Social Constructs

I think that Equiano’s Narrative and “Racial Formation” assist each other in displaying race a socially constructed mentality of society. Equiano displays the idea that race discrimination and differences are not an inherent part of our thought processes. Equiano doesn’t even really know that there is a difference in skin color until his kidnapping. When he is with these men of lighter skin, he begins attributing behaviors that he believes only exist among their skin color group.

“I was very much struck with this difference, especially when I came among a people who did not circumcise, and ate without washing their hands. They cooked also in iron pots, and had European cutlasses and cross bows, which were unknown to us, and fought with their fists among themselves. Their women were not so modest as ours, for they ate, and drank, and slept with their men.”

He has decided that these people are so different from anyone of his color and even goes as far to say that the women of their color are not as modest as his women. He taking this one group of people and attributing their qualities on every one of that color which is stereotyping. Equiano presents the idea that race cannot be used without stereotyping everyone in that race. Omi and Winant challenge people to think of race as “a mere illusion, a purely ideological construct which some ideal non-racist social order would eliminate”. This ties in with the experience that Equiano’s has in the captivity is an example of using race in a discriminatory was and a means to create a social category of lesser humans. Omi and Winant would argue this use of race is detrimental to a society and using race as an ideological construct in a no-racist social manner could alleviate this divide that humans create and feel between one another.

I believe race is socially constructed by the community and government and should not play any significant factor in our society today but still should be acknowledged as a part of each individual’s culture and history. I think there are instances where race can be beneficial to society such as describing a criminal on the lose but those instances are too few and far between to really serve any significant purpose. I think that race limits freedom by requiring you to categorize yourself as part of a group and there are often not enough appropriate categories for people to chose. For example, when you go to take a standardized test, you are asked to fill in your race and the majority of the time there are 4 generic categories and then there is an option to select “other”. I think examples like this prove that race is nothing more than something society wants to categorize you with. Who is “other”? Why are some races represented on the test but others are deemed to be “other”? If it really matter, wouldn’t their be a blank and you could write your race in? Another concept in society that i believe is socially constructed is the idea that blondes are dumb. I have had so many people laugh and joke when I don’t understand things and have had people tell its just a “blonde thing”. It’s always nice to be able to point out that I chose to be a blonde but was born with brown hair. It really is strange to think that people parallel hair color and intelligence because people can change their hair color to any color they want. It makes no sense to attribute intelligence to something that is not definite and can changed by dye out of a box.


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