Equiano’s autobiography does seem to fit into Omi and Winant’s historical narrative for race during the Enlightenment. They claim that during this time, “Race was conceived as a biological concept, a matter of species.” The European slave traders most likely viewed Equiano as a separate species, because of the way they treated him, packing him and the other slaves on the ship like cattle. Omi and Winant assert that “Such claims of species distinctiveness among humans justified the inequitable allocation of political and social rights” The Europeans are using race, and the idea that Equiano is a different species, to justify their actions. Equiano also views the Europeans as being a different species ” Their complexions, too, differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke (which was very different from any I had ever heard).”
However, I believe that race is a social construct. It was used during Equiano’s time in order to justify slavery. The definition of race is not static because “race has no fixed meaning.” Race, at most, is an arbitrary way to categorize people. Our society could easily go on without having race as a construct. I would even argue that by eliminating race, our society could be more united than it is because people would not differentiate between one another based on skin color. Unfortunately, it is our nature to find differences in others, so getting rid of race will not get rid of discrimination.
A social construct that plays a role in everyone’s lives is social class. This construct involves grouping people together into classes, such as upper, middle and lower, and is based around their socioeconomic status usually. It may determine the schools they are able to attend, the jobs open to them, who they may marry, and their treatment by police and the courts. I feel like this social construct is very similar to race because of how wide-ranging its effects can be.