Race has no scientific foundation, as proved by the emergence of Social Darwinism and the existence of later theories in 1911. However, despite the challenges that science imposed to the subjective belief in the plurality of races existent in mankind, heinous racial discourse, activity and genocidal regimes such as that of Nazi Germany, continued to prevail. Is history repeating itself? It might be worth looking into the dubious case of Treasure Richards, an 16 year old African American teenager who identifies herself as Caucasian and white, ‘with a body like Kim Kardashian’.
Poising on the chair on Dr. Phil’s studio, Treasure becomes the performative object of ridicule and comedic entertainment. Her views are underscored by the media, characterising her as a racist villain who does not deserve a supporting and loving family. Ultimately, her racist identity has created her into a problem for society, but also a necessary form of entertainment for the public.
Personally, I condone this treatment towards her. It is understandable, on the one hand, that there would be a profound expression of disgust in her public reception. On the other hand, however, not a ‘racist sympathiser’ myself, it is important to delve into the potential sociological and environmental implications that this case inaugurates.
Her mother told her she was not an African American, something that was criticized in a show hosted by an African American psychologist. This is not the pinnacle of the blame that should prevail, however, it does create a veritable confusion in one’s identity as well as a discursive confirmation of a desirable self-identification. I am not going to make assumptions about this individual and insist she has some sort of mental disorder, but objectively speaking, how far should we go about shaming her views in public on a global spectacle?
It is, without doubt, important to prevent the spread of extremist ideas and to show one that it is wrong. However, the extent to which this girl has been publicly shamed for her factual distortion within her self-identification could be considered counterproductive. We could make the argument that it gives her, in a way, more agency to inflate her egotistical form of expressing her outlandish ideas, or if we make presumptions about her emotional hidden state, it may reinforce her ‘self-hating’ if this is the case already. It is important to consider where these ideas came from since the renowned scholar who wrote the Oxford very short introduction on race, Ali Rattansi, considers racist beliefs not to be ‘natural’ as such. So where did these emerge from?
Without pointing the finger at solely one factor i.e. her mother’s role in reinforcing the distortion of her daughter’s self-perception, it is important to bear on the wider contexts of racism and self-identification, as well as the legitimacy of discursive agency in order to understand where these heinous-sounding ideas originate from. In other words, it is crucial to understand what constitutes our understanding of difference, why this girl views African-Americanism as a platform of difference and to what extent she truly self-identifies as Caucasian. It is thus necessary to delve deeper into these issues of self-identification and fear of difference by trying to perceive what shapes her view of difference, what role society plays in her apparent distortion or why she is afraid of being ‘different’, if profound studies show that to be the case. It is crucial to examine her true intentions through survey and academic study, instead of public shaming and to test environmental theories before publicising such statements and assumptions in the media.
Of course, it is not an immediate instinct to view this from an academic lens, because it is categorised as a form of entertainment and perhaps what we would call ‘television trash’. However, it is important to take a sociological standpoint on the issue which may help us to decipher the origins of extremism in groups such as the
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