Race, Essay Example

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Words: 580

Essay

Understanding what race is and how it impacts interactions between groups is essential to defining the root cause of major conflicts across the world such as ethnic tension in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe, Sri Lanka, Israel and Palestine, and countries that were members of the former Soviet Union, among others. Since race is clearly an issue that creates conflict among many different groups of people, it is essential to determine what the terms race and ethnicity really mean and how they shape our history in addition to playing a key role in the world today.

The definition of race has two constructs and can be classified according to either biological theory or racialization. Biological theory separates different groups of people based on their physical characteristics that are readily observable. As a consequence, we commonly group people into races based on their skin color and facial features. Some common groups identified according to this basis include African people, Caribbean people, Caucasian people, Indian people, and Asian people. When these people immigrate countries that differ from their origin and become citizens, they are still described by their origin race. Racialization is the sociological understanding of race and instead of relying upon the biological traits that make people unique, it claims that race is created on the basis of social construct. As a consequence, people who belong to a racial group on the basis of racialization may not consider themselves to be a part of that group, even though society as a whole believes that this is how they are classified. Appearance and social practices of people are the major factors that cause people to identify them as a member of a certain ethnic group. Ethnicity itself however, is different from race because it groups people together based on a shared social experience or ancestry.

A major issue with the terms “race” and “ancestry” is that people use them as overlapping concepts. However, it is important to understand that ethnic belonging could change over time due to national and cultural affiliations while the concept of race remains the same. The difference in understanding between race and ethnicity could be very detrimental for certain groups of people, especially those who are considered to be ethnic minorities.

Ethnic minorities are defined as a group of people who are distinguished by certain physical and cultural traits who are socially disadvantaged. These groups of people usually have a racial and ethnic identity that stand out compared to others, typically have lesser positions in society than those who are considered to be a part of the majority, and stratification could overlap due to gender, class, and ethnicity. Racial minorities are usually the groups of people that the majority expresses feelings of racism toward. Ultimately, this is because this group is conceived as different and they are easy to target because there are so few members of that community. As a consequence, this causes people to generate stereotypes about the group of people that is considered a minority, which perpetuates the concept of race. Instead of attempting to understand that the minority may be comprised of many different ethnicities, we only view them for their physical features and the way they act. In this sense, race is socially constructed and we should do our best to prevent these kinds of prejudices.

References

Billinger, Michael S. (2007). Another Look at Ethnicity as a Biological Concept: Moving Anthropology Beyond the Race Concept.Critique of Anthropology. 27,1:5–35.

Soci 1101. (Week Thirteen). Race and Ethnicity. PDF.

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