Racial Formation in the United States addresses the evolution of racial identity and superiority within society. The author’s Omni and Winant state that during the Enlightenment, “Race was conceived as a biological concept, a matter of species.” (P.63). Therefore one’s racial identity was based on their genetics. The authors quoted Voltaire who wrote, “That the negro race is a species of men as different from ours, as the breed of spaniels is from that of greyhounds.” (P.63). This highlights the belief that blacks were inferior to white. Blacks were viewed as a totally different “species” of the human genus. A species that was, “not capable of any great application or association of ideas, and seem formed neither for the advantages nor the abuses of philosophy.” (Omni and Winant P.63). In my opinion Voltaire degrades the negro race as a species of unintellectual beings that cannot advance within society. Voltaire also makes it seem as though African Americans are incompetent to innovate ideas, and to contribute to society.
Olaudah Equiano was a slave who wrote The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Equianochallenges the perception of African Americans during the Enlightenment. Equiano was a clerk, and he was well educated in arithmetic. Contrary to what Voltaire believed negros were actually intelligent and capable of great things. When Equiano was kidnapped he, “remarked where the sun rose in the morning, and set in the evening.” (Chapter 2). Equiano knew that his father’s house was towards the rise of the sun, and to get home he would have to go in that direction. Equaino could argue that Africans were a smart and intelligent species! For example Equiano wrote that, “Every man is a sufficient architect, and agriculture is our chief employment; and everyone, even the children and women, are engaged in it. Every one contributes something to the common stock; and as we are unacquainted with idleness, we have no beggars.” (Chapter 1). This negates Volatire’s belief that the negro race was incapable of any great accomplishments or ideas. Equiano’s book highlights the grandeur of his native land, and his ancestor’s capabilities to cultivate, and sustain life in Africa.
Overall, I believe that race is a social construct that is prevalent in society today. In my opinion I think that our society would be better off without racial constructs because we live in America, were we have equal rights. There should be no glass ceiling of inferiority. I believe that once we no longer stigmatize someone due to their race our society will grow to achieve, and obtain higher status. If different races joined together we could eliminate discrimination, stereotypes, and much more.
A social construct that I often run into is the comment that I speak, and act white. The idea that a certain race should look or sound a certain way is a shame. I always ponder am I supposed to sound like a “ghetto country black girl,” and dress in provocative clothes? Well that just isn’t me! I believe this is a social construct because it is the image that other black women have put out there. When people of a different race see how those black women act they more than likely assume that all African American females are that way. That’s the nature of the beast I suppose, but in order to rid our race from that generalization we all must make a change.