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Race and Ethnicity: Finding a Common Ground

2009 September 4

By Juontel White

Upon doing my usual blog roll—skimming through a series of websites both prominent and unknown, I chanced upon an article on

The columnist wrote, “I see no harm in saying, ‘He’s the really tall black guy.’ (I could leave out the race and hope there’s no one else tall nearby, but why? There’s nothing wrong with being black, or white, or brown, or any mix thereof.)”

And she’s right. “When we add judgments and assumptions to those distinctions — the tall black guy who makes me wanna hold my purse tighter — then that gets complicated.”

People often use race as grounds for stereotyping and bigotry, but as it only constitutes .1 percent genetic difference in human beings, race should, statistically speaking, be irrelevant.

Yet that minute percentage helps shape an individual’s sense of identity. And in this “age of me”—where people are increasingly demanding that services be tailored uniquely for them—identity, in turn, is of increasing importance.

The pitfalls of stereotyping and racism can be addressed not through “ugly confrontation” but through open learning, as the columnist suggested. In Memphis, an initiative titled, Common Ground facilitates a series of open discussions between people who may look nothing alike, yet learn about the other 99.9 percent of their identity that makes them more similar than they would think.

In the case of racial conflict, reaching a common ground requires a shift of focus from a practically irrelevant physical trait to the many mental, emotional and spiritual processes we share as human beings.

Read the article here

One Response leave one →
  1. Suzy Gastrein permalink
    September 10, 2009

    I, as a colored person, my skin being brown in tone, belong to the Black race. Here in the U.S., I have regularly had to persuade the caucasian that I am indeed… black! and it is perfectly ok with me to mention the word black or Black around me or about me.
    It’s been indicated that I am not really Black. How fascinating it is that my French accent and international culture puts me out of the “Black Box” as I surprisingly was told by others of the black race that I am not really Black! I believe that the perception of Blackness is just an individual interpretation. It will be nice when there will be no more offense or apprehension in using the words that match the color, between different races, that is. Meanwhile it is Ok to be sensitive to reaction. Oui?

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