Why Is Important To Understand Race As A Social Construct

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An idea that divides the human species based on behavioral differences and inherited physical structure was derived, termed ‘Race’. The term ‘race’ was first used to refer to speakers of a common language and to address national affiliations. Anthropologists used the study of the human skull as a way of justifying racial and social inequalities and by term ‘race’ as a biological concept. But over some time scientists no longer believe that there is a biological basis to identify racial great, race is a social, cultural, and political construct where racial segregation has real impacts on health and health disparities.

There is no DNA or cluster of DNAs known common to all black or whites despite this racial classification for individuals would remain constant across boundaries. Yet a person who would be categorized as black in the United State might be considered white in Brazil or colored in South Africa.

The thought that race may be a social build has become a perspective of sociological literature, a claim that's central to any sociological treatment of race nowadays. In Ethnicity and Race, Cornell and Hartmann portray race as “socially defined”; the American Sociological Association’s “Statement on the Importance of Collecting Data and Doing Social Scientific Research on Race” clarifies it as “a social development that changes as political, financial, and authentic settings change”. This understanding of race as a social item can be found at all levels of disciplinary writing, from initial course readings to experimental and hypothetical definitions.

A Biological Theory

The concept of race has had a significant influence and authority on research in human biology since the early 19th century. The race was given its meaning and social impact in the political sphere and subsequently embedded in science as a foreign concept. Science always has to bare the burden to justify, explain and accommodate Race as most of the time this term is surrounded by controversies and disruptions.

In biological research and the patterns of health and disease, the racial structuring of society often has an influence. Enormous efforts have been made to describe human demographic history through reference to ever-changing definitions of constructs and categories, all of which include a hierarchical arrangement—explicit or implicit.

In the United States, public health has long embraced racial/ethnic categories as fundamental structural elements. Clinical medicine has similarly used racial categories to explain after effects and outcomes across the entire spectrum of diseases. But at the same time, biology is grounded in the theory of descent from a common ancestor. In premodern science, the conviction of racial classes was the most remarkable risk and backed up the trustworthiness of the built-up perspective on divine creation. Until recently it has been suggested strongly that the challenge to race brought by the abolitionist movement was a key factor behind Darwin’s transformative insight that the biological or organic world, on the evolutionary time scale, is a single indivisible substance. Biomedicine still has to invent and redefine the research with the implications of that insight for our species, despite substantial progress has been made.

Race was a “label of convenience” that scientists utilized and traded with the build of “varieties” as they attempted to form ordered categories underneath the level of the species. Writers from across the intellectual platform of literature and politics also felt free to make use of the idea. Baudelaire presented the idea of the “race of Abel” and the “race of Cain” when describing the polarization of 19th-century French society, and Marx characterized the English working class as a “race of peculiar commodity owners”, who find themselves at better placed and ahead of the other categorized races.

Since the later half of the 20th century and into the present, the utility of race has been viewed from two distinct perspectives: as a descriptive category is firstly necessary to summarize health inequalities, and secondly as a random explanation of ill health, through unspecified genetic influences. In the current world, the standard has shifted to require molecular scientific evidence for causal effects that are to be ascribed to biological race; if this standardization doesn't work, it can now at least be proved theoretically. The debate over ‘race and health’ has been in recast now. Race and its scientific meaning retain statistical significance that should most likely be distributed over other factors in the analytic model or factors that remain unexplored.

The Social Theory

Ruth Frankenberg in her book The Social Construction of Whiteness: White Women, Race matters argues that our daily lives are affected by race whether we are aware or not. We all see the world with a racial lens that colors our world white, black, Asian, African, Mexican, or other. How we are seen affects various aspects of our lives and others' lives. From types of jobs we have, the area we live in, the food we eat, and the school we attend are affected by one social construct and that is race.

A social construct is a philosophically subjective but epistemologically epistemological objective. It is ontologically subjective in that the construction and continued existence of social constructs depend upon social groups with their aggregate understanding and acknowledgment of such developments. Race in the world does not exist objectively but it is real in society. In Takaki’s work A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, race is defined as a social construct and produced by the assertive group in the society and their power to define and draw boundary lines based on skin color. In other words, the dominant group in society imposed the limitations of group membership by defining race in terms of science and biology. A white person is always superior to a black person. Takaki explains that Africans in America were first brought to America as slaves or servants. After completing the tenure as servant timeline they were freed and had the status of free men. The skin color line at the time had not been drawn. The growing population of free Africans in America means fear of losing hegemonic control, this kind of fear began to spread through the white population. The outcome, race as a biological concept, was developed and used to justify the enslavement of a growing free black population early in U.S. history. Initially, this biological understanding of race helped draw the color line that started to define social structure. The exclusiveness of group membership was marked by skin color. Even today the primary race indicator is skin color.

Race & Politics

More often ‘race’ in social structure is used in politics to gain weight in popularity leading to supremacy. Michel Foucault had a view that the popular historical and political use of a non-essentialist notion of 'race' was used in the 'race struggle' discourse during the 1688 Glorious Revolution and under Louis XIV's end of their reign. In his view, this discourse developed in two different directions, one of them is Marxism, which seized the notion and transformed it into 'class struggle' discourse, and other racists, biologists, and immigrants, who paved the way for 20th-century state racism'.

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Over time, racial classifications were used to justify the enslavement of those deemed to be of 'inferior', non-White races, and thus supposedly best fitted for lives of toil under White supervision. These categorizations made the racial disparities seem nearly as broad as that between species, easing out questions about the validity of such treatment of humans. In both science and communities these practices were accepted.

One of Hitler's favorite sayings was, 'Politics is applied biology. Hitler's ideas of racial purity led to inhumane atrocities in Europe. Since then, ethnic cleansing has been taken over by people in power in countries like Cambodia, the Balkans, Sudan, and Rwanda. In one sense, ethnic cleansing is another name for the tribal warfare and mass murder that has inflected human society for ages.

Due to this identification of the concept of race with political oppression, many natural and social scientists today are wary of using the word 'race' to refer to human variation, instead using alternative words like 'population' and 'ethnicity'. A large number of them contend that the idea of race, whatever the term utilized, is proceeding with utility and legitimacy in logical research. Science and politics always or more often take opposite sides in debates that relate to human intelligence and biomedicine.

Race & Law Enforcement

Example 1: While trying to give general portrayals that may encourage the activity of law enforcement officials trying to catch suspects, the United States FBI employs the term 'race' to summarize, at large, the general appearance (skin color, hair texture, eye shape, and other such easily noticed characteristics) of individuals whom they are attempting to catch or arrest. From the perspective of law enforcement officers, a generalized portrayal needs to highlight the features that stand out most clearly in the perception within the given society.

Example 2: In the UK, Scotland Yard uses a generalized identification based on the ethnic composition of British society: W1 (White British), W2 (White Irish), W9 (Other White); M1 (White and the black Caribbean), M2 (White and black African), M3 (White and Asian), M9 (Any other mixed background); A1 (Asian-Indian), A2 (Asian-Pakistani), A3 (Asian-Bangladeshi), A9 (Any other Asian background); B1 (Black Caribbean), B2 (Black African), B3 (Any other black background); O1 (Chinese), O9 (Any other).

In the United States, the act of racial profiling has been administered to be both illegal and to establish an infringement of social equality. There is also an ongoing debate on the relationship between race and crime regarding the disproportional representation of certain minorities in all stages of the criminal justice system.

Race & Education system

If we look at the UK ‘Race’ and ethnicity continue to be major factors influencing children’s and adults’ experiences of education at all levels and in a variety of respects. These incorporate academic achievement, professional employment, social associations, parental contributions, educational program development, assessment issues, and so on. The ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Education Special Interest Group is deeply worried about these and other issues surrounding these factors. The commonly used terms ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are acknowledged as problematic and have recognized issues of color and cultural racism with which the group will be concerned.

A recent report by the Teachers union NASUWT recognizes the various ways in which teachers are victimized because of their ethnic origin. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) teachers are insufficiently presented within the teaching profession, particularly at the foremost senior levels. They experience widespread discrimination when applying for jobs or promotions, and sometimes endure racist comments and abuse at work.

Students also are affected by discrimination, with black ethnic students being 3 times more likely to be rejected from schools compared to white students, consistent with the audit. But while one in three primary students are from a non-white ethnic background, only one in 20 teachers are BME.

Race & Healthcare

Health disparities are a major point of contention when it comes to ‘Race’. It is continuously combined with ethnicity but the race is diverse and of expository utilize. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Her Majestic extension was driven to the classification of diverse worldwide populaces based on the thought of inborn natural varieties, drawing on physical characteristics such as skin color, head shape, body estimate, and hair surface. In numerous cases, this restorative information was utilized to legitimize the misuse and subordination of people considered racially distinctive. These thoughts are presently not substantial anymore.

The Institute of Medicine defines disparities as racial and ethnic differences in the quality of health care that are not due to access-related factors or clinical needs but the very structural base of racial and ethnic healthcare disparities include differences in the locality, lack of healthcare coverage, communication gaps between patient and provider, cultural barriers, providers stereotypes, lack of access to providers.

It is difficult to quantify the extent of racial prejudice in the UK; primarily because people may be unwilling to admit it. The British social attitudes survey produced in 2013 showed that 30% of the British population described themselves as racially biased (National Centre for Social Research, 2014). Direct experience of racial exploitation can have significant negative consequences on individuals’ health, particularly their mental health and behavioral attitudes(Annandale, 2014; Barry and Yuill, 2011). Karlsen et al (2005) suggested that experiencing racial biases increases the risk of anxiety-related disorders and depression, as can be seen, most among Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani and Irish minorities. Similarly, a racially preferential state of mind can be implanted in how society works, causing social structures and institutions to function in a racist manner. Instead of just focusing on the actions of individuals, we need to look at social structures and institutions that may operate in a discriminatory manner and influence the actions and attitudes of those within them.

Institutional and structural discrimination in terms of race can also be found in health and other government services. The criminal justice system is one of the pinpointed attributes of this. In mental health settings we see more cases of Afro or black young individual men, but why? That's the argument but the main reason is how mental health services and associated institutions respond to them. Labeling of mental illness to a particular group or set of people on this basis increases a cultural gap between those who are labeled and those who are labeled. These black males are far more likely to come into contact with mental health services than other groups, especially via the criminal justice system; Due to this reason, society perceives them as a social threat. As a result, the criminal justice system or framework is more likely to interpret their behavior negatively and, as that behavior is more likely to be “visible” to criminal institutions working in parallels with the health system, the individuals are more likely to be labeled as having a mental illness. From this perspective, mental health services can be viewed as institutions of social control, based on dominant perceptions of young Afro-Caribbean men exhibiting behavior seen as a social threat. The report of the last three decades shows this group is more mandatorily admitted to mental health institutions and placed in locked wards than their ethnic majority counterparts. 


As we see and learn Race is a social structure since its inception but science was utilized to force change views of everyday use as a biological idea. A losing social structure argument or to sustain the ‘Race’ factor to attain supremacy in all fields/aspects of life the term has been often diluted with the help of science. For example, the black versus white debate leads us to think a social structure created by Race is now being used ethically or unethically with the help of science to compare the economy, healthcare, and education systems. Yes, we can define an economy based on segregation that occurs on the line of race (skin color in most parts of the world) and design policies. But in terms of healthcare, Race must not be seen as a biological concept. The difference or the deteriorating conditions in the healthcare systems arose because the color lines were drawn using political establishments and not depending on the genes of a species or we say of a ‘Race’. This is an outcome of the social structure that leads to the segregation of humans and not by any biological means.

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