Diversity and Inequity: Reversing The Odious Impact of Color Coding of Humankind
Sub-Title: The Pivotal Role of Self-Development in Africa in Combating the Bias of Human Classification By Skin Color
Human Diversity is an intrinsic and inescapable reality of our existence handed to us by forces (Nature) which we cannot control.
On the other side, “Equity” demands our attention, hard work, sacrifice, vigilance, fidelity to the truth and love of neighbors as self.
One of the most unfortunate accepted norms in our society is seeing diversity largely through the lens of skin color.
Journalists, politicians, parents, school teachers, pastors, doctors, lawyers, researchers and university faculty referring to segments of the population as “people of color”.
Logically then, the rest of the population are “people without color, or colorless people”. Could the absurdity be more obvious?
Have you noticed that only two colors are mentioned on forms or documents requesting information about race or ethnicity? The two colors are white and black.
It does not matter whether the form or document is from the public sector or private sector. In a typical form, the question about human classification, with some variation, reads like this:
Which of the following best describes your race or ethnicity?
American Indian/Native American/Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
While two populations are referred to by their skin color, the others are referenced by their continental, national or state origin or their native heritage and language.
Why are the other populations not referred to as brown or yellow or yellowish-brown?
This intrinsic contradiction in the structure of the content of the forms makes the classification at best questionable and at worst, biased and baseless. This is just one example of the imbalance in the way we are conditioned to see ourselves, especially in societies populated by people from different regions of the world.
Some may argue that the classification serves its purpose as a basic social construct. Maybe it does. However, it unwittingly perpetuates the myth that Humankind is layered into Races, based on skin color and superficial physical features.
Before you choose to click away, let me share one very important conclusion with you. However, I hope you will read the whole article and maybe provide feedback because this is one of the most important issues facing mankind.
All of us, human inhabitants on earth are our brains. We are not the color of our skin. The color of our skin does not determine our character or essence. The earlier we start teaching this fundamental truth about what it means to be a human being to our children and the earlier we adults wrap our minds around it, the more justice, peace and understanding will prevail in the world.
In an April 2017 article in Frontiers in Psychology, titled: “Racial Assumptions Color the Mental Representation of Social Class”, (Racial Assumptions Color the Mental ... - Frontiers), Ryan F. Lei and Galen V. Bodenhausen of Northwestern University IL, USA state:
“Our results comport with the notion that resentments regarding policies designed to help the poor are tied up with racial prejudice (e.g., Gilens, 1996). People who view the poor as lazy and parasitical tend to mentally represent the category “poor” as blacker and the category “rich” as whiter, compared to the people who are low in contempt for the poor”.
Even more revealing in their study is that poor ‘Whites’ deliberately switch color to ‘Black’ in order to avoid the shame of ‘White’ poverty.
“In addition to the racism that underlies the disinclination to help the (presumptively Black) poor, Ridgeway and Kricheli-Katz (2013) argued that poor Whites are also put in a bind by virtue of not being prototypically of the poor category. McDermott (2010) reports fascinating evidence of poor Appalachian Whites who choose to identify as “Black” (based on uncertain, distant minority ancestry) in order to avoid the shame of being poor Whites”.
So, what is the solution, or maybe more appropriately, what are the solutions?
Well, two suggestions to start with.
- Eliminate skin color from all forms, public and private. Establish uniformity by referring to people by their continental origin or ethnicity/language.
2. Stop using the term “people of color”. It is condescending, it is scientifically baseless and it flatly contradicts the doctrine of Imago Dei — The Image of God — Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the image of God.
If you are still doubting the necessity for our society to embrace this viewpoint, welcome to the USA 2021 Olympics Fencing team.
Four members of the team are from New York City’s Peter Westbrook Foundation — The Peter Westbrook Foundation Qualifies Four to Tokyo ...
They are Daryl Homer, Khalil Thompson, Yeisser Ramirez and Curtis McDowald. They are African Americans, and yes, they all qualified in a sport not “meant for Blacks”.
The Seemingly Elusive Quest For Equity
In his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech delivered in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 1964, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated:
“Sooner or later, all the peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood”.
Sadly, Dr. King’s prediction of “pending cosmic elegy” has become a reality in many societies around the world especially in the last several years. This came to a boiling point with the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer who kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, suffocating him to death on May 25, 2020.
A major aspect of possible ways to live together in peace is to roll back the myths and half truths about direct linkage between the essence of any human being and their skin color.
This is not an easy proposition to sell. Why? Because the current classification of human beings has been embedded in our minds and lexicon for centuries.
However, no matter how many decades it takes, this convenient classification must be expunged and the bias must be corrected if humankind is to enjoy lasting peace, equity and justice.
The Pivotal Role of African Nations in This Struggle
The prejudicial narrative of the populations in the African Diaspora will not abate until the ‘hidden’ bias of color coding of human beings is acknowledged and addressed. This is where Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa comes in.
There is a deeply enshrined stereotype of African descendants based largely on skin color and other superficial physical characteristics. This stereotype will persist until Africa matches the other five continental populations in intellectual accomplishments.
Why should the current and future conditions of human events in Africa be linked to efforts to vanquish inequities in the African Diaspora and the world in general?
Because in addition to the legacy of slavery, blackness and other superficial physical features are at the very center of the stereotype and negative perception of descendants of African origin.
For example, analysis of 95 million traffic stop records from 2011 to 2018 by researchers at Stanford University found that African Americans who are pulled over more frequently than Caucasians by day, are much less likely to be stopped after sunset, when “a veil of darkness” masks their skin color.
However, despite the lower number of night time stops, the study found, African Americans and Latinos are still more likely to have their cars searched than their Caucasian counterparts.
These results suggest that at least some of the police officers are making assumptions about individuals based on stereotypes which influence and inform their actions. These traffic stops can turn deadly, as we’ve seen several times in the past few years.
African nations have a pivotal role to play in this struggle and transition to hopefully, a “mind driven color-neutral” society.
This is not to state that responsive governance and enhanced development in Sub-Saharan Africa will suddenly put to rest the skin color driven inequities and discrimination outside Africa.
However, it would chip away at the notion that black skin is synonymous with incompetence, inferior intelligence and permanent residence at the bottom of the ladder of humanity.
Also, the efforts to mitigate inequities in the African Diaspora would be indirectly enhanced by excellence in self development and positive contribution to the progress of humankind in African nations.