When analyzing what sakes that category of race one must consider what the markers are that set up that concept. Markers are what essentially make a category of Identity known in the way one may use it to categorize others. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the existence of the markers of identity and why they are important in the creation of race. Specifically, the marker of skin color has been utilized as a determinant of race and that is the primary basis for judgment we rely on to assign race. For that reason, it is imperative to critique the basis for this marker and its objective.
It is said that skin lour marks race, yet It Is Invalid because Its basis on perception Is arbitrary since visible traits can obscure identities. To begin, the marker of skin color as an intelligible marker of race lies on the idea that physical traits are able to determine one’s racial Identity. This comes with the assumption that one is able to define who another being at first glance based on their skin color. More specifically, when considering what race is one may question who constructed the concept and why they considered skin color as a reliable main marker of race.
One answer may be that it is the most visible and easiest to point out. As Anthropologist professor Audrey Smelled says in ” ‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity,” that race “brought about a subtle but powerful transformation In the world’s perceptions of human differences… It imposed social meanings on physical variations among human groups that served as the basis for structuring the whole society” (49). In other words, Smelled says that the identification of identity through perception was what ultimately promoted the concept of race.
Perception is not ultimately true and at most can be a matter of position and interpretation. If meeting Is visibly different It does not guarantee that they are similar In another context. Yet by using skin color as an indicator of race it is easily forgotten that there will always be difference in nature and physical differences are part of it. More specifically, one must analyze the unreliability behind the marker of skin color. In earlier times the proposed racial categories generally fell within black or white but even with two dichotomous categories, what falls within them can be arbitrary.
Basing race on skin Is not reliable since skin colors can vary from different parts of the world. Particularly, in “Science and Race,” Anthropologist Jonathan Marks says that “dividing human populations into a small number of discrete groups results not natural” (163). Marks also says that natural selection proves contrary to skin color being a determinant of race because people of different areas adapt to their environment and that is why there is difference in skin tone throughout the world. In other words, skin color is a not a reliable marker because it can be argued that skin color is a fact of environment.
Additionally, individuals can carry multiple races in their genes and only appear as belonging to one. Just by perception one cannot definitely know if an individual may carry multiple ethnic bloods based on their skin color and that is why constructing the category of race on skin color can be arbitrary. Additionally, the marker of skin color has been thought as to reveal a racial identity yet skin color is not a representation of those with multiple nationalities. Those who created the concept of race did not rely on miscegenation among races and the difference that it imposed on skin color.
Specifically that most people can have multiple “races” present in their blood. With the mixture of races, lies the flaw that ace is merely a cultural phenomenon rather than the common belief that race is biological. As Smelled says ” what prevents us from understanding [that culture is learned] is that [the] component in the ideology of ‘race,’ as we have seen, that holds that each race has separate , biologically determined patterns of cultural behavior” (53). Therefore, the confusion between race and skin being regarded as biological is incorrect because it is a cultural construction.
Cultural values are often overlooked as being responsible for one’s reactions towards using skin color as an indicator of race. Equally important, the relationship between the markers of skin color who are thought to determine racial identity lie on one another, without one the other would dissolve. In general, skin color has been taught to be the indicator of how we categorize people, particularly in American culture one can see that this idea of placing emphasis on skin color to group ourselves has stood for a while because we have believed it to be true.
Part of the construction of skin color is that it playa a large part in our culture already. Such as the implementation of the one-drop rule being eased as a way of prohibiting miscegenation between whites in blacks in America. In “Who is Black? One Nation’s Definition,” Sociologist James Davis contends that “because blacks are define according to the one-drop rule, they are a socially constructed category in which there is a wide variation in racial traits and therefore not a race group in the scientific sense” (63).
Inclusively, the United State Census has also used skin color to determine the population’s demographics; however, it was only until much recently that they began to consider ethnicity over skin color. If the indicator of skin color were not present as to determine who is what then we would not see the color of skin but rather language or geographical location as to determine identity. The relationship merely lies on physical attributes that the marker makes us do and what it culturally influences us to do.
Davis suggests that “the race of an individual cannot be determined with scientific accuracy… [but] that ‘individual race designations are purely social and cultural perceptions” (61). In essence, it is the cultural emphasis and collective agreement that skin color is the indicator of racial identity that contributes to its construction and in effect that makes it a powerful but illegitimate marker. Evaluate on how it is experienced at a minor and major perspective.
From a minor standpoint, an individual can experience the marker of skin color as negative if they are placed at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, such as how the darker skin color has been often referred as being minor compared to those with fair skin tones. However on the grand scale, one can point out that skin color has an effect on how people of different skin color are either pushed to a geographical location or grouped as such. Inclusively the marker of skin color has been established as a means of displacing similarities between people but rather intensify their differences.
The experience that accompanies the groups on the minor scale have been treated with much more punitive difference than those thought to be known as superior. In “Whiteness as an ‘Unmarked’ Cultural Category,” American studies professor Ruth Brandenburg asserts that “thinking about ‘difference’ expresses clearly the double- edged sword of a color and power-evasive repertoire, apparently valorize cultural difference but doing so in a way that leaves racial and cultural hierarchies intact” (90).
Not only does skin color institute discrimination but it maintains it throughout the cultural spectrum since it is largely focused on the differences and ignores similarities. In previous times the concept of race has been learned as being a fact of nature, however, we can see now that race is part of a social construction with the marker of skin color standing as its evidence. Something so arbitrary like skin tone is not a valid determinant of how to categorize people since it has been used as a means of rationalizing the privileged position of those on top of the racial hierarchy.