One of the most prevalent themes throughout the world’s history is the dispute over race and racial differences. But, there is a problem: the majority of the population doesn’t have a clear understanding of what race is. Race is a socially constructed grouping of people that was created in order for people to differentiate themselves from one another and has many sources of influence. While most people believe race is determined by biological characteristics (hair type, skin color, eye shape, etc.), this is not true. To make things more complicated, there is no cut and dry definition to race. Authors of Race and Ethnicity in Society, Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margret Anderson, claim that there are seven different distinct ways to define race. They begin with the popular belief of biological characteristics, and, as mentioned before, through social construction. They go on to note that race can be formed from an ethnic group, from social class rank, from racial formation by institutions, and also can form from one’s self-definition (Higginbotham & Anderson, 2012, p. 13). All of these ways to define race have been seen throughout our history, and many of them have caused problems for minorities, especially in the United States.
The subject of race, within the field of sociology, can often be viewed as both a fluid concept and a cultural experience. Contrary to popular belief, race is not biological, but is a socially constructed category of people that share the same biological traits. Race can often change over time and is formed primarily by our personal views and the views of others. These can range from ethnicity to self-presentation and feelings of place within society. One example of the fluidity of race can be seen based upon the classification of the White or Caucasian race. In today’s culture, this race has been drastically increased to include a vast array of “white” individuals.
Humans define race by how they conceive and categorize different social realities. Thus, race is often referred to as a social construct. The differences in skin color and facial characteristics have led most of society to classify humans into groups instead of individuals. These constructs affect us all, and they often result in situations where majority racial groups cause undue suffering to those that are part of the minority. The understanding of race as a social construct is best illustrated by the examination of racial issues within our own culture, specifically those that have plagued the history of the United States.
Race is a social construct that was created by the Europeans in order to minoritize different racial groups. In the reading by Bonilla-Silva, he defines race to be manmade, “This means that notions of racial difference are human creations rather than eternal, essential categories… racial categories have a history and are subject to change.” For example in a lecture by Dr. Aguilar-Hernandez, he stated that the Irish, Italians and Jews were called black before but are now considered white, Mexican-Americans were also considered white up until the 1980s. These ideas lead to the racialization of racial groups.
To many people across a variety of different nationalities and cultures, race has been proven to be a key factor for how society views you in the eyes of those who are prominently in charge. The term race has been brought up in recent years, to be considered a form of identification, as the word race is used to describe physical characteristics such as a person’s color of skin, hair, and eyes. When in reality, the correct term they should be using is Ethnicity. As a result, the term race is used to separate people into sub-categories based on the color of their skin. This type of classification, is a man-made creation used by society to classify certain groups of people into lower classes, while keeping the predominate group in charge at the top.
Racial categories date back to the days of ancient empires, and haven’t changed significantly since then, despite the huge changes in cultures since those times. There has obviously been a huge amount of racial mixture since those times, and the concept of race now is just an archaic social construct.
From a sociological stand-point, sociologist agree that race categories are commonly biased, and are used in popular discourse in social and political life. They point out that these common categories and relate imperfectly to attributes physically such as, hair or eye colour, or skin color. In sociology the phenotype is important in understanding race, but only as one of the many social symbols that serves to generate categories that regulate the haves and the havenots. “The loose use of expressions ‘black’, ‘Asian’, or ‘white’ provides a good example of how contingent and temporary are these popular racial expressions and labels.” (pg.164) Sociologist argue that the category ‘race’ is not substantial enough to consider in a sociological sense, because of the fact that race can’t be proven by blood tests. Therefore a person can identify with any race that one
“Think about race in its universality. Where is your measurement device? There is no way to measure race. We sometimes do it by skin color, other people may do it by hair texture - other people may have the dividing lines different in terms of skin color. What is black in the United States is not what 's black in Brazil or what 's black in South Africa.”-Dr.Goodman, Race: The Power of an Illusion
Ultimately, the paper states that once we designate someone as a certain race, we then have a basis to differentiate ourselves. This serves a people in power the most, as when the Irish-Americans, though viewed as somewhat unruly, were still able to enter and run for public office because of naturalization laws of the late nineteenth century. Once it was established in the United States that there were competing groups out there in the labor force, namely African, Asian, Latin, and Mexican-Americans, it became advantageous to draw a color line to create a large group, those of lighter skin color, to raise and continue to hold the power through numbers and mass alone.
The English term ‘race’ is believed to originate from the Spanish word raza, which means ‘breed’ or ‘stock’ (Race). People use race to define other groups, this separation of groups is based largely on physical features. Features like skin color and hair don’t affect the fundamental biology of human variation (Hotz). Race is truly only skin deep, there are no true biological separations between two ‘racial’ groups. Scientifically speaking, there is more variation between single local groups than there is between two large, global groups; the human variation is constantly altering (Lewontin). The majority of today’s anthropologists agree that race is a form of social categorization, not the separation of groups based on biological
The “AAA Statement on Race” explains “...that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.” Our population is a melting pot of skin colors, hair textures, and facial features, yet these distinctions seem to separate us in the wrong way. These groups can give us vital medical information, such as races that are prone to heart disease, but we instead manipulate these groups to create deficient stereotypes. (Boyd and Silk: 388) Moreover, a certain number of races does not exist because every human is unique, therefore these stereotypes are just fabricated from our culture. There is more difference within groups than between groups. (Boyd and Silk: 389) Accordingly, this diversity should be respected instead of putting people against each other. “The differences between races are due to biological heritage.” (Boyd and Silk: 388) Just because we are similar in race does not mean we are the same type of people and fall into the same stereotypes. If there is more diversity within groups, dividing race into three or four groups is not accurate
Imagine all your life you been surrounded with people that have the same characteristic as you. You didn't even know that you been separated into a group in which you classify in depending where you live, the color of your skin and income level. All my life I have been surrounded with latinos, the group I belong to at school, where I live, and daily activities i do. I didn't even know my race impacted my life until I went to college and explored places out of my comfort zone. Throughout history people have been separated into a specific group based on the color of their skin and how they physically look. These groups were separated into a dominant and nondominant group, which were whites the dominant group and minorities (african americans, asians, mexicans etc…) the non dominant group, but as times passes by minorities start to rebel to have equal dominance as whites. Now we have more freedom and power in this world. I am going to share experience I had when I was growing up that impacted my life being the race I am.
"Events in the nineteenth century made it abundantly and irrefutably clear that race as a concept sui generis superseded social class as the dominant mechanism of social division and stratification in North America." (Smedley 219) For many decades people have been using race as a way to classify humans into different social categories. Lower, Middle, and Upper classes were created to divide humans into appropriate categories using their individual lifestyles, financial income, residence, and occupation. People decided to ignore this classifying system and classify one another,
I learned early on not to judge a Jelly Bean by its color, and that it was an unrewarding practice to group together these individual candies because when not every bean fit into a color category, I forced it to. The same can be said for people. Each and every one of us are unique individuals, and it is virtually impossible to effectively ‘sort’ us into groups - even more so as our society progresses. Identifiers such as race, religion, sexual orientation - even gender - which we once used to group people together, now make up the many cracks in modern American society. It is this action of separating the Red Jelly Bellies from the rest that creates an almost immobile American mindset: you are a Red… you must be a cherry.
Society has a way of making assumptions based on one’s physical characteristics. Often at times we categorize individuals to a particular social group. In regard to society’ perception of an individual this however, contributes to the development of social construction of racism. Most people want to be identified as individuals rather than a member of specific social group. As a result, our social identity contains different categories or components that were influenced or imposed. For example, I identify as a, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and a person of color. I identify racially as a person of color and ethically as Jamaican and Puerto Rican. According to Miller and Garren it’s a natural human response for people to make assumptions solely