MFA Thesis – Excerpt 24

Excuses for Oppression

From the MFA Thesis “Racial vocabularies purport to explain differences in physical characteristics and be grounded in biology. Ironically, words like “white,” “black,” “Latinos,” and so forth, by their very existence, deny the common biological ancestry of humanity: Homo sapiens. One hundred years ago, United States citizen and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois observed that  “… race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences . . .” 1 Du Bois was more concerned with scientific research, but his observation applies to all walks of life. Cultural differences have been used to classify groups uniquely when they have no biological difference.

Examples presente in the MFA Thesis

“…recent history of how physical and cultural differences fed the concept of race … film Hotel Rwanda, … in a bar scene. The film focuses on Paul Rusesabagina and his effort to save both Hutus and Tutsis at the Hotel Rwanda. …Benedict, a journalist in Kigali, described by Paul as “an expert on the subject” explains to an outsider, …the differences between the Hutus and Tutsis. “According to the Belgian colonists, the Tutsis are taller and more elegant. It was the Belgians that created the division.” When asked to further explain, Benedict says “They picked people, those with thinner noses, lighter skin. They used to measure the width of peoples’ noses. The Belgians used the Tutsis to run the country. Then when they left, they left the power to the Hutus, and of course, the Hutus took revenge on the elite Tutsis for years of repression.”2

The white journalist character then goes around asking each person “what are you?” and is surprised by their definite answer as Hutu or Tutsi when he himself cannot see the difference. The population deluded itself into thinking there are two races based on superficial differences of elegant stature (height) and nasal shapes.”

Footnotes

  1. Gannon,LiveScience, Megan. 2016. “Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue.” Scientific American. February 5, 2016. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/race-is-a-social-construct-scientists-argue/.
  2. George, Terry. Hotel Rwanda. DVD. Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment Inc, 2005.