Race: a Dichotomy?

Topics: Race, United States, Sociology Pages: 5 (1712 words) Published: December 2, 2008
When people try to define race, two common theories tend to develop. One theory is that race is biological. The second theory is that race is only a social construct. Both theories are correct. I believe that race is both. I also believe that race is such a complex concept that it can't be explained in this simple dichotomy.

Scientists argue continually about whether race is biological or not. I see both sides of this argument, which is possibly because I believe that those on the side that deny race as being biological are simply relying on semantics. I see that argument as, therefore, unnecessary and one that continues only because we, as humans, are universally unable to agree on anything.

The concept that race is biological seems fairly commonsensical. Caucasoid people have Caucasoid ancestors. Negroid people have Negroid ancestors. Slightly over half of all biological/physical anthropologists today believe...that human races are biologically valid. Specifically, forensic anthropologists can effectively determine the race of a person when examining skeletons. The varied opinions on this matter have led to several studies on this topic. A Stanford University study of 3,636 people gave more evidence that race is indeed biological. In this study, people’s self-identified race was a nearly perfect indicator of their genetic background. These results contradict the idea that race is only a social construct. This evidence shows that race is biological.

Even though race is apparently biological, the idea that human races are only social constructs has been the consensus for at least 30 years. The people on this side of the argument claim that the differences between the races are simply "genetic variations" and that there is no such thing as a biological entity that warrants the term 'race'. Those who argue that race is not biological motivation (a positive one) is that they have come to believe that the race concept is socially dangerous due to the face that race has so long been associated with racism. I feel like these scientists are trying, whether they know it or not, to simply get rid of the term. They have convinced themselves that race promotes racism. I think this argument is simply an argument of semantics. If "genetic variations" are biological, then so is race.

Race as a social construct also seems fairly commonsensical. In this country, there is a long history of racial issues that have less to do with biology and more to do with the assumption that these genetic differences are bad. Race does matter in this country. But not because of the obvious fact that we are different, but because this country is steeped in a history of race politics that has long used race as a basis for determining one's rights to equality under the law.

Race is everywhere in this country. It is practically staring us in the face. Race is shown to us regularly in television, films, and even our laws. Problems arise from all these methods of portrayal.

There is a long history of showing negative stereotypes in both film and television. The particular negative images used in television and films...come from a long legacy of social inequality and oppression, and their retelling strengthens these beliefs in white supremacy. By showing the negative stereotypes of minorities, the majority is able to justify the subordination of racial minority groups. When stereotypes are shown to us so regularly, negative images of racial minorities become a part of the collective consciousness.

For an example of media portrayal of negative minority stereotypes, we can look at the 1992 riot in Los Angeles. In this case the media encouraged the perception that the black community was solely responsible for the riots and disturbances, even though the police reports show that of those arrested only 36% were black. This is just one example. Many television shows and video games show an overwhelming amount of African Americans and Hispanics as...
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