Meaning of the Quote “Race is the child of racism, and not the father,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I think that through this quote, Coates wanted to assert that the concept of race was created by people with a racist agenda. By claiming that the idea of race was birthed by racism, the author asserts that race is not a natural distinction between people from different backgrounds. He suggests that people would not be conscious of their racial differences if they are not taught to see others (such as those with a different skin color) as being different, and perhaps inferior. It is by being racist at heart, therefore, that people become capable of classifying people into different racial groups. Without being racist, to begin with, we would not be conscious of the differences between people from different backgrounds, and would treat all people as equal members of the human species.
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My reaction to the idea that race is not real, not based on physical characteristics, is rather conflicting. I want to believe that physical differences do not make us different. However, I have lived with the reality that physical differences do matter, such that I am unable to reconcile with what I wish for. The truth is that I know I am different from a black person, if only in appearance. It is for this reason that there is a place I call home because I share physical attributes with those who live in that place.
The short video shutters my belief that we are different in terms of racial categories. The fact that human DNA is over 99 percent similar regardless of one’s racial background demonstrates that under the skin, we are equal. Could it be that we are different because we hold onto different cultural belief systems and values? Can a Buddhist become European by embracing Christianity? The fact that he would still be considered Asian suggests that there is more to race than mere appearance; it is not about being black or white. There must be certain qualities, maybe ingrained attitudes and worldviews as a result of socialization, that make us conscious of our racial differences.
Why People Identify by Race
I think that self-identification by race is common because people are socialized from when they are young, to identify with their racial background. To most people, race gives not only an identity, but also the sense of belonging. In a world where one is categorized in terms of color and other physical attributes, I think that people feel comfortable identifying with those they look similar. Thus, a person would say he or she is black because they enjoy the sense of belonging when among blacks. It is true to such an extent that even if one knows that he or she is an American citizen, they are ever conscious that they are black American, Asian American, Latino American, and so forth.