, I'll never have a clear ethnic identity, and I'll never be treated like I do in the United States. However, I am anchored culturally, and my cultural practices reflect my actions and values. I have much more control, license over that.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@banneret This is a fair point, though it's not so clear cut. Borderline cases like us can easily fall through the cracks.

I'm quite far removed from the culture of some of my ancestors. But am I any less Persian for having not grown up in Iran? Is Thai no longer part of my identity because I'm removed from the culture in Thailand?

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan
Is the culture of your ancestors more salient than the culture of your choice, your practice?

There is a more general problem of ethnic access. Genetic testing can't tell me where I came from at the level - I tried - and many people don't have the resources to do genetic testing or a genealogical trace. Even if they can, doing so exposes them to exploitation by corporations and governments.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@banneret
I think for many diaspora, yes, the culture of one's ancestors is very important. It can give a sense of identity, particularly when a lot of your local culture is determined to treat you as an outsider.

Though of course, knowing what that culture is can be another matter, particularly for those who were displaced for one reason or another.

Perhaps it comes down to a matter of individual choice, in this case.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan
I agree, it must all come down to individual choice. Most things do.

It just happens to be choice predicated on an opportunity that isn't universal, you know? That gave me pause, reflexively, but I know it is irrational - there isn't any getting around it, and everyone has to seek belonging with the resources they have.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@banneret I understand. It's never easy when you don't have all the choices that everyone else has. Ultimately, making the best of whatever we happen to have is what life is all about.

unlearning outdated concepts 

@InvaderXan I totally agree. I focus on decolonization, ethnicity, and culture. Being mixed myself with six or so ethnicities in recent ancestry mainly in Europe and North America... race is b.s. and has been used to condemn, dehumanize, and wholesale slaughter entire groups of people while also systematically destroying their cultures, languages, history, etc. The concept has got to go...

Breaking down "race" 

@InvaderXan hey full support for the message of this but I don't know where you got the idea that Spaniards are considered people of color anywhere, but, nope. in the USA "spanish" is sometimes used synonymously with "latin american", which might be what you're getting at here

Spaniards 

@melissasage Do you remember when Star Trek: Into Darkness was released? Everyone was up in arms about Benedict Cumberbatch being cast as Khan because he's white. There was a lot of discussion about how the original actor for Khan, Ricardo Montalbán, was much better because he was a "Man of Color". Even John Cho said this in an interview.

Montalbán was born in Mexico, but his parents were both from Spain. Ethnically, he was Spanish.

Both actors were of European ethnicities, but one was considered POC purely because of where he was born. My point is that the definition is incredibly flimsy.

Spaniards 

@InvaderXan oh hot damn i didn't know that. nvm. that's really something alright

Spaniards 

@melissasage It's understandable TBH, things like this are easily missed.

Spaniards 

@InvaderXan @melissasage even if Montalban weren't a full-on Spaniard, I'm not sure what makes a Hispanic actor cast as a South Asian character named Khan Singh more authentic than an English guy

Spaniards 

@InvaderXan @melissasage I don't think I'll ever forget that tumblr post where some american said "it's not like there's a place called 'Spania' where ppl speak Spanish"

Spaniards 

@DeltaFlood @melissasage Oh gods, I remember seeing that too. Major facepalms.

Spaniards 

@melissasage @DeltaFlood @InvaderXan a peek into the timeline where we sunk spain for its crimes

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