I remember when my father explained to me that my Cousin Jake had been adopted. You’d think, due to Jake’s dark skin tone, I would have questioned the ability of my pale aunt and uncle to produce such a baby. But Jake had always been “Cousin Jake”, his chemistry with his relatives, his sarcastic humor and playful personality made it hard to believe that he could belong to any family but our own.
His “race” wasn’t a factor deterring his ability to fill a role as son and cousin — so what is the importance of race? This is the influence the exhibit had on my perception; I began to question the need for this categorization’s existence.
One station of the Race exhibit surprised me, explaining: if babies are placed with families of a different cultural background — for example, a baby boy is adopted from Africa and brought to the United States — this newborn will construct the cultural framework of this new culture; he will adapt the same ethics, morals, social normalcies of those around him. Again, I question, what is the need to classify him by Race, if this native heredity has become largely foreign to him?
Before visiting the exhibit, I believed discrimination was rapidly diminishing — becoming more a sense of pride within communities than a product of prejudice. But as one station pointed out: the tone of Jake’s voice may roadblock him from procuring opportunities. The strong, deep tremor of his tone will ward off landlords and managers seeking fresh employees; a few words and they often know he is African American by descent and his likelihood for the job could vanish.
Today, so many grow-up surrounded by a society of a different native descent, a culture they come to identify with and call their own. “Race”, now, equates to me as a somewhat prehistoric, dated term.
While the census can deter discrimination by maintaining businesses to a standard of anti-prejudice based on race, it seems to continue to do more harm by impressing the point that separation of race is important. The census is clearly confused, switching between terms to classify and separate. This is a clear indicator: there is no “correct” manner of division. Especially in this era, as cultures continue to mesh—and people, to move.
Why press importance on difference? Why not be considered as one Race. Jake, it is only important to know as you begin to know him, is of one race, similar to yours: homo sapien, human.
But now there are two evils to be fought. How can we hold the world accountable for its discrimination without classifying and counting—but how can we, in good faith, continue this separation?