RACE WARRR! (not really though)

A week ago in lecture we discussed factions and why James Madison hates them, but before we did that we had an interesting discussion about what his definition of a faction was and which groups of people would fall under that category. In case you weren’t there or just weren’t paying attention, Madison defined a faction as a group of people that come together with some sort of common interest that goes against the interest of society OR that is against a right or rights of others within society. We had a pretty interesting discussion about whether or not race fell into that category and I want to explore that deeper.

As I said before, Madison said a faction consists of a group of people with a common goal. A race is a group of people bonded together by the color of their skin and (usually) a common culture. There is no disputing that. The controversy came while discussing the second part of the definition and how it could apply to race. I was very vocal in class in advocating for race being considered a faction. I believe that all races have goals that they want to attain. All races of people collectively want to better themselves within American society. Even if you are not a member of an organization that fights for equal rights for a specific race and you are just living your life as a person that happens to be whatever race you are, you are still a member of a faction. You are still receiving the benefits that come from being within that race and you are also receiving the detriments. Those benefits and detriments are the common interest or passion that makes race a faction.

Some people were arguing that just because a person identifies with a race that they don’t necessarily have to fight or advocate for furthering their race and thus s/he isn’t automatically a member of a racial faction. I agree 100% with that claim however Madison never says that a faction is a group of people that fights for something. Instead he says that it is a group that is brought together by a common interest or passion. That common interest or passion is their race and the recognition of the benefits and inequalities that it entails. I think nowadays it is impossible to not recognize the disparities between races (and yes contrary to what some may want to believe, they DO exist) or the benefits that one may receive from being a member of a specific race. That’s why I believe that race should certainly be classified as a type of faction.

We also discussed the implications of races being considered factions and some people thought that it implied that there would be constant fights or RACE WARSSS! between them. I STRONGLY disagree with this. As I said, according to Madison, being a faction does not require action, but rather a common interest. I’m not saying that all of the races are at odds, but merely that they recognize that there are differences in the form of benefits and detriments and that they are trying to maximize the benefits while minimizing the detriments. This COULD bring about a race war, but I believe given our governmental system and the strides that we’ve made in equality, there would never be one.

Just for S’s and G’s…

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7 Responses to RACE WARRR! (not really though)

  1. eskylis says:

    It would seem that Mr. Tocqueville may potentially agree with this idea of a race war, though that view may in fact be significantly out of date. The author of this post disagrees with the idea of a race war anyway, which I believe is the case. The idea of a race war grows increasingly far fetched with each new piece of legislation mandating equal protection. Thus, I agree that a race war might be too extreme a conclusion.

    I disagree with the comparison between Madison’s definition of faction and the races/racial interests. There are most certainly merits to this argument, though it may be a bit superficial. Race is a socially constructed concept, and I fail to see how the color of ones skin necessarily means that similarly colored individuals have a common interest. This may be an “over inclusive” characterization. To say that all Hispanics have a common interest is a very broad argument, and may need some clarification. There is certainly legitimacy with the cultural consideration; members of a common culture may definitely have a common interest. But to say that ‘all Hispanics’ have a common interest is again too broad, and glosses over the interests Puerto Ricans, Columbians, or Mexicans may have—which are not necessarily the same. This differentiation may be less clear when considering African Americans, who may not have as clear a specific cultural identity as Hispanics (how many can say definitely that their ancestors are from the Ivory Coast vs. Ethiopia after potentially dozens of generations in the U.S.). But then we get to the issue of disparity between the ‘races’ here. I agree that few will dispute the “disparities between races” as the author of this post argues, though these disparities may not be the product of race. Socio economics, though potentially linked to race, are not necessarily determined by race. The poverty stricken Caucasians of Appalachia may have the same skin color as me, but their socio economic status is a product of many more factors than race. Similarly, though there may be racial disparity in Chicago or Detroit, it does not follow that this is because of race. To say that such people have an interest ‘as a race’ then, may be a gross over simplification.

    Madison’s concern of factions here is much more motivated by socio economics than anything else. I do not disagree that race may be a factor in that classification, but to say that it is the primary factor, which is inferred with the argument that a race may have in interest, ignores many additional factors leading to the ‘disparity’ between races.

  2. tremble53 says:

    While I see how you have reached your conclusions about races being a faction I do not believe it is an accurate portrayal. The notion of a faction implies a choice to join. Within the definition it states that a faction is a group of people that come together with a common interest. With race you have no choice in this. Therefore just being a part of a race should not include you in faction. While I would agree that certain groups within races do have overarching goals for that race that is far from everyone within that race sharing those exact views. I think a faction is a very strong way to categorize race. It gives the idea of a unified people that are fighting towards a goal. While there are certainly people within the race that are like that I think it is unfair to lump each and every individual in with that.

  3. jlwax13 says:

    I agree and disagree with your comments. The fact that race is a social construct does not mean that it does not exist and I don’t think that race as a faction is too inclusive. Everyone faces issues of race with relation to race and those issues (the detriments and benefits) are what makes race a faction.

    I’m not sure about how to respond to the “hispanic issue” except to say that despite where the different hispanics come from (puerto rico, peru, etc.) they still face similar issues based on being from Central and South America. They are still dealing with issues based on the color of their skin and that is what brings them together. I think that it could definitely be argued that there are factions within races based on the different issues that groups face.

    If you refer to Madison’s definition, there is no question as to whether or not race can be considered a faction. A group of people bound together by some sort of interest or passion. That interest or passion is certainly the detriments and benefits that one receives from being a member of a race.

    You also mentioned socio economic issues not being based on race. This is true, but that it CAN be determined by race. For example, in Detroit lots of schools are shutting down and because of that many black students are being forced to go to different schools. Some schools like the ones in Grosse Pointe, Michigan don’t like it and have opted out of the “schools of choice legislation” (which allows for students to be placed in different school districts), so that they wouldn’t have to accept the (black) students that have been displaced. Grosse Pointe is an excellent school district that gives students excellent opportunities. By denying people (that happen to be black) from going to their school, they are denying people the ability to be successful and rise through the socioeconomic ranks.

    Obviously, it could be argued that the reasons for not admitting displaced students had nothing to do with race, but let’s be real, Grosse Pointe is known for being a very nice area and I think it’s reasonable to assume that they didn’t want the “riff raff” from detroit running around in their school district.

  4. erikamir says:

    I agree with both the original author and tremble53. I thought it was interesting how you both approached race as a faction. I agree that usually people of the same race are bound together by a common culture however, I also agree that a faction is something that you choose to join. I believe that this is a great difference, having a choice. Personally I think you have to take races account to certain situations but to lump an entire race together in today’s world is crazy. Times have changed and so have class disparities. I didn’t grow up like most of my family members nor did I have the same experience as them.

  5. davehopkins2 says:

    I think that certain parts of your characterization of race as a faction are a bit broad. You say that, “A race is a group of people bonded together by the color of their skin and (usually) a common culture.”. However, I do not think this holds in all cases. There are several examples of people of mixed-race descent and those whose phenotypic skin color is different from that of the race with which they identify. I do, however, appreciate the fact that you pointed out Madison’s focus on a “common interest or passion”. I think the definition of race as a faction holds for the majority of those considered to be a member of a certain race. However, I must ask, what about those who are self-loathing and are ashamed of their own race? Surely, they are not held together by the same “common interest or passion” that provides the unity for the rest of the race. One may wish to say that these people are not truly members of the race of which society may consider them to be a member. But, can we say that someone is not a member of a given race simply because they are not appreciative of their social situation and feel themselves inferior due to their racial classification? I agree with you, to a large extent, that the vast majority of the members of a given race share a “common interest or passion” due to the way society treats them and the ways in which their race affects them, either positively or negatively, in navigating society. But, I have trouble grasping the notion of someone truly sharing in a “common interest or passion” if they truly are ashamed of themselves because of their race. I also believe that this occurrence may be more common than we think. I do not think that this exception invalidates your assertion. You pointed out several compelling reasons as to why race SHOULD be considered a faction. I agree with most of them. However, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the problem with the demographic of self-loathing members of a given race. Also, if these people are to somehow be seen as an exception, does this mean that a race must be seen in a different light than a Madisonian faction? If a given race is to be considered a faction, wouldn’t all members of the race have to be included in this faction?

  6. jtgilb says:

    I remember this debate during class. I happen to agree that race can be considered a faction. Madison notes that individuals must have a common/shared goal-i think that this is where the controversy lies, although I ultimately came to the same conclusion as Jordan. In this case, I disagree with tremble 53; I don’t think you necessarily have to opt into being in a faction. I think that regardless of whether you choose to recognize it or not, race is a faction. They abide by the two conditions a faction must and it is undeniable that in most cases race provides a “common goal,” that being furthering the reputation of your race. As a member of a faction, you want others that have the same goal as you to succeed and to thrive because you and your goals benefit from it. This is mainly why I side with Jordan on this one. I think the differentiation between “fighting” for a goal and “having” a common goal is an important one and one that determines that race is in fact, a faction.

  7. jwpeace88 says:

    To say that people have a common interest as a race might be oversimplification. Nevertheless the author of this post does have a point in saying that it is impossible not to recognize the disparities between races.

    Nowadays we live in a pluralistic society where there are different groups of people with multiple interests. The circumstances we find ourselves in are much more favorable in terms of equality than say, a hundred years or several decades ago. However, greater equality does not mean that modern society has reached a level where its members perfectly intermingle with others as a whole. People tend to identify with a group/faction that best reflects their own personal interests. And whether we like it or not, the color of one’s skin is still a primary determinant of what group he/she belongs to or identify with. It doesn’t matter if race is a socially constructed concept or not. What really matters is if we are capable of looking above and beyond that concept, whatever concept that may be.

    Unfortunately, our attitude and behavior are still very much limited and bound by the line of demarcation drawn by one’s physiognomy. Then, of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages a person receives from being a member of a specific race, as the author of this post has already pointed out. That individual might choose NOT to be recognized as part of the specific race, but this does not mean that he/she does not receive the benefits, irrespective of his/her opinion, deriving from the membership of the specific race. Given all these facts, I think race does constitute a faction.

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