News September 2011

Race and difference, (Black and White – the grey area)

There is something beautiful, rich and deep about different cultures and their traditions. We travel to other countries to experience firsthand the diversities of life, the people and their uniqueness.

Yet let them come to our country to live and they will be judged according to their race and colour – not their individual character. This racial generalisation, that is so typical of human nature, makes no sense. Colour of the skin is an inherited, unearned asset. It can make life much easier or more difficult. It means being instantly judged, categorized and assessed in advance, being viewed not as an individual but as a member of a race.

We are born into our race. It is not a choice that is made at birth or something that can be changed later in life. Our race is not something we can hide or escape from, it stays with us from the moment we enter this world and for the duration of our lives. We inherit our race from our ancestors. It is a part of us, and one that we should be proud of. Yet it forms the foundation for racial discrimination and judgement in day to day life. The colour of our skin is genetic, not chosen, and while we may dislike one person’s colour, it is amazing to realise just how many spend a fortune on trying to change their own, be it through tanning or bleaching! This ridicules the absurd notion that colour and race are interchangeable. Race is a deeper inherent characteristic that cannot be represented by colour. Skin pigmentation is just this, breeding it out – as was the idea in Australia – may have succeeded in diluting the colour, but it in no way can change the deeper racial traits.

Race is different from social class, the characteristics of which are acquired or can be learned and therefore modified by slight adjustments to accent and vocabulary, gesture and stance. Being white or black is an inescapable fact, making opinions and attitudes irrelevant. Meeting and getting to know a lot of people from different races and colour, in a variety of situations, makes racial generalisation incongruous. Once we have established a relationship with an individual, their personality becomes more important than their race and one no longer judges them for their ancestral roots, showing that there is as much variety and no greater virtue in a black community than there is in a white one. A relationship with the individual breaks down the barrier that is caused by race, and welcomes a diverse community where one is accepted regardless of race or colour.

History shows that we have an inherent fear of things that we don’t understand. By making ourselves familiar with people, their personal stories and personalities we have the potential to remove this fear and the barrier that is caused by colour and race. This surely is victory over adversity.

‘To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.’ (William Faulkner)


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