The Illusion of Racial Identity Essays

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In common sense thought, race is simply a fact: humans are not all alike, there are whites, blacks and yellows, maybe reds and browns too, and these different kinds are races, and that's just a feature of the way the world is. However, recent work on the concept of "race" shows that "race" and "race"-talk can be understood by analogy to what Foucault suggests about psychiatry and mental illness coming into being together: (1) it is now beginning to appear than "race" and racism came into existence together as well. It is racism that has made talk of race something that we can take seriously. A statement attributing intelligence or laziness to a person on the basis of her/ his skin color, can only be judged true if there are resources in…show more content…
The distinction Heidegger proposed in Being and Time (4) between several senses of "being" became the starting point of existential phenomenology, and the subsequent work of Sartre and deBeauvoir, on which I will draw in a moment, derives important ideas from it.

Specifically, I want to distinguish between three meanings of "being" with respect to the meaning of "race", deriving from the discourse of existential phenomenology. With this distinction, I believe it is possible to gain some insight into the problem of race and the question of truth.

Vorhandenheit and Existenz are Heidegger's words for a distinction between two senses of "being"; Vorhandenheit has come to be known in English as "presence-at-hand", but "substantiality" is another way to sum up its meaning. This refers to the kind of being that we attribute to, for instance, natural phenomena. When we ask "what is it?" with regard to some natural phenomenon, we are expecting, and will be satisfied with, an account of what the thing is composed of; this answer speaks of the object not primarily in terms of its usefulness, its value, its relation to other things, but primarily in terms of itself independently. In contrast, to name the kind of being that humans have, Heidegger uses the word "existence", and by it he means especially to call attention to the fact of care:
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