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Ethnicity Studies: Race in American Society Essay

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Updated: Apr 20th, 2021

Joseph Lelyveld offers an incisive look at the impact of race in American society. Although the content of the literature was written barely a decade ago, it depicts a significant transformation that has already taken place in the perception of racism. Lelyveld is categorical that the race of an individual does not determine his or her destiny. The role that has been played by the Assembly of God church is indeed commendable (Lelyveld 9). The editor attempts to inject the element of Christianity in addressing the ill effects of racism. It is interesting to note that the church in general has played a major part in reshaping the state of racism in America. Full integration of several races has been attained with the assistance of the church institution.

Needless to say, the blacks were highly disregarded in American society a few decades ago. It appeared like a curse for a black person to closely interact with a white person. However, the teaching portrayed by the church has significantly leveled the ground for all races since all of them are headed to the same heaven irrespective of skin complexion. Lelyveld gives an example of an elderly woman being hugged by a black man. The latter could have been a taboo some years ago. Several parishioners have developed a lot of affection that can be considered to be genuine. As a result, American society is currently some of the terse racial concerns and questions that shrouded their thoughts before the turn of the century (Lelyveld 16). For example, can integration be considered a blessing or a betrayal? Several black people seem to be wondering in the same line of thoughts. Is integration helpful or even acceptable in modern American society? Is it really necessary for the church to highlight the issue of race or even minister about it to the flock? Are there any burdens associated with the ‘blending in’? Can the church be equated to other common neighborhoods or associations where people meet for the sake of enjoying the short term benefits of integration? The eye-opening book discusses some of the touchy issues queried in the latter questions.

It is also worth mentioning that alienation and misunderstanding have been depicted as the key attributes of race in American society. Nonetheless, there are good indicators of outreach to the rest of American society. The pursuit of unity and reconciliation is evident.

Kymberly N. Pinder bravely addresses the impact of racism from an artistic point of view. The book offers a comprehensive anthology in regards to the issue of race and racism in general (Pinder 1). It is also one of the pieces of literature that have circumnavigated the element of the race from various perspectives. The editor has placed the racial presentation issues in the open. Throughout the book, Kymberly highlights and explores the history of Nubians and how they were racially affected by the social systems during the period depicted in the book. The Nubian community and the influence of ancient art have been merged so well that the reader can easily grasp the events that took place several decades ago through visual art.

In addition, the western masters also practiced memorable traditions that aggravated the state of racism. Case studies of Picasso and Manet have also been explored in the book. Racism was not just highlighted by the ancient pieces of art. In this particular book, Kymberly has brought up the contribution of modern artists who have successfully highlighted racism through art. The modern artists have been depicted as the ‘artists of color’ due to their massive use of visual representation in describing the negative impacts of racism (Pinder 7).

One of the interesting attributes of this book is the systematic arrangement of events as they took place in the history of Nubians. For instance, the chronological analysis of multiculturalism is crucial in the book because it assists the audience to understand how the theme immensely contributed to the devastating effects of racism in the ancient history of the Nubian community. The presence of several cultures and the dominance of just a few of these cultures culminated in the practice of racism. Post-colonialism is also an interesting theme in the book that describes the period after the end of the colonial era. Although racism was not abolished after the colonial era, its detrimental effects were brought under some control.

The critical race theory employed by the author in the analysis of racism is a vital tool in the book in the sense that it offers a mirror through which comparisons can be made accurately. Racial visibility is yet another concept explored in the essays. This has been combined with the aspect of racial politics. Can the ancient art bear the imposition of contemporary concepts of the race? Is there any relationship between orientalism and pictorial realism? How can the racialized dimension and the visual culture b beneficial to modern artists? The essays have attempted to address some of these terse questions (Pinder 10).

Susan Saulny offers a new dimension in the sense of identity. The author notes that most modern colleges are comprised of students of mixed races. As a matter of fact, intermarriage and immigration are rapidly propelling the demographic shift of the US population (Saulny par. 1). Out of every seven marriages, there is a mixed-race family. The data obtained from the Pew Research Center reveals that Americans have become extremely integrated as one society in spite of the bitter past that was punctuated with racism. The number of multiethnic and multiracial families is continually increasing. They are generally referred to as the mixed race.

Another fascinating issue is that the color lines are sharply being rejected by several young adults in the United States. In general, the multiracial population is the most growing segment of the American population today bearing in mind that mixed-race unions are now readily being accepted than it used to be a century ago (Saulny par. 5).

From the analysis of the above three readings, a number of questions can be raised. For example, are there changing dimensions in the aspect of racism across the globe. What are some of the social, economic, and political determinants of racism in modern society? How can contemporary artists employ visual art to depict social ills that have ravaged human society for centuries? Are there any negative concerns about racial integration in American society? Can religion be used as a cornerstone of strengthening social values? How can governments and social institutions across the world alleviate the historical impacts of racial segregation? What was the contribution of colonialism in the propagation of racism in America and other parts of the world?

The ideas presented by the above authors also tend to overlap in several ways. For instance, the changing racial paradigms have been presented as a common theme across the board. In all of the readings above, the authors have vividly brought out the aspect of positive change towards racial differences in society. Second, the element of the negative effects of racism in the history of humanity has also been brought into the limelight. However, there are also various conflicting points of view presented by the authors in each of the readings. Joseph Lelyveld is emphatic that the church can provide the required solution to end racism in society. On the other hand, Kymberly Pinder stresses the input of visual art. The author is apparently convinced that modern artists can employ visual art to sensitize society against social ills. Hence, racism can be adequately addressed through the work of art. Susan Saulny adopts a very different perspective in regards to the changing phase of racism. The author observes that racism is gradually being brought under control by the rapid growth of multiracial families in American society. The new crop of families has defied the negative perceptions of multiculturalism and multiracialism.

On a final note, my personal experience in life can also be related to the above readings. To begin with, I have lived in a society where race is a critical consideration in almost all segments. For example, some races are considered unfit to lead or hold reputable public positions in governance. The social status of some immigrants has also deteriorated for a long time. It appears as if our government is not giving key attention to certain segments of the population. I have also witnessed racism being applied even in learning institutions. During my elementary school years, I noticed the open segregation of some black immigrant children in my class. The teacher could hardly give them adequate attention even when they asked important questions.

Works Cited

Lelyveld, Joseph. Introduction to How Race Is Lived in America. New York: Times Books, 2001. Print.

Pinder, Kymberly. Introduction to Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Saulny, Susan. 2011. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Ethnicity Studies: Race in American Society'. 20 April.

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