Social Construction of Race and How It Affects Society Essays

Social Construction of Race and How It Affects Society Essays

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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.
Although race as a physical condition has likely occurred in societies from the beginning of human existence, it was through early European influence that race as a physical description arose. As Western explorers and settlers came into contact with native people of color, they found it necessary to define these people as inferior so that they could retain their position as the dominant social group. Anyone who did not look like or engage in the same cultural practices as a “white” European, was considered insubordinate or uncivilized. Ronald Takaki mirrors this suggestion in his book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, in which he proposes that “race is a social construct produced by the dominant group in society and their power to define.” As this ideology spread throughout Europe and sub sequentially into the North American colonies, the concept of racial inferiority became the rule in early American society.
Native Africans were initially brought to America to serve as indentured servants. They were offered the status of a “free man” upon completion of the terms of their serv...

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...tion, the idea that race is a byproduct of one’s social environment; however, it insists that social learning is an evolved concept that has developed throughout human existence. According to this, although many might believe that the racial division of our past has slowly diminished, it is actually just in an evolutionary state of flux. In The Social Construction of Whiteness: White Women, Race Matters, Ruth Frankenberg argues that “our daily lives are affected by race whether we are aware of it or not.” No matter how hard we try to make our society racially neutral, the concept of “race” is so engrained in the minds of human beings that it has become the structure of society itself. As much as we would like to eliminate its concept, history dictates that social construction of race will continue as long as physical differences among people are present.

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