BY JESS LAGÉ, STAFF WRITER
John Hartigan, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas spoke Monday evening in Faylor Hall about the rapidly changing dynamics of race today in the United States.
Referring to race, Hartigan said, “It is not natural, but remains enduring, and it’s a problem.” Race plays a large part in Americans’ daily lives.
Hartigan proposed a reason for racism in America. “It’s about separating the individual and group,” Hartigan said. “It’s culture, not racism.” Hartigan proposed the idea that “whites” see others as individuals and non-whites in contrast as representatives of vaguely comprehended groups. By grouping a race together, it is easier to give them all one identity, which is what Hartigan suggests has happened over the years.
“We value the individual in the United States,” Hartigan said. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Junior and even Michael Jackson have “separated themselves from a group,” Hartigan said. These figures individuated themselves.
Hartigan said, “Individual and group is not just race when we live in a culture that’s fixated on individualism.” Hartigan also points out society’s view on celebrities and their idolization.
“This is not genetics and has not always been this way,” Hartigan said. Using the 2008 election as an example, President Barack Obama has managed to overcome the group theory and separate himself.He has become America’s president, not once but twice. Obama was commonly referred to as the ‘black presidential candidate,” but Hartigan said: “No one called Romney the white candidate. Obama won because he was seen as an individual, not a race.”
Hartigan notes that in the 2012 election, 7 million fewer white people voted in the election. “We can’t trust statistics about race for the 2012 Obama election. People aren’t going to be honest [about] who they voted for,” Hartigan said.
As a society that loves to categorize, Hartigan says that there are two types of people. There are risk takers and the at risk. Hartigan said, “Americans see the separation between renters, blacks, children, elderly and people with low incomes as unsettling, and ‘un-American.’”
The United States is considered, “post racial America,” today, but through Hartigan’s presentation, it is evident that America has a long way to come. Hartigan also talked a little bit about the current George Zimmerman court case and how this could be a hate crime. Hartigan presented two versions of the 9-1-1 phone call from the night of the incident. One was the version presented to the public, and the other was the actual 9-1-1 phone call. The one released to the public had information omitted from it and made Zimmerman look like a racist. Hartigan said, whether or not Zimmerman shot the man in self-defense, or whether he was in fact racist, still portrays the problem of racism in the U.S. today.
John Hartigan is an author of two books: “What Can You Say?” and “Race in the 21st Century.”