Africa

The Social Construction of Race

|

The BBC reports:

The High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people.

It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector.

Back in the apartheid days, South Africa classified the Japanese (and, even more curiously, visiting Maori rugby players) as "honorary whites." I suspect the court did not cite that as a precedent.

NEXT: Not Hot for Teachers from Teach for America[*]

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector.

    I think I see your problem. You’re not picking the right winners and losers. Once you learn how to use government preferences to rectify injustice, everything will be fine.

  2. the legal and social construction of race is fascinating.

  3. There are those such as myself who believe that government run racial promotion policies have run their course in this country. As an outside observer of South Africa, it’s much harder to judge when the same can be said of South Africa. At what point should the South African people begin to reconsider their racial promotion policies?

  4. “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
    “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

    “But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. Q.E.D.”

    “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

    “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

  5. Heh, if they did that here Asians would get extra help on their SATs instead of being penalized.

    Hopefully eventually we’ll get past this notion that some kinds of racism are good.

  6. “It is obvious to the most simpleminded that Lokai is of an inferior breed.”
    “The obvious visual evidence, Commissioner, is that he is of the same breed as yourself.”
    “Are you blind, Commander Spock? Well, look at me. Look at me!”
    “You’re black on one side and white on the other.”
    “I am black on the right side.”
    “I fail to see the significant difference.”
    “Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.”

  7. I was born a poor black child.

  8. In Zimbabwe, police are forced to vote for Bobby Mugabe
    http://allafrica.com/stories/200806200693.html

  9. If I can have my pick, I’d lake to be honorary Japanese. Perhaps I can get a discount on sushi…

  10. Taxtix:

    Could I get the honorary Chinese? That way when I say I want my Kung Pao spicy… they’ll understand that I mean it without dragging my Asian friends to the restaurant with me?

    Nephilium

  11. I’ve railed against government racial classification before. Consider one of those rants about the stupidity displayed and divisiveness engendered by race classification repeated.

  12. Here in Virginia in the early to mid twentieth century we had our own apartheid-like system of racial segregation. The architect of this system, Dr. Walter Plecker, was so afraid that “colored” (african) people would try to “pass” as “indian” (native american), that he refused to recognize any categories other than “white” and “colored.”

    Some seriously f*cked up sh*t. I remember the last years of legal segregation. Creepy.

  13. It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector.

    Huh. In Malaysia, they’re penalized by government policies aimed at ending Chinese domination in the private sector.

    Some day of course, we’ll all be gray.

  14. Hellfire, I’m white and I don’t think I’d want to be known as an honorary white.
    Any ideas out about the origins of hate that aren’t religion based?

  15. Any ideas out about the origins of hate that aren’t religion based?

    The very simple short version: We’re tribal creatures. Anyone not of the tribe is to be hated, feared, and/or despised so you don’t feel bad when you kill them.

    Don’t you feel better about your fellow man now?

  16. Rhywun,

    Only if George Orr dreams about it first.

  17. You embarassin’ yourself, man, you’re a black man with a Chinese restaurant on Crenshaw.

  18. The very simple short version: We’re tribal creatures. Anyone not of the tribe is to be hated, feared, and/or despised so you don’t feel bad when you kill them.

    Jared Diamond notes that’s the paradigm among pre-state hunter-gatherer tribes in New Guinea: when two strangers meet, the first thing they do is try to determine whether they have a common relative so as to establish a reason not to kill each other.

  19. I heard black people have bigger dicks than uhh…black people, in south africa.

  20. Stupid server squirrels….

    Some day of course, we’ll all be gray.

    We’re all going to be Nebari? Sweet! They know how to party.

  21. Episiarch – Let That Be Your Last Battlefield FTW!. I remember watching that one when I was, like, 10 or 11 and when Spock and Kirk give him those dumbfounded “bless your heart” looks, my 11-year-old self said “Yeah…that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard”.

    That episode really affected me.

  22. Now, if one of these Chinese-Black-South Africans were to move to the US and apply for admission to Berkley, how would they be classified?

    By the way, I happen to be an honorary lesbian.

  23. Jared Diamond notes that’s the paradigm among pre-state hunter-gatherer tribes in New Guinea: when two strangers meet, the first thing they do is try to determine whether they have a common relative so as to establish a reason not to kill each other.

    Strange. I can find way more reasons to kill those with whom I share a common relative than I do complete strangers. I guess that’s why nobody invites me to family reunions anymore.

  24. We’re all going to be Nebari? Sweet! They know how to party.

    Ahh, a Farscape joke. Surprisingly rare around here.

  25. Yeah, I watched Farscape and I didn’t know who the hell the Nebari were.

  26. Hellfire, I’m white and I don’t think I’d want to be known as an honorary white.
    Any ideas out about the origins of hate that aren’t religion based?

    I’ve been called an honorary black. It was intended as a compliment and I took it as such.

  27. Serious question: does anybody here know what would happen if someone with “white” skin filled out an application form for some institution in the US that implements Affirmative Action and claimed to be black or African American? I’ve always thought that would be an easy way around the system, but I’ve never had an opportunity to try it.

  28. Any ideas out about the origins of hate that aren’t religion based?

    Social Darwinism. Francis Galton. Eugenics.

    See Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man for a critique. NB, Gould was very much a lefty blank-slater and was adamant that there could be no actual measureable differences.

  29. Serious question: does anybody here know what would happen if someone with “white” skin filled out an application form for some institution in the US that implements Affirmative Action and claimed to be black or African American?

    Shouldn’t you be asking this in the C. Thomas Howell thread?

  30. Serious question: does anybody here know what would happen if someone with “white” skin filled out an application form for some institution in the US that implements Affirmative Action and claimed to be black or African American?

    Teresa Heinz Kerry (born in Mozambique) can legitimately claim to be African American.

  31. Huh. In Malaysia, they’re penalized by government policies aimed at ending Chinese domination in the private sector.

    In South Africa, affirmative action is all about sticking it to whitey for the benefit of the majority ethnic group, and giving more slots to Chinese help further that goal. Once all the white people in South Africa leave (like they’re doing in Zimbabwe, and largely did from Kenya), then look for the black majority to start imposing Chinese quotas, as the Malay majority has in Malaysia.

  32. Shouldn’t you be asking this in the C. Thomas Howell thread?

    I never saw Soul Man, so I had to do a little Googling to figure out what you were talking about.

    Teresa Heinz Kerry (born in Mozambique) can legitimately claim to be African American.

    I was born in America, so that covers the American half of “African American” and this says that my ancestors came from Africa, so I’m African American, right?

    Or is this one of those tricky legal definitions like obscenity (I know it when I see it)?

  33. Some of my ancestors may have come from Mars; therefore, I’m Martian-American.

  34. ProL, you’re Alan Mendholson?

  35. Ahh, a Farscape joke. Surprisingly rare around here.

    See Epi? It’s not so bad here. It’s like we complete each other’s pop culture references.

    And Rhywun is a poophead.

  36. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character the High Court in South Africa will rule that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people, so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector.”

    Martin Luther King, 1963 (revised edition)

  37. No. Nor am I Valentine Michael Smith. I’m just a run-of-the-mill Martian-American, oppressed by the Hu-Man.

  38. ProL, you’re Alan Mendholson?

    I always suspected.

  39. Dark I am, and golden-eyed.

  40. Hmm. Not one “Racial Draft” reference? [shakes head] Too often people seem to see sticking it to “the man” as a racial/ethnic thing. Dammit, Mugabe is clearly “the man”, for instance, and he’s black. It’s important to remember, “the man” comes in multiple skin colors (and even the female gender!) you’re never gonna get ahead giving head in to the man.

  41. Dark I am, and golden-eyed.

    Martian Chronicles?

  42. Was that in The Martian Chronicles? I was thinking that story was a separate Mars short story.

  43. I’m an honorary white. Or so they told me.

  44. I’m Dishonorary Eskimo. Or Inuit.

    I registered as such in NY State when I filled out my drivers license at 16, and they never changed it. After I finished my SATs, I got like 1000 letters from colleges that wanted to include a really smart Eskimo in their affirmative action program. I had to write a formal statement explaining i was just a punk kid, certified by a lawyer. Fuck. I still *feel* pretty Eskimo.

  45. Maori are Caucasian

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.