Does your skin colour define you?

What’s behaving ‘white’? What’s behaving ‘black’? You were asking this again and again yesterday and this being a programme where you guide the agenda, we’re going to discuss it today.

If you’re white, what does it mean to be white? If you’re black, what does it mean to be black? And if you’re anywhere in between, how does your skin colour affect how you define yourself, and others define you?

Plenty of you simply rejected the notion of skin colour differentiating people. Ana in Colombia posted, ‘I know good and bad people, smart and stupid people, generous and mean people…. And believe me, it’s never been connected to their colour or kind.’

But is it that simple?

Jamilah emailed me after the show – ‘The fact that four fifth of humanities is non-White makes this subject a relevant and current issue worth pursuing. Notably, it addresses the identity crises majority of the world’s population face.’ Identity crisis? Is that really happening?

Nge on the blog wrote, ‘White, yellow, green or black, we are all human beings. The problem resides in our mentality and I think it is hereditary and psychological. We blacks just need a change of mentality.’ But does that mean, stopping thinking of yourselves as black?

South African journalist Jon Qwelane says ‘black is a state of mind’. He’ll explain to us why.

Please tell us your experiences.

120 Responses to “Does your skin colour define you?”

  1. 1 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 14:52

    I think yesterday confused skin color with acting “professionally”. There are plenty of white people that speak incorrectly, that dress unprofesionally, that aren’t successful. So does this mean that acting black means being unprofessional? dressing unprofesionally? Speaking in slang?

    This isn’t about skin color but about being professional. If you want to be a lawyer, you need to speak the language correctly, you need to dress a certain way (especially if you make courtroom appearances or have client contact). In fact, you would probably never even make it into law school, let alone pass the exams, or pass the bar exam, if you don’t have a grasp of proper english. I was warned that I might not pass the bar exam because my handwriting is bad. Imagine if you wrote in slang?

    If you don’t want that, then don’t aspire for a profession. But if you do want to be a professional, you cannot wear baggy jeans, backwards hate, and speak slang.. That’s life. I personally wish I could wear shorts and a tshirt to work, and running shoes. I cannot.

    This is about acting professionally, not about race.

  2. 2 Muthee Mwangi
    April 15, 2008 at 15:05

    Hi Ros and the rest of the team.
    I missed yesterday’s program but i get the hint from the posts you have sampled.
    I believe that what i am is not necessarily defined by my skin colour, but rather
    where i come from in terms of people i have related with and helped shape me.
    There are people who regard their cultural background(myself included) with great
    respect but will act accordingly when in contact with other cultures.

  3. 3 VictorK
    April 15, 2008 at 15:08

    How can skin colour alone define anybody?

    Identity is a matter of one’s social and cultural heritage, and it’s perfectly possible for people of different colours to share the same social and/or national identity.

    An African, for example, is not defined by his colour, but by his language, culture and ethnicity. If that were not the case Africa would not today be riven by so many ‘tribal’ (i.e. identity) conflicts. There is no such thing as ‘white identity’: there are a multitude of white identities, all of which are more than just a matter of whiteness, and some of which are just as ‘tribal’ as any African’s.

    As for the mixed race issue, well I know several mixed race Africans who all integrated into the African culture of their fathers to the extent of speaking the particular African languages in question. They had no identity issues because they possessed a distinct identity arising out of a particular cultural heritage.

    While it’s true that skin colour can be used to differentiate people, isn’t that usually because skin colour is being treated as a proxy for cultural and behavioural traits?

  4. 4 taehoe
    April 15, 2008 at 15:09

    skin color doesn`t mean anything, it`s just a skin depth, if you peel it off, that`s the same human being, we`re created by the same God, we`re from the same ancestor called Adam but it`s just that enviroment make that difference.

  5. 5 lydia nayo
    April 15, 2008 at 15:10

    My skin color does not define me on a personal level, as with friends and family. But I do believe that, to some degree, there are professional responses to me that are directly related to my being a brown-skinned black woman. However, that’s just one of many aspects of my person-hood that people respond to in the arena of my profession — which is a real estate broker — that have nothing to do with who I am, as a human being.

    People respond to the fact that I graduated from a prestigious law school, and the response is not always positive. People respond to the fact that I run half-marathons, that I am in my mid-fifties, that I am on certain boards or part of certain groups. And, as with the matter of my skin color, the responses range from very positive to being absolutely certain that I cannot help them buy or sell residential real estate, because someone like me couldn’t help someone like them.

    And I respond to professional profiles, as well. We are none of us immune to our prejudices and preconceived notions about who people are based on a thumbnail sketch of them.

    The trick is to check ourselves, to imagine the whole person beyond the collective of descriptors. The problem is when the distribution of benefits or opportunities is limited by virtue of the recipients’ skin color, religious background, sexual orientation. Inasmuch as my ‘power position’ is simply to choose whether or not to take on a client because of my prejudices in favor of or against a group of which the prospect is a member, I’m not as dangerous as the person(s) deciding who gets hired, fired, enrolled, admitted, allowed, etc. Or am I? If you multiply me times 38,000 real estate brokers in the state of California?

  6. 6 Rudolph in Antigua
    April 15, 2008 at 15:19

    I can only speak for myself n my answer to the question is NO. My skin colour dose not define me. thing is im in a part of the world that no race can say that their are pure. me for example, i have african, europian,asian and native indian all miked in my family tree. so tell me how can i alow my skin colour to judge what i do.i think it also has to do with the personality cause there are people that cant stand their own skin colour, always trying to change it. my finall words are that a person’s skin should not defind who they are or what they do in life.

  7. 7 Erin
    April 15, 2008 at 15:20

    In America, being white means watching what you say so as not to offend and working harder than any other race in America to succeed.

    I grew up in a lower-middle class, single parent family. There were so many social programs that my family was just on the cusp of being eligible for. When I graduated top of my class in high school, I watched friends with much lower test scores and grades than mine get accepted into Ivy League schools, primarily because they were able to check “Black” or “Pacific Islander” in the ethnicity section of the application. These schools had no use for a student like me, because white women with exceptional grades, activities, and test scores are a dime a dozen and clamoring to get into the best schools, apparently.

    I know that this isn’t a popular opinion, but this has been my experience. Being a white woman, I constantly have to be the best of the best in order to get what I want. I am constantly fighting. Colleges are bombarded with people in my demographic wanting acceptance: top grades, test scores, and resumes are the key. In white America, there is no room for medocrity, because EEO and Affirmative Action exist to demand opportunity for those with different skin colors, regardless of level of ability – even if that is not their intent, that is their reality. I think it is a shame that so many people get shut out of their dreams to make way for others. It will be interesting to see as the population makeup of the US changes over the next few decades if the allowances, special programs, and hiring/acceptance policies are altered.

    • 8 M
      December 11, 2009 at 23:09

      You certainly make a good point, Erin. And no one could dispute your story. If you’re telling the truth, then it’s the truth.

      I find it intriguing that you wrote: “I think it is a shame that so many people get shut out of their dreams to make way for others.”

      Surely, you couldn’t think the 42 white male presidents before Obama were the best and only qualified people in our nation to hold that office? The educational opportunities and voting rights of women and nonwhites had to be squelched in order to make that dream available only to such a limited sliver of the population. Are you not concerned about that ongoing history? Or is the squashing of dreams only important when it happens to you in the present?

      By the way, you do know that elite American schools now allow boys with lower grades in to schools because young women and their parents automatically associate an environment that is too heavily female with lower prestige. This is despite the fact that women are outscoring men on every standardized test and outnumbering male applicants. Why isn’t there a corresponding number of women heading companies, coleges, and medical facilities. Prejudice against women. The same reason that the “black” or “Pacific Islander” populations that you claim are taking up all the “good spots” haven’t taken over the country’s leading institutions. Shutting the door on people’s dreams starts happening at birth. And it seems to me that your energy should be focused more on those who have already gotten in the door and want to shut it behind them than on other people like you who are trying to get in for the first time.

  8. 9 André
    April 15, 2008 at 15:32

    I am a black person with two university degrees who has lived in both white-majority and black-majority states. As such, I can describe circumstances in which being black seemed to rule me out of contention for certain jobs and others where being black was practically a necessity. I found that prejudice exists in both racial groups and it is not always whites supporting whites or blacks supporting blacks. There were times that I was ashamed at how white friends of mine were treated when applying for the same jobs that I had.

    That said however, I think the major difference between say black and white people is that white people have built many of the world’s most powerful, successful and effective societies (USA, Germany, France, U.K, Russia etcetera). That fact gives white people a certain innate self-confidence that black people have to purposely develop – sometimes in the face of discrimination from both their own people “who do YOU think you are – whitey?” as well as white people saying that “we don’t like your kind etc” or considerably more unpleasant things.

    A black person who wants to excel at science, business or technology finds that he or she has more opportunities in white-dominated societies than in black-dominated ones. Sometimes I feel a “quiet humiliation” at how far behind (economically, politically and militarily), black societies are. Sometimes I wonder if there is an inherent fault in black people – or are we simply designed for other things?

    Before I get my head torn off .. please consider answering these questions:
    Preface all questions with the phrase” “Name one black-majority country excluding South Africa with its own [INDIGENOUS] …. ”

    [Note: please exclude South Africa from your deliberations – it was a white-dominated until 1994 and so is a “hybrid” state]

    1) auto or airplane manufacturing industry?
    2) nuclear power whether civil or military?
    3) information technology or computer industry?
    4) pharmaceutical industry?

    I could go on, but I think I have made my point. Almost all white, Asians and indigenous (South) Americans have some form of industry and technology that they created that can be sold outside their home countries. Very few black-majority countries can say that.

    So the best thing that we black people can do is try to excel our jobs and the education or training needed to succeed. When we are sufficiently experienced, some of us will return to our countries of origin to try and kickstart their economies. It will be a long and hard battle.

    • 10 M
      December 11, 2009 at 23:15

      Hi, André–

      I had to chuckle at your discussion of the confidence of white people from France, the US, and the UK (specifically). You realize that the wealth to produce the industrial revolution came from the unpaid labor of enslaved Africans (and, later, colonized regions in Africa and Asia). So white people didn’t “build” those countries worth anything. And, as for technological advancement, you also realize that military occupation, heavy police repression, barring the colonized from education, and (after Independence) IMF and World Bank loans are the reasons for the shape of every field from agriculture to aerospace. It’s nothing inherent in a skin color; otherwise it wouldn’t have taken police and armies to maintain colonial order for so long.

      History matters a lot more than skin color.

  9. 11 Justin from Iowa
    April 15, 2008 at 15:32

    People define what defines them. Its a choice. Its one of society’s great tragedies that people let other people pigeonhole them into an image that doesn’t really represent them. White, black, thin, overweight, handicapped, whatever. If you choose to let other people’s perceptions rule how you define yourself, it leads to all this racial hysteria.

    Define yourself as you want to be, not as other people see you.

  10. 12 Ana Milena, Colombia
    April 15, 2008 at 15:35

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Steve.
    The way we behave has to do mostly with nurture, not with nature, specifically race. Imagine if it REALLY were that way…
    We can talk about a culture defining you – then we have features in every culture or region -, but there’s no way we atribute it to race, which is the story that even the mass media has spread.
    In my opinion, every race has its essence, and that’s when we say white, yellow and black are particular. That’s different to say that only one race has the path to success or power.

    Cheers! 🙂

  11. April 15, 2008 at 15:35

    Its important to differenciate between having an indentity based on skin colour, and treating someone not as your equal because of their skin colour.

    My skin is white and I come from a very rural background in the middle of oxfordshire. In my secondary school of over 6000 students there were only two black children. This may sound odd but until I was a fresher at university I didn’t know what black people’s hair felt like. It wasn’t until I plaited my black flatmate’s hair that I noticed there was any difference.

    I grew up in Boris Johnson constituency, which incidentally is next door to David Cammerons constitutency. As a result some of my friends have identified me with old boy tory stereotype, who is pro fox hunting because i come from a rural area and loves classical music. Is this a stereotype of acting white?

    I personally think that the fact that where I was brought up was very rural has had more of an impact on my identity than the colour of my skin. This is not to say that i would treat a person differently as a result of the colour of their skin, but it cannot be denied that people do have an identity as a result of the colour of their skin.

    There is a white identity and a black identity, this doesn’t mean that they are the same in every country, nore does it justify treating a person differently as a result of that identity.

  12. April 15, 2008 at 15:35

    Ros, thanks for continuing this discussion, if even in a new format today. I just want to say that while I am not sure what you mean by the “does your skin colour define you?” I would, again, love to submit that the question of power is at heart what seems to me to under discussiona, and how is that linked to our various conceptions of race in the modern context.

    Now, yesterday alot of people confused “acting white” or “whiteness” as an identity politics as being the equivalent to saying that, all white peoples are the same,or that all white people live in the West. This is not the same argument and I would go so far as to say is an effort to obscure the real issue. It simply means that there is a particular variant of “whiteness” to which most people in the global political economy aspire – white, black, blue, or green.

    What that also means is that to the extent that there are such aspirations, in terms of what it can do for your position of either power and, or powerlessness in society/ the world, is that it highlights that “whiteness” as discourse, regardless of how narrowly one defines it, is hierarchically a much more important value in society/ the world than yesterday’s discussion would suggest.

    Does that mean our “skin colours define” us, as you ask? I am not altogether sure but I do know that colour is real, especially insofar as its meanings, specifically in contexts where it is never acknowledged as well as for those who must contend with its political and other significance/implications in society. That means, there are a number of ideas, largely embedded in the fabric/institutions of Western civilisations, which read racial (stereo) types and skin colour, specifically, in particular ways and grant privilege accordingly.

    So that, if by association there is a hegemonic variant of “whiteness” which is in ascedancy, it is only reasonable to assume that that does affect peoples’ life chances and opportunities for success in real terms. Do we, then, “act white” as a way of achieving success? I am not sure, but call it what you will, you do what you need to, to survive the pitfalls of a very hostile world in which people judge you long before they have met or even get to know you.

    Is that to say you are less confident, or culturally grounded or that, in the case of being a “professional” and speaking “standard English” as well as being “punctual” makes you a ‘sell out’; that is, if you are not phenotypically white? No, not by itself, but insofar as there is not a privileging of certain satellite types of identities as regards culture, which are validated in the mainstream then it may well be said that that is so. Surely, we know better.

    As I noted yesterday, we each we have had too many factors which have influenced our histories, politically, socially, globally, etc. to be satisfied with these essentialist and narrow definitions of a type of cultural, or even racial/gendered selfhood which ‘naturally’ links our identities to our bodies.

    White people “act white” as well as all other people who see a benefit to doing so. It is simply (?) a performance intended to articulate as well as negotiate power/ fulnesss in specific contexts. Hence, “acting out” different ideas about your notion of self is a perfectly legitimate option, from where I sit!..My two cents worth!

  13. April 15, 2008 at 15:36

    Nature has perhaps succeed in playing a trick on us by giving human beings several colours. However these differences, rather than divide the world, I suppose is meant to foster closer ties.

    The man who is white, perhaps knows ‘all’ about being white should be curious to get close to the man, who is black (and who perhaps knows all about being black). Here the thin line that runs in-between the several colours is that NO MAN IS AN ISLAND.

    I submit that if the world accepts my opinion, then segregation and the like will be a thing of the past and the world will be the better for it. A look at the richest countries that rule the world shows that they believe more in the riches that are embedded in the world’s diversity

  14. 16 Mohammed Ali
    April 15, 2008 at 15:36

    This one the only thing that can actually define a person. But the whites have mistrued this to mean black is inferior and white is superior. That is the reason why every they have associated every bad thing with black and good things with whites. For example, the devil has being painted black, a black lie is a damagimg lie and just everything black is bad.

  15. 17 Ahmad Hammad
    April 15, 2008 at 15:39

    The modern world would never like to divide humanity on the basis of color or creed. This is so because we all know that the color of our blood that is the life itself, is red. And the color of our brain is grey.
    What makes a man different is his attitude. And the seed of attitude resides in our brain, that’s grey. Therefore we all are homopigmas. No difference at all!

    That sounds great! But when we look at the history, we come to know that it is the Nature that managed to divide us on the basis of our pusuits.

    Al-Jahiz, a Mutazilla of the medieval Islam, after a profound study of history, categorised the races such as:
    The wisdom has been bestowed upon the Europeans, the language upon the Middle East Asians and the skill upon the Far Easterns.

    As far as my own observation is concerned i would like to mention that men in the east, in spite of being rich in culture, science and wealth, have been very imaginative. The east off-springs great artists, great introverts, great spiritual leaders.

    On the other hand, the West is empricist in its nature. Though the Germans in philosophy and the french and the russians in literature tended to bow away the empricism, yet they are more scientific and more practical in their expression.

    As bottom-line, I would like to say that Yes, the skin color does define us both physically and mentally. Our aptitudes are defined with the color. I can’t prove it scientifically. I have only historical data to help me.
    However, now when our world has become a global village and acculturation has been paced up, the tendencies of attitude based upon color is likely to subside.
    All human beings are equal.
    Confucious, Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr., Iqbal and Tagore….all are equal!

  16. 18 sara
    April 15, 2008 at 15:52

    I am white. Living in northern part of Europe, there are more white people around me than black and coloured people. Interestingly the white people here, they don´t want to be that white, because they think black is beautiful… For me personaly I am facinated about all the different kinds of colours and faces in our world and i love this human diversity. To be honest, the more “not-white” a person is, the more i am attracted by her or him. Is this a form of racism?
    i do have different associations concerning skin colour. beside the question of attraction, i do feel a lot of respect towards coloured and black people. Even i do not know the personal story of black people I encounter, they sometimes make me think of our worlds history. i.e. of the horrible times during colonialization and slavery..It were “white” europeans who colonized “black” africans. that is the picture i have in mind and in these moments i feel very much ashamed that i am white and i feel warm sympathy with the black person sitting next to me…..that´s how it is to be white for me.

  17. April 15, 2008 at 15:56

    Certainly,the colour of ones skin is the number one identity card to an individual.
    This, to an extent is true because of humanity’s long history of colonialism and racism.Which makes anybody that is white to feel more superior to the colonised none-white.
    And Ros dont forget that we in Africa because of the over a century master-servant existence between the white colonial overlords and the colonised blacks,it is now embeded in the psyche of most Africans that the white is superior.
    Even the religions that most black Africans believe in,describe angels as white and devils as black.
    With the afore mentioned factors on the mind of indivuals it will be difficult for any not have his/her skin colour define his/her personality

  18. 20 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:11

    Dear Ros:

    Skin color is indeed a state of mind. But the length to which a lot of us go to changing our skin color speaks volumes to the mindset of most humans.

    I was recently in the United States. My sisters in Liberia requested that I bring back for them nothing other than skin lightening body creams. Is it by any means just a chance thing that the majority of those who belong to other races other than the Caucasian race all aspire to be white? I think not!

    The fact that modern mankind has been and is being defined by what Caucasians say, think, and believe speak volumes. In my country Liberia it is much more acceptable to have a western name than a name like mine. Most Liberian people find it difficult to pronounce my name simply because it is not a western name. The mindset it the problem with people of other races.

    Lamii Kpargoi in Liberia

  19. 21 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:13

    My skin colour specifies my origin but not my dexterity. I say for people of my origin should borrow time management from the whites, and whites should borrow hospitality from the blacks.

    Jared Ombui
    Makerere University

  20. 22 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:17

    I do agree that being black is a state of mind. In Ghana there is an entrenched notion, especially among illiterates and those born in colonial times that white people are better than blacks. People call their kids “me broni ba”, meaning my white baby to show how beautiful their kids are. musicians who sing about their lovers refer to them as my white girl in music to depict how special they are. A school in my area has written on its school bus “abrofo mma” which means “white kids” to show how important their pupils are to them. You are even more respected if you have a white boss. This mentally exist not because they are black in color,its been passed on from colonial times.
    Kwabena in Ghana

  21. 23 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:17

    Hi Ros,

    Hope you ok,sorry been silent but im back,good topic,my question is how do whites behave?

    I think i should encourage BLACKS and ASIANS to get good EDUCATION and stop chasing the CELEB statatus,some whites do behave just as badly as some blacks im shock some black Americans are now saying Senator Obama is more white than black,bottom line lets all try to love fellow humanbeing just as you love yourself.


    from Kenya.

  22. 24 mubarak ssesanga
    April 15, 2008 at 16:26

    When European football fans subject black football players to monkey touts, then you know that skin colour defines us, those trying to hide it, just want to be good on radio.History makes my colour (black) the unfortunate one. Why are black Americans not Americans but Black Americans ?? why are we discussing this if we all behaved and treated each other as HUMAN BEINGS?? Mubarak ssesanga kampala, uganda

  23. April 15, 2008 at 16:28

    My blood is red, as is that of my ‘black’ brother, ‘asian’ sister, and on down the line.


    My ‘whiteness’ is probably my least defining physical trait.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  24. 26 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:31

    Hello Ros,
    No, people are not defined by their skin color, nor by their thoughts; but only by their deeds. I personally try every day never to describe anyone adjectively ( i.e. “that black women, or this Asian man”). What do these adjectives have to with their humanity, or lack thereof?

  25. 27 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 16:34

    I 100% agree with Henry from Kenya. That some (unfortunately it’s not a small amount) blacks shun education, is a bad thing. If acting “black” is being unemployed, drinking beers at 11AM on a street corner, and highly likely to have HIV (washington DC has the highest HIV rate in the US, and is mostly limited to the black community), begging for money, then I don’t know what sane person would want to be that way and dissuade others from improving themselves do they don’t have to live that way? I’d much rather live in a comfortable apartment, have a job that I don’t love nor do I hate, than be getting drunk at 11AM becuase I hate my life, smelling like urine, and likely sleeping on the streets when not panhandling. That’s the reality here. There’s not much to be proud about that, or a drug culture/gang culture where you’re lucky to live to be 25 or make it to 21 before going to jail. I mean, if you think logically about this, say you’re a straight guy, you like women, the last place I would want to go to is prison. Yet that’s apparently not enough.

    The unfortunate thing is we have too many liberals in the US that excuse and enable bad decisionmaking, discourage education and self improvement, and just saying “they’re different, just accept it, and no, I won’t hire them becuase I need my employees to speak english properly”…

    Please, visit Washington, DC, visit Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and compare it to Northwest, or suburbs like Montgomery County, Fairfax county, or Arlington. It’s like separate worlds.

  26. 28 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:38

    Hi Ros,
    Yesterday I mistook the topic,however about the above, its the person who sees you that matters.Mankind has always been influenced by other peoples thinking and biases.This is because as people of differing skin pigment stay long together,they rarely use skin color to define each other.
    Togo Kasoro

  27. 29 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 16:40

    Hi Ros,

    I followed yesterday discussion there a number of experiences to recone. Colour plays a very important role in our societies. People should not forget why the world have boundaries and borders its because these identity issue. Who belongs where anyway? Just think of the issue of Visas or resident permit, most colour plays a very important role to a service. On the world labour market people of less colour are looked down when it comes to get employment. In hospitals in some countries dont want to be treat by black doctors. When I was studying I had this experience, I worked in old peoples homes. When I was introduced no one looked at me I was resented. The first woman I brought food refused to eat that day. However, after a few days I became a darling of everyone and I was pelled with work because almost reisedent in the house was calling for my services. Its difficult to base the problems that we encounter on colour alone, maybe attitude to one a nother could be more important to bring about equality among humans. Some people still feel they are better than others


  28. April 15, 2008 at 16:42

    Steve is right, Fairfax County (I had the displeasure of growing up there) and Anocostia… separate worlds, and only like 15 miles apart.

  29. 31 ZK
    April 15, 2008 at 16:43

    Being Asian, white, black, Latino or any race will come with its associated preconceptions and misconceptions.

    To a certain extent I do feel that one’s race helps define oneself. Your ethnicity comes with a certain culture and certain traditions. Occasionally these cultures and traditions clash with others. In a situation dominated by a certain culture, I would think that there is a pressure on those involved who’re not from the dominant culture to conform to what is dominant.

    That’s “behaving white” or “behaving black”. As Dotun Adebayo put it last night, in a white, working-class, world you have to “act white” — adopting the behaviours to make an impression. And in a black community, if you’re not black, “acting black” might (or will) earn you more respect from those you’re trying to work with, that you’re able to connect on their level.

    Sure, I do behave — or in this example, alter my accent the best I can — differently when speaking to non-Asians, as compared to speaking with my friends in Singlish, like your other guest Rani spoke about last night. It just happens.

    So yes and no. My skin colour does define me — it provides my grounding and how I would normally behave. If the situation calls for it, however, I will alter my behaviour to try to make things seem ‘normal’ for others. And if this means altering my accent or mannerisms to a “white” one, then so be it.

  30. April 15, 2008 at 16:53

    Hi, listeners,I apprecatied the question which was posted on air here earlier, well, the colour defined the human being of which category you belongs,by not mistaken me that, whites are called whites becuase they have their skin which is light brown ,and Africans ,with Dark colour,that is why we are called Afriacns because we are black or dark skinned ,it is always in my mind if i see any whiteman,whether from Europe or America,according to African word we refferd them as foreigners becuase they are not blacks,
    makoi ,
    a student of development studies in Africa.

  31. 33 Angela from Washington D.C.
    April 15, 2008 at 16:59

    People place too much emphasis on race. I am a black woman and have many black, white, latino, asian, and arab friends. I was raised in a predominantly white environment and I am frequently told that I act too white or some other non-sense. I was raised to view people individually and not based on their race. Stereotypes and racism will always exist and many people can’t see past color lines. I identify myself as an educated black woman but my “blackness” does not define me.

  32. 34 Ros Atkins
    April 15, 2008 at 17:03

    Hi Ros,

    I am a black young man who had the privilege of living with people of all shades of skin colour in the UK (Check out http://www.pestalozzi.org.uk ). From my experience, skin colour does not define a person. I think it depends on a person’s cultural influences and personal choices. I think Ana’s observation is well founded. That said, most of our cultures are still single-race and it may appear that the behaviour we exhibit is in-born. Let’s face it different cultures have their strengths and weaknesses. We ought to learn from each other while maintaining the good from our own cultures
    Thomas Mukonde. Kitwe, Zambia.

  33. 35 VictorK
    April 15, 2008 at 17:12

    I think Andre raises an important point: why are all black run countries impoverished, economically mismanaged, politically volatile, consumers rather than producers, and generally failed? Haiti, Jamaica, Nigeria, the DR of the Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe: it is always the same story, differing only in degree. And many of these countries have achieved grinding levels of poverty despite being packed with all sorts of mineral resources.

    Does skin colour define economic and political success? Again, I think the answer is no; but culture and circumstances do, and many of these countries are marked by dysfunctional public cultures compounded by unviable demographics.

    Almost all of the world’s successful countries are characterised by (1) long national histories that have provided the context within which functioning social, economic and political institutions have developed; and (2) ethnic and cultural homogeneity (more or less), which has meant harmonious conditions within which people have been able to get on with the business of making the most of their abilities, and just as importantly has allowed them to develop a sense of nationhood with an accompanying sense of national interest, national pride and national achievement (all, surely, great motivators when it comes to development?).

    There are only a handful of black countries with anything like a long history (Ethiopia, Liberia, and a few Caribbean countries, and most of these do not possess anything like internal cohesion: there is a sharp division between Africans and ex-slaves from the USA in Liberia, and skin-shadism is a very real thing in a country like Jamaica), while the bulk of African states exist within artifical colonial borders that bring together alien and often hostile ethnic groups.

    It is impossible for an artificial country to develop a genuine sense of patriotism and a wish amongst its people to make sacrifices and undertake burdens for the benefit of the nation (as with the history of Japan’s Westernisation). In Europe, a ‘nationalist’ party is a party of chauvinists and zealots for the nation; in Africa a ‘nationalist’ party is a political movement seeking to sever colonial ties (the better to exploit the country), but with no real patriotic component to its programme, since there was never any real ‘nation’ to begin with (which is why practically all sub-Saharan African states use European tongues as their ‘national’ languages).

    At least that’s the outline of my take on this aspect of what skin colour defines and determines. But even in this connection it is not skin colour which is the main consideration, but culture, history and politics.

  34. 36 Rashid Patch
    April 15, 2008 at 17:13

    Mine was an Irish-American, Catholic family. In the 1950s in Virginia, I was shot at by the Ku Klux Klan, because Irish was not “white”. (Probably, Catholic was even less “white”…).

    In 1965, while attending college in Chicago, I was with a mixed-race group of undergraduates on the campus of the University of Illinois, and there was a heated discussion of this same issue. While people were arguing, one photography major walked around the group with a light meter. It turned out that among the group of “blacks”, “whites”, Hispanics, Jews, and Asians, the darkest skin color – according to the meter – was that of a young Polish woman. (The finding, established by intruments, almost caused a fist-fight – which heated rhetoric had not done.).

    I became a Muslim around 1978. In Islam, racism or color discrimination is explicitly forbidden; either are seen as pernicious varieties of “asabhiyya” – tribalism. Being forbidden doesn’t keep some Muslims from practicing this sort of discrimination – but at least it can’t be justified.

    Without regard to race or color – I have to say that I personally find the “droop-drawers” style really ugly. At least half a dozen times, I have seen young men with sagging trouser try to run to catch a bus, or runing across a street, and fall flat on their faces. I can’t help but think of if as the “full-diaper look”.

  35. 37 John in Salem
    April 15, 2008 at 17:23

    When seen by someone white I am a man.
    When seen by someone of another color I am a white man.
    When seen by my child I am a father.
    When seen by my wife I am a work in progress.

  36. 38 Andrew
    April 15, 2008 at 17:24

    Inevitably when you are transplanted into another society of course you can do one of two things. If this new society is one where the racial composition is very different to yours than yes you will be defined by how you look and if you blend in and adopt the behaviour of that group then it will be minimised. But for the most part you cannot escape your look. Is that such a bad thing though?

    If you do decide to assimilate and blend into the background, this can mean either capitulating to the majority group or simply that you want to respect your new home and accept their societal values. If you want to stick out then that is your right, but to do so simply to upset says more about you than it would of others. Why would you need to do that? Might as well not have moved in that case. That is often the source of problems and leads to your whole group being labelled as undesirable.

    But it does go deeper than skin colour as those within an all white group or all black group, Asian, etc will have experienced the situation where you might look the same as those around you but being from a different region or country, you will still find biases and preconceptions aimed at you. Something which you cannot escape, it is part of the human condition.

  37. April 15, 2008 at 17:36

    The body reacts to color and different shades of color in an psychological manner. It is difficult to define what is acting white or black accept to say that acting white is acting good and acting black is acting bad. So if I go into a job interview and the person giving the interview is white, I make sure I speak with perfect grammer and am on my best behavior.

  38. 40 Anthony
    April 15, 2008 at 18:05

    I know a lot of mixed raced people. If they are black/hispanic but look more black, they act black. If they look more hispanic they act more hispanic. Same with they are mixed with white, asian, whatever. If they look more like one race than another, they act more that way.

    -Anthony, LA, CA.

  39. 41 frederick
    April 15, 2008 at 18:06

    I’ve had this discussion several times with my friends of diverse colors because as disappointing as it is, you hear some confess that they will not pursue relationships with people of other races because their communities simply will not accept them. But I ask, does being black make me less of a suitable partner? What if I grew up in say India or China as a black-skinned person, having no idea how the stereotypical black person behaved? Does that still make me less of an Indian or Chinese than the next Indian?

    I think being “defined by skin color” is a more of an issue of culture and environment than your actual skin color. In the United States there are some light-skinned people who I say act more “black” than I do, and this is because they’ve grown up in a predominantly black community and have only been exposed to those lifestyles and mannerisms. I grew up in Ghana, West Africa, and even though certain behaviors are common among blacks (like raising your voice during conversations, even when they’re not in aggressive situations), I’m not the stereotypical “black guy in baggy pants and ‘bling’ because I simply did not find myself in that environment. Color only adds variety; let’s not confuse it with culture and define people solely by their skin color.

  40. 42 Scott Millar
    April 15, 2008 at 18:10

    Culture, not color, is the heart of this. It just so happens cultures are usually collated by color. These degrees of separation are changing; as integration of color increases we shall all begin to see that conflicts are rooted in cultural differences – NOT COLOR.

    -Portland, Oregon

  41. 43 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 18:15

    NY Oil speaks “black”. If he did that at the workplace, he’d have a hard time getting hired or getting promoted. It’s honestly not that “professional”. Imagine calling up a law firm for legal advice and whomever answered the phone spoke that way. And that’s quite mild too. There are much stronger accents and word usages that simply would limit your employment options if you spoke that way. Would you feel confident about their abilities to help your legal problem? It’s a hip hop thing, and it really limits what you can do. But not only blacks speak that way. There are whites that talk that way.

    Blacks are not the only ones that change the way they talk depending on whom they are around. Hillary Clinton will change her accent depending upon her audience. You can hear it best back during Bill Clinton’s first campaign where she gave her “stand by her man” talk in an interview about possible affairs Bill was having. She was basically trying to sound like a southern belle and it was painful to listen to. If you watch the movie “The Departed”, the character of Mark Wahlberg asked Leo Dicaprio’s character whether he had different accents based upon whether he was hanging out with rich Bostonites or poorer ones.

    My personal belief that any pride in your race or ethnic group is more based in insecurity. I don’t have to be proud, or boast about myself or my background, to know. It’s like if you drove around in a BMW so people could think you are high status. It’s just insecurity. If you were truly proud of what you are, you don’t have to boast about it.

  42. April 15, 2008 at 18:16

    the artist who is on your show right now is speaking the truth as plain as i’ve heard it said in years. thank you! racism is deep, alive, and embedded in every aspect of our culture, and asking black people to ignore our situation or “see beyond” race is part of a deep racist system that must be destroyed.

  43. 45 jesse
    April 15, 2008 at 18:18

    where and when has it ever happen that a group of people or persons are difine by their skin colour?it’s either racial discrimination or ignorance. skin colour do not difine personality.

  44. 46 Mike
    April 15, 2008 at 18:18

    I think that how race is used by OTHERS to define one is the more important question.

    As a “biracial” male with all of the outward trappings of a reasonable level of social and economic success in the US, I can’t tell you how often I have to cope with the ways society flinches at the sight of me — grabbing its purses, subjecting me to extra scrutiny at domestic and international airports (Germany, France, esp), puzzling at how articulate I am, etc. These and other subtle and not-so-subtle reminders underscore the fact that no matter how at peace I am with my post-racial sense of self, the world lingers far behind. Decades, in many cases.

  45. 47 Tatyana
    April 15, 2008 at 18:22

    Why should we speak about the skin,
    What does the colour of its mean?
    We should speak rather of a man
    I mean the inner world.
    I’d like to know what he is
    That’s what is to be told.
    is he just smart and well behaved,
    And is he well brought-up?
    Is educated he or not,
    And go to any club?
    How he’s dressed,how he speaks,
    What he’s achieved in life?
    Is he hard-working or is not,
    And does his business thrive?
    If you are decent,a good friend,
    Reliable and kind
    I won’t think about your skin,
    Its colour won’t mind.

  46. 48 Anthony
    April 15, 2008 at 18:30

    Why does this M.C. get so mad when blacks say “beautiful white baby” yet he says “beautiful black kids”. That’s contradictory.

    I’m hispanic, but I’m 100% American. Some of my friends call me a coconut, and a traitor, and a “Pocho”, but I don’t care. I’m proud of who I am, and if anyone assumes anything because I’m dark, then I could care less.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  47. 49 Allison
    April 15, 2008 at 18:34

    More important than any actual physical manifestation are the labels we give ourselves. In the United States, “color” has the significance that ethnic group or religion has in other places. It’s a natural human instinct to define in-group and out-group, no matter what the definitions of those boundries are.

    In the end, I think it’s a question that leads to a false dichotomy – either one is defined by their racial heritage or they’re not. This is silly. We all are defined by our color to a greater or lesser extent. But real people are more complicated than one or two physical traits. We can not escape “color” or “race” but nor are we defined by it solely.

  48. 50 Ruben (Colorado, USA)
    April 15, 2008 at 18:35

    As far as I am concerned, the color of my skin is only one of the parameters that define who I am. As far as others are concerned, more often than not, I am defined by the color of my skin before I am defined by the content of my character.

    As an African living in the US, I am [figuratively speaking] presumed guilty of being black even though I share very little of the history of African Americans.

    I speak with an accent – it shocks people who hear me for the first time. This is just an example.

  49. 51 Joel
    April 15, 2008 at 18:36

    I’m a white person and I’m abhored by the hypocrisy of white people. Every race is racist to a certain extent but we, whites are the biggest racists. We see any non white as inferior or a threat. Let’s stop the political correctness and admit that we are racists instead of trying to dress it up as something else!

  50. 52 Nicholas
    April 15, 2008 at 18:36

    What the is the point of being so angry at the world. I don’t understand why being so angry and accusatory is thought to be improvement or a step forward. The more we talk about this, the more we create the problem. I believe this gentlemen needs to listen to his own advice and not make race an issue.

  51. 53 Phil Yates
    April 15, 2008 at 18:36

    I had to ask a question in response to an email read on the air: the part of the comment I heard was “Do I have to apologize for being white? I don’t ask you to apologize for being black.” First, no one asked for an apology for anything! Treat other as you wish to be treated!! Second, when you say I don’t ask you to apologize for being black suggests a psychological disposition that blacks are flawed or predisposed towards something negative. What did you mean by that comment?

  52. 54 Damisi
    April 15, 2008 at 18:38

    I would think that ‘white and black’ are misnomers. Is there a truely black man or a truely white man? I guess I will be scared when I meet one. I have met different shades of ‘brown’ and ‘pink’ people.

    Is there anyone who had the opportunity to choose his/her race? If no, then accept who you are and make the best of it. See others as human beings and together we can make our planet a better habitation for all!

    Race can affect your past, but your future and success in life depend much on what you do with who you are.

  53. 55 Not Forgotten
    April 15, 2008 at 18:38

    I am a white man living in America. I know that my race gives me advantages, and if people here think otherwise, it is because they haven’t made an attempt to understand history.

    I do not have to worry about being followed in a store as a potential shop lifter, I do not have to worry about not being considered for a job because of my race.

    All these very basic things give me priority status here. It seems useless to deny it. But every day I try to address it and keep in mind the experiences of people of different races.

  54. 56 Chuck Paugh
    April 15, 2008 at 18:38

    It is my belief that there are too many people out there of all colors who make a career of dividing the rest of us racially and therefore incite racial incidents to justify their own existence and increase funding for their programs. This, I believe, is the greatest obstacle we face to resolving the race issue in our world today.

    Chuck Paugh
    Portland, Oregon USA

  55. 57 sam
    April 15, 2008 at 18:38

    I feel the some of the same pain. I have no ethnic identity, culture or history. I feel no connection to my ancestors. I am regularly asked what my ethnic background is–not by both white and non-white americans. My skin is darker, but my ancestry is northern european. I cannot speak the language of my ancestors, I cannot return to Europe. It is true my ancestors came to the US by force of poverty not by the disgusting force of slavery. I grew up being more attracted to people with dark skin. But most often rejected because I am “too white”. I grew up being told “I was good looking for a white guy.” I grew up comparing the color of my skin with African Americans, sometimes I was darker sometimes lighter. My best friend in college was African European and was often told by African Americans stop acting/talking like a white. He thought he was acting like himself.

    It is sickening to me to hear that people in Ghana say “My beautiful white baby.”

  56. 58 Jacques via email
    April 15, 2008 at 18:41

    Are really people wasting time worrying about their skin color instead of living?
    Do they have such a low self esteem?
    I am black and proud of it, but I work and live as a human being and leave the rest to the ignorants who look to define me as they wish. I am above that.

    Jacques KO from Boston

  57. 59 Sarah
    April 15, 2008 at 18:42

    When I was a little girl, I was standing in line at a grocery store with my mother. There was a black man in the next line and I said “mommy look at that tall black man!” My mom was horrified (at that time you did not say black, and she didn’t know where I had learned that at all,) until she looked ahead of us in line where I was looking and saw that there was a very tall ‘white’ man with a huge black coat on standing in front of us.
    We are not born with this innate understanding of skin color as defining ourselves, but are taught it through our everyday lives just as we are taught other ‘norms’ such as gender or sexual orientation ‘norms’. Things are getting better and it is only through discussions like this and making others aware of these issues that we can continue to mature as a society.

  58. 60 Elias via email
    April 15, 2008 at 18:42

    I love being white. It is wonderful to be at the top of the food chain. But, having said that, the real issue is education. It makes no difference what colour you are, if you have a good education you too can reach the top of the food chain.

    Dionysos, Greece

  59. 61 Anthony
    April 15, 2008 at 18:43

    By the M.C. saying that, he’s stating that I can’t act like what I think an American acts. I know the history of Mexico all the way from the Aztecs to now, but I enjoy the principles, and have grown up American. So I’m supposed to act like the typical “Hispanic” just because my friends act that way? That’s just silly. That’s like saying a black guy not speaking in Ebonics is a traitor to his race. Believe me, it’s easier to just act like people around you. That’s why the majority of M.C.’s act and sound the same.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  60. 62 Tedla via email
    April 15, 2008 at 18:43

    In this age of DNA we all know that skin color pigment only tells less than one percent of all the human physiology.

    Ninety nine percent of human genetics make up are similar and this argument is only valid in the field of science and social relationship, however, looks it differently.

    Human relationship is much driven by skin color as was the case since human civilization.

    Dark and brown people had a chance to dominate the world and made everything in their own image. No wonder Jesus Christ was black/brown man with short hair unlike the one disseminated in the white world, white and blond Jesus.

    The recent anthropologist findings on the feature of Jesus as brown man with dark hair short in size got out of hand rejection from many Christian whites.

    Skin color is not going to go away no matter some tried to bleach themselves to conform to the dominant skin color of our century, the white.

    I am still black and proud and do not look down on my white friends and see Jesus as reflection of myself.


  61. 63 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 18:43

    Joel, you speak for yourself. Maybe you view other races as threats or inferior, but I don’t. You speak for only you, don’t dare speak for anyone else, or apologize for anyone else.

  62. April 15, 2008 at 18:44

    As one of a few resident Jamaicans in the mix, I take special umbrage with any efforts to define us as other than we are. Jamaica does have its fair share of problems (economically, politically and socially), some of which VictorK has alluded to. However, I do not know that the issue of “shadism” which he so eloquently speaks of here is either a unique, or the only characteristic of the question of race as posed by the discussion, specifically as it applies to Jamaica.

    The reality is that “shadism”, as VictorK calls it, is a problem in most post colonial societies where the issue of aping the versions of colonial Britishness left in these societities, at the level of the institutions around which power is organised, is fairly common. This is not unique to Jamaica. As far as I know the problem holds true in places like India and Zimbabwe, as well as elsewhere, where skin bleaching and other chemical methods of “lightening up” are quite common.

    Indeed, the Indian scholar Gaytri Spivak’s crucially posed question “Can the Subaltern Speak” speaks directly to the condiitions of a post-colony, of which Jamaica is one, as well as the issues addressed therein as a result of the power imbalances formed between whites and non-whites, specifically colonialists and the colonised. By articulating concerns which span nationalities within the geogrpahies of the British post colonies, Spivak I think is articulating a consciousness based, in part on the intersection between race and skin colour as identity/ politics (Just a note!).

    However, more importantly the question of race and its political significance go beyond a mere issue of the colour of one’s skin. It also encapsulates real issues of access, economic resources and political clout, as well as whether those same socities highlighted in your example above have not been starved of resources, as well as undermined in several other ways. These have, in part, accounted for their sorry state of affairs in the current dispensation.

    So that, I am not so sure the matter is simply a question of shades of complexion but rather race a political decimal in the shifting equations of power we construct in our myriad relations with each other. What does it mean to be black, or white, or Asian for that matter? It means you are person, of course, but, often, in a specific context. A more important question is what are the contextual factors which inform our experiences vis-a-vis race, as we know it?

  63. 65 Jeff
    April 15, 2008 at 18:46

    I believe its individuals like you MC who are keeping racism alive. Over the generations our children are washing colors together, yet you let your negative experiences define you and the rest of us focus on the good.

  64. 66 Allan via email
    April 15, 2008 at 18:47

    Why categorize? Black, White, Yellow, etc. does it really matter about the past? Is it because of such negative terms like “Black Market” that derives the hate and separates black/white idealism? You shouldn’t sit back and look at situations and define them by race, you should see what you can do as a person that is different from the norm.

  65. 67 Steve via email
    April 15, 2008 at 18:47

    The examples people are giving today, seems to be all based in insecurity. The caller who said that in India, Bollywood stars have to look european (she mistakenly said Anglo), in Lebanon they use contact lenses to have blue eyes, some people lighten their skin in Africa, etc.
    It’s all insecurity. It’s also an excuse. It’s the same excuse that people say that magazines lead women to be superficial and anorexic, blaming the magazine or the media rather than the person making the superficial free willed choice to do whatever it was regarding their appearance. It’s a lack of accountability. Something is always someone else’s fault. Is anyone forcing these bollywood actors at gunpoint to lighten their skin? Are Africans forced at gunpoint to lighten their skin? So long as there is no duress involved, they only have THEMSELVES to blame for their decision.


  66. 68 Ana from Puerto Rico
    April 15, 2008 at 18:48

    I have been living in the USA for a couple of years and it is hard to see how divided this country is by skin color. I am from Puerto Rico in my country we are all Puerto Rican regardless of our skin color we are not a country divided by our skin color. Yes we do have labels for skin color but it does not define you or limit you it is simple descriptive. Moreover I have had to fight against stereotypes and racist comment outside of my country, but I have realized that this problem is cultural, different cultures value culture and race in different ways. In Puerto Rico we value culture above all else, I think this is an easier way to live! I really do not like to think about my skin color this is just silly and most importantly I do not let it define me.

  67. 69 Meg Lulofs
    April 15, 2008 at 18:51

    I’m a white American of Dutch and Irish descent, and if I’m to believe the people on your show this afternoon, I don’t need to define myself as white: they’ve already made up their minds about my whiteness and what it must mean about me, my socio-economic status, etc. Racism?

  68. 70 Luis Hernandez
    April 15, 2008 at 18:51

    Maybe I’m just idealistic but. I live in California, I’m hispanic, but appear white so its only name name that defines me as Hispanic. My wife is black and our two daughters are totally different, one white, one black. I have never noticed any difference in peoples attitudes to the girls based on their skin color. The worst I have ever heard are comments asking if they are sisters! The more we define ourselves by our skin color the more we descend into tribalism.

  69. 71 Casandra in the USA
    April 15, 2008 at 18:51

    Society dictates that my white skin means I am priviledged. It means that I cannot derive explicit pride in my European background. It should be a source of shame because people before me with the same skin color enslaved others. It means people with “dark” skin do not readily speak to me, despite my sunny face and friendly attitude. It means I am supposed to somehow make amends for what people with the same color did in the past. My question is… how do I make reparations for what people with the same color did to others in the past besides NOT being racist. Besides NOT continuing stereotypes. Besides speaking up when these things DO happen?

  70. 72 Krista
    April 15, 2008 at 18:52

    I am continually amazed that so many people say they are against racism yet they define themselves and others based on race. “Blackness” is a reference to skin but listening to people on your show so far they seem to be using as a cultural definition. What is “white” or “black” culture? There is no such thing. There are many different cultures that happen to have members that are lighter or darker skin tone. I define myself based on my experience, my family, my location and my culture but not my skin. I have more in common with those that have similar experiences/family/location to me than someone of a similar skin tone from half-way around the world.

    On another note. I am an individual no one can say what my experiences with prejudism and racism have been because of my skin. Making that judgement itself is prejudist.

  71. 73 Sparks
    April 15, 2008 at 18:52

    I guess I should say “I’m sorry” but I don’t think it will make a difference.

    Chris Sparks
    Portland Oregon

  72. 74 jonny paris
    April 15, 2008 at 18:53

    There are many shades of white. The danes and the swedes look at each other askance.

  73. 75 Nick
    April 15, 2008 at 18:53

    Does NY think he is the only person in the world who has ever been wronged? It happens to whites, blacks, and asians. How is he so sure what other people think about him? Can he read people’s minds?

  74. April 15, 2008 at 18:54

    Ok MC, so ‘black’ people have the ‘struggle’, and we (‘whites’) don’t understand…. But do you understand that ‘white’ people are being demonized by these vast stereotypes that you are saying ‘we’ put you through?
    I’m sorry, but it seems like you want ‘white’ people to appologize to you for something that other people from their skin color have done to you and the people of your skin color…. Ask those people for the appology who comitted the acts, don’t classify us all because we share a similar skin color with those you have issues with.
    And then to say ‘we dont understand’. I have been chased and had stuff thrown at me for being a ‘white boy’ in the wrong neighborhood. And I don’t want appologies from anyone but those who harrassed me.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  75. 77 Mark via email
    April 15, 2008 at 18:54

    Dear WHYS,

    I agree with the black man who argues for the black ownership and dominance in Africa. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander; he ought to also support indigenous white Europe. And if trends in Africa over the past 20 years are followed, Europe is completely right in sending blacks and other non-indigenous whites out of Europe.


  76. 78 Cali
    April 15, 2008 at 18:54

    As a black woman living in America, I cannot identify with the rage of this angry young black man. I believe that it is this young man’s anger that alienates him from those around him, and he blames this alienation on racism.

    The experiences of persons of color living in the inner city, suburbs, and rural areas of America are completely different.

    Perhaps, this angry young black man’s experiences are that of an inner city youth growing up in poverty and blaming others for this condition rather than accepting responsibility for his own station in life, but it is not representative of the entire black community.

    The fact that a black man is one of the top three persons running for president in the USA is a perfect contradiction to the racism claims of your guest today.

  77. 79 Dawn in Portland, Oregon
    April 15, 2008 at 18:54

    To NY: By saying white people have no way to relate to black people’s angst and we are all “former bullies”… isn’t that analogous to saying all men are former bullies to the way women were treated and they have no way of relating to the pain and suffering my ancestral sisters and I still today experience?

    Blanket statements like that is what perpetuates racial guilt and completely downplays the efforts of millions of us who try our damndest to empathize with the other ethnicities in the United States and worldwide. I have so much love for all humans who choose not to harm others or themselves.

  78. April 15, 2008 at 18:55

    Color means nothing to me; doesn’t define me, or anyone else in my mind. It seems to mean an awful lot to everyone else, but only when they aren’t the same skin-tone as I.
    thank you
    traverse city, michigan, usa

  79. 81 Nicholas
    April 15, 2008 at 18:55

    I apologize for being white. My great great grandfather never owned slaves. In fact he did not live in the US. But I’m sure if giving the chance he would have been a racist slave owner, because after all he was white.

    Move on with your life.

  80. 82 Sarah
    April 15, 2008 at 18:56

    I resent being told that because I am white, I am automatically the bully that picked on someone, finally started to do right and is expecting the people they picked on to be ok with it because it is done.
    I understand that wrong was done, and is still being done, but it wasn’t my fault. I have NEVER performed an act of racism toward anyone else, and I work hard to help others understand when they have said or done something to perpetuate this problem.
    Wrong is being done, yes, but please do not lump me into the wrong-doing just because of MY skin color.

  81. 83 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 18:58

    For those of you who want to be profiled, travel to Canada. White, young, unmarried, you will be singled out by customers and presumed to be a drug runner up to no good until you prove otherwise. Being white isn’t always fun and games.

    I’ve been to Poland, I’m white, and I’ve had store security come up to me. Why? Because I didn’t know polish and was looking closely at items to try to figure out what they were so I could buy it and eat it. Having worked in retail when I was in high school, we had shoftlifters of all races. In fact, depending on the race, we would not even make efforts to stop them. I remember a time a black couple walked out with two shopping carts full of things they didn’t pay for and the manager said for us it’s better to let them shoplift and get away than be somehow sued. All we did was call the cops after they had left. When whites would try it would run and tackle them.

  82. April 15, 2008 at 18:58

    I am over a half-century old and white. My father would probably have been considered biased against color. I formed my own opinion and have always wanted to make friends and learn from anyone I meet as to who they are, regardless of color. I was hurt when my husband and I first told my father we wanted to get married that his reply was “you’re free, white and 21!” He was prejudiced against my husband as well, even though he is white. I have had the experiance of being excluded from groups of people of color because I am white and probably considered as not being able to relate to them. Prejudice of any kind is unfortunate and against the precepts of my Christian beliefs.

  83. 85 Scott Millar
    April 15, 2008 at 18:59

    Your guest is half-baked, half-cocked and boorish. His perpetuation of the problem is fueled with anger not intelligence. Sometimes the anger of oppression, turns you into an oppressor and you yourself become one of the offenders. He repeatedly makes fallacious and hypocritical statements. Behavior like this will change nothing.

    -Portland, Oregon

  84. 86 Fiona
    April 15, 2008 at 18:59

    What is frustrating about listening to this is that it’s only skin color. White or black, being a woman holds a host of issues. A woman is automatically treated like she isn’t smart enough, not dedicated enough and is sexualized wherever she goes (at least in America). I am a white woman and I don’t associate all black people as being any certain way, in fact I have a great respect for their culture and history. It’s not fair to say though that all white people have the privilege of being color blind. There are other defining factors besides color in social interactions.

  85. 87 elizabeth north
    April 15, 2008 at 19:03

    Such a great discussion! Informed, lively, civilised, passionate, articulate. Don’t you hope that the whole world, especially that of politics, may be as worthwhile one day.

  86. 88 Kevin
    April 15, 2008 at 19:04

    There is a great book called, “White Privilege.” As a white person I was shocked to learn how much I had benefited by my skin color. Racism does exist in the United States and we have to face it and acknowledge it. We can’t ask colored people to ‘get over it’ until we, as a nation, have recognized how deeply we have all been shaped by our institutions and mentalities.

  87. 89 Nick
    April 15, 2008 at 19:05

    All I can say is, I wish I was Mohammad. He is more secure with his skin color than I am (I’m white). I try not to worry about my skin color that much, but anytime I’m hanging out with black friends, I always feel like I need to be hypersensitive to their insecurities. I’m not comfortable in this situation.

  88. 90 frederick
    April 15, 2008 at 19:06

    Skin color does not define a person, but rather culture does. But read carefully, skin color should not define a person, but it does. If I was defining myself to other black people my statement would go something like “…as a young man”. However, to people of other races it would be “…as a young black man” because as much as I wouldn’t want to define myself by my skin color, when I’m seen by other races, I’m seen as “the black guy” and that’s the truth. Even if they don’t say it, they’re thinking it.

    I’ve lived in Canada for 6 years now and it’s a bit difficult to outline clear-cut racial experiences because Canadians now aren’t blatantly racist. Most of my racial experiences have been about class and not color. But then again, how often do you see above-average black people in predominantly white communities? Truth is, that black people have been identified with certain cultures because of their environment, and some of it has carried on down the generations and across the waters to descendants of slaves. I agree with NY; I don’t want to be homogenized. I think if that was the Creator’s intention he would’ve made all of us white or black or yellow or brown and whatever color I may’ve missed. I think the purpose is to enjoy the uniqueness of our cultures, and still learn to be united in our diversities.

  89. 91 Claire
    April 15, 2008 at 19:10

    Excuse me, NY, I understood your points until you said that black people can’t let their past injuries go because they haven’t been apologized to.

    I hate being labeled as white, but if you must, that’s one way to describe my skin. I am a teenager and the great-grandchild and grandchild of immigrants and Native Americans. Do I have to apologize for the despicable racism and violence perpetrated in the US in the past and today because I have light skin? No. Absolutely not. I am sorry that these problems still exist in my time and I will do all I can to fight them, but the fact that they do exist is not my personal fault. Plus, do you think saying sorry would even begin to cover it? No. We do have a duty, however, never to forget.

    I understand your point, NY, that “black people are hurting”. There are so many injustices that have been commited and so many mental and physical boundaries built by both the “white” and “black” communities, and it does hurt. But realize that it hurts on both sides.

    I am from an 80% African American community in Maryland and I have experienced deep-seated discrimination and race-related hatred and fear because I am white. When the bullies at my school hurled insults at me, nine time out of ten, the word “white” was thrown in the mix. Do you see why I don’t want to be defined by race? It only isolates us.

    You say you don’t want the world to be homogenized. Neither do I. I love the diverse cultures, languages, art, food, stories and clothing that exist in our societies. We should be proud of who we are and where we come from, but race should not be the first word out of our mouths. And by the way, you are so wrong when you say that culture and race go hand in hand: look at Brazil, just one example. I think you would encounter a lot of disagreement there.

  90. 92 Royston Roberts
    April 15, 2008 at 19:17

    hi ros, the colour of your skin does define you, beign a black makes you surbjective, coloured un-decisive, and white dominant and generally objective, what ever way you look at it, what ever post or role is given to a black person, they are answerable to white folks, and this status quo is going to remain the same for a long, long time, if not to eternity, it can never be chaged, black is black, white is white

  91. 93 Monique Archbold
    April 15, 2008 at 19:18

    As an American woman with Northern European heritage, I have extremely light skin, eyes, and hair. So does one of my daughters. She, like I did and do, will face another sort of prejudice–less insidious certainly–because she’s “too” white. She’ll burn (badly); she’ll be teased that she’s “glow in the dark;” she’ll be pressured to get a tan before important events like her wedding, graduation, first date, school photos; she’ll have to prove she is brilliant (she is) because she’ll automatically be thought clueless and ditzy; she’ll be singled out in class as if she, herself, participated in Hitler’s eugenics research; and people of all colors will tend to assume that because she is more “white” she is also more racist. Again, these put-downs and frustrations are hardly comparable in degree to slavery and its modern-day offspring. I share them to point out the fickleness of style and the superficiality of those who discriminate on outward appearance. The color of our skin/hair/eyes truly shouldn’t matter.

    My goal, as a parent, is to teach my children that they–like everyone else born on this planet–are special and have a role to play that no one else can play. They may be smart–but there will always be someone smarter. They may be attractive–but there will always be someone more so. They may be athletic–but there will always be someone else who is faster or stronger. Because of this, they must simply try to be the best person they can be and then celebrate whoever that is. Along they way, they must allow others that same privilege.

    Luckily, we live in a very diverse neighborhood where my children see and know and love people of all races and cultures. They are fortunate enough to not see any one group (for the most part) fail or succeed disproportionately. I can’t pretend it’s the answer to worldwide discrimination, but it IS the one I can author and shape.

  92. 94 Dora
    April 15, 2008 at 19:24

    Just a little something about this apologising thing, I know this is slightly off topic but it bothers me a bit. I feel very sorry very sorry indeed about the way black people have been treated in the past, I think it is a shamefull chapter in history and should never be forgotten but I in no way feel responsible.
    I am descended from a long line of working-class coal miners from the North of England, they certainly were not the perpetrators of slavery, they were too busy working 16 hrs a day underground 6 days a week.
    I do not like being told I should apologise for what not only I have not had a hand in but nor have my ancestors just because I am white. Governments, institutions, company’s and aristocracy who became rich off the backs and blood of others however is a different matter.

  93. 95 Ron
    April 15, 2008 at 19:25

    I guess I’m a little confused. If we’re talking about America, whether you’re white or black, what are the differences in our culture? Do native-born “African-Americans” spend their lives trying to identify with the culture of their ancestors from several generations ago? I certainly do not attempt to identify with and understand the culture of my German ancestors.

    Now, are we talking subcultures? “High class” or “trailer trash” or “hip hop”? How important is it to find your identity in a subculture? Good grief! We are all Americans. Let’s ALL remove the chips from our shoulders and choose to get along.

  94. 96 John in Salem
    April 15, 2008 at 19:27

    When I hear the guest on the show speaking of black identity and cultural pride I think of him as a man – when I hear him laugh at other people’s opinions I think of him as a fool.

  95. 97 Glaister
    April 15, 2008 at 19:33

    This is a bit off-the-cuff and I apologize guys but I felt compelled to participate. I think color-blind thinking is a dangerous undertaking in a world that is not; it’s quite foolish actually! I think the experience is also quite different for blacks and non-blacks, particularly whites. White people the world over have the luxury of just being a human being, a regular person in most contexts. There is almost an innate sense of their place in the world as a person…they are simply a person – while their circumstances may affect their life’s outcome their color is most often not restrictive or or in fact considered a liability (there are some instances but it is not generally the case). The paradigm of black people on the other hand is steeped in color-references and inferences. For blacks, we must contend with the perception that we are ugly, lazy, aggressive, lazy, shiftless. This disparaging outlook is not limited solely to whites or other non-blacks as some blacks also hold this very damaging view.
    Of course, this depends to a certain extent on the particular cultures and societies under consideration. When I lived in Jamaica I was aware of my blackness and history but it was taken for granted much as whites take being white for granted. However, when I moved to the United States there was definitely a paradigm shift. Suddenly, my being black was no longer an issue (largely) of cognizance, it became a central theme. If I went into a store, for an interview, went to a class I became aware that others would often react to me based solely on my skin color.
    I do not advocate color-blindness when it comes to race relations. I think our differences make us more valuable and make life more meaningful. However, I think what is now a luxury for many – the facility of a life not defined predominantly by race – would become a given for all, not simply the purview of a select few.
    One more thing, I don’t think there was anything flippant about reconciliation as undergone by South Africa. I’m not convinced that it was enough but I think it was an earnest attempt to move beyond the race-based horrors of their past. A simple “get over it guys” is insufficient. The world as we know it, the power and wealth certain groups enjoy and lack in others were borne out of our troubled past and continue to be maintained via a host of mental and actual/institutional constructs still in place.

  96. 98 Joan
    April 15, 2008 at 19:46

    I am am a white person from the United States, though my grandparents were from Europe. I think what many Black Americans don’t understand, is that within White European culture, there is as much a pecking order as the blacks feel they have been subjected to. As a Jew, the generation of my grandparents were murdered by the millions. My grand parents came to America, and I have lived in non-Jewish areas where honestly, I never tell my backround to my employer.

    My Russian grandmother felt that my Eastern European mother was a gypsy low life even though they were all Jewish, for instance. Or….as another example, when I told my Russian hairdresser that I had Russian ancestors, she looked at my curly hair and said “but not real Russians, right? You must be Jewish.” I was so tempted to say that is the difference between Russia and America: You can come here and in one generation be considered a real American, but you will never consider my Russian ancestors as real Russians.

    When Blacks ask for reparations, many whites are incredulous in that not only have they personally, never done anything cruel to blacks, but in fact have managed to escape with not much more than their own lives against various repressions.

    The only difference I can think of is that I don’t have to mention my ethnicity; a dark skinned person can’t hide their color. Even so, prejudices occur daily to many people. At least in the United States, we are not supposed to feel that way. Maybe one day it will be better.

  97. 99 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 19:56


    Lots of long established groups hyphenate themselves. Insecure people like to be “different”. We have Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc, lots of whites that insist on the hyphenated name so they can feel special. Not just African Americans do this. Let’s not forget there are some “German-Americans” in Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania that dress “german”, speak “German”, etc, so they’re pretty “proud” of their heritage and like to wear it on their sleeves too. I honestly don’t even know what I am, and don’t care.

  98. 100 Nick
    April 15, 2008 at 20:23

    Well put John, that bothered me as well.

    Thank you Monique. I was also born “too white” with bright red hair. It bothered me so much when I was young. People called me a ghost when I played skins in basketball. I even remember an incident on my college campus, in 2003, where a couple of basketball players were calling me Opie, but by this time, it didn’t affect me much. I used to try so hard to get a tan, which almost always resulted in a sunburn and my skin peeling off. Now I don’t leave the house without my spf 30 on. My point is: people need to let their insecurities about the color of their skin go. You’re not going to change it, and you’ll be so much happier when you stop dedicating so much time trying to change it or trying to defend it.

    About apologizing: I refuse to apologize for anything that happened in the past. If you’ve been wronged by society, then I will empathize and do my best to prevent it from happening again, but I will not apologize for something I didn’t do.

  99. 101 Gregory
    April 15, 2008 at 21:56

    Have you ever heard of the saying, “If you are white you’re alright, but if you are black you should stay back” ? – Well, it seems to have been implicitly implanted in the collective subconsciousness of all racial denominations, rich or poor, free or bond and young and old. Racism on the basis of pigmentation robs people of the means to qualify as a human being in any society, because it works on all levels, including mentally and economically.
    Xenophobia is an evil machine that functions to dissect and delude the people of this world. The “color bars” have been kept in place to keep us – the people of this world locked away in the complete “darkness” while thieving hands continue to exploit, destabilize and loot, not only Africa and the Third World of its immense wealth, but also the entire human race of a peaceful coexistence.

    H.I.M. Haile Selassie I, addressed the United Nations in 1963 with the following speech which I think best illustrates the point further and cautions humankind on the perils of a fascist doctrine: “That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained and until the ignoble but unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique, and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and goodwill; until all Africans stand and speak as free human beings, equal in the eyes of the Almighty; until that day, the African continent shall not know peace. We Africans will fight if necessary and we know that we shall win as we are confident in the victory of good over evil”.

  100. 102 Emile Barre
    April 15, 2008 at 22:28

    No. Global History does. And who we are is what we learn from it.

  101. April 15, 2008 at 23:47

    In America race is confused with class. We are having social problems here in Iowa City which has had a large infusion of African Americans from inner city Chicago. Iowa City is a college town and very middle class. The people from Chicago are lower working class and came to Iowa to better their living and working conditions. However their is a culture class between urban and rural cultures. People from the city, black or white are loud because you have to be loud to be heard in the city. Urban people have a pepery vocabulary because in Chicago, you can’t be considered a punk on the streets. This has carried over and this is inappropriate behavior in Iowa City. The residents are upset and the newcomers are angry and can’t understand why they are not welcome. It is class, not race that should be delt with in this situation. But in America, class cannot be seperated from race.

  102. 104 Noah Helenihi
    April 16, 2008 at 00:31

    Am I White?

    My father is Hawaiian. Most of his relatives are Pacific Islanders. But, I did not grow up with my father. I was raised by my mother. My mother is white, but because she was adopted and knows nothing about her birth parents, I have no idea what her heritage may be. So, where does that leave me? Well, most people think I look “White” so, I guess I’m white.

    And, as is the case with most white people (based on the impression I got from the listening to the broadcast on this topic), I don’t feel defined by my skin color. On the other hand, I don’t feel I have a culture, a history or a people either!

    I am equally un-defined by my sexuality, my gender, my politics, my class, my education, or any other popular trope of identity politics. It seems that most people feel they are “defined” by whatever aspect of their person for which they suffer oppression by others. If people hate because your sexuality, you might identify yourself through your sexuality, if they hate you because of gender, you identify yourself through your gender, etc.

    None of it will end until people stop hating for whatever reason. And, since hatred breeds resentment and resentment leads right back to hatred, I don’t see things getting better anytime soon.

    Still, I’m not sure I wouldn’t trade the appearance of “whiteness” for a chance to be part of a “people,” a “history” or a “culture.” It’s hard for me to say, having experienced none of the above.

  103. April 16, 2008 at 02:11

    Many years ago I knew a man, a big man with huge shoulders, twice my height and width, gentle ways and twinkling eyes and a mind sharp as a razor. He had come to the US years earlier from his native Jamaica. At that time, he often traveled back and forth between the two lands. Talking about racial prejudice one day, I asked him about his experiences as a black man in this country. His words were unexpected and enlightening. He said, “In Jamaica, I am a man. In America, I am a black man.” Yes, I thought, in the US the color adjective is the first line of definition, as culture or education, economic or social status might be in other places.
    Myself, I am white most of the year. In late spring I am less white and by midsummer I am usually quite dark if not altogether black. However others define me, I do not define myself other than as a person of the female gender. Any other labels applied to me by others are trivial, irrelevant and seldom noticed. IF indeed it is a prerogative of the world to define me, I choose to ignore its proceeds. To allow others to define me is to relinquish into their hands my sense of self. And my responsibility for that self. That would lessen me–and them. Dangerous business, that!

  104. 106 CarlosK
    April 16, 2008 at 03:54

    Hi Ros

    Yes my skin colour defines me. It reminds me of my proud origin. I am black, beautiful and fabulous! I descent from a race of overcomers, I am made-up of sturdier stuff! I am a part of the closes thing to a super race because my ancestors had to be an incredible set of human beings to have survived the middle passage and chattel slavery in the caribbean.

    It is not surprising therefore that we, Jamaicans and Americans, are amongst the finest set of athletes found this side of the universe. Yes I am black and proud. I do not desire membership in any other race. The very thought of being white, Asian etc. depresses me. Because they do not have a comparable pedigree.

    Other racial groups may look at me and see something lesser than I am but that is there problem. Because whenever I look in the mirror, I behold a marvelous specimen of the human race!

    Yes, my skin colour defines me in very positive ways. My only regret is that I am not darker in complexion.

    Please don’t think I am racist, I don’t have an ounch of racism in my blood. I am just simply thankful to God for allow me to be born black. I seriously doubt I would be this proud if I were allowed to be from any other racial group.

    Carlos, Kingston-Jamaica.

  105. 107 Dennis Cote
    April 16, 2008 at 07:14

    I’m white, of French and Finnish decent. I don’t speak French or Finn, nor do I “act” French or Finn.
    All I do is act human, which I also happen to be.
    I have black friends, but i call them “my friends”.
    My niece is black, but I call her “my niece”.
    Works fine for me. No labels need to be attached.
    Next topic,please…..

  106. 108 Robin
    April 16, 2008 at 07:16

    My skin color / ethnicity is a purely surficial trait that if anything hints at my geographical and to a very limited extent my cultural origin. But it is the greatest fallacy in the history of mankind to assume that race determines character. Nobody can possibly learn anything about me as an individual just by knowing my skin color. When I see a black person in Germany (where I’m from), I naturally assume they or their family immigrated from Africa at some stage – but that’s the only thing their skin color tells me about them, and even that will be inaccurate in many cases. To really know anything about each other, we’d just have to sit down and have a chat, just like if we were of the same skin color.

    In an ideal world, skin color would be as trivial an attribute as eye color.

  107. 109 yerima y. tanko
    April 16, 2008 at 09:19

    i dont believe that my skin color define my personallity. it is the mentality that someone has about himself that really matters.i am a person who dont like relating with people base on what they appear to be physically,but what the person is inwardly.

  108. 110 Neo
    April 16, 2008 at 12:15

    I’m half white and half black and grew up in a predominantly white suburb of Toronto, Canada. Growing up, one of the hardest things was mainly having to deal with constantly being bombarded with stereotypes about what it was to be ‘black’ – in terms of how you acted/talked etc. Basically – being ‘black’ to most of the people around there meant dressing and acting like the gangster rappers they saw in music videos.
    Unfortunately – not being a gangster rapper myself – this meant that I was constantly dealing with people saying I ‘wasn’t REALLY black’ and other foolishness, but as a child it does effect how you act and think. I think too many other ‘black’ youths were and are driven to impersonate and live up to stereotypes such as this – despite it not truly being who they are.
    Sorry if this off topic – but has anyone else shared this experience?

  109. 111 sunshineforlife
    April 16, 2008 at 13:26

    to answer your question — that should not be but sad to realize that for many it can be an issue.

    i think i have a related post on skin color affects us especially with people who see us and judge us because of our skin color. Here in Asia – Asians think that when you are white you are more beautiful. When I stayed in China for several years to work — there hadbeen timesi have to wish that “am brown” or “am black” then I can have that respect Chinese gives to “white” teachers. Some students think that the “whites” are brighter and cleverer than the blacks or the ones that just look like them. This comment does not mean to generalize all Chinese, but this mostly happens to the ones that I encounter while working there. So I mean no offense here to anyone. (Peace)

    as human beings, we are suppose to think that we can’t judge a person by it’s color. Black, white, yellow, and brown – different skin color but all are still humans. What should matter is our attitude and our character.

    –Sunshine from the Philippines

  110. April 16, 2008 at 13:39

    Well, I’m white and my skin doesn’t define myself. I think this definition, in fact, could come from ethnic customs. You see, white people have more european influences by colonizations and discovers across the history, black people have african influences, and etc.

  111. 113 taehoe
    April 16, 2008 at 15:03

    but what if black people was born in white society and influenced by that, and he speaks and thinks in western way, if that`s the case, black can have more westen influence, vice versa, white more african influence

  112. 114 petersmisek
    April 16, 2008 at 19:07

    It is more the culture you grew up in and the one you practice that defines you. Over here in Europe, culture and race are quite connected, mainly due to the whole nation state concept. Many countries here wish to uphold their culture, but they will (or should, I don’t really know how it’s in real life) accept anyone into the culture if they chose to take an active part. But the migrant communities often chose to keep to themselves, which leads to stereotyping

    In the US, I guess it should be different, mainly because the country was never meant to be a nation state, but rather a country of freedom lovers. Unfortunately, “birds of feather flock together”, which is what I believe fragments the society.

    I’m not saying I agree with the way things are going, because, after all, we are the same species, but sadly, the world isn’t nearly as perfect as we hope it might be.

  113. April 16, 2008 at 19:14

    So many things come into play; it’s hard to list them all. The U.S. in particular, and most of the world, have come a long way in eliminating legal hurdles that once physically and socially separated people of dark skin color from those of light-skin, European ancestry, and prevented them from participation in society. This did not eliminate racist behavior in housing, hiring, promotion, education, or perceptions. So preferential hiring and educational options have still not leveled the playing field. What does that mean? It means that, particularly in the U.S.A., white-skinned people are not often aware of invisible racism, attitudes, prejudices, and perceptions that have formed over time, that result in preferential treatment for white-skinned Caucasians. In other words, those who are white still benefit from a society that was created for them, but aren’t aware of it, and/or deny it. So, the white Caucasian thinks all is well. If you are not white Caucasian, you often do not see racism in play against you, but since it can be invisible to the law, it still comes into effect. Others see you as black, or non-white, and treat you according to their beliefs. Beyond all that, however, is culture. Hundreds of years of treating mostly dark-skinned peoples as slaves, thinking of them as slaves, or thinking of themselves as slaves, effects perception. People raised a certain way (even unconsciously) continue the patterns of old to a large extent, in my opinion. Many rappers have exploited and perpetuated these ways of thinking in order to sell their product. Many white-skinned people, even though we say we don’t define ourselves by skin color, do recognize skin color instantly as making a person different in some way, whether they see assign a negative value to that difference or not.
    As long as we remain focused on race, it will affect the way we see ourselves, for even if we don’t see ourselves as a certain skin color, we see others that way, so we define ourselves by default. it is not likely that skin color, as a factor in how we see ourselves, can disappear.

  114. 116 bullishmoves
    April 16, 2008 at 19:58

    It really is not a matter of skin color. What is happening is that people are being stereotyped into a particular skin color. Yellows behave this way and the blacks behave that way, etc..

    But in actuality it is a matter of race. All races have their good points and bad points. It’s just that people have a tendency to bunch everybody up into a box filled with a race’s bad points.

    And whether or not race/skin color defines you or not, it cannot be doubted that it has its bearing on your personality. Even the strereotyping has a bearing on one’s personality so much that the effect becomes part of what makes you who you are.

    So does skin color define you? No, but it is part of who I am.

  115. 117 nakitacaruso
    April 17, 2008 at 15:00

    My skin color is PART of my definition, it’s not the whole thing. I wouldn’t be the same person if my skin was different.

    Each part of me, and each part of who I am is what defines me, so in response to your question, the answer is yes and no.

  116. 118 Annonymous
    April 28, 2008 at 21:39

    Skin color means nothing its how one thinks and what sort of cultural influence they have inherited, its as simple as that, we can either let our primal nature destroy us or we can find ways of living with what we are.

  117. May 5, 2008 at 16:44

    I have been very interested in this commentary since I heard the discussion on air about a month ago. This is a late response to this debate because of my work schedule but I hope that it will pleasantly add to the discussion as I feel I have something to offer. I live in a very white region of the US. There are people from many different ethnic origins in this area, which is Wyoming, but predominately white. I have grown up here and as a child I remember seeing an asian person for the first time and a black person for the first time and thinking, “Why do they look different than I?” I also remember going to my friend’s house to stay the night and learning a few words in spanish so I could say good morning to his dad and play cards with him. So, we as people have differences, may it be language, height, weight, a hefty or scrawny build, we have differences. Things about us that define us as who we are. And of course we have skin color. I believe a lot of who we are because of skin color goes back to our cultures. We all have different cultures. Our ancestors had their cultures but now we have our current cultures, or sub cultures as I have heard said. I see people all the time trying to define who they are by how they dress. Here in Wyoming we have the cowboy culture. If you want to be seen by others as a cowboy you wear a large brimmed hat, boots, and a button up shirt. We also have the rock climber/kayaker culture, where these people go to the mountains and camp and climb rocks with ropes and kayak down rivers. They have a definite look to them. So there are people creating differences in how they are seen or perceived by others, by how they dress, or how they cut their hair, or by what they do with their spare time. What I am describing here are two different types of people a person would see here in this region that separate themselves by how they look.
    If we choose to have differences we can. I can differentiate myself from my own brother in the way I look and have people perceive us in two completely different ways. Because here the cowboys are seen as one type and the rock climbers are seen as a different type. Skin color, in this case, does not play as big of a role in this perception of a person as does the way they dress.
    As I sit here and think of my friends and who they are as people, skin color does not make a difference in the humanly bond that we have. Things we have done together and situations we have been in together unite us more than the color of our skin. I will not deny that as a whole our world does create differences that we are put into, and mostly it seems to be by skin color. But what I say is that it doesn’t have to continue that way. I have lived in different areas around the US and I have lived in a third world country. I have been the only person of my skin color in places in the US and have lived in a community in another country where I was the only person of my skin color and I believe what separates us the most is our desires. Do we desire to love or to hate? Do we desire to help or to be on top? Do we desire to do better or stay the same? Are we too proud to accept help or do we think there is only one way?
    The question at the top of this page says “Does your skin color define you?” It shouldn’t. We have differences, whatever they may be, but that is what makes it interesting. I have my culture, you have your culture. What is wrong with that? I come from here, you come from there. Even better. Let’s work together to make things better. I’ll take my advantages and disadvantages and you take yours and let’s work together.

  118. 120 Ken Woodley
    May 16, 2008 at 05:46

    In response to Andre with the two University degrees, I have only this to say: I have three. I am a black man, a University professor and educate hundreds of white students in any given year. Yet I haven’t stopped learning. I have had much to unlearn while I earned those degrees and continue to have my ideas changed and my mind expanded. I hope he is willing to continue learning. If he is, he could begin to find the answer to his questions with Carter Woodson’ classic : The miseducation of the Negro. He could read and think deeply about Walter Rodney’s How Europe Undervdeveloped Africa. Then he could navigate to the following links:
    findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_7_105/ai_113601765 – 34k
    Black Scientists and Inventors — Infoplease.com
    http://www.ideafinder.com/features/classact/black.htm – 19k
    inventionsinblack.com/inventors.html – 19k
    Amazon.com: Black Pioneers of Science and Invention: Louis Haber: Books.

    The desire to know is the beginning of wisdom. Education is a life-long process.

    Go placidly,


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