Race Is Socially Constructed

1 January 2017

Today race is thought of differently than it ever was before. With so many mixes out there it is almost impossible to guess a person’s race based solely on appearance. Race is not something we can see or even prove scientifically. In modern terms, “race is a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of society consider important. ” (Farrell 2012). Which means race is something made up by humans to categorize people who share biological traits.

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In a scientific sense race cannot be proven or even real, however race is still very important. The idea of race is modern; people have not always been categorized in this way. “Ancient societies did not divide people according to physical differences, but according to religion, status, class, even language. ” (web sight activity) Not until people started exploring and moving across seas did they distinguish differences among others and have a need for classification.

Over time and as immigration became popular there was more intermarriage, new races and ethnic groups. Today sociologist understand race as a social concept and not a biological fact. For example White Americans are able to choose and pass for what race and ethnic backgrounds they want to claim. The decision to claim Irish American, rather than Irish and French American depends on the situation. During St. Patrick’s Day one might claim to be Irish and not French because the French is irreverent to the situation.

This person would be called an optional ethnic because their social situation makes it most convenient to be just Irish. Another example is when parents fill out their children’s census ancestry reports. “Only about 60 percent of the children of English-German marriages are labeled as English-German or German-English. About 15 percent of the children of these parents are simplified to just English, and another 15 percent are reported as just German. The remainder of the children are either not given an ancestry or are described as American. (pg 98 Optional Ethnicites Mary Waters 2004) This shows how easy it is for whites to pass for which ever race is more convenient and it has nothing to do with biology. On the other hand, a black person does not have this luxury. “In the United States, individuals who are actually “black” by the logic of hypo-descent have attempted to skirt the discriminatory barriers imposed by law and custom by attempting to “pass” for white. Ironically, these same individuals would not be able to pass for “black” in many Latin American societies. (pg 23 racial formations 2007 michael omi and Howard winant)

Since there are so many ideas of black, someone who has even the slightest bit of black in them generally is seen as black and cannot pass for anything else. expand Countries and places all over the world view race differently, this is why race is socially constructed and cannot be proven scientifically. For example “in many Latin American countries, race is not a meta-concept based on biological categories but rather a classification dependent on time and context. “the determination and relative salience of race categories depend not on their “inherent” nature as physical characteristics but on the historical development of the context in which these categories are valued. Within this framework, the points of social reference in which a given individual operates are important determinants of racial identity. ” (pg 59 rethinking the color line 2007 Charles gallagher) This Latin American idea of race coming from language, family history and upbringing proves race is socially constructed.

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