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Identity

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Distinguish between the concepts of race and racism. Do you agree that the concept of race is socially constructed? Can you use the conceptual framework for understanding identity to understand racial discrimination?
……………………………………………….....………………………………………………………………………………………… ….………………………..………………………………………………………………………….......................................................... To answer the following question, we would go through a re-interpretation of the word race. Followed by the biological, historical and social aspects of race from where race becomes racism (idea of social construction which in itself contains the notion of Identity). When we claim the view of race on identity, we are slowly drifted to the currents of Ethnicity. Race is a modern concept. The English language didn‟t even have the word „Race‟ until 1508 when William Dunbar referred race to a lineage of Kings in his poem. Historical records show that neither the idea nor ideologies of race existed before the seventeenth century. We will now randomly take up a definition of Race, keep it as a base for understanding and then reinterpret it if required. According to “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”, the concept of race has historically signified the division of humanity into small number of groups based on five categories. i. Races reflect some type of biological foundations. ii. This biological foundation creates discrete racial groupings such that all people of the same group share the same biological characteristics. iii. This biological foundation is inherited generation to generation allowing observers to identify an individual‟s race through ancestry or genealogy. iv. Genealogical investigation should identify each race‟s geographical origin, typically in Africa, Asia or North or South America. v. This inherited racial biological foundation manifests itself primarily in physical phenotypes such as skin color, eye shape, hair texture, bone structure. Also behavior phenotypes such as intelligence. If we further examine the above definition of race, we should be successful in differentiating and classifying each and every person we see on the basis of his/her biological foundation. Well, is that possible? No. We might just be lucky to distinguish people on the basis of their physical traits in some case, but it makes it extremely impossible to label that person or the race he belongs to. Let us find out why such distinctions are available in nature. There are many contradictions to the fact that race is entirely biologically justified. Race has a very dubious genetic basis. There is not one characteristic, trait or even a gene that would be common to all the members of the so called one race and differentiate it from the other races. Human beings are genetically so similar that it is difficult to divide them into races. Also race justifies the formation of sub-species under the human category by means of biologically differentiated traits which is not true. Human beings are still not that isolated or superior among themselves to evolve into sub-species. Moreover, designating sub-species require identifying different units and giving them different names, but the boundaries between sub-species is very blurry. Biologically there is just one race, The Human Race. Moreover, Human beings have been subjected to “gene modification”. Human genes go through a process of self-altering so as to adjust/adapt ourselves to the surroundings. Take the case of skin color; we have people of both white skin and black skin. This variation in the skin is because of the secretion of melanin. Melanin secretion is controlled by around 6 genes; where two forms of melanin is produced in both white and dark complexioned people depending on the fat under the skin and the second one depending on the ultraviolet radiation of the sun, where the skin acts as a biological shield by producing more melanin thus darkening the skin. The reason that some people have light colored skin is that it allows the body to absorb Vitamin D from the weaker sun. Another such case is of the Asians; they have epicanthal fold eyes which protect them from the extreme cold and hot weather. We find it extremely difficult to distinguish a Czech from a Chinese. Such visible physical differences are due to gene modifications/mutation; moreover it is on the basis of such very few distinct physical differences that enact as markers to group people like the Whites, Blacks, Asians and Latinas. Thus, Race is as a mechanism for the social stratification of people. It is a social invention. "Race" is a social fiction; it is entirely a product of the ways that people think about human differences. Even if we heed to the claims of scientists, that human DNA can help us in identifying our population ancestry/groups based on major geographic regions; is in itself quite objective. Along with it, demographic distinction in itself is a social construct.

Historical aspect of race can never be missed out since we understand that the concept of race is not entirely on the basis of biological foundations. History of human race cannot be isolated from the fact that the historical developments were a result of the then social precontexts. The reason for taking up the analysis of the historical aspect of race might give us some glimpses of how or what led to the formation of race and also to substantiate the idea of social construction leading to it. While exploring we tend to witness the birth of collective consciousness and identity, this also becomes the reason for social demarcation of people on the basis of culture. Throughout all human history, it is seen that human beings have been oppressive and the constitutional law of nature is “Survival of the fittest”. Despite of a welfare state that urges on equality; men and women can never be equal, not everyone can be satisfied, we don‟t have Pareto optimality and some will always be more equal. One such way of manifestation of this dominative

expression is race; which tries to divide society further leading to stereotyping and prejudices against other races causing racism. Thus, Race is a social construction of ascendancy. We see race because we give meaning to it and we believe in the institution of Race. Since the dawn of civilization; people started living in demarcated areas, developing their own lifestyles and language features which distinguish them from the others. Later when trade became extensive, alliances were established and treatise of trade made. Traders married the local people and spread a cultural knowledge from one place to another. This stems the question of multi-culturism, mixed race and also of the idea whether we even have something as a pure race in our present world because there is a theoretical possibility of being a black and white at the same time (inter-racial), part Asian part Caucasian and many others.

Race is socially constructed. After all what is this so called “social construction” that we talk about all the time. How is race, socially constructed? This leads us to a very basic question- Why do we create? Mainly we create things out of necessity or with certain clear intensions. Even though race was not deliberately created by anyone, it sustained as it could accommodate the difference between different groups of people. These differences were not only on the basis of race but also on the basis of ethnicity. Ethnicity is the state of belonging to a particular social group that has a national or cultural tradition. Ethnicity is only a part of race. Race is a social construction of groups on the basis of culture, color, language, ancestry etc.

Accepting the reality of Race and integrating it to the society. When belonging to a particular race, people get to see their behavior, appearances, actions and habits on which they judge them but they forget that some entities like beliefs and values which are deep within cannot be exhibited. Parallel to it we have the concept of Identity running. Our Identity is heavily depended on who our ancestors were and what the society teaches/ exposes us to. Our self is hinged into, the beliefs and values of the society/ our root culture and the reason why we are different is because of the way and the perception of our seeing things. Identity is governed by our desires, experiences, image and perceptions/way of thinking. These are additive in nature. Moreover, Race is characterized on physical factors and ethnicity on the basis of cultural factors. Taking the case of a Chinese American living in Milan; if asked about his identity, he would talk about his ancestors. He would quote himself to be an American since he inclines more towards it (his dad is an American, also he was born and brought up in US) ironically though he also looks like a Chinese (physical traits- His mother is a Chinese). People seem skeptical when he says he is an American, he thus has to complete the statement by asserting that he is also a Chinese. He is a part Asian, part Caucasian. ‘Society usually labels a person’s identity by his physical appearance’. Why does it happen that superiority of an individual comes through the oppression of others? Since Ancient time, people have been categorized or stereotyped which has made discrimination easier. The problem lies in our physical or cultural differences which involve skin color, language, religion or tribe. The problem lies in our differences. According to the World Value Survey (2012), India is among the Top 5 most racist countries. Here in India, we want our neighbors to be from our same race, where the attitude towards dark skinned or North-Eastern people is racist in the very nature, where there is untouchability, caste, where a very peculiar form of racist form is seen in newspaper matrimonial and the list goes on. So what is racism? Racialized groups refer to socially constructed identities whose supposedly inherited common physical traits are used to impose social, political and economic cost. There seemed to be a terminological shift from race and its social construction. Members of socially constructed Racialized identities suffer real harm. Racism is not only on the basis of race but also on the basis of ethnicity; the reason being that our identity is formed on the platforms of race and ethnicity. Racism can be restricted to two referents i. To attack the reputation of a group due to its biological inferiority ii. Dislike towards another group defined by its inherited physical traits Despite the interaction between different races and inter-mixing, we still find races which act supreme, independent and noninteractive. The reason behind it is that they think of themselves as the very foundation of human society. This leads to irrational thoughts, beliefs and practices. „This is racism, where people are treated differently on perceived characteristics of their group rather than their individual capabilities’. This leaves a very devastated state of Identity. Here in India, one‟s identity is associated to ancestry, religion, occupation, class and also caste. Identity is a self-implicated social image governed by the above determinants. Conceptual framework for understanding identity to understand racism involves a substantial amount of identity scanning. Analyzing the identity sketch of both the Racialist and the Racialized, we find that both these identities are in a state of equilibrium which is morally and ethically imbalanced. These are the characters that one can associate to both the racialist and the Racialized. The Racialized group believes in the illusioned superiority of the Racialist group, they copy them (feel insecure) and live in a state of desperation expecting a change to happen. They live in a state of chaos where they are in a conflict of ideologies; whether to follow their own ideology or the ideology of the Racialist. The Racialist is in a state of an illusioned existence where they believe themselves to be superior to the other race on certain highly subjective grounds. They are self-centered and show lack of empathy (no individual racist can be blamed for it, since it becomes a popular practice). How groups are such biased towards a particular stream, makes us wonder what our crux of problems are? Is it they are conscious of something in relation to them; knowledge or pre conceived notions from ancestors? Or is it the belief that they are indeed superior to the other race? Well, Race is the social demarcation which is still biologically objective but largely has a social construction which advocates and accommodates the differences in the society. When there is a distinction between people on the basis of race, their results a human

tendency to act superior to the other by trying to de-fame the rest. This results in Racism. Racism occurs when people are treated differently on the basis of certain perceived group characteristics. Racism occurs not only on the differences between races but also between ethnicity. This ethnicity and race forms our root culture, which is the source of our identity (our culture, ancestry) but moreover it is the physical traits that usually signify your identity.

Works Cited Andreasen, R. O. (2000). Race: Biological Reality or Social Construct? Philosophy of Science, 653-666. Arthur, J. (2007). Race, Equality and burdens of History. New York: Cambridge University Press. Philosophy, S. E. (2008, May 28). 1. Retrieved 9 September 2013, from Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/race/ Smedley, A. (1998). "Race" and the Construction of Human Identity. American Anthropology Association, 690-702.

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