Race is a term that refers to the groups of humans that share certain physical traits, such as skin color and facial features. Historically, these characteristics have been associated with large, geographically separated populations. Today, these groups are often referred to as races, such as the “African race,” the “European race,” and the “Asian race.”
Racial identity is the process by which you develop a sense of who you are based on your family, social, economic, and political experiences and the way in which others see and treat you. It is a journey of continual evolution, with stations along the way that help you understand your racial identity and its impact on your life.
1. In the 19th century, people started thinking about themselves in terms of racial categories.
During this period, many scientists believed that race was a biological concept that distinguished human groups by their inherited genetic differences. This belief was supported by the widespread practice of reporting births and deaths in terms of sex and race.
2. The scientific basis of race is weak
In the 20th century, scientists made major advances in understanding the diversity of the human population, including the discovery that genetic ancestry does not necessarily separate humans into distinct races. Instead, human physical variation tends to overlap, and genetic analysis reveals that people have far more in common than they have differences.
3. The concept of race is a social construct
In the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars began to examine the social nature of the term “race.” They concluded that it was a social construction, not a natural phenomenon. In contrast, the idea of “ethnicity” evokes sociocultural characteristics such as history, language, beliefs and customs.
4. Ethnicity is more flexible than race
Although the concept of “ethnicity” is often considered to be a relatively new one, it has long been used to classify different human groups according to their shared cultural characteristics. In fact, there are thousands of ethnic groups worldwide, each influenced by cultural and historical factors.
5. The idea of race is a powerful social construct
Societies use the concept of “race” to justify systems of power, privilege, disenfranchisement and oppression. In this way, racial prejudice fuels a variety of ills that negatively affect people’s lives, such as discrimination, violence and poor health outcomes.
6. The idea of race is a powerful social construction
In the 20th century, scientists made significant advances in understanding the diversity of the human population, especially the role that genetic ancestry plays in this diversity. This knowledge has helped to shift the concept of race from a biological concept to a social construction.
7. The social construction of race is a critical factor in fostering inequities in the economy and in society as a whole
The social construction of race has a significant impact on our daily lives, with consequences that range from lack of access to education, jobs, health care and housing, to discrimination and even violence. As a result, it is important to educate ourselves about how we can become aware of and address our own racial biases.