Traveling with the Concept of Races

In looking at the chapter we read by Paul C. Taylor, he argued that practices of racial identification vary from place to place as well as by time but the concept of races, however, remains steady throughout the world. I noticed this difference during my time in Europe. While I was abroad this past semester in the Czech Republic, I took many courses dealing with Czech Identity and Czech Nationalism where the concept of race appeared in numerous of the discussions. In looking to define the concept of race in the Czech sense, race pertains more to identity and history instead of skin color. Examples of race categories in the Czech Republic are pure Czechs, pure Slovaks, and gypsies/Roma. In this sense, it is interesting to point out how the majority of those living in the Czech Republic are white. Even though most inhabitants share the same skin color, those within the Czech nation must contain the idea of ‘ Czechness’. Within this framework, the Czech nation excludes any person deemed an outsider either through race language and race-talk.

Like other countries, the definition of the ‘other’ is spread through ‘race-thinking’ because they are able to identify one’s bloodline by looking at them. Furthermore, the idea of racial formation applies here through this historical and social context. In the case of the Roma population within the Czech Republic, they are excluded from much political discourse because their race does not match that of the Czech nation. They have always been looked down upon in society due to their lack of education, ‘savage’ like lifestyles, and communal living. Many of the Roma are uneducated therefore they cannot find jobs within the society leaving them to live in poverty. Because the Roma are poor, they tend to stick together by living on the outskirts of towns that in turn causes them to be left out of political discussion. They too, like minorities in the United States, experience lack of opportunity that comes from racial domination. This goes to show how Taylor is correct in arguing the concepts of races travels even if race itself pertains to time and place. I would go even further to add races travel, as does discrimination surrounding different races. By this, I believe the concept of races is enveloped with a stigma supported by racial superiority.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Traveling with the Concept of Races

  1. This is really fascinating, Kelsey! It is always really cool to see something we learn in class be applicable to “the real world”. In our recent reading, “Whiteness as a Property” Harris talks about the value of being white. He is quoted, “White identify and whiteness were sources of privilege and protection: their absence meant being the object of property”. Essentially, being white became the “line of protection and demarcation from the potential threat of commodification”. However, in the beginning of the article Harris tells the story of a woman who had enough “white” qualities that she was able to blend in and work her way to opportunity. My question for you is, while you were in Prague, were you taught to “blend in” in the same way? Do the Czech, Roma and Slovaks attempt to “blend in” with one another through their actions? How does this idea work abroad? Or does it even?

    Like

    1. Thanks for your reply! You bring up very interesting points connecting this to the Harris reading. I think the Czech Republic is an interesting case due in large part to its communist past as well as the country’s compliancy with totalitarian rule. As a whole, the country is extremely passive when it comes to rules; the effects of communism are very prevalent in essentially every component of life. We were taught to try to blend in with society in regards to friendliness and talking to other people. The Czechs as a whole are still reserved and tend to keep to themselves, much like it was during the totalitarian regime.

      The Czechs and Slovaks have a tendency to “blend” together and this is due to their history as part of the same country (Czechoslovakia). The idea of a collective identity sticks with them. Whereas the Czechs are passive, the Slovaks are much more expressive in their concerns surrounding government and that is why Czechoslovakia broke apart in 1993. So, in regards to blending, I think the Slovaks tend to forego blending whereas the Czechs are much more susceptible to blending and complying.

      For the Roma, I think it is difficult for them to blend in with normal society due in large part to their lack of education. Therefore, the ability to blend is difficult because even though they are white, they are the underprivileged white and mostly illiterate.

      Eastern Europe as a whole is very different when it comes to the privilege of whiteness. Much of Eastern Europe is predominately white, again due to the communist past. The other is usually defined as those who are not of the country’s ethnic heritage instead of our identification with Race. Therefore, I would think Harris’s idea of white as a means of protection mainly applies to one’s ethnic roots.

      I hope this answers your questions!

      Like

      1. Kelsey this is really interesting to me as well because I saw some of the same things while I was in Ecuador! Although it was much more obvious because the most marginalized group were the Afro-Ecuadorians so race did mean their skin tone.

        In terms of the rest of the population most were Mestizo, meaning that they were descended from indigenous Ecuadorians and white Spaniards but in Ecuador the whiter you are the better you are essentially. Everyone thought that my friends and I were the loaded gringas who just wanted to party and be drunk all the time. Not so.

        Similarly there were community divisions based on race in Ecuador as well. Much of the afro-ecuadorian population lived on the Coast and only came to the cities to sell their goods for money like jewelry and fish. It was always heartbreaking seeing the way they were treated when they are in the “mestizo space” if you will. It’s really fascinating to see how, even if race is defined differently, racism still occurs everywhere so I really appreciate the point you brought up!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s