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A prominent factor that is evident in the readings is the social and political construction of the human race. Much like gender and socio-economic class, race has been a sociological construct built for achieving a form of superiority and distinction from one group of people to another. From as early as the first instances of recorded human history, people have found ways to distinguish themselves through the development of tribes, cultures, and religions, among other categories. Greek and Roman societies differentiated themselves from other communities through their notions of civilizations. As such, while they considered themselves a civilized group of people, they regarded others who did not belong to their class as barbarians. The idea of whiteness was as a way to separate one level of people from another while giving rights and privileges to those deemed superior and deserving. On the other hand, those considered inferior were intentionally denied the same opportunities, a phenomenon characterized by violence and cruelty.

Historians believed that the construction of race was primarily for exploitative intents. The strategy would be the only way through which the broader society would tolerate the institution of slavery and subjugation of large groups of people. The institution of slavery essentially operated under the assumption that people of a particular race were genetically inferior or superior to others, which would justify their enslavement, murder, and exploitation. White settlers of colonial America were able to develop this establishment to acquire free labor. Hitler was able to establish a master race under the Nazi rule by convincing the society of their superiority. The state of affairs, as I have learned, has been the case until scientists found ways to prove the genetic similarity that existed across all ethnicities, making them essentially one race.

The institution of colonialism was also established under the same concepts of racial hierarchies. Through this approach, colonialists were able to justify their encroachment to lands belonging to native peoples, exploiting their labor, and stripping them of their resources. The ethnic systems developed also made it possible for colonialists to come up with assimilation systems. These structures were to fashion native peoples in the image of the colonialists, thereby being able to control any forms of resistance.

From a political perspective, the racial groups that existed were used to identify the types of political and economic challenges or advantages they presented. While Black people were viewed as commodities at the period of enslavement, the Native Americans were seen as a liability as they posed threats to the White settler expansion. For this reason, there was a justification to reduce the population of Native Americans while increasing that of Black people. Racial groups have changed over time to include or exclude particular groups of persons. In the early 19th century, Irish immigrants, possessing different cultural ideals and values from that of White America, were considered essentially non-white. The notion was despite the fact that they had white skin. However, over the next century, they were able to assimilate into American values and standards.

Similarly, other groups have been included or excluded from particular racial classes in the past. The implication is that racial construction is less rigid, and not subject to physical appearance. Instead, ethnic structure, which has been predominantly determined by the established groups in history, was aimed at providing social and political advantages that ensured their superiority.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can the human race survive without classifications such as race, tribe, religion, or socio-economic class, or are such disparities necessary in assigning each person a place in the society?
  2. Does recognizing the differences between different races and cultures celebrate their uniqueness or add to the problem of segregation based on these disparities?

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