Social Construction of Race in America

Essay by brighteyes70746University, Master'sA+, March 2005

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In the 19th Century, Europeans came to believe that they were naturally, biologically and racially superior to the people they had conquered and colonized. Because of this movement, many people came to believe that different races were separate due to biological and evolutionary factors, with white people as the dominant, stronger and more intelligent race and people of color as the inferior, less able races. Race mattered, and still does, in the United States because it gave justification for conquering and enslaving the indigenous people and those who were brought here against their will. Naming each different race, and recognizing each different culture by white and non-white is part of the struggle over power, rewards, privilege and rights in our society.

The race issue matters because it argues and justifies the distribution of rights and privileges. Those who are wealthy can gain a powerful position in American society, and they believe that they have earned the position and they deserve what they have.

Ideologies and value systems are set up to explain their dominance, and explain why those who are poor are that way and deserve to be. The notion that the poor are lazy and unintelligent ties into this belief system, and that the rich are rich because they worked harder. When we look at American society through other eyes than those of a white man, we recognize that women and people of color earn less, are not offered the same positions, have educational and employment barriers (language, financial) and often do not come from the type of life where those options and resources were available.

Social construction places huge barriers and obstacles in front of women of color especially, almost like it is a double jeopardy to belong to this group. It was very enlightening, and disheartening at...