Social Construction of Race and Gender Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Social Construction of Race and Gender

The purpose of this article is to explore the methods by which Social Construction of Race and Gender are reproduced in the 21st century. In the past, commonplace social practices of discrimination such as segregation in schools, restrictive covenants and redlining in housing, "whites only" drinking fountains, blacks on the back of the bus, and the KKK left no question about the role of racism in controlling and regulating of society. However, in a post-civil rights society racism is often covert and people can choose to be oblivious as to how it is manifested (Rachlinski, 2009). This study is premised on the existence and the consistence perpetuation of racism in the U.S. And the subsequent profiling of roles based on race and gender. The historical development of this phenomenon of addressed whilst mentioning some of the laws that have been developed to curb this vice, which threatens the harmony existing in the society.

Contemporary U.S. Gender and Racism

Racial politics encompasses the role of social construction of race and race differences in formal, institutional politics and the political interpretations of everyday life. In the U.S., racial politics were established and secured through a formalized, legally constituted racial caste system with a nearly rigid color line. However, racial politics, which protected centuries-old policies of white entitlements, were threatened by the passing of civil rights laws and affirmative action programs. The elimination of rigid laws of exclusion, which seems to have eradicated the most overt signs and symbols of racism, implies that we are living in a racial democracy. However, the fact is that systems that preserve and re-inscribe racial hierarchies are as intact today as they were during the height of U.S. racial apartheid (Gurin, 2008).

In the case of Affirmative Action, debates about its legitimacy are fought based on its potential to destabilize the status quo because with its passing emerged the possibility that racial entitlements for whites would be lost. Consequently, colorblind laws such as California's Proposition 209 and The Right to Racial Privacy Initiative targeted such laws intended to provide redress of historic social inequalities. Prop 209 in its entirety outlawed California's Affirmative Action programs by asserting that the State would not discriminate based on race and gender (Wedding, 2010). Titled "The Civil Rights Initiative," the law was promoted as pro-civil rights, antidiscrimination law. The use of the word discriminate was strategic. The government should not discriminate although the new use of the word does not hold the same meaning as the old anti-discrimination language. Now it meant that the State would not recognize historically oppressed groups in order to adjust for structural discrimination.

Similarly, by eliminating Affirmative Action the State would be stripped of any potential redistributive power. Without affirmative action, the State law masks as natural what is chosen whilst eliminating the effects of social profiling. When the structural forces of a racist, capitalist and patriarchal society, which select and rank white men above all other groups when left undisturbed by social manipulations of affirmative action, will be enough to deliver the same racial arrangements as those of more historically overt and rigid racial regimes (Irons, 2010).

If "The Right to Racial Privacy Initiative" is passed, it will be a tremendous boon to the color-blind culture. Elimination of racial classifications results in the inability to measure racial inequality in employment and other critical areas of social life. Eliminating racial classifications and suppressing the public discourse on race will not produce neutral grounds for harmony to thrive. The systems that perpetuated oppression in the pre-civil rights era were not eliminated but just transformed. Without any regulatory oversight and standards for affirmative action, we resort to U.S. racial politics of the past. The new ethos of color-blindness, which emerged as the so-called solution to ending race-based politics, is instead a strategy to preserve and protect racial hierarchies. In the Supreme Courts' review of the validity of affirmative action programs, it was established that race must only be used to refer to skin color devoid of any historical, political, or determination or history. This color-blind ruling disavowed any knowledge of the historic meanings of race and established a precedent that "nobody's skin color should be taken into account in government decision-making" (Gurin, 2008).

Convictions and Myths of the White Superiority

Convictions of white superiority are produced by racial ideologies, which are essential in normalizing relationships of dominance and sub-ordinance. They are inextricable to the racialization process since they emphasize negative and stigmatizing images of non-whites. Eventually, they serve as a constant reminder of their tendency to perpetuate racial prejudice. On the other hand, Whites are seen as normative: a baseline against which all other groups are compared (Wedding, 2010).

Pro-white ideology underscores the conscious and unconscious conviction that white Euro-American cultural patterns and practices reflected in values, language, belief systems, interpersonal styles, behavior patterns, political, social roles, economics, music, art, religious tenets, and so forth, are superior to those of other visible racial/ethnic groups. Since the assumptions are not associated with anti-group sentiments they can easily conceal racial biases, which support white privilege. Such attitudes cannot be seen as neutral because they rank cultural patterns, practices and values, of other groups based on how closely they approximate those of the privileged class (Wedding, 2010).

As long as congruency exists between the ideological constructions and how people are positioned in the social hierarchy, the work of ideologies can go undetected. Since white men are systematically portrayed in popular culture and intellectual sources as good, meritorious, and competent leaders, positive assumptions accrue to them. For example, at our University a few years back we hired three deans to head the newly configured colleges. All three deans were white men (Wedding, 2010). Their pictures appeared in a campus newspaper announcing their appointments. The ideological belief of white men as competent, deserving and in positions of power required no imagination, whereas hiring three black women would be unimaginable. Consider hiring three black women who are stereotyped as loud, aggressive and hostile-images totally counter to the ideologies needed to support such appointments as college deans. Despite impeccable qualifications, the appointment of three black women would be met with a great deal of scrutiny and charges of reverse discrimination. The appointment of any three people of the same race-gender configuration would challenge our understanding of the one who deserves, meritorious and qualified. These jobs though held by women, and men of color in increasingly large numbers are still the domain of whites and specifically white men. They can only occupy such roles disproportionately without any suspicion of social manipulation. Beliefs about the most qualified person for the job might require that we deconstruct ideological constructions of whites as inherently superior (Chang, 2010).

Consequently, the strategic locations of whites in positions of power, in leadership posts as CEO's in corporations, social institutions, and heads of state, has resulted in the adoption of their values and cultural patterns as the universal standard. Because of their seemingly natural fit for positions of status, their disproportionate representation is difficult to politicize.


Racial ideologies have long been a media staple. At the end of the year, one television station was looking back on their news reporting and bragging that viewers got breaking stories more often from them than any other news outlet. As they showed a collage of news stories reported throughout the year, they used an image of a black male in an orange jail jumpsuit to introduce the segment on crime reports. This image was self-explanatory since black men symbolized criminal activity and arresting them made the communities safe. The ideological connections between black men and criminal behavior are a part of our collective awareness. Despite the fact that whites commit more crimes, white men are not pathologized as a threat to society. Black faces are usually attached to what we think of as a crime (Wedding, 2010).

Law Enforcement and Racial Profiling

Racial profiling treats blacks and other minority groups as criminal suspects based on the assumption that doing so will increase the odds of catching criminals. This strategy, adopted by law enforcement, used throughout the retail industry and in the war on terrorism, has helped to forge the relationship of blacks and other non- whites and criminal behavior. Contrary to what the rational law enforcement justification for racial profiling would predict, the hit rate for drugs and weapons in police searches of African-Americans is the same as or lower than the rate for whites (Rachlinski, 2009).

Racial profiling of all white males as criminals would be unthinkable. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing when the attack was first assumed the work of terrorists ideological constructions that targeted men of Middle Eastern descent were employed. When it became clear that white men were responsible, race became irrelevant. Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices were not treated as white terrorists but as individual men who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Crimes for which white men are the suspects…

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