Rejecting Race Theory (with the help of direct experience & secular & religious ideas)

[The following is a blog post I first wrote & published in 2003, and since belief in race theory has not yet disappeared from this planet, I thought I would re-post the entry here, it may be useful for people who are thinking about ending their belief in race theory & the negative practices & views that arise from that belief]

Race Is A Lie
By Sujewa Ekanayake

For perhaps 10-20 years I contemplated two seemingly incompatible ideas that exist in my environment (society, the human world). These two ideas are: 1) all humans-more or less-are capable of the same level of high or low achievements, given the right effort (an idea that was planted in my brain by being raised as a Buddhist in Sri Lanka), and the counter idea is that 2) humans fall into a handful of categories, based on skin color and physical features, and the worth and the level of achievement an individual human is capable of depends on which group they belong to (for example: people w/ light skin or “white” people being capable of more things than people with dark skin or “black” people, an idea that has been popular in Europe, America and places that have been heavily affected by Europeans, also in India in a slightly different form and older origin).  After much contemplation, research, observation, including reflecting on the Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, and analyzing knowledge gained from living among various people and interacting with various people, I have decided that idea 1 is correct and that idea 2 is not correct (this decision was made several years ago).

This means that how I view the world now and how I interact with it is drastically different than how many of the people in my immediate society (American) view and interact with the world. That is, I believe that the concept of race is a lie, a false view, brought into existence, refined, and kept alive for self-serving reasons by the creators of the idea and those who were able to benefit from the idea, and that at this point in time (2003 AD) many people simply accept race as a fact and organize their lives by it.  Many evil things have been made possible by belief in the idea of race or races of humans: including the Hindu caste system which treats millions of people as sub-humans, slavery, European colonialism or the taking control of lands through force by people who believed they were more human then the ones that they conquered, Manifest Destiny, and Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews in Europe. Less damaging perhaps numerically but perhaps just as devastating on an individual basis is that in modern-day America I see the population continuing to organize themselves based on the concept of race. The down side of this is that individual people are placing an artificial constraint on themselves, and along with this comes mental anguish, and of course in some unfortunate moments, physical violence. The plus side for the person who believes in race is that they have a group to belong to. But, all in all I believe that the negative effects of believing in race are greater to everyone then the positive effects. And I believe that it is counter productive to the American experiment of creating a great nation consisting of people from the hundred corners of the world (also counter to the aims of any modern country that wants to reduce friction & conflict between various groups of people).  And I believe that race is dangerous and destructive to the world in general because it causes people to sympathize more with, and in many cases at the expense of, some populations over others.  So, as a productive and well-meaning member of American society (& of Earth in general) and a moral human being who wishes to do good (that which helps humans live well) I am sharing my views through this public forum, this web page. I invite people to post their views and responses to my writing as I share and fine tune, through regular journal entries, my theories and observations and ideas for creating a world without race.

This journal entry is step #1 on this side project.  Parting thoughts: in ancient Christian thinking the concept of deception perpetuated by evil (or The Devil) exists, and in ancient Buddhist thinking there is a concept called maya, or illusion, created by a being called Mara or The Evil One. Race would fall neatly under those categories. Race (and its’ child racism) is an evil illusion because it causes human misery and it is a dangerous lie that has hypnotized the human population. Let me know what you think about this idea. Should we create a world without race or should we let the idea and belief of race exist in the world?

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Copyright 2003 Sujewa Ekanayake

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What is agnosticism and how does it relate to a positive approach towards Sri Lanka and the diaspora?

By Sujewa Ekanayake

[First published in New Agnosticism For Sri Lanka & The Diaspora blog on 4/15/10]

Agnosticism, in my view, is an approach to religion that states that a person may not believe in all or certain aspects of a religion or of all religions, or that a person may be comfortable with some aspects of a religion or religions and may not be comfortable with the more fantastic aspects of religions – such as gods, life after death, etc.  The text book definition of agnosticism is the position that certain philosophical or religious questions cannot be answered by human reason, with typically the biggest question being the existence of God.

A positive approach to living on Earth is one that is useful to many or all humans.  Generally, in my view, work that assists with the goal of ending poverty on Earth, ending hunger, ending homelessness, and helps in creating societies ruled by just and humane and effective laws, and work that supports individual rights, protection of individuals from both illegal and evil physical or mental harm, work that assists with safeguarding freedom of thought & expression, work that assists individuals with building wealth and securing property, work that provides people with health care, are all positive actions, and are a result of a positive approach to living on Earth.

Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, as many readers of this blog post may know, is a nation with a long history. Civilization in Sri Lanka reaches back to the far distant past, with remains of past societies still visible on the island in the form of ruins, sculptures, etc. Modern Sri Lanka – since independence in 1948 – has struggled with poverty, underdevelopment, and a series of armed struggles – the longest running of which – the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, ended last year. At this point in time Sri Lankans exist either in Sri Lanka proper – on the island – or world wide, in various countries, as a part of the Sri Lankan diaspora. An agnostic and positive approach from both within Sri Lanka and outside – in the Sri Lankan diaspora – can lead to the improvement of the quality of life for people in Sri Lanka and the diaspora.

Full development of Sri Lanka – of the island becoming a place that is competitive with the most developed countries on the planet – has been delayed by the lack of cooperation (to put it mildly, outright violent hostilities at some points which led to a nearly 30 year war may also be an accurate view) between the two main groups of people on the island – the Sinhala speaking Buddhists & Christians & others (mostly Buddhists) or the Sinhalese and the Tamil speaking Hindus & Christians & Muslims & others (mostly Hindu) or the Tamils. Agnostics, positively oriented agnostics who are interested in building a better Sri Lanka – from within Sri Lanka and from the diaspora – may be able to function as intermediaries, a buffer perhaps, and a positive force that can help guide people from both groups towards action that benefits Sri Lanka as well as the rest of the world.

In my view a positive agnostic does not seek the destruction of religions (as religions are a part of the intellectual and creative heritage of humans) but both freedom of religion for those who wish to practice a religion and freedom from religion for those who do not wish to participate in religions. In addition, a positive agnostic will help save non-believers or believers of different religions from any excessive & evil (aimed at destroying human life) actions initiated by extremist factions of one or more religious groups. In the Sri Lankan context, positively oriented agnostics from Sri Lanka and the diaspora may be able to assist the people of Sri Lanka with maintaining peace and dialogue between various groups/communities/ethnic & religious factions/”races”, etc. Also, agnostics, who are open to useful knowledge from any part of the world – unlike conservative Sri Lankans who distrust the West, for example, may be able to assist with the modernization of Sri Lanka in areas useful to Sri Lankans: education, industry, employment, finance, security, etc. Positively oriented agnostics can assist Sri Lankans talk to each other and work with each other and can assist with the conversation that needs to happen between Sri Lankans and the rest of the world – since we do not favor one religious or ethnic group over another, and we seek development of Sri Lanka & the diaspora so that all Sri Lankans and the rest of the world may benefit.

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Copyright 2010 Sujewa Ekanayake