Paper on Racial Formation

Topics: United States, Race and Ethnicity, Racism Pages: 7 (2592 words) Published: April 3, 2013
The debate over the question of race have always been a very controversial one within the United States. It is this very notion of race that has shaped the United States as a nation over the centuries. A Nation under God, indivisible and with liberty and justice for all, as stated in the Pledge of Allegiance. To fully comprehend the notion of race and racial formation, one have to understand the historical background of the United States. However, the reverse statement is also true; that is, to understand the History of the United States, one need to grasp the meaning of race within this particular framework. The two texts presented and analyzed in this essay both deal, in similar and different ways, with the notion of race and racial formation in the United States. The first text is an excerpt of a chapter of a book entitled American Crucible : Race and Nation in the 20th century, written by Gary Gerstle and published in 2001. The chapter under study in this essay is entitled, Theodore Roosevelt's Racialized Nation, 1890-1900. The excerpt deals with a historical approach of the notion of race through Roosevelt's vision of the shaping of America as a nation. Under the writing of Gary Gerstle, the text highlights Roosevelt's ambition of creating “the greatest English-speaking race the world had even known.”[1] The text also aims at explaining the historical formation of race though Roosevelt's racial nationalism. The second text entitled Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960's to the 1980's, written by Michael Omi and Howard Winant and first published in 1986, deals with a more dialectical and broader definition of the meaning of race and racial formation. The two authors approach the subject from various perspectives. They use scientific, religious, economic, historical and sociological approaches, to expose, toward the end of the chapter their own theory of racial formation. Their main argument being that racial formation in the United States is a fundamental organizing principle of social relationships. They diminish each approach by showing their limits, to eventually acknowledge the sociological vision and prove that race is a matter of social concept. This essay will aim at initiating a discussion between the two texts. They will be studied jointly and intertwined in order to find out how the two texts are relevant to one another, how they make sense, serve each other's purpose and answer one another. Even though, the two excerpts deal with different periods of time, it remains interesting to see how a burning topic such as the debate on race can be interpreted and understood differently. Thus showing that there is no one definition but that defining race is above all to go beyond clichés and stereotypes.

In the 1890's, The United States was plunged into a severe economic crisis. The Civil War had created fractions within society, and tensions, between the wealthier and poorer layers of society had increased. The country was undergoing a reconstruction and its institutions were being troubled by a new industrial order and a wave of Black migration to the North. It is in this context of reconstruction that Theodore Roosevelt started to gain influence on the political scene. Roosevelt was nostalgic of the Frontier. According to him, the shaping of the American race was initiated under the conquest of the West by the backwoodsmen living in the wilderness, under tremendously harsh conditions. The backwoodsmen society appeared as the ideal society for Roosevelt. A society based on self-reliant, hard-working, tough and virtuous men. Similarly, a couple of decades before, the ideal, according to Thomas Jefferson, was the yeomen farmers and their manly virtues. After the winning of the West and the extermination of Natives Indians, Roosevelt was very much afraid that America would lost his racial edge and that the Democracy would be endangered by a society relying on a more and more idle elite...
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