Friday, February 24, 2006
The Illusion Of Race
I caught wind of this on the radio this morning. Apparently this picture aired on Good Morning America as part of some puff piece "Photo of the Week" sort of feature (as you can see, I never watch the show). The two girls are Kayeen and Roomay and they are fraternal twins. Both of their parents are "mixed race"; partially white and partially black. According to the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, from whose website I snagged this picture, the odds of twins being born of mixed parents with the appearance of separate races is one in a million. As an editorial note, I choose not to link to the news site, as they have this listed under "Bizarre" on their website and I don't care for the negative connotation that implies. Cute girls, though, don't you think?
The fascinating part of this story is what it reveals about race in the biological sense. Mainly, that it's largely an illusion born of human perception. These two little girls are twin sisters, but the reality of the differences in their appearance are startling, at least at first. As I noted above, ABC had this listed as a "bizarre" picture and story. The idea that race is some kind of dividing line in the biological sense is so ingrained in our culture that a photo like this, which puts the lie to that perception, stands out so remarkably.
Now, certainly, I'm not saying there is no difference between white and black people. Obviously there is much more to our understanding of race than just biology. There is a whole host of cultural differences and traditions, all of which are very important. They help define America as multi-cultural. This is why I believe attempts by the Right to solidify American culture into one standard, as is indicated in the wingnut email I lampooned below, is an inherently racist and un-American ideal. Pockets of cultural diversity in the United States have always been one of our greatest strengths; a strength our nation has been sadly inept at embracing, in my opinion.
I look at these two girls and I see every conventional misconception we hold about race fading away. Who can legitimately argue that some inborn difference exists between us while looking at Kayeen and Roomay? There's just nothing to it. We are all the same humans, separated biologically by only a few surface differences. Unfortunately, we've spent the better part of our recorded history defining ourselves by these superficial differences in ways that make no logical sense. What differences should there really be between black or white or Hispanic, when we could all be born of the same mom and dad?
None that I can name...