This week marks the second anniversary of remarks by actor and activist Edward James Olmos on the subject of race as a social fiction on a panel at the United Nations.

For the third year in a row, and as I prepare to speak tonight on a similar panel at the United Nations, I’m reposting these remarks, because I have still never heard this idea expressed with more power and conviction: the emperor has no clothes. The notion that we as a people are divided into several different races is, and always has been, a dreadful lie.

Despite the danger inherent in advocating what we might call color-blindness, what Admiral Adama of the Battlestar Galactica says here is undeniably correct, both historically and sociologically, and remains true to this day:

There is only one race … that is the human race.

So say we all!

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Today is the first anniversary of remarks by actor and activist Edward James Olmos at the United Nations about the idea of race as a social fiction.

I posted about these remarks at the time, but I want to use this occasion  as an excuse to highlight once again what Olmos had to say that day, and I’m even going to take the unusual step for me of embedding the video of his remarks here.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’ve never heard this idea expressed with more power and conviction. Each time I see this, I’m reminded of just how powerful the myth of race is, and how important it is for those in the public eye to speak the plain truth that the emperor has no clothes:

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Breaking the Silence, Beating the DrumToday is the United Nation’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In commemoration of the event this year, the U.N. has organized a series of programs this week, in New York and around the world.

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Edward James Olmos[Update: I’ve been reposting this inspirational video once a year, and I talk about the implications of what Olmos says here and especially here. If you want to read about his views or comment on them (and please do!), just follow one or both links.]

The United Nations hosted a panel on Tuesday about the television series Battlestar Galactica, covering such real-world themes as terrorism, human rights, religious conflict, and children in wartime.

The panel was moderated by Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg, and featured Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Battlestar Galactica cast members Edward James Olmos (Admiral William Adama) and Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin), as well as executive producers Ronald D. Moore (of Star Trek fame) and David Eick.

What, exactly, did this panel have to do with race?

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismIn an important development in the controversy over next month’s U.N. conference on racism, negotiators have removed several controversial passages, including references to Israel, religious defamation, and reparations for slavery, from the draft conference text.

This change follows a threat by the European Union to boycott the Durban Review Conference (also known as Durban II), and it may permit the United States to participate in the conference in Geneva in April. The U.S. and other nations had earlier threatened to boycott the conference if there were not changes to these passages in the document, while Canada and Israel had already announced that they were not attending because of the specific references to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The draft text, which still must be reviewed by regional groups, is not yet public. So it is not clear, for instance, whether the shortened text drops all references to reparations for slavery, or whether it merely reverts to the milder language adopted at Durban in 2001. That language, which the U.S. said weeks ago that it was willing to accept, acknowledged the history of slavery, particularly the transatlantic slave trade, and suggested that reparations for slavery are appropriate, while stopping short of actually calling on nations to offer reparations.

U.N. World Conference Against Racism

On Friday, the State Department announced that the U.S. does not intend to participate in the U.N. conference on racism in April unless there are significant changes to the working draft of the conference document, including toning down references to reparations for slavery.

This development appears to be the inevitable result of the Obama administration’s original position on the conference, coupled with the inability of the U.S. delegation to secure changes to the draft last week in Geneva.

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The United Nations has issued a comprehensive new report on global human trafficking, focused on efforts at enforcement.

Highlights include the fact that reported cases of human trafficking, including forced labor and sexual exploitation, have been on the rise, and that women play a significant role in perpetrating human trafficking.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismPresident Barack Obama has taken a key step to reverse the Bush administration’s long-standing boycott of the United Nations Conference Against Racism.

This move is an early result of the Obama administration’s determination to engage more fully with the U.N. and other multilateral organizations. It is also a sign that the new U.S. administration has changed, but not entirely different, attitudes on such issues as human rights, Israel, and the Muslim world.

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