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Social Construction of Race in the United States Essay

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2021


Race, one of the significant inventions of 18th Century, categorizes people on the bases of some biological traits. Moreover, it is a social outlook that artificially divides people into different groups based on characteristics such as physical features (specifically skin color), personal characteristics, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and “the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time” (UC Davis, December, 2003).

Racialism in the USA

Racial outlook in US focuses on the white-nonwhite dichotomy till 1967 there were prohibitions on marriages and sexual relation between a man and a woman of different races. The one drop rule (one drop of black blood makes someone black) let white people consider themselves eligible to “pass” as white when there arises questions of black people. But the present condition exposes a view that new immigrant groups have been successful to be White.

View of Race in Brazil

Skin color determines courses of racism in Brazil. In terms of class and status Brazilian system of racism is practiced. The proper observation of the practice of racism arises the question that how race gets constructed in classrooms when status and social class standard determines racism. Any inquiry led among the teachers will simply show that taking a student into account is categorized by “color prejudice” though teachers claim that individually they are away from this outlook as they often say, “For me, it doesn’t exist” (Barlett , p.8).

Language Affects

Student to student interactions also often shows prevalent state of racism. A racist acts in the classroom, e.g. nicknaming, by addressing a teacher or a student “”burnt ember,” “devil,” or “vulture.” Though occurred in a playful, joking manner creates an even greater problem and difficulty for the person being addressed, because if s/he takes the “joke” too seriously then that person is marginalized on socialatand point. So Brazilians who are darker in color are often forced to cooperate even under this type of discrimination without any argument. Again, speech and literacy shame unlike in the US darker people in Brazil experience speech as racialized, as a student in an NGO adult literacy class speaks out:

“I used to be ashamed to enter places. For example, if there was a party, I wouldn’t go, because I thought since I was black I couldn’t mix with whites.… For us, being black, and not knowing how to speak, and not knowing how to read you are isolated. Because you don’t know how to speak, other people don’t attention to you, because you don’t know how… to converse with people.” (Barlett , p.8)

Furthermore, Speech and literacy shame are not limited to race; while speaking, people sharply remain aware of their race, class, gender, rural/urban origin, regional origin, and other driving forces that affect the reception of their speech. It is also observed that a student has who has been ignored by his/her respective teacher has got dropped out of his school after such experience that address to them was associated with the varied consideration of being a whiter or wealthier South and Southeast. The worst case can be like a teacher is reinforcing literacy and speech shame by forcing students to read aloud and correcting them publicly. “Lack of recognition of connections between language” (Barlett, p.9) and power thus complicates any positive racial identification.

Social Construction

That race is a social construction does not mean denial of the obvious differences in skin color and physical characteristics that people normally manifest; rather, these physical differences should be understood as “an assortment of differences on a continuum of diverse physical possibilities rather than as reflecting the presence of innate genetic differences among people” (Fitchue, 1998, p.3). Different goals and objects come into the “play” when race is in talk about social experiences, identities or statuses (Otieno, July 07).

Race is a phenomenon as such is scientifically flawed and politically compromised. Some concludes that if race is socially constructed, it is an illusion that does not have any real existence. Again, it is an idea that the race is “a diffuse, massive, socially constructed social fact with real consequences in people’s lives”. Moreover, for the use of Omi and Winant’s famous formulation (1986:68)” (Otieno, July 07).…an unstable and ‘de-centered’ complex of social meanings constantly being transformed by political struggle” (Otieno, July 07).

No single characteristic is ever found that shows the exclusive belonging to individuals in one racial group and not to any individuals in another racial group. Scientific status or the biological difference helps a scientist consider racism or race as something constructed by biological issues. This also often agrees race is biologically based prevalent in society, determining traits and abilities. Rockquemore and Brunsma (2002) write “racial identity is malleable, rooted in both macro and micro social processes, and that it has structurally and culturally defined parameters” (Shih, et.al., 2007).

A heightened awareness of race as social construction among multiracial individuals arises from the unique experiences as multiracial individuals often encounter during their upbringing (Shih, 2007, p.126). These experiences of multiracial individuals can bring into consideration when they are “grappling with issues surrounding their racial identity” (Shih, et.al., 2007, p.126). Viewing race as a social construction lets race to be less informative about an Individuals’ innate characteristics and traits, more likely to identify less strongly with their racial identity. Although, unidentification and viewing race as a social construction likely to be closely related, are not the similar of construction.

One can easily unidentify himself from an identity without believing that the identity is a social construction. Many of these experiences questions on racial differences. For instance, multiracial individuals encounter the home directions directly contradicting to the messages sent by the society barrierring between racial groups and the inescapable and inevitable nature of racial conflicts. Emphasizing race as a social construction and the de-emphasis of the biological basis of race can diminish the impact of race-based stereotypes (Shih, et.al., 2007, p.126).

When race is a social construction to an African American man, he identifies strongly himself with his race because he finds himself that his race affects his experiences in his social context. That is why, rejection of the biological basis of race can lessen one’s identification with the stereotyped identity. It has often been seen by the multiracial individuals that they are more likely to emphasize the social construction of race and this emphasis reduces vulnerability to racial stereotypes. Biological differences, e.g. skin colour; hair colour and texture; and eye, nose and lip shapes were thought to reflect distinctive biological and behavioral differences between people. Recent findings in genetics reject the scientific evolution of the concept of race.

“Advances in DNA research in the last 20 years demonstrate that, on average, 99.9 percent of the genetic features of humans are the same; of the remaining percentage that accounts for variation, differences within groups are larger than between groups; only six genes out of at least 100,000 that make up the human genome account for differences in skin colour; variations in colour are not discrete, but are distributed along a continuum, which reflects different levels of melanin in the skin; and many physical differences are due to environmental adaptations” (UNRISD, 2001). Racial ideas often influence discourses on “social integration or accommodation, encourage insular or xenophobic practices, and distort perceptions about rights and citizenship” (UNRISD, 2001).

Concluding Remark

It is suggested that education and encouraging people to be thoughtful about issues of race may be an important tool in the fight against the negative consequences of racism and prejudice. Government of every respective countries should assure effective protection and remedies against any acts created beceuse of racial discrimination. Organizing and mobilizing education and information relevant to the protection of all human rights can promot the issuses related to racism (Otieno, July 2007).

Article 12 of the Declaration on the Prevention of Genocide, adopted on 11 March 2005 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “urges the international community to look at the need for a comprehensive understanding of the dimensions of genocide, including in the context of situations where economic globalization adversely affects disadvantaged communities, in particular indigenous peoples” (Otieno, July 07). Lack of effective enforcement of laws should be removed. States must prohibit racial discrimination and enact laws in order to protect citizens as it is clear that genocidal activities can be linked to the Government’s violations of human rights.


Bartlett, Lesley. (2002). How Schools Mediate the Social Construction of Race in Latin America. Policies and Reforms in Latin American Education Teachers College. Web.

Fitchue, M. Anthony. (1998). Alain LeRoy Locke on The Social Construction of Race. Third Annual National Conference (1998). People of Color in Predominantly White Institutions. University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Web.

Otieno, Alex. (07). Eliminating Racial Discrimination: The Challenges of Prevention and Enforcement of Prohibition. The Soliderity of People. 3132 TS Vol. 35. Web.

Shih, Margaret. et. al., (2007). The Social Construction of Race: Biracial Identity and Vulnerability to Stereotypes. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. the American Psychological Association. Vol. 13, No. 2, 125–133. Web.

UC Davis. (2003). The Principles of Community. Web.

UNRISD, (2001). The Social Construction of Race and Citizenship. Racism and Public Policy Conference. Durban, South Africa. Web.

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