The Thinking 

A Christian Denies Race

February 17, 2012


JEANETTE V. writes:

I’ve been thinking about how to react to a comment left on a group I belong to by a Christian man I admire very much. I guess I’m a racist because not only do I believe race entails some personality traits, but I’ve seen this in action. I’m Hispanic (on my mother’s side) and have a lot of what is often called “Latin” behaviors. I’m loud and quite emotional. So how do I gently disagree with this man without getting banned forever from a group of Christians I admire?

[In his words,] “skin color is an immutable, innate, and inborn characteristic that has nothing to do with behavior. If you believe a person’s skin color is directly related to the way he behaves, that’s racist.”

Laura writes:

A race is a category of people with common ancestry. It involves physical attributes other than skin color, a fact with which your friend is well aware but refuses to acknowledge.  The early environments that likely differentiated human beings long ago in skin color also differentiated them in other ways, such as hair texture, body and facial structure, maturation processes, and propensity to certain diseases.

Early environments influenced behavioral and mental traits as well, if the ample evidence to this effect and common sense observations are to be believed. Does your friend think there is any difference between Asian and African music? Does he think Asians would ever have produced hip hop or black gospel music and if not, why?

Rather than get into the argument for these mental and psychological attributes, however, you might say to your friend that if he thinks skin color and other distinctive racial attributes are not in any way associated with behavior, then he should argue against the existence of single-race organizations, such as the N.A.A.C.P., the Black Congressional Caucus or La Raza, and call for an end to racial preferences in hiring, job promotion and the awarding of college scholarships.

You might also acknowledge to your friend that you recognize the enormous difference between a personality trait and a physical attribute like skin color. You might not be able to change your Latin personality, but you can to some degree channel it and shape it by understanding what it is.

                                                    — Comments —

Lisa writes:

I would bet my bottom dollar (if I were the gambling sort of gal) that the man Jeanette is referring to is white.

Laura writes:

Hm. How could you tell?

What this man really means is, “Skin color has nothing to with behavior except in the case of whites. If a white person believes a person’s skin color is directly related to the way he behaves, that’s racist.”

Holly writes:

Your blog is always informative and thought-provoking, and I enjoy reading it.  Thank you for the time and work you put into it.

With regard to the post from the lady who believes her personality is correlated to her race:  this is a very interesting conundrum for me. The plural of anecdote is not data, of course, but I have an anecdote nonetheless. I have served as a homeschooling tutor for a young black girl from a solid Christian family.  She was adopted out of the foster care system at age two by white Christians.  They have raised her with no regard for her race, and the only time it seems to be a factor in their lives is on the occasions that she goes somewhere in public, in just the company of her father.  Black men occasionally approach the girl with concern, asking if she’s okay.  She cheerfully informs them that she’s adopted and he’s her Daddy.

The young lady has, as far as I can tell, absolutely none of the characteristics I normally observe in black women.  If I were a blind person interacting with her family, I would never in a million years guess that she was black, or not their biological child.

It may just be her exceptional upbringing, with rigorous homeschooling, addressing her parents, me, and all other adults in her life as “sir” or “ma’am,” of course.  Or perhaps nurture has more to do with these things than nature.  Just some thoughts; thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

Laura writes:

Thank you for writing.

Black children are all lovable, but she probably seems especially sweet and well-behaved in light of today’s black culture, with its arrogance, unruliness and sense of entitlement. Upbringing does make a huge difference, but most children eventually come to feel some sense of identification with their own race.

 It’s interesting that black men ask after this girl when they see her with a white man. That’s a natural thing to do.  Most people would not be offended that a black man felt some sense of kinship with a child because she was black like him. But most people would probably consider such behavior in white men toward a white child unacceptable.

Leo W. writes:

Leaving aside the wide variance among individuals (I am not Hispanic but have lived among them most of my life and personally know Hispanic women who are cool and reserved, for example), the key is culture.  I was never so surprised in my life as when I met a young woman of 100 percent Korean bloodline who had been adopted into a black family as a baby acting and talking as would the ‘typical’ Black woman.  Culture really, really matters.

Laura writes:

Culture does matter but culture itself is determined in large part by innate group tendencies. If it was not, you would see essentially one culture throughout the world. So if by saying “the key is culture,” you mean inherent traits aren’t of great importance, I disagree.

Many white people today ape black culture — it is common to see white teenage boys talking and dressing as if they were black — but that does not mean that black culture was not shaped in large part by tendencies that are relatively uncommon in whites.

Holly responds to Laura:

Indeed, it is natural [for a black man for after if the child with a white man is okay.] Rather than take offense, her father is grateful that they are concerned for his child’s welfare. He usually thanks them. I cannot imagine the hell that would rain down upon his head if he asked a white child in the company of a black man if she were okay or needed help.

Jeanette writes:

Regarding my personality, I wasn’t raised in a “Hispanic environment.” My dad was British. Yes, I visited my Puerto Rican relatives when I was little but never saw them again once I moved to Southern California when I was seven. I spent rest of my childhood surrounded by my Canadian and British relatives. But I still have a “Latin personality.”

And yes, the person who made that post was white.

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