Carolinian – Speakeasy
Issue: 4/16/02

Blurring the Lines
By Carlos Rountree

Special Thanks to Dr. Michael Cauthen for help with this week’s column and making me realize that I may have not have given us enough credit as a species.

It would appear that I have made a mistake in assuming that people have always looked at each other in terms of race. Dr. Cauthen reminded me that this didn’t pop up until the 1400s and that race is basically a social construct. He also reminded me that some progress has been made. He showed me that with some of the legislative changes that have taken place came some changes in attitude (according to some studies). Finally he did hit on something that I had been thinking about as well: the notion of becoming not racist as a constant work-in-progress. That is to say, it is something that can be worked at.

I would go as far as to say that it is our responsibility to resist the temptation to generalize and simplify dynamic, unique people by using their race to quell our desire to understand them. The effort to resist this temptation can be likened to technology because what is technology but resistance? It is resistance against problems that have been created by our very existence (i.e. food, clothing, and shelter; three things that are as unavoidable as interaction with people). In nature, man encountered large, mysterious, beautiful things that he desired to understand on some level. This desire to understand is about as common as breathing. Eventually he learned to manipulate them into working to his advantage and at the same time he gained a great respect for them. Man used the ocean to provide for him but at the same time he respected it (realized it was bigger than him and his part of it), explored it, learned to love it, at times even creating Gods to represent it’s power. For me, all of humanity should be that ocean and individuals like sailors and waves upon this sea of people

It can be said that advancements in technology have been a positive thing and yet they require some effort on our part. The rewards for this resistance effort are immense. I believe that the same line of thought could be applied to our tendency to be racist. Making an effort to be less ethnocentric is the same as the effort to master our surroundings and make them work to our advantage. The advantages are the alliances of which I spoke before. Now that’s just looking at the thing as scientifically as I can, totally ignoring the broadened perspective and appreciation for things and people not like one’s self. Learning about these things beyond one’s own realm should not be thought of as giving up one’s own culture but rather as adding to it.

I don’t know whether or not we’ll ever completely learn to see past the color of one another’s skin but I think that we can continue to beat the shore and perhaps erode this problem into a small incline at low tide instead of the great dune that it is now.