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Social Construction of Race Concept

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What does it mean to argue that race is a social construction, rather than a biological reality? What is the political significance of rejecting a biological view of race?

In the documentary film, “Race—The Power of an Illusion: The House We Live In,” the historian James Horton says, “You give me the power, I can make you any race I want you to be because it is a social, political construction.” The race has been created throughout history, among those who have authority over certain groups. A social construct is based on privilege and the availability of resources. While others argue that race is biological, there is

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When it comes to defining race “as a social construct” rather than a biological reality, it goes to show that there is no biological meaning. Throughout history, for centuries Europeans and American societies have been characterized by racial stratification. Members in certain racial groups would have enough authority to place people in the status hierarchy that defined their social, political, and economic value. And with that came along the opportunities, the right to vote, choice of where to live, or job they want. As stratification existed for several years, it became a part of the laws of many states. ADD MORE TO RELATE TO PRIVILEGE AND AVAILABILITY OF RESOURCES

For example, in “White Privilege Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, McIntosh realizes after “unpacking the invisible knapsack” throughout her daily aspects in life were conditions that she took for granted. When it comes to one having power and opportunities granted over certain groups, that is privilege “confers dominance because of one’s race.” Throughout history, the pattern of white privilege within social hierarchy has been passed down. It is the conditions, the daily aspects of one’s life that one enjoys without realizing that they “have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence”. White people need to recognize these invisible forces that have been neutrally in their existence. White people can roam around the world without fear and neglect anything around them, while people of color roam around the world with fear and neglect. White people easily can walk in a store and find products for their type of skin color or hair whereas people of color can’t fulfill their needs when it comes to their type of skin color or hair. Whites freely roam around without being racially profiled or stereotyped unfairly or unequally. Recognizing this means recognizing the gap that exists between races of color.

In the 17th century and 18th-century racial slavery was established. A series of laws were passed separating Africans and their descendants. “…establishing unequal groups and imposing different social meanings on them. …structuring the ideological components of the race.” (history of the race pg 7) Although slavery ended, “race” as a social status remained. “Race originated as an ideology about human differences such; it was a social invention not a product of science.” (history of race pg 2) Within the ideology of race, distinct groups were declared and made unequal. Every race was thought to have different physical and behavioral features that were passed down. As the stereotype continued, blacks were considered not intelligent, lazy, overly sexed, loud, and irrational.

For example, a scientist Samuel George Morton collected and measured skulls from all over the world. He believed that a person’s intelligence was based on the size of their brain. If one’s brain was larger than the other, the more intelligent they were. He was attempting to prove that white was naturally superior to other races. The measurement of “whites” skulls had a mean value of 92 cubic inches and the measurements of “black” skulls had a mean of 83 cubic inches. With the “results” from the measurements and intelligence, it was said to support the social hierarchy, where whites are at the top and blacks at the bottom. “Thus, “whites” were not merely socially superior, they were biologically superior”. A biologist, Stephen Jay Gould concludes that Morton’s results were due to him rejecting certain data to reach the conclusion that supported the hierarchy. To conclude, “There is no stability and consistency when it comes to measuring race through science. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Because race is a social, historical context throughout history that has shaped our system, laws within the idea of race, etc (find more), to say race is based in biology states that we came from nothing. The idea of race is socially constructed has established the Civil Rights Act and Jim Crow Laws. When mentioned about slaves, their rights were denied when it came to voting, choice of where to live, they were forced to live in an environment in which the government did not represent them. Segregation was established within two separate classes; based on social status level and those who worked within the society. For example, in the film, a couple named Bernice and Eugene Burnett wanted to purchase a home that caught their attention, but they were rejected based on the color of their skin. Bernice stated in the film, “for your country to sanction it, give him tools to do that, there’s something definitely wrong there”. As you can see, inequalities have plagued America for hundreds of years and continue to do so.

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