Revised post: Equiano and Racial Formation




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Richard Derderian


September 19, 2013


ENGL 382:  The Enlightenment


Group #2 Assignment:  Equiano and Racial Formation


The idea of race takes many forms, some are more 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 they build 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.  From the following quote we can deduct 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)  It is from this notion that we can see how cultural differences can lead to the many societal “clicks” that we see today.  We as people are usually scared of things that we don’t understand, the same can applied here in the respect of culture.  When we see people doing things differently than us, we tend to gravitate away from that group of people.  This can be further understood from the following.


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.

We are faced with a lot of difficult situations in our lives, and dealing with race is no different.  Whether it has to do with someone’s culture and life practices, or the color of one’s skin, we as a people have to learn how to put these differences aside and coexist with one another.  From this perspective, race isn’t just about someone’s physical qualities, but cultural qualities as well.  We have to consider both of these before we say something, otherwise, we won’t even know the harm that we’re causing them.  Just because one person of a particular race believes one thing or follows another doesn’t mean that the entire group of people believes that.  To form a world in which we can all live in harmony, racial issues be damned, we have to be considerate of all the facets of race.   We can gain perspective on both facets through the texts of Equiano and Omi and Winant so we can be better prepared to face issues of race in our lives.


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:


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