As Europeans began exploring the New World in the late 17th century, the idea of race was forged. Racial categories associated human differences in the New World, including Europeans, Amerindians, and Africans. During the 19th century, after slavery was abolished, race ideology fully emerged, and began dividing society and establishing social strata. However, the legacy of race continues today, in spite of racial diversity.
While there are differences between different races, the majority of human difference is cultural. The small racial component is genetically more similar than different. The current definition of race is based on the erroneous premise that racial traits are biologically determined. For example, racial characteristics like skin color, hair texture, and height are not unique to one particular race. Further, racial categories are often arbitrary.
The concept of race is largely a cultural construct that ignores the complexity of lived experiences. The term is a social fabrication, created by people to classify people by their skin color and physical characteristics. This classification system has no scientific or genetic basis and is used by societies to justify systems of power, privilege, and oppression. In fact, racial categories and identities are just as much about cultural differences as they are about physical ones.
In the United States, the Census Bureau collects information about race and ethnicity. Moreover, it also monitors compliance with anti-discrimination laws. According to the Bureau, the categories are not based on biological or genetic traits but are based on self-identification. While the Census Bureau is trying to keep pace with these changing identities, the categories themselves can become outdated and offensive. This means that the classification of race and ethnicity is increasingly distorted.
While other ethnic groups have faced a long history of racial discrimination, Americans have largely overcome their resentment to racism and have made progress in changing our country’s policies. However, racial distinctions remain a significant problem, especially when it comes to housing segregation and criminal justice policy. In the United States, the Population Registration Act of 1950 created the Race Classification Board (RCB), an institution whose role was to adjudicate and reassign racial identities.
While mortality rates vary, overall, whites will continue to lead the way in aging. The life expectancy of blacks is 7 years less than that of whites. African-Americans are twice as likely to experience strokes as whites, and they have significantly more deaths from heart disease. The proportion of foreign-born Asians is also higher than that of Hispanics. Overall, racial differences will become increasingly important as people age and occupy more housing.
The health disparities among African Americans and American Indians are particularly troubling. The evidence for this relationship is compelling. Racial differences in health are largely attributable to genetic characteristics. But other factors, including social class, may also influence health. Minority populations, such as blacks, may have higher household income than whites, but they may have different lifestyles than whites. Despite this, research needs should focus on the disparity between mortality rates and morbidity rates among various ethnic groups.