Synthetic Race and Modernity (Part 3)

Clearly the overall social context we find ourselves in makes it difficult to resolve persistent issues regarding racial injustice. Therefore, in order to most effectively mete out justice to various races, our social framework must be revised. Starting with the theory of identity: the synthetic paradigm of race implies that human identity is not unified and fundamental, but is multi-faceted and culturally created.

 This is especially true in the case of miscegenation, where it is quite obvious that one’s identity is being drawn from a number of sources. Even for those who are supposedly not “mixed,” their culture still “forms them into certain kinds of persons” and heavily informs their “modes of reasoning” (Parekh 240). As such, human identity is centered around the fact that each individual is culturally mediated, and is not socially independent. Since equal rights are derived from our shared humanity; and since the synthetic concept conceives of shared humanity being mediated through diversity, equal rights would include: 

    1. some basic rights that all citizens possess; 
    2. special group rights which account for their differences and allow for their expression (Parekh 243, 245). 

By allowing this, it must be ensured that neither group gains any kind of significant advantage over the other (Parekh 245). Such rights would make it illegal to act against a group simply because they cause discomfort, yet do not inhibit either your basic or special rights. This view requires us to adopt an aesthetic lens where variation is viewed as a good thing. In other words, when difference is encountered, the goal is not to search for underlying similarities, but to see the beauty contained in those differences. Such a perspective would at least mitigate potential discomfort in the face of diversity and produce a greater amount of interracial harmony instead of mere tolerance. 

Rejecting a uniform conception of identity and society would also require policies that address social issues in a way that is not applicable to all groups. In the case of groups that are already at a disadvantage due to their history of oppression, “universal” policies turn out to be of little to no help to them. As discussed previously, the synthetic paradigm of race would imply that minorities would have to be enabled, not simply allowed, to fully participate in the processes of society in order to autonomously define themselves. For instance, policies would have to be enacted which would allow them to have a stronger influence in the government (Parekh 246). Policy would also have to be geared in a way to acknowledge the economic differences that exist in virtue of a group’s history, such as increasing the salaries of low-skilled workers, who tend to be minority members. This is special treatment in a sense, but only because of their past experiences which put them in a relatively powerless position in society. This clearly goes against the idea that racial minorities must “earn” the right to participate thusly; it does away with the idea of personal merit in the realm where a group has been oppressed. This also seems to be a reasonable method for bringing about racial justice. First of all, any policies passed would have to ensure that no group gains an advantage over another, meaning that special policies could only have a reparative or equalizing effect. Secondly, given the tempered dictums, not only would it be safe to give political privilege to certain members of a minority group, but it may even be advisable given their familiarity with the struggles of the relevant group. Not only would they know which problems to address, but their sympathies would give them some idea of how to properly address the issue. 

To some degree, the synthetic concept of race would require the elimination of instrumental reason. The synthetic concept of race means that our universal humanity is expressed through diversity, rather than through similarity. As such, race or social misfortune can no longer be used as an excuse for exploitation or as a source of competition. Generally speaking, this means that workers – minorities in particular – must become ends in themselves, which means they and their work must be seen as valuable. The value of the worker comes from their basic and undeniable humanity derived from their diversity, and the value of their work would have to come from a holistic view of business. The holistic view would mean understanding how each role supports the other, thus making each role equally valuable to the company as a whole. Subsequently, it would be unfair to refrain from providing a living wage, as a minimum, to each worker given their value to the rest of the company. This is not only just in a broad sense, but would be a step towards reversing the deleterious economic affects of past racial oppression.

In summary, the synthetic paradigm of race leads us to a conception of human identity that is culturally imbedded. As such, humanity is expressed through diversity and culture, rather than through uniformity to universal reason. Furthermore, since race does not indicate anything about one’s humanity, that social classification cannot be used to justify labor exploitation and unfair competition in business. This concept of race also requires that we equalize the socio-political situation of minorities, rather than simply giving them legal rights to practically inaccessible opportunities. This requires us to sacrifice some aspects of modernity, but the payout would be this: a smaller disparity of wealth between all racial groups, a comparable amount of legal representation and cultural input between racial groups, and an overall harmonious and friendly interracial existence.


Matravers, Derek. Pike, Jon. Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology. Routledge 2003. Parekh, Bhikhu. Contemporary Liberal Responses to Diversity. Print.


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