Race as a social construct

Essay 2016 4 Pages

Sociology - Individual, Groups, Society


Race as a social construct

As many social anthropologists have observed, daily human lives have defined by race irrespective of whether they agree with the analogy or not. The world is seen through the lens of African, Arab, Caucasian, Mexican or other tags that daily inundate our televisions. How we label others is very critical on how important decisions are made concerning their lives. The lenses through which we define others determine who to hire, who gets the supervisory role, which gets the menial jobs and defines who lives in which neighborhood. Human beings deny it all the time but with demonstrations in the United States cities tagged along the lines of “black lives matter,” the social construct of race has not left human beings.

The word social construct is commonly thrown around without delving on explaining what it means. Understanding what it defines is critical in reflecting on its capacity to affects other aspects of human life and make an effort to dismantle them. What the term refers to is the fact that all people are created equal but to have some appeared as more dominant over the others, human beings devised means of constructing some social classes. Biologically all persons are identical no gene is available to whites to absent to blacks or vice versa. However, people had to have a classification to introduce classification they had to look at the skin color since it was evidently different. Other racial classifications have been added to make persons appear whiter than the others and apparently more intelligent to the ones doing the classifications. Were the race to be real in the genetic predisposition, all human beings would be classified as being members of the same race (Mitchell, 2013). By definition, white meant those that did not have a drop of Negro blood or Indian blood in them.

The idea of race in this century and the notion that human beings classified into biologically distinctive groups with each representing different levels of social, physical and intellectual differences are a fallacy. The way scientists’ present race today is different from the way they showed it during the slavery period through to the civil rights movement. Then, as advances in science were still in the formative stages, the idea of race emanated from the unproven theory that the black man was inferior. Such concept of inferiority was used to promote the egalitarian social and economic policies.

Historically, looking at white-black contact before six century A.D, there were associations of blackness with sin, demon, ill omens and other evil features. The record has however exonerated the Ethiopians from such stereotype. The major division among the people Rome and Greece emanated from the misunderstanding between the uncivilized and the civic. The difference was not in connection with the color of the skin. The thought of considering people according to race as the ancient world did has been erased. Most of the scholars now consider all humans as the same with no categorization or variation concerning blood or kinship.

This movement of change on human acceptance gained momentum toward the middle ages especially in the Jewish community when the Jewish religious views were accepted by anti-Jews societies and began to change into anti-Semitism. Such an example of kinship beliefs differences was witnessed among Marranos and Christendom Spanish Jews where the latter felt threatened because they could not proof their ancestral origin. In the Eighteen century, Europe took into consideration the idea of looking into the diversification of humankind. This was heightened by the enlightenment of different races during colonial days. Human beings from hence fell into categorizations depicting their human diversity During this time, Carolus Linnaeus a Swedish botanist made a remarkable contribution concerning the race concept. His finding on natural system became the basis on which all the species were classified. His concept divided humankind into four categories: Europeans, Americans, Asians, and Africans. In 1749, French ecologist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was the first scientist to introduce the term race into science and put a clear definition and distinction among the races of humankind that were caused climate variation. His theory, however, did put Europe as superior and infused a notion that the state of humanity derived from Europe. This is because he believed that Europe produced the most handsome men and the best human, genuine color. In the United States, race socially emanated and came to recognition since the formation of the republic. Inequalities and racial differences have thus been heightened by the prevailing perception of general national identity. The enactment of a constitution in 1789 barred many indigenous people from African descent from citizens, and this resulted in too many of them being slaves putting them to a dependent state. However, the worldwide revolution on the enlightenment of human rights has brought changes. The right of naturalization became purely for the white person. In later years between 1820 and 1830, the right to vote which offered to some blacks ceased and only whites would vote. Their fight for recognition hit a snag later in the 1850s after the Supreme Court led by Dred Scott made a declaration that all Blacks ineligible for citizenship (Mead, 1968). Racism became a phenomenon to the fact that the blacks were very segregated and had no legal or political rights. They did not have access to some states and freedom of movement. Civil war between the South and North brought in the much-needed freedom as. Black troops became essential in the battle, and this gave the black the right to claim for equal citizenship. The 1968 amendment constitutionally recognized blacks as citizens of United States of America. Further amendment outlawed the denial for the blacks to the rights of voting due to race or color, and this brought in equality as far as political and legal matters were concerned.

Immigrants in the South, however, did not witness substantive reforms, during the leadership of Jim Crow in 1880s.Racism was directed to anyone who was not white to the extent that there was a ban on Chinese immigration. This compelled the passing of immigration law that established quota system and this racial brutality triumphed over the liberalization that was had been enlightening through constitution amendments. The Southern blacks made a massive migration to the North. This, however, reinstated their right to vote and heightened their political control. It took the racial minorities and their supporters to establish a wider civil right movement that would push the egalitarian independence declaration.

Civil Rights Acts made a breakthrough on legal and political rights of nationality. This, however, did not establish equal respect for the regarded as the minority by the majority white Americans. Current statistics indicate that a great number of blacks than white are more likely to be in a state of unemployment, poor, socially secluded and imprisoned. Structural inequality due to racial disparity remains a key problem in the American society. The need for some of the blacks, Asians, and Latino to preserve their cultural aspects has created multi-culturalism rather than integration creating the anti-racist ideology that persists in the United States to the current ages.

However, the social construct is not a preserve of communities living in the United States of America. Before the Second World War, Hitler had scientists in tow that “proved” his theories that some races were superior to others, had more intelligence than others had and were predisposed to rule over the others. His actions and their approval of his thesis resulted in an annihilation of a Jews across Europe. It is interesting to note that in the German case, the pigment of individuals was not the defining aspect of the social construct (Bhatti-Sinclair, 2011). When viable reasons are lacking to divide humans into them, human beings have constructed theirs to subjugate some over the others. Before the race issue in the United States, there were discussions amongst the Christians on whether Indians and Africans had souls. The capacity of human beings to invent classifications has shifted with time depending on the agenda that needed validation. American and European scientists played a bigger role in helping governments come up with formulas for determining who was black and by what percentage and who was Jewish and by what percentage.


The construct of human beings belonging to different races has passed generations that were only keen on introducing classes for their benefit. Boundaries of what constituted white and what constituted black have changed with time as the situations and the agenda at hand demands. All human beings are born alike, and the classifications created on them are only attempts of classes of persons redefining boundaries to benefit.


Bhatti-Sinclair, K. (2011). Anti-racist practice in social work. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mead, M. (1968). Science and the concept of race. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mitchell, W. J. (2013). Seeing through race.



ISBN (eBook)
File size
420 KB
Catalog Number




Title: Race as a social construct