From the readings, I have learned that the structures of race have been ever changing and subject to political and social situations. Additionally, native people all over the world face similar historical experiences of colonialism, which encompass the encroachment of land, the subordination of people, and the exploitation of labor and resources. Excellent illustrations were the cases involving the Aboriginal people of Australia and the Native Americans, who the settlers considered as populations to conquer for the prize of lands. People who were enslaved also possessed similar histories, which were characterized by violence, dehumanization, and socio-political separation from the dominant races. Such was the case with the enslaved West and Central Africans, who were taken from their homes and brought to the Americas for exploitation, facing brutality and dehumanization in the process. The subjugation of some races was made possible through the establishment of dominant groups of people through the control of those who were considered inferior.
When a group of people uses violence as a means of conquering another, the act leads to dehumanization of both the victims and perpetrators. From the analysis on colonialism by Cesaire, colonization essentially worked towards “decivilizing” and “brutalizing” the colonizer. The strategy is possible because, to enact violence among a group of people, one has to become violent in the process. Moreover, to maintain the sense of supremacy that is reputable, the colonizer needs to sustain their violence towards the subjugated group. Furthermore, taking resources belonging to those deemed less deserving stems from greed and a need for power to maintain societal and racial hierarchies. The idea was an essential objective of colonialism. However, as Cesaire notes, this phenomenon leads down a slippery path of normalizing, and sometimes accepting acts of violence as a necessity. Ironically, this dangerous course leads to the barbarism from which these people wished to distance themselves.
The normalization of racial violence, colonization, and enslavement also began with simple ideas of superiority planted in the minds of the bourgeois as well as the working classes. Religious leaders, legislators, and other influential figures remain silent on these matters. When these notions become well-established facts, people become more tolerant of dehumanization and hegemony. Renan, who was a French philosopher, believed that people were not only divided between races, but that their ethnicity determined how they would contribute to the society. People of African descent had a reputation as tillers of the land. Chinese had “superior manual dexterity.” White people’s status was the masters and soldiers. These notions of racial identity further allowed the subjugation of other non-white races under the façade of helping to govern them.
The aspect of racial identity is also intertwined with that of ethnic origins. People of the same ethnic groups may be seen as those sharing a common ancestry, culture, and history. However, it is also true that people of the same race share the same experiences, thus making race and ethnicity an inter-related and intricate social structure. As such, there is a need to view race with respect to ethnicity and vice versa. The approach is because ethnic structures also influence societal hierarchies. Those deemed closer to the dominant groups, such as the Whites in America or Europe, have been historically placed closer to the top than those having more varied ethnic identities. As such, many communities will always racialize the ethnic myths of a particular group of people.
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