Articles

Light – On Race

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2011 by Star-Light

I was thinking of today’s events and decided to recall the historical significance of “race.”

Long ago, people worshiped Gods. Many of these cultures supposed that these Gods visited Earth and copulated with humans. Remember Hercules? He is only one such example. I am not saying this is true or not true. I am talking about history. And, historically speaking, many cultures over the years believed that the divine, whatever form it/they took, somehow copulated with humans. The result of this union was usually a demi-god. A man who was more than a man and less than a God. In other words, this man might have more powers than the average human–he could be faster than others, stronger than others, he may heal the sick, he may fly, he may disappear, and so on–but he was not quite a God because people saw him getting sick, tired, hungry, or saw him perish at the end. This idea (which continued with Christianity who defined Jesus Christ as the son of God) laid a huge emphasis on “blood.” That is, on race. Race was prioritized because it contained superpowers, or powers of divinity. Jesus was a Shepherd (meaning he wasn’t rich), and although he died without begetting anyone, he still came from a line of holy beings anyway. After Jesus, Islam considered Prophet Mohammad, not as the son of God, but as the last holy messenger of God because he also came from that bloodline. Hence, he was a man who had more wisdom and more powers than others. The main rift in Islamic thought is between the Shi’its and the Sunnis, and it is caused by the perception of the value of race. Hence, the Shi’its valued the bloodline of the Prophet and consider (some of) the Prophet’s  descendants holy; while the Sunnis regarded the Prophet alone as holy, while his family members were blessed, but humans.

Somewhere along the lines of history, the holiness and purity of race became equated with class. Thus, the richer the man, the purer his race. None more so than kings and queens who were then thought to be “ordained” by God. In other words, the king occupied the position of the priest/pope/prophet who was previously thought to have been chosen by God to be his regent on Earth. This made his bloodline sacred. Hence, the upper-classes (who dressed in a manner that differentiated themselves from the “poor”) married from their own class.

Then global capitalism came, advocating the separation of the economy from traditionally racial ideologies. Capitalism told the people: it doesn’t matter who your father is, or what your brother does, or what is in your blood, all that matters is that you work hard and make lots of money. Remember the American Dream?

Thus two ideologies competed: blood as sacred irrespective of the socio-economic status; and the validity of economic wealth detached from the bloodline.

Every era, age, or historical period usually has competing ideologies. At certain points one or more ideology may gain prominence (like “Arab Unity” in the fifties and early sixties). In the beginning of the modern era, in the Arab world, race mattered because it was equated with wealth. For instance, Egypt’s aristocrats were above reproach because they had money, not because they descended from Prophet Mohammad’s bloodline. And here nationality and national borders play a part in defining not only one’s immediate identity, but also his ancestors’ racial lineage.

For instance, Kuwait had a bigger landscape. A couple of skirmishes with Saudi Arabia, some squabbles, and Western-influenced treaties reduced the size of the landscape. The people who had previously been Kuwaiti beduins, roaming the desert with their flocks of sheep and camels, were suddenly documented on paper as Saudis. Some of them were undocumented and, hence, became stateless.

I guess it just goes to show you the fragility of the racial discourse.

Light’s out.

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