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PBS Sorting People Assignment Research Paper

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Updated: May 16th, 2019

‘Race’ is the word commonly used to describe any group of people with similar characteristics. According to the PBS’ ‘Race: The Power of Illusion’, race and racial groups are two different things. In the early days, whites were considered a race while African Americans were viewed as a racial group.

This shows the element of discrimination in the view of the whites. During the sorting activity, for example I only managed to get two of each category correct. I attribute this to the fact that I grouped the individuals based on their physical features that I could see on them. This goes to show that just by looking at the visible physical features; one cannot accurately determine another person’s race.

My definition of race is a group of people who after living together for a period of time, are able to integrate each other’s individual cultures into theirs and be comfortable with them. In the sorting people exercise, skin color cannot be an effective indicator of race because for example, the ‘medium light’ shade if skin color is present throughout all the races, and dark skin tone was present in the one of the Asian subject who conventionally, is perceived to all be light skinned.

This means that a person with medium light skin can belong to any of the races present in America and a dark skin tone does not necessarily mean that one is black. In addition, blood type is ineffective in classifying race because from the use of the blood type sorting activity, I found out that the blood types O and A, are present throughout all the races provided.

In short, this would make use of blood type inaccurate in grouping people into races since one blood type may be present in all races and one another blood type may be isolated to a particular race.

Social construction in relation to race

In America, there is a perceived sort of social order according to whichever race you are from. From the early days of slavery and settlement, the whites were always considered the top of the racial ladder. This notion was further affirmed by the fact that most slave owners were white and their slaves were black.

This is still further compounded by the fact that the concept of races predates slavery. Before slavery, in America the people had grouped themselves into the whites and American Indians. That is before black slaves shipped in from Africa were added to the fray

Many people view race as a socially constructed entity determined by underlying factors such as politics, social factors and economic factors. Their argument basically states that race is just but a social concept created by people in order to justify things like wealth and social status without feeling guilty.

Moreover, this led to the notion of hypo descent, which refers to the assigning of children of mixed union to a subordinate group, further emphasizes the presence of a social hierarchy of races. This goes to show that children born of mixed unions are not considered in the same light as children born of same race unions.

All in all the concept of ‘race’ is one, which is created by the human urge to segregate themselves socially due to certain factors. This is in order to make themselves feel comfortable around people who they perceive to be of equal social stature such that things like racial discrimination have become part of our society because people view themselves as different or superior to another race based on the earlier stated political, economic and social factors.

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