1. How does the social construction of race operate in our society to limit the opportunities of some while enhancing the opportunities of others?
Racism is present in the different areas of life, including not only single cases, but also the whole spheres of policy, science, etc. Traditionally, racism is understood as a concept which, first of all, makes all the distinctions between people (in culture, behavior, and attitude). The racial signs are found out in such physical features as skin color, nose form, cut of eyes, haircut, hair color, etc. Moreover, it proclaims immemorial inequality of races on this basis, insisting on its legal registration. Such racism, generated by the epoch of colonialism, rooted in the concept about the highest and lowest races. Contrary to all available scientific data, it confirmed that exactly racial distinctions define a historical course.
The concept of black race as a special social category has recently arisen. For example, ancient Greeks and Romans, though distinguished the population living outside of the Greek-Roman world according to the skin color, included it to the united social category of “barbarians”. There were no signs of the white racial superiority at that time. The hired labor of the whites pari passu with the Africans and Indians was used on the Virginia’s plantations right up to the last quarter of the 17th century. According to the article “Everyone Knows It’s a Social Construct: Contemporary Science and the Nature of Race”:
The idea that race is a social construct has become a staple of sociological literature, a claim that is central to any sociological treatment of race today. In Ethnicity and Race, Cornell and Hartmann describe race as “socially defined”; the American Sociological Association’s “Statement on the Importance of Collecting Data and Doing Social Scientific Research on Race” explains it as “a social invention that changes as political, economic, and historical contexts change” (Morning, 2007).
Race operates in our society to limit the opportunities of ones while enhancing the opportunities of others. The determination of discrimination is one of the problems faced by the legislators, scientists, public people, when there is a violation of rights and interests connected with any sign or status of a person. Racial discrimination includes oppressions, which are performed by a dominating ethnos in relation to a dominated ethnos (or a certain quantity of such ethnoses). Racial discrimination appears in refusal to employ due to the race,
discriminatory dismissal, payroll payment and salary limits, advanced training and promotion to a higher post, in granting of the rights of citizenship and legal proceedings, in realization and social protection of human rights.
Racial discrimination has economic, historical and psychological roots. The desire to receive additional profit pushes the overwhelming majority of employers to use such means as ethnic discrimination. Psychologically, it points at the desire to ego-trip at the expense of the representatives of minority. Moreover, all displays of ethnic discrimination have no economic character and are the realization of psychological beliefs of many people according to the opposition “We - They”. This belief is historically caused by the relations to the ethnoses-strangers as to enemies. Nevertheless, racial inequality of the modern world becomes unpopular with the growth of the importance of human rights, universal values, mutual understanding and interaction between ethnoses.
The classical racism is based on the belief of the real existence of the isolated races, on the belief that races sharply differ according to their genetic basis, on the conclusion that some races have essential advantages if compared with the others, on the references to the intellectual tests, as though proving that the whites differ from the blacks by the more developed mental abilities, on the statement that the brain of the blacks is anatomically underdeveloped, on the belief that the whites are distinguished by the ability to create higher civilizations, and on the aspiration to maintenance of the “cleanliness” of the white race by the prevention of interracial marriages.
Nowadays, there is an opinion among the liberal intellectuals and even among the legal experts that the models of human behavior and features of thinking are predetermined if not by racial, then by ethnic belonging. However, such views serve as a nutrient medium for the racism. The similar position is morally vulnerable, obviously dooming any struggle against racism to defeat. Meanwhile, it is impossible to overcome racism even in the second decade of the 21st century. On the contrary, it obtained new, more refined forms; therefore, it became difficult for the scientists to define an uneasy concept of “racism” and to formulate accurately what it is. Besides, a social construction of race greatly limits the rights and opportunities of some while enhancing the opportunities of others.
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2. Examine colorblind racism in American society as a whole and in your own experiences navigating it.
In the USA, in the 19th century, the Irish and the Italians were not considered as “whites”. Only in the 20th century, the concept of “whites” began to be associated with the Europeans and their descendants. The Jews had been enlisted in this category only after the Second World War. In the1920s, the Indians unsuccessfully tried to prove the American authorities that they belong to the “white Aryan race” pari passu with the white Americans. According to the views of the American bureaucracy, the border between the “Whites” and the “Asians” is somewhere in between Pakistan and India up to the present time.
In 1670, the legislation, which unequivocally connected a slave labor exclusively with the Africans, was adopted in the USA. Since then, all the Africans brought to the USA, irrespective of their ethnic accessory, became the “blacks - slaves”; the concept of the uniform “black race” was extended on them. By contrast, the white Americans as “aristocrats of a skin” were included into the category of the white race. In North America, the white Americans were considered to be “absolutely pure”, not supposing any racial mixtures. Therefore, all the descendants of the mixed marriages (mulattos) were automatically ranked as a black race.
Racism is an expression of ethnocentrism from the side of a dominating group since the oppressors considered themselves higher than the oppressed group in the biological and cultural attitude. In the 19th century, the inhabitants of the West believed that the people of the third world are at a lower step of civilization and, consequently, deserve the provision of the oppressed. It was considered historically that the Americans treated Indians as ignorant savages. The Blacks, according to their opinion, remained at a lower biological and intellectual level in comparison with the whites.
Generalizing numerous researches on the interethnic relations, which are conducted all over the world, it is possible to say that the prejudices and conflicts will weaken, if the contacting groups possess the identical status. However, it is difficult to find the polytechnic states, where all communities possess more or less equal social status. In order to “open” the inequality degree, sociologists, studying cooperating groups, always analyze a social structure.
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Economic competition is one of the reasons of ethnic inequality, especially in the USA. The supporters of this approach emphasize a competition role between the groups of workers for scarce workplaces. However, many researchers emphasize that this conflict is influenced also by the other factors, which are connected with economic conditions. The white workers, inclined to ethnocentrism, can exaggerate the danger of the competition from the blacks.
The supporters of Marxism consider racial inequality as a form of exploitation. At any economic system the ruling class needs the replenishment of a cheap labor and interfering with the association of workers. Physical or cultural distinctions between the two groups can become domination and submission “signs”. Namely, the black color of skin became a slavery symbol in the American slaveholding society. The ideology is based on this distinction of “a natural superiority”. Setting one ethnic group against another, the ruling class sows contentions between the people who could unite and oppose it. Besides, it distracts their attention from the fight for the right of a high-grade participation in management of economy. According to the book Racial Violence in the United States:
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Since Americans have all had experience, either direct or more remote, with problems of race, there is some tendency to believe that we know the dimensions of this domestic difficulty and could find solutions except for the obstinacy of certain people. Too many concerned people have tended to look upon the history of race relations in this country as the simple unfolding of a drama moving toward its inevitable conclusion in today’s conflict - too many people see all of today’s events as being part of one massive struggle, with clearly defined issues and homogeneous opposing parties (Grimshaw, 1969).
Meanwhile, racism is present in almost all areas of our life. Traditionally, racism is understood as a concept which, first of all, makes cultural, behavioral and many other distinctions between people. The racial signs are found out in such physical features as skin color, nose form, cut of eyes, etc. What is more, it proclaims an immemorial inequality of races on this basis, insisting on its legal registration.
According to the article “Kerner Commission Reports on U.S. Racial Inequality”, printed in New York Times on February 29, 1968, “racism was causing America to move “toward two societies, one black, and one white - separate and unequal.”. The President Johnson said that the government pays much attention to the problem of racial inequality and invests money in housing and job opportunities for the blacks, trying to eradicate urban violence.
The article “Wealth, Race and the Great Recession” written by Michael Powell describes the studies conducted by Thomas Shapiro and his colleagues in the Institute on Assets and Social Policy. After a thorough study of 2000 black and white families from 1983 till 2007, they came to the conclusion that “the racial wealth gap has more than quadrupled over the course of a generation” (Powell, 2010).
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