The first one is what it begins with, which I think ought to be an aphorism in its own right: race doesn't create racism; it's the other way around. If you live in a place where race is a fundamental facet of existence, this may be a bit hard to understand at first, because isn't racism all about the relationship between the races?
The important thing is that how "race" is defined varies from place to place, and it's only defined when there's a boundary between the two communities that one community, in particular, finds it important to police. To take a rather obvious example, why is Obama considered to be "black?" His father is Kenyan, and would be black by nearly any standard that defined it, and his mother is a Kansan of mostly English ancestry, white by nearly any standard. It would seem that there is just as much basis to call him white as to call him black.
But the reason that he is called black -- and the reason that people have seen him as such, and that his experience of life in the US has been the black experience, and not the white experience -- is that America has conceived race with ideas such as the "one-drop rule" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-drop_rule), the idea that even one drop of black blood makes you black. It certainly doesn't have much to do with skin color; I suspect that if you put my (Ashkenazic) father's arm next to the President's, my father's would actually be darker. (His side of the family runs towards a more Mediterranean skin tone)
If you ever go somewhere farther from your home, you'll find that the borders become even more arbitrary. In the Middle East, for example, the defining properties have to do with tribe and religion. (Which is seen as an inherited trait, unlike the meaning of the word "religion" in the West; it has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your family and its historical alliances) As a result, in Israel a Jew from St. Petersburg and a Jew from Yemen are considered entirely the "same" race, while that Yemeni Jew and a Yemeni Muslim are considered entirely of different races. Anyone local could tell the difference immediately; it would be a rare non-local who could tell.
The point is that the lines which we consider to define the boundary of "race" are not merely physically arbitrary, but they are artifacts of a cultural decision to define two groups as different from one another, and that difference as a salient point which we imbibe from early childhood. That salience -- the notion that the races are different, and that what benefits one is not what benefits the other, rather than being part of the same polity, is the origin of our concept of racism.
There's a second great thing in this tweet, but for that you need to know about this rather fascinating lawsuit. (http://goo.gl/e2Ltu2) Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon, a lesbian couple from Uniontown, Ohio, conceived a child via IVF from a sperm donor. After Cramblett was already pregnant, they discovered that the sperm bank had given her the wrong sperm by mistake, giving her the sperm from (black) donor #330 instead of (white) donor #380.
This would be a fairly straightforward, if slightly uncommon, medical malpractice case, except that the family is suing on the grounds that they and their daughter (now 2) are suffering from all sorts of consequences because of their daughter's race. According to her attorney, for example, Cramplett "did not encounter any African-American people until she entered college," and "not all her friends and family members are racially sensitive," substantiating her claim for the extra damages; apparently, this has required therapy for parents and children, and is requiring various complex accommodations, especially as some of the therapists have suggested that they move to a more racially diverse community.
What's rather fascinating here is that Cramplett has essentially just walked into a court and claimed that requiring her daughter to live the experience of a black American, rather than a white American, is a sufficient injury to constitute a legal tort, and that they are therefore entitled to reparation for it.
I am fairly sure that this is not the argument they were intending to make, but it's quite an interesting proposition.
Per this logic, if you take a white, middle-class child, and leave all the circumstances of this child's life invariant except that you change their skin color, this will cause them hardship in life worth at least $50,000. (The minimum damages they have asked for) One may presume that if you were to change further circumstances of the child's life -- say, causing them to live in a predominantly black neighborhood rather than a predominantly white one -- that the further emotional and economic harms that this would cause would similarly be tortious, and we could estimate their value by considering the compensation which would be appropriate if someone were to inflict this on someone else's child.
I strongly suspect that the argument of a tort by "negrification" is going to hold little to no water in court, because even if the matter isn't made quite this explicit, it would be awfully troubling for a court to state that race is sufficiently important in this country that it justifies damages. But this means that the decision in this case is going to be quite an interesting one, and it may be fuel for a number of even more interesting conversations, going forward.
/me grabs popcorn
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