Is Race Essential To Identity?

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“Is Race Essential To Identity?” What comes to your mind when you think of racism? Do you see violent images of the Klu Klux Klan? Images of slavery? Or maybe you see something that just happened to either yourself or one of your friends yesterday. Some of you may even find yourselves wondering “what exactly is racism?” Racism has been around for years and may be defined as the belief that another person is less human because of their human characteristics such as skin color, language, or place of birth. Throughout history racism has influenced wars, the formation of nations as well as legal codes. While many argue that race is in fact essential to our identity, I tend to lean on the nonessentialist side in saying that race is not essential to our identity and that race is only a set of physical human traits to help classify people but not necessarily identify them. In an essay entitled, “The Meaning of Being Black,” the author leans toward the essentialist side in saying that race is indeed essential to our identity. The author starts the essay by reciting a quote by Cornel West who is an African American philosophy professor at Princeton. In the quote West says, “After centuries of racist degradation, exploitation, and oppression in America, being black means being minimally subject to white supremacist abuse.” In other words West is saying that black authenticity is not the same as white authenticity. He argues that although some may believe that America is a color-blind society and that we have moved beyond the segregation and racism of the past that race still matters today (Washburn, 183). The author of the essay says that race is more of a social issue rather than a biological issue in that a person can be black only within a certain kind of society. He also argues that being a member of a certain minority group develops one’s thoughts and

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