Blog 3: Race as a social construct

As a sociology major, I have learned many times that race is a social construct. Until now, that made sense to me, but I did not fully understand the science behind that. I did not know how to prove that there really is no biology behind race. I think I would explain to other sociology majors who understand race is a social construct, but want to know the science behind it, that there is no real genetic variation from population to population, only within populations. I would also explain that we all have a common descent and that humans cannot be classified into any homogeneous population or “race”. There really are no boundaries that we could objectively draw to differentiate between “races”

One thing that really stuck out to me from the lecture was the last point, on the last slide of the last lecture. It says, “The construction of race has clear parallels with political, economic, and social agendas, and thus it is necessary to understand.” I think that this is a very important statement, because part of anthropology is looking at the history and seeing how the history and the science line up. In this case they do not line up at all. When slavery first became a popular practice, there needed to be a justification as to why people with black skin could be enslaved, mistreated, and disrespected. So, people made up this completely unsupported justification that they were different, and invented race as an excuse to treat them like animals. But, there is no actual scientific evidence of any genetic diversity from population to population. Only social, political, and economic agendas.

The AAA made a statement that said “both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences.” Unfortunately, I think that this conditioning still is engrained in the minds of people young and old today. Many people truly believe that African Americans are more likely to be violent, impoverished, and uneducated because of their genetic differences. The reality is they are more likely to be any of those things because of the ways we have isolated them, given them the worst resources, and treated them like second class citizens. That is the only valid explanation. The AAA also says, “How people have been accepted and treated within the context of a given society or culture has a direct impact on how they perform in that society.” Any behaviors that people stereotypically attribute to a group of people based upon their skin color, is actually a result of the environment we live in. In America, the environment we live in favors White people and treats them as the dominant group. It is no wonder, that White people statistically perform better in society.

We have an uphill battle to face here. The science supports that race is a social construct, but people are not listening. The discrimination that people of color experience today in America demonstrates that people are not listening to the science. They are instead, using this made up concept of race to further their agendas.


One thought on “Blog 3: Race as a social construct

  1. Hello, I really benefited from you coming from a different major and bringing forth a different viewpoint. I think your point about many of us learning and remembering the line, “race is a social construct” is different than learning the science behind it and really understanding why we believe that to be true was very insightful. I really believe that in this situation, and many others, knowledge is power. To be able to explain to someone why it doesn’t make sense to single out groups for racist purposes is more powerful than just saying, “race is a socially constructed concept.”
    I agree with you that we really are fighting an uphill battle and personally I think a large part of the burden falls on parents, teachers, and other adult figures to work towards a more accepting, less hostile society. To me, it feels like every generation has gotten better about understanding the violence and hate brought out by racist ideals so we just keep need to keep moving in the right direction even if the progress seems frustratingly so. Increased required anthropology education could go a long way as well.

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