Social Construction of Race 'Literature Review' chapter

  • Length: 15 pages
  • Sources: 15
  • Subject: Race
  • Type: 'Literature Review' chapter
  • Paper: #15950081

Excerpt from 'Literature Review' chapter :


Racial Formation

Racial Formation as part of everyday life experience

The Evolution of Modern Racial Awareness

Introduction to the racist reactions

Social Construction Theory

Development of the Social Construction Framework

Propositions related to the social construction of target groups

Racial Rearticulating of political issues

The Far Right


This report basically centers on a fundamental issue in society that the human race faces which is that of race. The judgment of a person on the basis of their skin color and their place of origin is something that has become quite a problem for some people, while others gain a competitive edge through this distinction. This report aims to discuss this issue while giving an insight into how this creates problems for the minorities and the marginalized groups. It is also discussed how the government and the policy making groups react to this racism and how the formation of policy is greatly influenced by these beliefs of people. Some of the theories have also been discussed as to what they believe the problem is and how this affects the human thoughts and reactions and how this can be eliminated and a new "color blindness" can be encouraged amongst people.

What is race?

There is a constant idea in the minds of people to consider "race" as something that is fixed, continuous and concrete. It is sometimes considered as an objective reality. On the other hand, it may be considered as something ideological and existing only in the minds of people. This topic is however quite debatable and both the sides can be weighed out to come down to a general viewpoint. It is important however to recognize that "race" a social phenomena that exists in our society to quite an extent and is not stable. It changes from time to time, and from place to place. Through these viewpoints, we can derive a general definition of what the term "race" actually means. "Race" is a concept that exists in the minds of people whereby a kind of conflict occurs between the interests of people by categorizing them according to certain characteristics associated with their bodies. This categorization also involves the concept of judging a person's biological traits and physical appearances to signify and stereotype them. Although the concept of "race" involves the biological characteristics of a human being, there are certain features used for the purpose of racial orientation which is important in the historical and social process. Apart from gender, the only other way to classify a person according to the biological characteristics is "race" (Omi and Winant, 1994).

Although the idea and concept of "race" involves the biological characteristics of a human, the selection of these particular human features for racial orientation are based on some kind of social and historical process. The question often presented now is how well humans can deal without having race as a part of life. The frequency at which this question is asked is now gradually increasing. The answer to this is not as easy as it seems. It is quite difficult to change the set beliefs and thoughts of people that surround a person's self-identity. This identity has become part of the world and the perception of people. However, to eliminate the concept of race is not easy but instead of considering it as a problem, it can slowly be minimized and erased by changing the way we think and perceive the things around us.

To counter and deal with this concept, the starting point would be to recognize that despite the contradictions and uncertainties that are brought about by the concept of race, it is a social phenomena that exists in society and instead of accepting it, a step should be taken to banish it from the society and the world as a whole. This colored framework whereby we are so harsh in judging others should be demolished and a more objective and concrete platform should be established where we can keep our minds open and the policies designed should be strong enough to support the marginalized groups as well. Race should be considered a social element existing in society just like any other social concept, rather than an issue creating irregularities within. These ideas give rise to the theoretical approach which is also known as the "racial formation" approach.

Racial Formation:

Racial Formation can be described as an old sociological process that can be traced back to history. It is the process whereby racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, as well as destroyed. To elaborate upon this theory, this can be divided into two steps. Emphasis is first laid on the historically situated projects whereby human bodies and social structures are represented and organized. In the second step, a link is made from racial formation to how hegemony evolved and affected the way society is formed and run. Adopting this approach can help better the understanding regarding a lot of controversies that exist regarding this issue such as race itself as a problem in society, the nature of racism, how race differences can be related to the other differences and inequalities that exist in society and how oppression takes place on the basis of these inequalities. The racial formation approach suggests that the perception and how race becomes part of the society reflects cultural beliefs as well as social structure. It is often to find that race is interpreted and attempted to being understood by only one of these aspects. For instance, race may be considered a social phenomenon which is structured in the society but it may not be attempted to actually find out the origins or birth of that concept in society. Often in the society, racial differences and inequalities are considered to exist due to the cultural patterns and beliefs or due to society's attitudes. These ideas and theories fail to elaborate on how this structure affects the stratification and distribution of races in the labor market and employment opportunities, as well as the extent to which they gain equal treatment in other aspects of life such as living conditions. Another approach to look at this problem is that of racial projects whereby race is linked to their particular practices and the way they are structured in society. Racial projects highlight the practices of different races and how everyday experiences are different among each group. This approach of racial projects can be examined from a broader macro perspective as well as that in other aspects of life (Murray, Charles 1994).

Racial Formation as part of everyday life experience:

At a micro level in society, our perception of race is linked to the significant structures and how our meanings of the term affect how we behave towards people belonging from different races. To observe and interpret how these racial formations take place in society, it is important to see how people react to the racial projects when they are seen around. It is a subconscious approach to notice and classify a person as belonging to a particular race and reacting accordingly to that stereotype.

While meeting a person, it is natural to notice the gender and the race of the person. Race is something that gives an insight into the person's character and a first look judgment is passed about a person judging him or her on the basis of race. This is one of the sad realities of life. Before getting to know the person, a label is attached only on the basis of the physical appearance and skin color. An encounter with a person of a racial minority and ethnic background may prove to be a source of awkwardness and discomfort for the person due to the labels attached to his/her race. (Omi and Winant, 1994)

Our ability to view and judge a person according to their race also depends on our preconceived notions about a particular concept. People are automatically perceived to act in a particular way and it is quite a surprise when they don't. There are stereotypes attached to the Asians, blacks, Afro Americans and other ethnic groups. Analysis state that by looking at these already present stereotypes, the social structures and beliefs are reinforced as well as the different treatments that these races get in terms of laws, demographics, customs and the threats that they face.

On the other hand, by the existence of these racist beliefs in our minds, our reactions to certain institutions in the society also change. The thoughts in out own mind, compel us to explain social differences in society on the basis of skin color. Certain attributes are attached to the race such as patience, conduct, intelligence, sexuality, athletic abilities, sexuality and other preferences. These preset beliefs raises questions regarding our trust in the people around us and the extent to which we are able to look beyond the visible differences. Our images of the other people in terms of romance, taste in music, talking, walking, eating, etc. are all racially coded and…

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