Donald Trump’s rantings against Muslims, Hispanics, and women have gotten me to think about race. It’s not a topic I think about very often. My mother was English, and my Dad’s side of the family was Irish, so I suppose I should identify myself as a white person. Somehow, I feel no more affinity to people who consider themselves whites than I do to people with another identity.
Race is, of course, a social construct with no basis in science. If you feel, for example, that Hispanics are a race, then for you they are, but your belief has no basis in science. In fact, the United States Census considers Hispanic or Latino to be an cultural identity, not a race. In reality, people who identify as Hispanics have a great variety of ethnic backgrounds, just like people who live in the United States. Alberto Fujimori, a former president of Peru, had Japanese ancestry. Although many Japanese look down on Koreans, many Japanese, including the royal family, have Korean backgrounds. Most Mexicans carry a mixture of indigenous, European, and African blood in their veins.
What about Europeans? Surely they constitute a race, don’t they? Can you tell by looking at picture of a Sicilian and an Arab which of them is European if they are dressed alike? No, in general you cannot.
If you spend much time in French, you will find that the French consider Americans to be Anglo-Saxons. Even otherwise respectful newspapers use this stereotype. When I tell the French that there is no Anglo-Saxon identity in the USA and that the population of the USA is much less white than the population of France, my comments are greeted with disbelief. Racial prejudices are so deeply ingrained in the psyche of many people that they cannot be dislodged by facts.
One of the disturbing things about the Trump campaign is that it attempts to divide us along tribal lines that have a foundation only in the mind. By criticizing Muslims and Mexicans, he creates a feeling of tribal unity among some who consider themselves of European descent. It’s us, European-Americans, against everyone else.
I live on a short street, two blocks long, where there are people of all ethnic backgrounds. There are Filipinos, Mexicans, Blacks, Mexican Americans, Europeans, and Native Americans. To me they are all just neighbors. I wish everyone felt that way.
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