Yesterday while I was cleaning I was thinking about when I was at the Denver Art Museum last summer. My friend and I went one afternoon while we were at a journalism convention.I remember seeing casta paintings at the museum and it brought back memories of one of my history classes, History of Colonial Latin America. Casta paintings are paintings that displayed the various castes in society in Latin America and indicated their socioeconomic status. For example, if you were a metizo (which is half Spanish/half Native American) then the painting would have a Native American woman with her Spanish (white) husband and their child that would be labeled as a "metizo". Then the next painting would be of the "Metizo" boy (all grown up) with a say a black wife and their child would be labeled as a "Lobo". And then the next painting would be of the "Lobo" woman marrying say a black man and their child would be cast as a "Chino" and so on and so forth. The less Spanish heritage you had, the lower your caste would be and so the goal of a lot of people was to "whiten" their family by marrying white Spanish people.
Those paintings are really interesting because they display how much people pay attention to skin color and "race" during that time. We still carry some of these legacies today, if you notice closely. For example, I watched a documentary about "race" in Brazil, a country of mixed Portuguese and African ethnicities. It's called Black and White and it's a very interesting movie. It's about how Brazil is trying to implement affirmative action. Most of the light skinned people in Brazil have more powerful positions, have better socioeconomic status and go to the best schools in Brazil while the darker skinned people tend to be affected by poverty. The documentary follows a few students trying to get into a top notch university in Brazil. They must pass a rigorous exam to be able to attend and competition is very high. The government is applying affirmative action by accepting a certain quota of "black" students. One of the problems is that being in a very mixed society, it's hard to determine how "black" you are to be part of this quota. So "black" students that want to be part of that quota have to go through a process of interviews so the school can determine if they are "black" enough to be eligible. One of the students has a darker skinned mother but she has blondish hair and colored eyes and lives in a lower socioeconomic class. She is trying to get into the university to fulfill your career goals but knows that it will be hard to get in and her non-dark appearance will not help if she wants to be part of the quota.
I know most of us live in the US and not Brazil but "race" and socioeconomic status are linked in this country as well. The sad part is that there is no such thing as race but one, THE HUMAN RACE. Everyone that is a human being (including you and me) is 99.9% the same! So that means that this inequality is due to .01% of our DNA which determines our skin color, hair density, metabolism, etc. Now, I'm also glad we're not all the same and embrace our differences. Of course, I wouldn't want to look exactly like everyone else in the world but we have to realize that we are in fact all human beings that should be treated fair and equal and that should have the same opportunities no matter what ethnicity or skin color. Obviously, this is easier said that done, our past still carries a lot of legacies that affect us today and that can not be changed overnight. But if we educate ourselves and become of aware of this issue, we can help change our society.