January 17

Week 2-Social Construction Racial Formations

Key concepts: Race, Social construction, concept maps

Lecture on Social Construction of Race

READ: Racial Formations by Michael Omi and Howard Winant and Race Isn’t So Black and White by Brent Staples

RJ: Identify a quote or fact from each reading that surprises you, bothers you, or strikes you as particularly interesting. Write three sentences about why it is interesting, strange or puzzling or bothersome to you. Do this for BOTH readings. As best you can, connect the readings with your own media viewing/experiences. PLEASE POST AS COMMENT. Required: Attend Martin Luther King Day Event, no class on 2/7

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27 Responses to January 17

  1. Sara Watson says:

    In regards to the “Racial Formation” article I found the sentence “white is seen as a ‘pure’ category. Any racial intermixture makes one ‘nonwhite'” to be an interesting statement. I have never thought of being white as “pure” but it does appear that way on some questionnaires that offer other checkboxes under “nonwhite” and more specific categories like “asian” or “african-american”. They never offer more specific questions other than “white” or “caucasian”.

    And in the “Race Isn’t So Black and White” article I found a reoccuring theme that “people who regard themselves as black sometimes discover that the African ancestry is a minority portion of their DNA”. At my previous college I took a Sociology Course on Race and Ethnicity, which spoke of the “one-drop” rule – that any person with at least one drop of African American blood takes up that as their primary ethnicity even though it may be the minority of their family’s background. This also crosses into the “black” and “white” terms versus “caucasian” and “african american”. My professor encouraged and argued that the terms “black” and “white” are more accurate and should be more socially acceptable because you could have a “black” person who identifies him/herself as French over African. This may be a good topic to discuss in class so that no one is offended by the terms used in class to describe different races and ethnicities.

  2. Kate Schreiber says:

    Many quotes from the Omi and Winant article stick out to me, but there are two I’d like to focus on primarily. The first being “the concept of race has defied biological definition” (19). This quote exemplifies their point that the idea of race, in fact the ideology of race is in a state of constant transformation. While it was once considered a scientific and religious issue or factor, it has now become something that people are constantly aware of and encounter on a daily basis. This point brings me to my next quote included in the article, “without racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity” (21). This quote immediately reminded me of college applications (as well as many other forms of documents, forms and various applications) where you are asked to check a box to define your ethnicity. Tying in the other article by Brent Staples, the question becomes – does anyone truly know his or her accurate ethnicity? As Omi and Winant so cleverly point out, race has become associated with definitions of someone’s personal characteristics, “temperament, sexuality, intelligence, athletic ability, aesthetic preferences and so on are presumed to be fixed and discernible from the palpable mark of race” (22). So then, being black must mean you are a great athlete or you listen to a particular genre of music etc, etc. I see this everyday. I have heard my own family talk about the Chicago Bulls and how former white point guard Kirk Hinrich handled the ball like he was black. What does that even mean? I will end returning to Staples article and highlight his genuine surprise when he realized he had Asian ancestors – an ignorant person (or perhaps even one of my own family members) may then assume he’s good at math. To me, the biggest issue of race and racial perceptions and stereotypes is that they are inaccurate and people across the globe don’t seem to be willing to move away from these quite discriminatory categorizations. They are seen everywhere in the media from sporting events, game shows and even on individual channels like BET. Something must change and since race is constantly in a state of transformation, hopefully one day it will transform into something that does not define a person or their character.

  3. Diana Bartolo says:

    “Race isn’t always so black and white” by Brent Staples

    “The ultimate point is that none of us really know who we are, ancestrally speaking. All we ever really know is what our parent and grandparents have told us.” This is an interesting point because from my own experiences “white” people also reffered to them as “Americans” believe that there is still a pure race – however, with the fact the many white slave masters sexed their black slaves this cannot be true. Since the time when Columbus discovered the New World there has also been a race of immigrants, or the Native Americans. Because there has always been a superior race and inferior race comprising of european settlers and immigrants, based on merely their skin color (white and black) we have learned how distinguish ourselves from “white” persons. Never have I learned in textbooks about a minority group that has had greater power over “americans or europeans.” It is sad to say that parents have learned what they have been taught in textbooks and through their ancestary regarding identity, even if it may be sterotypical or discriminating against other races.

  4. Diana Bartolo says:

    “Racial Formations”

    ‘ “Hypo-descent” means affiliation with the subordinate rather than the superordinate group in order to avoid the ambiguity of intermediate identity..’ The term “hypo-descent” is interesting to understand because there isn’t another word I can think of as a synonym. Hypo-descent paints a clear picture of race in regards of color, white and black, instead of politically which the article challenges. Since slavery was introduced, the society has reshaped what it means to be black and European (23). Hypo-descent sends a positive connotation when really it is denying one’s full identity and accepting another’s without true understanding of what “race” means. Therefore, if the term “race” is constantly reshaping, hypo-descent is merely an illusion because race is not specific due to our mixing of races.

  5. Stephanie Morales says:

    In Brent Staple’s article “Race isn’t always so black and white” the sentence that caught me by surprised was: “These results are forcing people to re-examine the arbitrary calculations our culture uses to decide who is “white” and who is “black.” I find it interesting that these new findings could now in the present affect what a person’s identity. It is not surprising that this is true; it is just puzzling to think the race you may believe to be may not be your own. It does bother me that there does not seem to be further research for other races besides the typical white and black. To relate this to media, i feel as though this is typical to what media presents to society, for i feel news is not diverse and seems to have believe the audience he writes to is only black and white.
    In Michael Omi and Howard’s “Racial Formations” what quote stood out the most to me was: “The expropriation of property, the denial of political rights, the introduction of slavery and other forms of coercive labor, as well as outright extermination, all presupposed a worldview which distinguished Europeans-children of God, human beings, etc.-from”others.” This quote is taken a bit out of context but it relates to how Europeans wondered if the natives of the”New
    World” were human beings at all. If Natives or “others” were not considered human then they did not have Rights that were given to a human being which surprised me due to the fact, how can someone be so blind to believe someone is not human. This hatred to other people because they do not originate from the same place may have been where racism truly started. To relate this to my own experiences, I feel as though people do not see people for who they are anymore but what they are as race. Not too far from home, just a couple of blocks- I know i cannot be there for the Blacks hate Hispanics are not welcome. Constantly people would get shot and jumped.
    I find it interesting that there are some things that seem like they can never be resolved, yet Michael Omi and Howard believe there can be if we try to understand Race and its complex meanings.

  6. Candice Kosanke says:

    One thing from “Racial Formations” that surprised me was that there was a law in 1970 that “declared anyone with at least one-thirty-second ‘Negro blood’ to be black.” One reason that this surprised me was the fact that the law was from 1970; to me, that seems awfully late for that kind of law. I would have thought that a state law declaring that a tiny bit of black blood made a person legally black would be from the 1950s or 1960s at the latest, but not the 1970s. Another reason that this quote surprised me is that 1/32 seems like an incredibly small amount of one’s genetic makeup to really make an impact. I don’t know who one of my great-grandparents was, which means that 1/8 of my own genetic makeup is completely unknown. Since I never really felt that this missing 1/8 of my family history had much impact on my life, 1/32 of someone’s family history seems completely negligible.
    One thing from “Race Isn’t Always So Black and White” that surprised me was the fact that the author (who identifies himself as black) discovered that he is one-fifth Asian, despite the fact that he had never suspected such a thing. This surprised me because, once again, one-eighth of my family history is unknown. Although no one knows for sure, most of my relatives have assumed that the unknown eighth of our ancestry is composed of some sort of European blood. However, if Brent Staples could be one-fifth Asian and never suspect a thing, I could theoretically be one-eighth anything! All of this supports the idea that race is socially imposed, not genetically imposed. After all, people identify themselves as being a certain race based on how they look (compared to how the people around them look), regardless of what their genes actually are.
    Both of these readings seem to match the things I’ve read and seen in the media. The idea that race is a social concept is espoused by many books and movies. The articles reminded me of the movie “The Jerk,” where Steve Martin, although obviously white, talks and dresses like a black person would be expected to talk and dress. Since he was raised by a black family, he acts “black,” even though his genetic makeup is not African. Clearly, the way he talks, dresses, and acts is influenced by his social upbringing, and not by his genes or DNA.

  7. Amber Kerrigan says:

    The quote, “We utilize race to provide clues about who a person is” (Omi, Winant, 21) made me stop and re-think how I first perceive an individual that I do not know personally. Naturally, without trying to offend, through race I may be able to determine an ideology of a person’s background, education, physical traits, and characteristics, without really have to think. This concept leaves me thinking am I too judgmental by race? This article relates that skin color differences are thought to explain differences in intellectual, physical, and artistic temperaments. Now overanalyzing the way I first judge individuals by their race, begs the question of how do other judge me based on my race?
    Another quote I found interesting was given by Staples, “Faced with widespread fear that racial distinctions were losing significance, the South decided to define the problem away. People with any ascertainable black ancestry at all were defined as black under the law and stripped of basic rights” (Staples, 6). I have never before thought of the idea of race as an invention, or a cultural device for describing ‘the other’. Even though many of the individual named “black” are actually part “white” by birth. Through race, every culture, the south, is defining itself by resisting those cultures that surround it, trying to secure racial distinctions to be different and in this case “better”.

  8. Jacob Heaps says:

    The quote that strikes me as interesting in ‘Racial Formations’ article is when Omi and Winant talk about the consideration of the term “black” and how it illustrates the diversity of racial meanings in different societies. I find this interesting because it sums up the claim that race is a social concept rather than a biological concept. I agree with the point that race is a result of “specific social relations and historical context in which it is embedded.” Race is not a concrete concept and will continue to change as it has through history.

    In the ‘Race isn’t So Black and White’ I really found the line that states “Faced with widespread fear that racial distinctions were losing significance, the South decided to define the problem away. People with any ascertainable black ancestry at all were defined as black under the law and stripped of basic rights.” It brings into account the historical events that shaped race as it is seen in American society today. Once again, the argument that race is social rather than biological is proven correct.

  9. Becky Esrock says:

    “Racial Formations”
    One point made by Omi and Howard in the article particularly caught my attention. The author makes the claim that “the presence of a system of racial meanings and stereotypes, or racial ideology, seems to be a permanent feature of US culture” (22). This is a bold statement that the author makes. Much of today’s society would like to think that with time the implications of being a certain race would deteriorate. However, as the article claims this may not be possible. The article addresses how race defines us; therefore, to remove this would be to eliminate part of who we are. As a result, race has become “permanent” in the society we live in. The integral role in plays in how we live our lives makes it impossible to remove. The significant role of race can be seen on a daily basis. It is constantly reflected in the movies and tv shows watched by the general public. The segregation and stereotypes evident expose a polarized community in a time that is supposed to be “racially accepting.”

    “Race Isn’t Always so Black and White”
    In Brent Staples article discussing the genetics behind race, he makes several important claims. One particularly important claim that incorporates the entire article is his statement that “racial distinctions are applied in this country are social categories and not scientific concepts.” This assertion about American society is defended throughout the article. He debunks the scientific hypothesis of race through stories of DNA genetics testing. In these tests, he finds evidence that people’s genetics are far more diverse than white or black. The divide therefore must come from a social perspective. From a genetics standpoint, people are “more alike than they are different.” This social aspect alluded to by Staples but covered in more depth in “Racial Formations” is extremely significant. How can a classification with such huge ramifications be so arbitrary and not “black and white” as many people would like for you to believe? Staples also addresses the history behind our complex ancestry. Staples asserts how a lot of it comes from relations between master and slave. Today many multi racial children are born, creating a grey space for racial classification. Interracial relations are a major topic of discussion and debate and have been for some time. While over time this has become more accepted by society, movies, such as Lakeview Terrace, portraying a very prejudicial society that does not accept mixed couples are being produced in present day.

  10. Kenneth Clady-Mason says:

    The quote that I find very interesting in Omi & Winant’s “Racial Formations” is where they state that “Differences in skin color and other obvious physical characteristics supposedly provide visible clues to differences lurking underneath” (p. 22). I think that this particular quote is interesting because it provides us with an understanding of the various interactions that people have when they encounter people outside of their ethnic groups. These approaches and interactions are usually manifested through media interpretation of ethnic groups; people then begin to shape their perspectives in accordance to these interpretations. This is where most stereotypes are born, and why people of all races pass both positive and negative judgment upon each other.
    The quote that I find very interesting in Staples’ “Race isn’t Always so Black and White” is where he states that “Racial distinctions as applied in this country are social categories and not scientific concepts” (paragraph 15). This is my favorite quote because its supports my theory that race is wasted distinctions and that culture is the only thing that matters. Race is nothing more than physical appearance; everything else is culture. History has proven that a person’s race does not determine anything that they can do in regards to the world of science. Everything that people could and could not do was according to social structure, such as racism and genocide. All races have proven that they are not inferior to any other. This quote justifies the fact that not race but culture and personality determines a person’s contribution to society.
    Both readings help me understand that race is nothing more than a way to divide people and pass judgment. Omi & Winant explain the purposes for racial distinction, while Staples helps us acknowledge the realization that race is not science but sociology. My experiences with the media relate to both articles effectively. In relation to Omi & Winant’s theory about the importance of racial distinction, I also used the media to determine the types of interactions I should have toward other people of other ethnicities. It has also caused me to have different expectations in regards to how people of other ethnicities will approach and interact with me. This shows how the media has the power to strongly encourage and sometimes force people to communicate with each other and people of other ethnicities in various ways. In relation to Staples’ article, I share the same perspective towards racial distinction. Regardless of what types of personalities and courses of actions are associated with race in the media, I refuse to believe that race actually determines those actions. Culture and personality become the variance of action, not the color of a person’s skin. People of all ethnic groups can all achieve the same things; we all just have different physical appearances.

  11. Alyx Smagacz says:

    From the article “Race isn’t always so black and white,” I find it interesting that the author, who is categorized as a black man finds out that he is part Asian. When this was said I wondered if this type of information would have changed any part of the racial discrimination in the past. If the technology we have today was available when there was slavery and the Civil Rights movement, would people have been treated differently? I wonder if the people who were white in appearance, but had black ancestry would be discriminated against for it, or if people like Brent Staples who were black in appearance, but had different types of ancestry would have been discriminated against any less due to their DNA.
    When reading “Racial Formations” my questions above seemed to be answered. The fact that they knew that “most whites have one-twentieth “Negro”ancestry” made it clear that they did not care about the DNA facts, only the appearance of the person. Then later in the article it says that “Elizabeth Tavlor describes the worst of fates to befall whites as “This descent rule requires Americans to believe that anyone who is known to have held a Negro ancestor is a Negro”, this contradicts the previous statement where they only go off of appearance. This seems to answer my question about how they would be treated, any person with black ancestry would be looked down upon and and black with white ancestry would still be looked down upon. But seeing as it was said that mast whites are part black, I believe that the discrimination was based off the appearance. I find it interesting that there are these contradictions in this article.

    • Totally correct—the whole pseudo-science of race is FULL of contradictions! Both of these articles are parsing those contradictions, one from a more personal/ontological angle, the other from a more historical/philosophical perspective.

  12. Jessica Steele says:

    Brent Staples wrote in his article that “none of us really know who we are, ancestrally speaking” in response to his surprising discovery that one-fifth of his ancestry was Asian. In the United States, it is often found that many people will determine their identity based largely upon the way they look. Race in America is frequently seen simply as the color of a person’s skin. Race, though, is much more than that and depends heavily on genetics, but people tend to disregard that.
    In Omi and Winant’s article, they state that “within the contemporary social science literature, race is assumed to be a variable which is shaped by broader societal forces.” This is saying that race today has become far more than simple genetics. Since race today plays a role in how people are judged in society, it is not surprising that society has played a role in developing what race is. Race is used as a basis for making judgments on people, and those judgments are based on assumptions and stereotypes that society has created for certain skin colors. Instead of being based on genetics, the definition of race is being highly influenced by society.

  13. Courtney King says:

    “This descent rule requires Americans to believe that anyone who is known to have held a Negro ancestor is a Negro, We admit nothing in between…. “Hypo-descent” means affiliation with the subordinate rather than the superordinate group in order to avoid the ambiguity of intermediate identity”(Winat 3). Hypo-descent is still a present theme in the way that race is categorized. A good example that was huge in the media was when now President Barack Obama was running for election. Although he was raised only by his white mother is called the African-American candidate instead of the mulatto or just the Democratic candidate. Obama’s race became a bigger issue than that of his policies and credentials.

    “Racial distinctions as applied in this country are social categories and not scientific concepts. In addition, those categories draw hard, sharp distinctions among groups of people who are more alike than they are different” (Staples). I had a friend in high school who was from Jordan and every time we had to fill in school forms or state forms she would ask whether she should check Asian or Other. Who a person is cannot be defined so easily into one of five categories. The USA had the idea to help classify who is in American but there are so many people that fall into many or none of the categories.

  14. Donald Duncan says:

    In “Racial Formation”, Omi and Winant states, “One of the first things we notice about people when we meet them is their race…Such an encounter becomes a source of discomfort and momentarily a crisis of racial meaning. Without racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity” (p 22). In terms of racially mixed people, this becomes significant because we do not know how to categorize them. This is interesting because, in the US, we can identify people based on the color of their skin. Without the classification of one race feature, it becomes hard for a people to claim what race they are. The US culture trains people to claim one race even if they are a part of different genealogy. In Staples “Race isn’t so black and white,” he explains how even thought people can have an idea about their race based on the color of their skin, they don’t realize that their ancestry have traces of other races. For example, Staples revelation of his Asian ancestry shocks him because he believes that he comes from European descendants. What surprised me from reading this article is that most people only know about their race on the basis of what they are told; however, people are ignorant enough to believe their race what they hear and see on the outside instead of digging for information on the inside.

  15. Karl Lathus says:

    In the “race and ethnicity” article I found that the quote; “Without a racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity.” is particularly disturbing and off putting to me. I feel as though a person who can only identify themselves through their racial background is one without a definitive individual social and cultural identity. They define themselves through a “race” and not as an individual. There are many identities in which I feel are more important for an individual to identify themselves with; assuming that without a racial identity a person is in danger of having no identity is completely bias. A self respecting individual should be capable of defining their identity through many different devices and not narrowing it down to one aspect of who they are as people.

  16. Kiarra Hodge says:

    “Race Isn’t So Black and White”
    I agree with Staples when he says that “nearly every family knew of someone born black who successfully passed as white to get access to jobs, housing and public accommodations that were reserved for white people only”. I can personally relate to this because my great-grandmother was able to do exactly that. She was a petite, fair-skinned, red headed black woman that did things during her time that most blacks weren’t able to do. She lived a “better life” because of her appearance. Being able to pass for white gave promise to that person’s life, and that’s just how things were.
    “Racial Formations”
    In the Omi and Winant article, I found the quote “content of such stereotypes reveals a series of unsubstantiated beliefs about who these groups are and what “they” are like”. Preconceived notions lead us to judge people before we actually get to know them, which is so common. There are even some people that actually believe stereotypes. It’s a shame that people’s inclinations about one person refers to an entire group based on their race. Plus defining who someone is or how they should act based on their race can be degrading.

  17. Linnea Zrioka says:

    Race Isn’t Always So Black And White
    “Thanks to white ancestry spread throughout the black community, nearly every family member knew of someone born black who successfully passes as white to get access to jobs, housing and public accommodations that were reserved for white people only.”
    I found this quote interesting because it shows how drastically different a black person’s life could be if they were able to pass as white. White people would have a severely different attitude towards the passing person if they knew they were black. It shows how race was defined socially and subjectively. I identified this quote with the book Passing by Nella Larsen, in which a female character is passing for white in society, but she is always fearful that her white husband would discover she was born black, but the risk gave her a more affluent life.
    Race As A Social Concept
    “One of the first things we notice about people when we meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race to provide clues about who a person is.”
    People tend to judge others by their appearance before they even get to know them. We assume we know something about a person just by the way they look and their race. The media reflects qualities about a certain race that viewers then believe as true and believe apply to every person within that race. I thought the quote was interesting because it seems wrong to say that we judge who a person is based on their race, but I also think it’s a common, subconscious reaction.

    • This phenomenon of passing, that you and Kiarra and other folks have brought up underscores that race is a social construction-in the “eye of the beholder.” If race was so essential, passing would be impossible. We’ll talk about this in class…

  18. Lisa Sorensen says:

    “Racial Formations”
    When Omi and Winant discuss racial identity, they talk about how one is identified by their race. They end this discussion stating, “Without a racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity.”(21) I found this quote interesting because of the fact that Omi and Winant are saying that we are identified by our race alone. They say that we use this identity to try and determine who a person is and what they are like and if we can identify ourselves with them. According to the authors, if we did not have race this would be difficult.

    “Race isn’t always so black and white”
    After taking the test himself, Brent Staples found out that half of his genetic make up is from Saharan Africa, while the other half is from Europe with one-fifth Asian. With this make up he is still considered to be black. He states that most people are shocked with the results of the test just like he was. Staples says, “Ostensibly white people who always thought of themselves as 100 percent European find they have substantial African ancestry. People who regard themselves as black sometimes discover that the African ancestry is a minority portion of their DNA.” I thought this quote was very interesting because the line between what defines black and what defines white is hazy. In Staples case I feel that he could of gone either way, however by his skin color society identifies him as black. However, he is considered black when only half of his make up is of African decent. I wonder why he is given this label when the other half of his make up is European and Asian.

  19. Joao Gomes says:

    Media has a strong role creating and reinforcing a variety of racial ideologies. As Michael Omi and Howard Winant note, the “US television… has led to the perpetuation of racial caricatures, as racial stereotypes serve as shorthand for scriptwriters, directors and actors.” The TV industry is responsible for creating a series of racial stereotypes that trap individuals in particular roles. Indeed, there are constant trends that might be observed in the US culture that reassign racial characteristics to particular groups. Comparatively with whites, Asians, blacks and Latinos are often cast for labor roles. For instance, Latina ladies are frequently seen as maids with thick Spanish accents ( “Desperate Housewives” and “Glee”). The Mexican actress Lupe Ontiveros estimates she has played more than 100 times a maid on screen, demonstrating the stereotypical American TV. This scenario also occurs in a variety of countries beyond the United States; in Portugal racial segregation is noticeable between blacks and whites. Indeed, black actresses are frequently assigned the role of a maid. In the article “Race isn’t so black and white” Brent Staples notes that race “categories draw hard, sharp distinctions among groups of people who are more alike than they are different.” These racial distinctions have social, economic and political impacts, creating a variety of assumptions and expectations. Encouraged by the media, each race is requested to act in a certain manner and society will not welcome different behaviors.

  20. Dominick Campagna says:

    The article “Racial Formations” by Michael Omi delivers many topics about the views and understandings people have on races. One statement by Omi is,” Film and television, for example, have been notorious in disseminating images of racial minorities which establish for audiences what people from these groups look like, how they behave, and who they are.” In today’s world, people are stereotyped through movies, magazines, internet, and television shows. We will see a certain group of people being used for entertainment and we as the audience take their actions to categorize others who are the same race. I believe that the media sometimes uses a negative vibe towards certain people and it causes the viewers to form a negative attitude towards that group. We should be judged by who we truly are as a person instead of who we could possibly be due to the actions of others that we should not be represented by as a whole.

    Brent Staples article, “Race isn’t always so black and white”, provides information that would be surprising to most people. If you receive a genetic screening, it can trace down your ancestral origins from many years back. I was shocked when Staples says, “Ostensibly white people who always thought of themselves as 100 percent European find they have substantial African ancestry.” It is quit amazing how there is a way to find out where you truly came from. It does make sense considering that long ago we all didn’t start here in America, so family dating back many years ago had to come from somewhere else where there where many other cultures they would come across. Staple then ends his article with this statement,” The ultimate point is that none of us really know who we are, ancestrally speaking. All we ever really know is what our parents and grandparents have told us.” I believe that I could relate to this statement. When ever I was asked where my family is from, I would respond with what my parents told me. I had no idea where my family is truly from and my parents could have told me anything and I would have believed it because they are my parents. There are people who don’t know much about their family history and I believe that it is not just important to know this information, but also it is interesting to find out!

  21. Whitney Davis says:

    “Racial distinctions as applied in this country are social categories and not scientific concepts. In addition, those categories draw hard, sharp distinctions among groups of people who are more alike than they are different” (Staples).

    It is sad to learn that race is a social construction based on something so superficial as appearance and not on science. It is disappointing because history and this article seem demonstrate that race was created for the purpose of determining who gets power instead of celebrating the diversity humankind offers this world. It is also ironic that throughout history the White man has used race as an excuse to feel superior next to the other races. It is ironic because there are actually more similarities than differences between a White and a Black man’s DNA.

    “One of the first things we notice about people when we meet them (along with their sex) is their race… when we encounter someone whom we cannot conveniently racially categorize – someone who is, for example, racially “mixed”… Such an encounter becomes a source of discomfort and momentarily a crisis of racial meaning. Without a racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity” (Omi & Winant).

    Being biracial (half Caucasian and half Latina) I can relate to some of the above. As I was growing up, I was raised with both cultures and therefore I feel very much a part of both. However, it is interesting to see how much race is actually based on appearance. Throughout my life I have noticed that people either are confused about my racial identity or limit me to one. For example, when I am in Mexico they automatically classify me as Caucasian. When I’m in the United States they classify me Latina. I find this quite interesting because each race thinks of me as the other even though I feel very much a part of both.

  22. Merissa Acosta says:

    The article called “Racial Formations” by Michael Omi and Howard Winant says “One of the first things we notice about people when we meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race to provide clues about who a person is. This is made painfully obvious when we encounter someone whom we cannot conveniently racially categorize… Without a racial identity, one is in danger of having no identity”. The first half of this quote is accurate in saying that when we meet someone, the first thing that comes to our mind is what race they are. We are guilty of it everyday whether conscious of it or not. The second part of this quote is taking racial identity too far. It is saying that someone without a racial identity has no identity. It is almost provoking people to identify someone fully based on how they look. If the world really did do that, I would have some serious identity problems because I do not look like a single race. I have such an extremely mixed background that I have been asked countless times what race I am because people don’t know. I actually like being unique and don’t feel that I need to be part of one race to make myself have the same identity as other people. Being so racially mixed is part of being an American, but not to the extreme sense that it is the only part of who we are.

    The article by Brent Staples called, “Race isn’t always so black and white” says, “Faced with widespread fear that racial distinctions were losing significance, the South decided to define the problem away. People with any ascertainable black ancestry at all were defined as black under the law and stripped of basic rights.” This really frustrates me because as years pass in the United States, more and more people are becoming racially diverse. I think that the white people in the South were having a power struggle with this diversity and wanted to keep their inequality alive. I don’t understand how someone can be categorized as black when that person most likely has so many other races in their heritage. This also forced many people who would have had a huge impact on society to remain powerless. If this law wasn’t passed, America would be a complete different place than it is today.

    • When our appearance (phenotype) confuses people, or is not easy to put into a box, it brings up interesting questions about the pseudo science of “race” as a whole! Your point in graph two is so important–we would be in a staggeringly different world if this had gone differently.

  23. Brittany Sheehan says:

    In the article by Omi and Winant, I found it interesting that the law being questioned stated that “anyone with at least one-thirty-second “Negro blood” to be black.” With the number of adoptions and some people who don’t have both parents listed on birth certificates, I wonder how courts can be certain that any individual contains at least 1/32 of blood from a different race. By having this law in place, it suggests that our biological history determines our role in society.
    “The ultimate point is that none of us really know who we are, ancestrally speaking. All we ever really know is what our parent and grandparents have told us.” I found this quote to be particularly interesting because I was able to relate to it on a personal level. On my dad’s side of the family we have always identified as Irish, but I later came to find out that my grandfather had changed his last name after his step-father adopted the children. The original last name was Polish, not Irish, which changes almost everything I’ve known about my family history for over 20 years. I have also noticed that my grandparents either don’t remember much about their ancestry or choose not to talk about it, so there isn’t much to go off of for future generations.

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