November 26, 2012

"Race Is A Fiction"

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes an impressive critique on race in his essay, Writing "Race" and the Difference It Makes. Within the essay, he points out how race, throughout history, has had an imprint on literature and the way that we view literary society.

On page 4, Gates states, "Race, as a meaningful criterion within the biological sciences, has long been recognized to be a fiction" (Gates 4). He goes on to say that the idealized races that we talk about are generally metaphors in which certain predisposed traits have been assigned. I agree that race is a somewhat social construction, and even though race was not always an issue in writing, I think that cultural differences between the writings of different races are often apparent, especially in fiction writing, since many writers pull from their own experiences. Aside from that, I do not think race has anything to do with literature. Gates states how, in the past, people arrived at the conclusion that "Blacks and other people of color could not write" (9). This obviously shows an ignorance of the times, and a bogus social construction with nothing to back it up.  

2 comments:

Jenny said...

I think that race is almost a complete social construction. It was at some point, created by the human race. People were not originally brought into this world with the term "race" already in tact in our societies. Culture is something that has always had its place in writing, whether it was an apparent issue or not. Society has brought up culture as an issue because of our criticism of race that our society has developed. There is normally evidence between writings from different cultures due to the way that writers were taught how to write and how they were brought up socially. Race and literature is a touchy subject. Overall, I think culture overrides race, because culture is more abundant in experience and social issues, where race is simply just a term applied to those who are different from others.

KatieA said...

You make some really interesting claims about Gates and his critique. I too touched on Gates claim that the use of race in discourse is like a trope. The way “others” are portrayed in society is not fully true rather; much of the characteristics of “others” are stereotyping and ideas incorrectly preconceived by society. I think that is one of Gates main issues, that there is a lack of a presence by the “others” and that when they are present it is usually in an improper and inaccurate way when it comes to their portrayal. I am constantly reminded of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness while reading this essay. Heart of Darkness was written by a white man over a hundred years ago about African Americans in the Congo. He portrayed them as savages and inferior to white men. This is a prime example of Gates’ claims because although difference of race is apparent, they are also wildly inaccurate.

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