Thursday, September 29, 2016

ETHNICITY IN AMERICA

SPECIAL
EDITORIAL
ISSUE:
A Point of View
by Editor/Publisher
Jack A. Atkinson
(From time to time, ARTSnFOOD publishes editorialized content. This point-of-view is specifically one person's opinion and we recognize many differing opinions exist. This post may be up for a short period before it is moved into our archives. ARTSnFOOD's defining focus is on "The Joy of Art.")

"DEEP-THOUGHTS about Ethnicity"

I have decided that ethnicity (race) is less about skin color and other physical features and more about our geographic heritage and the external cultural influences which contributed in making us who we are.

For my entire life there seems to have been a constant discussion about ethnicity in America. My original position on ethnicity, as an adult, was to be color blind. I though it was an intelligent point-of-view and the correct way to associate with my ethnically diverse friends. Very quickly I found out, everybody strongly wanted me to recognize their ethnicity as a part of their identity and to never be color blind! They wanted me to recognize their ethnicity as a part of who they are and I needed to embrace them and see them completely.

I have now pivoted my point-of-view to think physical appearance (skin tone and other distinctive "ethnic" features) has little to do with what we consider "ethnicity" and who we are as individuals. Our physical appearance is a result of our family heritage, the many generations of relatives who form our genetic history. Ethnicity check boxes on surveys are created based on these family trees.

Scientifically and genetically, there are only minuscule differences between all human ethnicities. Our physical ethnic traits are controlled by only 3 to 6 genes out of the 25,000 genes making-up the human genome. Somehow each of us looks unique within those 3 to 6 genes, but we must remember all humans are genetically 99.99999% similar. 

What society currently calls ethnicities are the genetics passed down to us from a geographic lineage many generations ago. We have certain traits simply because our ancient relatives lived in one specific, isolated location on this planet for many millennia, reproducing within the same gene pool. This created our unique skin colors and physical characteristics, but today's ethnicities seem to come from more recent influences. We are the cultural mores, traditions and religions passed down to us by last dozen or so generations of our families and our specific homogeneous social groups. (i.e.: Mayan descendants are now Hispanic or Latino and not Mayan.) The foods our immediate family, relatives and social group preferred, the common language and dialect we were taught at birth, and all traits and preferences our specific homogeneous group embraced create our current ethnicity. Think of how African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc., when viewed as homogeneous groups, have lifestyles, interests and social bonds unique to their specific communities.

Social group influencers, whom we relate to and think of as our community, define our contemporary ethnicity more than our skin color, hair texture, eye shape does. In other words our ethnicity seems to be more about how our community shapes us (as we grow up) than our physical traits, determined by our genetic history. A 10th generation Ethnic-American is a very different person from his or her distant cousin recently born and raised in the same ancestral village of origin - even if the two share some of the same physical traits of "ethnicity", their cultural communities define them more than the physical traits do.

When it comes to ethnicity we must recognize people as individuals as well as being a part of one or more ethnic groups, taking into account their specific histories and cultural influences.

We are individual humans packaged in the visual genetics given to us from recent and long forgotten ancestors. Let's start understanding and accepting that our cultural history contributes greatly to each of us as an individual, but our physical ethnic traits have less and less to do with who we are as a person. "Race" has become a label.

All of my friends, from varied ethnic backgrounds, have unique cultural stories that are extremely interesting to me, and I want to hear them all. I want to learn how their cultural influences shaped their lives. 

As adults we learn to accept change: in the world around us, in our lives, in how we think, in advances in technology, etc. I suggest we change our thinking about ethnicity:
• Can we stop thinking about ethnicity simply as physical traits and start focusing on the interesting and diverse cultures represented by the word "race"?
• Can we stop stepping on each others cultural toes?
• Can we try to understand each other’s problems from the other person's cultural perspective?
• Can we find respectful solutions to all problems where ethnicity or "race" is involved?
• Can we keep in mind all humans are 99.99999% alike (genetically speaking) and we also share these cities and towns we call home!

Ethnic and cultural diversity is the spice of life!


- Jack A. Atkinson
editor & publisher of ARTSnFOOD magazine

Until later,
Jack

ARTSnFOOD is an online magazine dedicated to providing artists and collectors around the world with highlights of current art exhibitions, and to encourage all readers to invest in and participate in "The Joy of Art"® and culture. All rights reserved. All Concepts, Original Art, Text & Photographs in this posting (which are not credited) are © Copyright 2016 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All gallery, event, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, 

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