Words are sometimes tossed about with only a vague understanding of their meaning, or worse, without knowing if they have any meaning at all.  To me one of the worst offenders in this category has always been the word race.  By the time anthropologists conceded the term had no biological meaning, but instead an ambiguous socioeconomic one, differentiating one group of people from another on the basis of appearance and cultural background, and usually in the context of hegemonic expansion, the damage had already been done.  The word had burrowed itself into the popular lexicon and to this day used to justify false hierarchies and stubborn efforts to subjugate one group of people over another group of people. Unfortunately in today’s’ political environment, it’s been awarded with new life.

Given that an African-American first family is residing in the White House, the erroneous term has ascended in the media and popular culture to once again divide and conquer.  Obama has been used as a lens focusing and concentrating the intolerance shown by those most keen on dividing the population into us and them.  You’ll notice the ‘us’ part of the equation is always the pale monolithic constant typified in the media by people like MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan, who once described America as a country founded and built by white people for the glory of the white Anglo-Saxon race.  Ah sure Pat, now go climb a tree in the Black Forrest with your Teutonic brothers.  And who are the ‘them’?  Simple: Anyone who isn’t ‘us’.  Gazing at the spectacle that is the Tea Party movement, one can’t help notice the demographics.  They are largely white, so-called Christian and just flat-out scared of ‘the other’, the latter personified by Obama and those who support him.  In the pursuit of ratings and profits you have people like Glenn Beck routinely using racial language to divide and frighten, even going so far as to accuse Obama of hating the white race, whatever that means.  Rush Limbaugh, who I’m sure, likes to think of himself as a member of a ‘master race’, probably couldn’t pass the physical. And most recently you have Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 allowing the police to detain and demand documentation from anyone perceived as an illegal alien.  When asked by a reporter what an illegal alien looks like, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer paused, chuckled and conceded she had no idea, but assumed the people who needed to know would just intuitively know.  Perhaps she should have just said ‘anyone who doesn’t look like me’.  Well, good luck with that.

For what’s its worth, the only race I’m aware of is the human race.  And incidentally, it’s not a race, it’s a stroll.  Otherwise how else can we all smell the roses?