In the world today, one of the most significant, and most talked about social issues is the concept of race. Race, in its creation, is something which on its own has completely curbed the advancement of many peoples, and has led to one of the greatest setbacks humanity has faced. The concept of race is something which has been in existence since the Greek ages, but has taken on far more significance as the world has become more connected through imperialism. Race in modern times has divided the world into the superior ruling class of white Europeans, followed by lesser races from the rest of the world. Race has led to the division and segregation of the world and has caused social problems, from which we may never recover. If race had simply never been established as a way to categorize people, the world would be a far more different and equal-opportunity place.
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According to Richard A Jones there has always been “the unchallenged view that race is essentially skin color“(Jones 615) . Jones shows how, from a political scientist`s perspective, “race may be viewed in terms of hierarchal dominance subordination“ (Jones 616). During the age of imperialism, the political scientist’s definition of the concept of race began to take on this meaning. After the Emancipation Act of 1833, a moral victory for abolitionists, Willinsky states “it now fell to the natural sciences to re-establish the boundaries that demarcated the unequivocal superiority of the European races” (Willinsky 163). Through science, Europeans were able to find a means to justify race as a way of segregating themselves from the lesser beings on the planet. Joseph Arthur de Gobineau stated, when discussing the superiority of the European race, “everything great, noble, and fruitful in works of man on this earth, in science, art and civilization”(Willinsky 164). Through these sorts of statements, race became more and more meaningful, as it was a way of maintaining superiority. Many believed that, if races were to mix, there would be a pollution of the superiority which they felt existed amongst Europeans.
As a result of the world becoming such a divided place, humans have been slowed greatly in their capability to reach their potential. Due to the fact that the world had become so segregated as a consequence of imperialism, so many people, who could have produced ideas and ways to better the world, simply were not given the opportunity. It is highly unlikely that the average person would be able to name an African or Oriental philosopher or scholar, while, at the same time, it is easy to name countless philosophers or scholars from Europe. Considering the fact that Africa and the Orient make up more than half of the world’s population, this is an absolute travesty. When individuals such as Coon refer to Africans as “negroid” and “a condition”, it is clear that peoples from this part of the world have been completely shut out as a result of race (Willinsky 172).
Race has also led to extreme social problems, which plague humankind to this day. An example of this is the conditions faced in Rwanda. When looking at the conflict which occurred in 1994, one must ask race had to be a factor in this in the first place. Before European contact, “both groups lived in symbiotic harmony” (Yeboah 111).Upon the arrival of German colonist in Rwanda, the theory of racial hierarchy in that country placed the Tutsis as “a superior, aristocratic race” to the Hutu(Yeboah 112). As a result, a deep and disturbing hatred amongst these two groups began to develop. However, at the same time, there were also serious political and socioeconomic problems facing Rwanda. As Helen M Hintjens surmises, “racialist ideologies mainly served as a mask or pseudo-justification for the more fundamental goal of regime survival under conditions of socioeconomic crisis, and political opposition“(Hintjens 242). It is easy to say that the problems which still plague the region today can easily be attributed to the concept of racial hierarchy which was established for the Tutsi and Hutu at the time of the German arrival. However, racism can also serve as a mask for problems, as Hintjens points out. If there had been no racial hierarchy implemented, would there have been a reason or a justification for these two groups to hate each other with such passion?
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Race also plays an unfortunate factor in how problems are solved and the lengths to which the world is willing to go to solve these problems. The Yugoslavian wars of the 1990’s were devastating and led to the deaths of many innocent people. However, as this conflict involved white Europeans, action was taken immediately in order to avoid a much more horrific outcome than had already occurred. This has been a consistent theme throughout recent times, since, when problems involve Europeans, the reaction is one of much more outrage and the problem is fixed far more quickly. The fact that race should play a role in how swiftly there is a response to crimes against humanity is absolutely appalling and really speaks to how dehumanizing and devolutionary the concept of race can truly be. In Rwanda, where the world seemed to turn a blind eye, 500 000 people were killed in a very short time period. Had the crimes against humanity been occurring in a white European country as opposed to this African nation, the response would have been much quicker. Half a million innocent people are dead and race is one of the major factors to blame. The world simply does not care about certain conflicts and the racial hierarchy, which was established in the Age of Imperialism and has segregated the world in a most unfortunate way, is to blame.
Throughout this essay, it has been shown how the scientific creation of race has led to a devolution of humankind in many ways. A world which would be a complete contrast to the one showcased in this essay could exist if there had not been as much emphasis on race in the past. The world would be a completely different place. Race has put up so many barriers that simply would not have existed otherwise. Without scientifically formulated racial barriers, there would be many more recognizes contributions from people in places like Africa, India, and Asia. Racial hierarchies have halted the contributions of these people, and, in a world devoid of race, this simply would not have been the case. If more people had the chance to make the world a better and more sophisticated place, there is no telling how far civilization could have come. The world would be a much more diverse and tragedies like the genocide in Rwanda would not have occurred. There is simply no reason for the Hutus and Tutsis to hate each other other than for the theory of racial superiority. At the same time, there is no reason for Europeans to feel as if they are on a mission as “pioneers of civilization“(Hyam 204). As racial barriers are beginning to break in the current world, a world free of race, as described here, can finally start to take shape.
In recent history, the structuring of race through its scientific origins had led to devolution of humanity. The world has been a segregated place which has not allowed most of the world to achieve its potential and create a better society. Race has created some of the most catastrophic social problems that humanity has ever faced, such as in Rwanda. The development of the concept of race has also had a tremendous influence on the way the world responds to a problem in Europe as compared to a problem in Africa. Race has created a barrier within of humanity that is intolerable but is finally beginning to decay. Unfortunately, until the issue of race is completely eliminated as a critical factor, the world will continue to face significant setbacks.
Jones, Richard A. “Race and Revisability.” Journal of Black studies 35.5 (2005):
612-632. JSTOR. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
Willinsky, John. Learning to Divide the World. Minneapolis: University of
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Yeboah, Ian EA`;. Political Landscape of Sub-Saharan Africa:From Instability to
Democratization. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2003.
Hintjens, Helen M. “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.” The Journal of
Modern African Studies (1999): 241-286. JSTOR. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
Hyam, Ronald. The Search for Stabliltiy, 1890-1914. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble
Books, 1993. Print.