According to the definition offered by Weng (2017), a social construct is an artificial distinction created by people to create a form of division that allows one group to show dominance over another group. The social construct of race in the United States originated from the slave trade activities of the late 19th century when thousands of black people were taken as slaves for white people. Over the years, despite many attempts by both white and black people to change this social construct which dictates that white people are superiors of other races, the social concept has not changed entirely. Cases where the rights of people of other races are not respected still exist and scenarios of white people being offered better treatment because of their color or race are still reported. Even political leaders have not done enough to put an end to this social construct that has discrimination in American society (Weng, 2017). In this essay, we are going to look at the social construct relating to race, analyze how race as a social category is used to maintain social inequality in contemporary American society, and examine how race intersects with other social identities.
According to Pierce, 2014, race is a human creation that has been used in a negative and harmful way to create division between people because of their color or ethnic background. It all began with the enslavement of black people and colonization of the Africa continent by nations that believed they were superior compared to the black people. As the practice of slavery and slave trade was taking roots in the United States, other European nations were focused on taking over the African Continent. In the late 20th century when revolutions begun occurring in Africa and the people were demanding recognition of their rights, America was still grappling with granting its black citizens equal treatment as required. Because of the superiority complex belief taken up by the white people, today there are still regions and people separated by race because of their skin color and ethnic background (Weng, 2017).
Social constructs on race still control, to a relatively lower extent, the social institutions one can attend and the identity they can carry around as they interact with members of the society such as fellow students or employees. In some social institutions, such as workplace environments, the roles people can play or lead others in are regulated by the race of the individual taking part in the program (Pierce, 2014). For instance, white people are allowed to take up leadership roles while black people are relegated to doing tasks that are not significant such as helping out in office duties and assignments. This social construct was created by the social belief which makes white people carry themselves as superiors hence making them look down on their black counterparts. However, this is a human developed mindset that was created out of ego by one group of people who overlooked the input and role played by the second group of people who in this case are black people.
Defined as a social setting that is characterized by technological innovation, improved human connection, and globalization, a contemporary society enjoys a higher life expectancy and better literacy levels which bring about better living conditions (Pierce, 2014). These changes and benefits are promoted by a change in the way of thinking and daily transformations to the lives of the general population. The American contemporary society is considered to have the best infrastructure and system that promote all these factors stated above. Americans have access to some of the latest technology gadgets at relatively low prices, the health care system is well set hence there is a very high life expectancy among the citizens, and literacy levels are very high when compared to the majority of the nations. When these factors are placed together, there is a general improvement in living conditions in American society. However, this is not the case on the ground because only one part of the population tends to benefit from all these improved conditions and settings in American society (Weng, 2017). The black population does not enjoy all these factors because the legal system tends to overlook the rights and needs of the black people.
Americans are offered or gain access to these resources sometimes based on their race or ethnic origin. Given how the white majority tend to view themselves as superiors of the other races in the society, the minority races are not granted the same opportunities such as those given to the white majority. A clear example of this is the number of leaders of black decent in elective positions in society or the number of black people who hold high ranks in the government institutions and company offices in the country. Very few black people hold high positions in these institutions but they make up a majority of the low-ranked officers. Even when it comes to access to technology innovations and human connectivity, the minority groups do not have the same privileges such as those enjoyed by the white majority and the government seems to have accepted this social inequality. By using race as the primary measurement, people from different races are granted services differently and are treated with different levels of respect which makes social inequality continue being prevalent in the world today. The white majority uses this as a weapon to demonstrate to the minority groups that they are the ones holding the upper hand in American contemporary society.
The race is used as the primary measure of the level of respect and honor to be granted to an individual in the American social setting (‘Destroying the powerful and destructive race construct’, 2012). When race intersects with social class, however, the respect and treatment offered to an individual varies. A black person who is from a poor social class will not be granted the same treatment which is given to a white man from a poor social class. This is quite clear in the legal system by the way the police treat black suspects and white suspects when they are being arrested because of offenses done against the law. In the same situation, when a black person who is from a higher social class interacts with white people in the same class or higher, they are given better treatment because of the perceived social class interest they hold. This scenario shows what happens when race intersects with social class identities across different race groups.
The gender of an individual also tends to determine the type of treatment which will be granted to them in the American social setting. Black men are not given the same treatment given to black women because of the perceived nature of the black people who are believed to be violent and unruly. Black women tend to enjoy better privileges when compared to their male counterparts in this case because of their gender group. While the black men are seen as a threat to the white people, women on the other end are looked at as objects of desire and they do not carry the same threat as the men (Weng, 2017). White people, both men, and women have generally treated the same way because society has taught people to respect them. Black men are highly likely to defend themselves against any form of legal measure put in place because they view it as a form of oppression on them because of their color while the white male counterparts looked at it as a legal procedure taken by the officials. Because of this, the treatment to be offered to them varies because of the race. However, these social mechanisms are slowly shifting since some of the policies that used to apply are being abolished and the legal institutions are having different approaches towards people of different races (Pierce, 2014). The idea of white supremacists is slowly fading away and the notion of equality in society is being taken up.
In conclusion, as society has taken up different measures to address the issue of racial discrimination and injustice, there still exist groups of white people who look down on black people because of their color. Also, some of the legal systems do not offer equal rights for both white and black people as required. But major achievements have been made by leaders who are promoting the idea of equal rights in society.
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