November 26, 2012

The terministic screen of race

I found within the article "Writing "Race" and the Differences it Makes" that the inclusion of racial identity within literary form is one that has been modified and conditioned throughout historical context to mold a system of classification in which persecution and discrimination for sociopolitical and nationalistic purposes may be justified. It is described that the very form of language itself is one that is built upon and recognized through internalized systems of classification based upon accepted similarities and differences among elements of the natural world, and this system of language is given merit and value within a certain sociopolitical atmosphere. We may then observe that the very use of language in a particular form can be used as a mechanism of discrimination, as seen in the example of the oxford dictionary which is given authority to hold the definitions of words based upon the common historical and cultural associations of the authorship of the dictionary.

 The terministic screen of Racial identity is one that has been historically constructed from the orientation of eurpoean western tradition to that of the "uncivilized" african tribes, as these african civilizations were considered to be "uncivilized' and therefore less than human, because of their lack of a fundamental system of written language. It was determined within the frame of the historical episteme, that the ability to articulate one's thoughts upon written medium determined that individual's capacity for "humanity" and therefore the lack of an ability to read or write allowed for the psuedoscientific assumptions of racial biology to gain prominence within the cultural framework of western tradition. As reason became the ideal pursuit of the human mind in its analyzation of the world, so too did the sign system of language gain the important role of being the method responsible for proving the existance of this capacity to formulate reasonable thought to the greater community.

It is not merely the lack of a system of comnunication which compelled western theorists to conclude that african tribes were "less than human", if not more so it was the inability of the african civilizations to recognize the function and form of language as it was determined to be from a western perspective. Because the african slaves were believed to lack any sense of humanity, which was determined by their lack of a systematic form of classification and recording such as writing in the western tradition had become, they were deemed unable to participate in the forum of intellectual discourse and therefore regarded as less than human. The ability to conform to the conventional modes of literary form was regarded as being a valuable sociopolitical tool by those in positions of \authority who recognized the authority of words, as seen in the decree given in 18th century South Carolina, which pronounced that bestowing literacy upon african slaves was a punishable crime.

It is therefore my conclusion that race is a terministic screen which has roots in the historical construction of racial identity, and that this construction of racial identity is one that is carried into the contemporary analysis of literature. It is due to our observance of the "other" that we perpetuate the divide between racial identities, although the true divide may be seen as to exist only in the region and culture  in which the individual or author is oriented both at the present moment and through historical associations. Although racial identity within literary form is a terministic screen which constructs and is constructed by the degree of differences perceived between the author and audience by both the author and the audience, it is the responsibility of the responsible observer to recognize the presense of such epistemological stigmas while not allowing the influence of such to dictate the manner in wich the content of a work of literature is interpreted.

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