Wednesday, December 7, 2022
HomeOpinionOp Ed: Regular: To Go — Deconstructing Racism -- Part 2

Op Ed: Regular: To Go — Deconstructing Racism — Part 2

This column, “Regular: To Go,” is from the west end of Higganum out by the Lake. A long time writer for HK-Now and other online publications, this resident will cover a wide range of topics, whatever is on her radar. The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. The first part of this subject can be found HERE.

By Deb Thomas.

Trying to sort through the heaps of information regarding racial tensions in America is too much for a simple column in a small town paper. Pinpointing definitions is equally challenging. Plus, I’ve been Covid-19, racial tension, politics, news—–weary. In a year’s time, however, I’ve thought deeply about this subject. l still believe any attempt at understanding is a step forward. Towards that, for part 2, let’s start with words and definitions; both language and scientific information where pertinent. Omission of greater or additional information is not deliberate nor based on anything other than an attempt to demonstrate the most common meanings and find common ground.

Defining terminology is great, but a few words won’t resolve differences. I began writing about racism last year because of news events regarding George Floyd’s death; I saw many of my fellow Haddam citizens rally both for and against—the Black Lives Matter movement and those things made me wonder why we go through such passion and energy to defend beliefs we hold. What causes people to be so argumentative over a DNA encoded physical attribute? I can’t change the color of my skin without a lot of effort; I can color over it, tattoo it, cover it, tint it with paint or dye, but it won’t change my DNA. Therefore, I wanted to learn what race and racism are. I still have questions; the origin of race theory, and what drives racist view points? How do people become racist; can people change how they see other humans? Why are people polarized over skin color? Why has the discussion of race turned political?

The ultimate question is; why can’t we all live together without being upset over someone’s skin color? More, next time.

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Defining words or phrases helps us to talk about issues and events; we need common language on which to base a discussion and comprehension. I’ve left out parts of speech and grammar attributes (whether it’s a noun, verb, etc.) and tried to give the first definition, the one most commonly heard or read and how a word may be used. Interesting sections are highlighted. Please refer to Webster’s Online Dictionary for deeper study. Seek greater information from other sources as well to learn and process additional critical thinking.

race (Webster’s Online Dictionary information about this word is an article unto itself): any one of the groups that humans are often divided into based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry. Section 1a describes the word race as it is most frequently used: to refer to the various groups etc. This use of race dates to the late 18th century, and was for many years applied in scientific fields such as physical anthropology, with race differentiation being based on such qualities as skin color, hair form, head shape, and particular sets of cranial dimensions. Advances in the field of genetics in the late 20th century determined no biological basis for races in this sense of the word, as all humans alive today share 99.99% of their genetic material. For this reason, the concept of distinct human races today has little scientific standing, and is instead understood as primarily a sociological designation, identifying a group sharing some outward physical characteristics and some commonalities of culture and history.

ancestry:  a line of descent, as in bloodline, family tree, and pedigree; descent or, persons initiating or comprising a line of descent.

bigot and bigotry: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices. Especially one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.

xenophobia (you pronounce it zee-no-phobia); fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. Webster’s sprinkles their definitions with additional word information with; Did You Know? (nice if you like etymologies, as do I) . If you look back to the ancient Greek terms that underlie the word xenophobia, you discover that xenophobic individuals are literally “stranger fearing.” Xenophobia, that elegant-sounding name for an aversion to persons unfamiliar, ultimately derives from two Greek terms: xenos, which can be translated as either “stranger” or “guest,” and phobos, which means either “fear” or “flight.” Phobos is the ultimate source of all English –phobia terms (words ending in the suffix –phobos), but many of those were actually coined in English or New Latin using the combining form -phobia (which traces back to phobos). Xenophobia itself came to us by way of New Latin and first appeared in print in English in the late 19th century.

DNA: the acronym for deoxyribonucleic acid; any of various nucleic acids that are usually the molecular basis of heredity, are constructed of a double helix held together by hydrogen bonds between purine and pyrimidine bases, which project inward from two chains containing alternate links of deoxyribose and phosphate, and that in eukaryotes are localized chiefly in cell nuclei.

Genome: one haploid set of chromosomes with the genes they contain. Commonly, it is thought of as the genetic material of an organism. 

Think of this genetic material as being a combination of each parent’s DNA. However, all offspring even from the same parents will have a different combination of chromosomes from their parents (except monozygotic twins – one fertilized egg splits into two and results in identical twins).

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