Friday, April 20, 2018
The Social Construction of Race in the U.S.
Over the years, race has changed in America. The Irish were originally considered not white. Later, Italians, Greeks and other Southern Europeans faced discrimination because they were considered less desirable than Northern Europeans. In the 1920s, the Supreme Court Case Thind vs. U.S. determined that a man of Asian Indian descent was not white or caucasoid, even though he did not fit into the other categories of race at the time (Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black). Instead the court ruled that because most people would say that he is not white, then he is not white. This was just one case of many that shaped race throughout U.S. history. For more on how race has changed and can change, see Nell Irvin Painter's book called, "The History of White People." Here is a review on Salon. All of these are examples of how race has changed over the years in America. It can change, because there is no way to define it. It doesn't exist in any biological or empirical sense, it only exists as a social construction.
Here is how the US census has changed in how it determines race over the years.
This link shows a graph of how the US census has changed over time.
This graphic from the PEW research center explains how the U.S. census has changed over the years:
Click here to do an activity where you have to categorize people like a census taker would have.
After you do the sorting people activity above, click here to learn about traits.
Sociological Mindfulness reflection: Is this new information to you? Is it difficult to process?
Watch this show making fun of how race is socially constructed.
Takeaways (See Ferris and Stein pages 224-225 for more info.):
What is evidence that race is a social construct in the U.S.?
What does the "one-drop" rule mean?
What does 1/32 black mean?
What does passing mean?