Race: Unfortunate Social Construct, Cultural Necessity

In many ways, race is very much a social and political construct. Although race may be a method of categorizing humans into groups, as is our nature, which is essentially based on pure physical differences (light skin vs. dark skin), it seems to have developed as a social construct when slavery of blacks by whites became a common practice.  As Omi and Winant point out, many believe that race is “an essence, as something fixed, concrete, and objective”. When this belief is interjected into our society, it becomes a common practice to accept race passively as a concept to be taken for granted. However, Omi and Winant also asks readers to consider race to be “a mere illusion, a purely ideological construct which some ideal non-racist social order would eliminate”. This suggests that race is not necessarily a social construct, but rather an innate distinction between human beings that we have constructed in our minds because it is in our nature to divide into groups.

Many would make the argument that race is not necessary, and that society is trying to prove this by promoting racial equality among the nations. However, while the implications of race may be unfortunate in its consequences (i.e. historical hate crimes, frequent imprisonment of blacks over whites), I believe that it is still necessary in our society to preserve cultural diversity in the “melting pot” nation that we live in. As aforementioned, it is in the human nature to divide into groups based on some common trait or another, whether it is as complex as religion or as simple as music taste, and race seems to be one of the most predominately used way to do this. People feel comfortable within their own groups—race seems to be a good way to identify with others who have likely undergone some of the same struggles as one another. Think of Equiano’s struggles as he was forced onto the whites’ ship. In that setting, there was little comfort—except for among those of his race. He says of those sharing his captivity, “amongst the poor chained men, I found some of my own nation, which in a small degree gave ease to my mind”. In a time of fear and misery for Equiano, he was able to find an ounce of comfort only from those of his own race. Race may be necessary, then, for us all—not just African Americans, but for those of all races—to find comfort among each other.

Religion also presents interesting social constructs worth examining—for me, particularly, the idea that all Christians are judgmental. I think this has possibly become a social construct, in part, simply because many Christians are—especially in the South. We spit out teachings from God’s word such as ‘marriage should be between one man and one woman’ and ‘women should submit to their husbands’, and pass judgment on others based on these teachings. Although these statements may be found in one way or another in God’s word, the Bible also states that man should love one another as God loves us all—equally. It is only God’s job to judge us, not our jobs to judge each other because we were all made equally and we all sin equally. However, judgment has become a stereotype and a social construct of Christianity by those who seem to have missed that lesson in Sunday School.

This entry was posted in Group 2: Race and the Enlightenment by Rachel Martin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Martin

I am currently a sophomore English Education major with a minor in business administration. Although I currently reside in Columbia, I am from Lexington, South Carolina originally. Writing has always been an interest of mine, but my true passion lies in reading literature. In the future, I hope to share this passion with students ranging from middle school to university.

One thought on “Race: Unfortunate Social Construct, Cultural Necessity

  1. You did a great job bringing in Equiano’s narrative and using Omi and Winant to support your statements about race as a social construct. Your examples all were effective in supporting what you concluded. Nice work on identifying a social construct in your life and evaluating it!
    Overall a very well written piece!
    Grade: S

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