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Essay on Black vs White

Updated August 9, 2022

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Essay on Black vs White essay

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I would like to start this paper off by saying, that there is no such thing as a mixed race, there is also no such thing as black and white. We are all of one race, the Human Race. Race labels have been present in society for hundreds of years. However, the concept of race has not always existed. In ancient times, while people were often divided by characteristics such as class and religion, they were never divided by the color of their skin. “Race” in the context of classifying humans was not even used in the English language until 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar (California Newsreel, 2003). Today, race defines most of the things that we do. For example, we are asked about our race when filling out most forms like standardized tests and the United States Census. But why is this important? The answer: it should not be. I believe that race divides people and allows for things such as racism and stereotyping to exist. Race should be eradicated from the human dialogue. If people must be labeled, their ethnicities should be used instead, as they categorize people more accurately than race can.

The races that are the most commonly used to define people are: White (Caucasian), Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and Mixed. Many people, me included, believe there is little to no biological or genetic basis to the races that are assigned to people (Templeton, 2002). Instead races are defined by morphological features such as skin color. There is no scientific evidence reputable enough to make it necessary to divide people into racial groups. If this is true, why do we even do it?

Labeling theory is a concept that states that people may be influenced, on the basis of identity and behavior, by certain terms or notions that are used to describe them. This theory can be connected to the ideas of certain racial stereotypes and how some people choose to conform to these stereotypes in order to fit in. For example, the following are common stereotypes for the race of Black or African American: people in this group are less intelligent/ educated; have less money than people in the other races (these also often apply to the Hispanic/Latino race as well); like to dress in a “ghetto” way; like sagging pants and big shirts for males and tight revealing clothes for females; and everybody only listens to rap, hip hop, and R&B. Something that comes to mind when I think about this topic is a lyric from one of my favorite rappers, Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover: “White kids get to wear whatever hat they want. When it comes to black kids one size fits all,” (Glover & Göransson, 2011). This is from a song that mainly focuses on stereotyping and racism.

These lyric’s mean that people in the white race generally can be anybody they want to be and act any way they want, characteristic wise, without being judged, while people of the black or African American race are sometimes expected to adhere to a certain way of acting and living. On a personal level, I have suffered from stereotypes like these in middle and high school. In middle school, I was a bit more introverted around people than I am now, I liked to listen to different types of music, especially jazz and alternative, I got my clothes mostly from Caldor’s and Aeropostale, and was one of the top students in my school. All these facts, and others, contributed to people calling me “not black enough”, “Oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside), and just straight up “white”. (The same happened to Donald Glover growing up, which he talks about a lot in his songs.) I was told frequently that I dressed like a white girl, I didn’t have a black person voice, and that I just didn’t act black.

At the time, I really didn’t understand how someone could act a certain race. I felt very uncomfortable, sad, and hurt whenever people would say these things to me, but I never really tried to do anything to change myself so that they would stop. What is ironic is that once I went to high school, I became more extroverted which lead to me talking a lot more and often times being loud. I also started listening to more hip hop. The combination of these factors led to me being labeled as “ghetto.” Still, I strongly believed that there is no way to act a certain race, and that people should not be encouraged to conform to the stereotypes of their race. If races were not present, people would be freer to act whatever way they wanted to.

Another reason race labels should no longer be present is that many people are often incorrectly labeled due to a complex ethnic background, ambiguous appearance, etc. Multiracial people are often subject to this wrongdoing, since in most people’s minds, a person can only belong to one race. This occurs most often in cases where one parent is black. Because of the historical “one-drop” rule that strengthened the barrier between “black” and “white” and the continuation of this perception in present times, people with some black heritage, whether they are “fully” black or multiracial, are labeled as simply being black (Roth, 2005). This can be seen in the case of President Barack Obama, who comes from a European background on his mother’s side and an African background on his father’s side. President Obama is often labeled as “the first black president” when in reality, he is the first multiracial president.

However, because of the common mislabeling of mixed race people, he is deemed as being black by society. The fact that you have some black heritage in you does not cancel out every other ethnicity that you are made up of. There is no race or ethnicity that dominates every other one; they are all equal. We should recognize and celebrate all parts of people and be wary of quickly labeling them as a race. We should not force people to just “check one box” on the terms of their personal identity as we are instructed to do when denoting our race on a form. We do so without realizing that races are just generalizations and most of the time does not correctly describe people. Biological speaking, we are all technically mixed.

Race mislabeling can also be debated in the Black vs. African American issue. Many people label all “black” individuals as African American to try to be politically correct or polite. However, just because you are “black” does not mean you are African American. The United States census defines a black person as being someone who has origins from a Sub-Saharan group in Africa. African Americans are people whose ancestry is mostly or totally made up of people from Sub-Saharan Africa. Not all “black” people’s ancestors are only from Africa. Take me for instance.

My whole family is from Haiti. My parents moved to America when they were young adults, and my brother and I were born here. I am sometimes labeled as African American; however I am quick to correct people if they say so in my presence. I have not had African ancestors since the 1500s, and I consider that to be too far back for me to be correctly labeled as African American. I label myself strictly on an ethnic basis: Haitian, or Haitian American since I was not born in Haiti, and more generally Caribbean. The Black/African American argument is one reason I think it would be better to label people based on ethnicities instead of races if labels are necessary. As author Mary Waters stated, ‘One of the most basic choices we have is whether to apply an ethnic label to ourselves,’ (Waters, 1990).

Labeling on a general basis is not always a bad thing and can sometimes even be useful. It would be very hard to categorize information that we are presented with throughout our lives if we did not have labels. In some aspects, one can say that having race labels is useful as well. Some people see race labels in a positive light and some believe that the presence of races is necessary to achieve equality in all people (Bucuvalas, 2003). Racial categories can also help set a group of people that may share a sense of identity and common experiences which can help people more easily make social connections (Spickard, 1992). However, it is important to realize that when we label things or people, the way that we perceive them will change to fit those labels.

Race does not have to be the most defining characteristic of a person and should not be present in today’s society. Race has no scientific backing and is sometimes incorrectly given. I believe that it is an unreliable label. The generality of races leads to the conception of stereotypes, which can cause people to want to conform to the “norm” of their assigned race. If there are any situations where a biological characteristic is needed, ethnicities can be used as replacement to race as they more accurately and specifically define a person.

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