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Pet Sins November 2007 Issue
Questioning 'Racial Labels' - the malleability of identities

There are those who are of the opinion that any kind of 'identity politics' or ethnic labeling is wrong. And there are those who believe that while 'race' is a social construct without real biological basis, it does matter in 'real life' because of its social implications. And therefore it is at times necessary to discuss people in terms of 'group membership' to identify issues of unequal access or institutionalized discrimination. As Frank Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, puts it, it we stop monitoring tornadoes, it would not stop them from touching town. If we become a 'colorblind' society that never discusses 'race', it does not necessarily mean that 'racial inequality' will cease.

Certainly, that's not the only opinion on the topic. In this issue, readers share their thoughts on 'racial' labels and identities. What is clear is 'racial classifications' vary in different societies. The same 'subject' might be classified differently depending on where it is placed. Thus, there is not one 'absolute' way of defining 'race', nor any real basis for using physical appearance to determine someone's value and potential.