The Idea of Race is Like a Ghost, Forever Haunting

Richard Derderian

September 19, 2013

ENGL 382:  The Enlightenment

Group #2 Assignment:  Equiano and Racial Formation


After reading Equiano’s “Interesting Narrative” and Omi and Winant’s “Racial Formation”, think about how Equiano’s autobiography might fit in or challenge their historical narrative about race coming out of the Enlightenment period. Cite both of the articles in your answer. Do you think that race is a social construct? Is the idea of race something we should do without or is it necessary to our society? Explain why or why not? Based on what you learned from these lessons, what else could you find in your life that is a social construct? Why do you think this is a social construct? (Examples: blondes are dumb, Greek life people act a certain way, women are weaker than men). Your answer should be 400-500 words and is due before class on Thursday.

The idea of race takes many forms, some are pertinent than others, but all are relevant.  As far as race being a social construct, I believe that it is a construct that begins from when we are born and develops as we grow up.  In most modern cases, children are brought into the world and raised by parents through whom the child develops an identity.  Race comes into play here in the respect that the child identifies with his or her parent’s physical make-up, relating it to their own and their sibling’s.  When one is raised in a family, that person builds their social foundation based on what their parents teach them from a young age.  Children learn a language from their parents.  They pick up dialogue, eating habits, manners, and many other mannerisms from their parents.  In Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, he speaks of relating to other slaves because they share the same culture as him.  We can from the following quote that these people were raised in a similar environment around people that shared the same culture, a culture that the slaves in the narrative preserve. “The language of these people resembled ours so nearly, that we understood each other perfectly. They had also the very same customs as we.” (Interesting Narrative)

The idea of race in our society has molded the way we interact with one another every day.  It’s perplexing to think that in some cases we choose whether or not to talk to someone based on the way they look and the color of their skin.  Whether you choose to admit it or not, the idea of race in our society is a very real thing and has had and continues to have social consequences in the world we live in every day.  I think the idea of race is something we should do away with, but unfortunately, in the world we live in there will always be people who will judge someone base on the way the look.  If we were to do away with the idea of our race in our society, I think it would be best to follow this exert from Omi and Winant’s Racial Formation in The United States:  “We may notice someone’s race, but we cannot act upon that awareness.  We must act in a “color-blind” fashion (Pg. 57 Omi and Winant).   If we were to do away with the idea of race in this country, this is how I believe it would have to be done.  It would be impractical to think that it could be done this way, but it would be a beautiful think if we could do it.

There are so many social constructs out there, but I think the notion that all men who are in theater productions are gay is an interesting one.  A lot of people, especially men not involved in theater, often assume that guys that guys that do theater are flamboyant, superficial, and couldn’t catch a football to save their life.  Guys who aren’t involved in theater typically think this because they are insecure about themselves and their own sexuality.  These guys also think that way because they are afraid of being judged by their like-minded friends which creates this perpetuating fear of doing anything that seems out of the norm.  I myself played football and sang in a chorus that performed musicals twice a year and having a perspective from both sides really helped provide some insight into the way people think.  Maybe someday we will see the day when every man can be secure enough with himself to put himself out there and not be afraid to be labeled as gay by people too ignorant to attempt to understand what people enjoy doing, even if it is different than what they enjoy.


Works Cited:

1.)    Omi and Winant’s Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s:


2.)    Equiano’s Interesting Narrative:


6 thoughts on “The Idea of Race is Like a Ghost, Forever Haunting

  1. Hey Adam,

    You’re very close to an S. You address whether we should hold on to race, you cite the two sources and you discuss another social construct.

    Although you cite the two sources, however, you don’t put them in conversation with one another. Please discuss how the Equiano reading relates to the Omi and Winant reading. Once you do that you’ll have an S. You have until October 22nd to revise.

    Grade: S


  2. Richard,

    Grade: U. — To receive a grade of S, you must have completed the following revisions: 1) remove opening non-paragraph, which was simply pasted from the assignment prompt, and 2) include a few sentences explaining how your ideas about Equiano and your ideas about Omi and Winant (‘racial formation’) relate to one another. The point is: what’s the connection between cultural differences of language and manners, described in the first paragraph, and the difficulty of overcoming race categories, discussed in your second paragraph. Basically, you have three miniature responses rather than one extended idea.

    Because of the weird communication problem with the comments above, you have until Oct 29 to revise. Please let the instructor know by email as soon as revisions are completed.


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