The Concept of Race in America


The notion of race is a social construct. It divides human populations into groups based on physical appearance, social factors, and cultural backgrounds. The concept of race has become so widespread that it can no longer be ignored. Today, the United States is experiencing a wave of political and social upheaval, making this a good time to explore the role of race in our country.

Racial data are important to many Federal programs and are crucial for making policy and civil rights decisions. States use this information to meet legislative redistricting principles, improve equal employment opportunities, and assess health disparities. The Census Bureau has commissioned research and conducted content tests to improve the accuracy of race data. However, it is not a perfect science.

Racially identifying features differ from culture to culture. Caucasians are a widely distributed race; a Caucasian person living in the United States may not be a Caucasian in France. However, they may share many racial and ethnic characteristics. In addition, they may have different languages, traditions, and beliefs.

The concept of race is complicated by the fact that many people are of mixed ancestry and/or have interracial children. This can make it difficult to determine the best way to mark them. In the 1990 census, 98 percent of the population identified as one race, and only 2 percent gave multiple write-in responses for this category. This suggests that respondents may not understand the difference between race and ethnicity.

While there are some debates regarding the classification of ethnicity and race, the reality is that most Americans identify with a single race, even though they are of mixed ancestry. There is no way to categorize people according to their ethnicity unless they choose to acknowledge it. Some ethnic groups, like Mexican-Americans, do not identify as white, despite their racial backgrounds.

There is an obvious need for a comprehensive data collection on race and ethnicity. Federal government statistics on these topics should be collected. And the data collected should be standardized. That means the United States government should have a set of criteria that can be used for civil rights monitoring. The data from these surveys can be useful in many ways, from employment to housing.

The Greeks regarded dark-skinned people with respect. They were even depicted in Greek art and literature. Those who believe in the concept of race must provide a scientific definition and demonstrate that the differences between ethnic groups are sufficient to identify the race. And that is not an easy task. In fact, this is the most challenging part of the debate.

While many Hispanics do not identify with a particular race, others do. As such, it is important to define race and Hispanic origin separately. Research has shown that asking Hispanics and U.S.-born Hispanics separately decreases the non-response rate and the percentage of “other race” respondents. However, this does not eliminate the “other race” group.