Las razas no existen

After Freddie Gray’s death, Baltimore’s long-brewing racial tension exploded in street protests (deemed riots by the media), where mainly African-American Baltimoreans called for respect, and greater equality. Through these events, cable news media dramatically portrayed a seemingly insurmountable tragedy: Baltimore has a Race Problem.

As a Baltimorean, I crinkled my brow and thought “what is a Race Problem?” It sounds harder to climb than Mount Everest, and harder to solve than any theoretical math equation. As a physical anthropologist, I answered my own question with “actually, race doesn’t exist.” If you said “Huh?” right there, let’s do what America has been avoiding lately; let’s talk about race.

When I say this, here is the big question that runs through the mind: I can see that people look different; aren’t those different races? Great question! Let’s start by analyzing what “a race” is, and what biological traits are wrapped into “a race.” The main race categories in America are White, Black, Asian, Native American, and Other: two opposite colors; one continent; an ethnic group; and a catch-all category including billions of people and Chewbacca. These are not biologically defined groups. No human is biologically white or black. These are social terms; they have a social existence, and they have social power.

La antropóloga Hannah E. Marsh (University of Central Missouri) ha escrito un artículo esclarecedor y divertido sobre el absurdo de la discriminación por razas. En The biological fallacy of America’s race problem, Marsh pone en evidencia cómo los prejuicios sociales se disfrazan a menudo de biología.

A mí me ha recordado al uso que se ha hecho históricamente de la vejez/pureza/perfección de unas lenguas frente a otras. Suelo dedicar una clase a explicar por qué las lenguas no existen. A partir de ahora, podré citar a Marsh y decir: “las lenguas, como las razas, son un invento político para poder dividir a las personas”. Los antropólogos y los lingüistas corremos el riesgo de hacerle el juego a intereses externos, ansiosos de legitimaciones irrevocables, cuando  utilizamos estos conceptos.

Manuel Alcántara-Plá
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