If Race is Just a Skin Color...

I have spent the last 10 years writing and giving lectures about how whiteness impacts ethical consumption and beyond in the USA. The number 1 theme of confusion I have encountered, about this topic of race and whiteness, is from mostly white people who literally do not understand how race and racialization are historically, socially, physically, geographically, and legally constituted. Most white identified people who have spent their formative years in the USA or other white dominated societies, seem to believe that race is simply a “skin color” with certain phenotypes like ‘blonde hair’ or ‘thin lips’ as race markers; even more so, most think racism is not a significant impediment to equity and inclusion, despite the rigorous post-2000 data showing otherwise. For this demographic, race is simply ‘skin color’ and basically a ‘thing of the past’….

…But nothing could be further from the truth.

Several major questions I have asked in response to [white] constructions of race being about ‘skin color’ have been:

If race is just about ‘skin color’, then why have I constantly been told that I sound ‘white’? How can one possibly ‘hear’ one’s skin color?

If race is only about skin color, then why were the Irish in the USA, up until the 20th century, not considered white like White Anglo Saxon Protestants, despite having the same skin color? How were they and other light skinned European immigrants able to work towards whiteness?

If race is just about skin color, why was my newborn baby in 2009, who was born with very fair skin and bright blue eyes and straight brown hair considered to be ‘Black’ by some yet “White” by others?   

In SPLC’s latest Teaching Tolerance newsletter, H. Richard Milner IV’s work is cited. I took a screenshot of how SPLC is teaching people about how the concept of race operates beyond the skin color myth. (See below)


(Source: http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-51-fall-2015/feature/excerpt-getting-real-about-race)


Toolkit for “Excerpt: Getting Real About Race” in the Ethical Consumption World