A strange category, race.
Here's my attempt to explicitly outline a rather implicit logic that constitutes the category of race in modern times:
1. Visible marks on our body, such as color, shape of nose, pattern of hair, eyes, etc., could be intuitively grouped into categories of appearance.
2. Each category of appearance is known to have its origin in a geographically distinct area, inhabited by homogeneous, discrete population.
3. Whereas each origin provides its own special background for the evolution of its inhabitants, different origins entail the origination of essentially different kinds of populations.
4. The perceived variations in visible appearances among kinds of humans are indicative of deeper differences in their nature, that is, invisible, mental characteristics such as intelligence and morality.
Loaded with "scientific knowledge", the category of race facilitates a logical implication from appearance to essential nature. A movement from the skin to the soul.
Psychologically speaking, our inside is internalizing the society's view of our color. That's how in some way the soul could be painted in the skin's color. Given such logic, the question of race could be put in phenomenological terms: how does our skin color reflect on us inwardly?
In Black Skin, White Masks, published in postwar France, Frantz Fanon investigates the lived experience of race. In this emotionally and intellectually charged text Fanon exposes the sickness inflicted on blacks by the contact with the colonizing white West. Fanon spares no criticism from the Africans nor the Europeans, and from a Freudian therapeutic standpoint pursues a phenomenology of being black as a necessary stage for the cure:
"I move slowly in the world, accustomed now to seek no longer for upheaval. I progress by crawling. And already I am being dissected under white eyes, the only real eyes. I am fixed. Having adjusted their microtomes, they objectively cut away slices of my reality. I am laid bare. I feel, I see in those white faces that it is not a new man who has come in, but a new kind of man, a new genus. Why, it’s a Negro!
I slip into corners, and my long antennae pick up the catchphrases strewn over the surface of things - nigger underwear smells of nigger - nigger teeth are white - nigger feet are big - the nigger’s barrel chest - I slip into corners, I remain silent, I strive for anonymity, for invisibility. Look, I will accept the lot, as long as no one notices me!"
Questions to ponder:
* Can we talk about race without inevitably admitting the category's existence? What type of existence then should be ascribed to it?
* Can the category of race be treated in the broader context of identity - one among many others? How different, if at all, is the over-determination imposed by racial identification compared to the ones imposed by other dimensions of identity, such as gender or age?
* We apply racist judgments without hesitation when it comes to breeds of animals. Though they all belong to the same species, the breed of the Labrador is said to be smarter than the Cocker Spaniel, the Amstaff is considered to have a hotter temper than the San Bernard, and so on and so forth. Is our intuition racial?
* What would Fanon have to say about plastic transformation of one's appearance, had he lived to witness this growing trend in the last few decades? Michael Jackson could serve as an exemplar for some of the points made here.
* "Regular racism" aside, how come the identically structured "positive racism" (Asians are better at quantitative thinking, etc.) is tolerated under the post-WW2 "regime of politically correctness"?
Chapter 5: The Fact of Blackness (pp. 82 - 93)
Black Skin, White Masks is available for download in the Files section.