The Social Construction of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender

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The Social Construction of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender

By | March 2006
Page 1 of 3
Socialization is the unequal distribution of power, wealth, income and social status between individuals and groups. This distribution is not random, it is patterned and structured. Three important axes of global inequality are gender, race and ethnicity, and class. These inequalities are on a global scale and are found in virtually all societies. It wasn't until relatively recently, however, that a caste system developed to include race and ethnicity among class and gender. Since imperialism and the conquest of the America's, a number of social changes have occurred, and, as a result, the dominant groups today are not only higher in the social order, in terms of rank, but they are considered better as well.

According to Winant, there are two main concepts of race, "race as an ideological concept," and "race as an objective condition." Barbara Fields, one of the main supporters and activists for the "race as an ideological concept" theory, explains the concept of race as "[a] concept [that] arose to meet an ideological need; its original effectiveness lay in its ability to reconcile freedom and slavery." Remember, Africans weren't the only slaves, Asians, for example, were slaves too. This created a distinction between the white slave owners and all other races, and this was acceptable because their slaves were lower than them, according to Fields theory, so it was okay to enslave other humans. Winant says that, "Sociopolitical circumstances change over historical time, racially defined groupsÂ… [achieve] mobility or [remain] mired in poverty, and so on." If race is considered an objective condition it doesn't allow for the reconceptualization of race, "one simply is one's race." Most early theories of race took this stance and Stephen Jay Gould, as recently as 1981, has made similar claims. However, it is impossible to support such a theory on a number of grounds. First, it's been scientifically proven that there are more genetic differences between a single...
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