"Race": A Questionable Concept

by msalah on September 12, 2016 - 9:42pm

Through these past weeks’ lectures and discussions, I was able to improve my understanding of the concept of “race” and the impact that it has on our modern society. In today’s generation, people will often associate various races to specific things; from Arabs and bombs, to Mexicans and illegal immigration, these affiliations, meant as jokes, show how much the concept of race has become omnipresent and is part of our everyday life. I have the bad habit to sometimes use these stereotypes unconsciously, I may not mean any harm by doing so, however, I now understand that contributing to such racial jokes demonstrates that I am not only accepting the social construct that race is, but I am also encouraging it. A concept that is scientifically erroneous and invalid since, after studying the matter for many years, anthropologists concluded that “race” could be influenced by natural selection, sexual selection as well as someone’s environment.

I usually identify myself as being in the “Arab” category of race; not only because of my cultural background, but also because of my Arabic traits, such as my: skin color, brown eyes and curly hear. However, I now understand that physical characteristics are simply a genetic trait that is not greater than any other trait. Such a statement can be confirmed by Jared Diamond who, through his article “Race Without Color”, explained how “the problem with racial classification is the lack of concordance; humans could be classified by various other biological genes that would put them in completely different categories than if we use the traditional classification. Such a method, which puts emphasis of skin colors, can be ambiguous since there is no clear factor that gives us the ability to classify humans in races and sub-races that are proportionally distinctive” (Diamond, 1994, page.7, para. 4-5). I completely agree with the statement above, I believe that society is using skin color to define someone’s race only because it is external and more visible than any other trait. This makes it seem more meaningful, however, “race” is too broad of a term to take such an important place in our society. Based on my personal experiences, I found that an important source of racial stereotypes attributed to different culture, ethnicity or skin color, came from mass media. I have witnessed, in various movies and TV shows, numerous racial stereotypes; from the “nerdy” Asians, to the uneducated and violent Black person. These racial prejudices have a major influence on the audience watching and a direct impact on how we, as humans, view each other and ourselves. Other medias treating worldwide information can also enforce racial stereotypes through the association of crimes with certain racial groups such as terrorism with Arabs, or violence against the police with Black people. This can trigger fear among the population and potentially increase racial discrimination.

A major change concerning “race” should be made in our society, this particular concept has had a heavy impact on history and is the roots of numerous conflicts. However, before finding a rational definition that holds all the elements of race, society should not put so much meaning into a word that can be so questionable.

Diamond, J. (2016, Winter). Race Without Color. In A. Nouvet (Ed.), Anthropology 381-101-LA: The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism. Saint-Lambert, QC: Champlain.


This made me start thinking about how this issue affects people in this other situation. Stereotypes are extremely common and extremely offensive. I have to also admit that I sometimes make stereotypes towards people without even realizing I am being racist. It goes to show how acceptable it is in society and its not something we should be proud of. The more we say racial things, the more we encourage it. This needs to come to an end. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in society, we should all try to be more conscious of thinking before we speak. We see racial comments in school, on the streets, on buses, in T.V shows and in movies. It’s all around us. Racial discrimination is the cause of social conflicts. I grew up hearing jew jokes. I am fully jewish and in middle school, this group of boys would throw quarters at me every day and laugh. They also believed I was always good at math and with numbers since most jews are accountants. I would hate these stereotypes since I am awful at math and felt like I had to live up to these expectations. Racial prejudices have a major influence with others and most especially, with ourselves.

The title drew me in to this post, because I wanted to see how race could be questionable. The title refers to the fact that skin color is not a good way to classify people. It said there is not a good way to classify people at all, and I completely agree with this. This post goes on to talk about stereotypes of certain races and just general feelings about different types of people. I am from a suburban, white community. We do not encounter many different types of people, and because of this, other races are the minority here. Therefore, stereotypes are here, and people do feel certain ways about others. All of the stereotypes discussed towards the end of this post are prevalent. I believe this is very, very wrong. Stereotypes are very wrong. But my town and my area are not the only places where these stereotypes are around. Suburban, white communities across the country think the same way about people of other races. I definitely agree that this needs to change. These stereotypes need to go away, and race cannot matter anymore. Everyone is equal, and all people across the country need to start acting like it.

I connected to the concept of stereotypes in your post. I often fall into the trap of using them, and whenever I catch myself I feel terrible about it. I grew up in a very non-diverse community, which made stereotypes all that much more common. In my experience, when there is little diversity there is little evidence to challenge stereotypes. Even majority groups can fall into a stereotype mold. “Entitled”, “stuck- up” and “basic” where all terms often used to describe the kids in my high school. Why? Because we were a predominantly white, high income community. While not the same, stereotypes can apply to everyone. Moreover, I agree with your analysis that mass media is encouraging stereotyping. Weather it is casting a character of a certain race for a TV role, or (and in my opinion more often) the angle from which the news reports stories, media does add to stereotype definitions. Recently the “Black Lives Matter” movement has caught the media's attention, but when watching I often feel like the news is portraying all policemen as racist, or all blacks violent, or that there is no hope for a solution. This portrayal by the media definitely impacts the way I talk about race issues. Weather it is me talking about race or I am hearing others speak about the issue stereotypes are often used -- mostly without meaning to do so. I have also heard race is used as an excuse for behavior, making both parties wrong. This experience not only made me very mad but, made me realize the impact that stereotypes have on the way people perceive societal norms. I was able to connect to your post because I have seen stereotypes impact my own life and the conversations being had about race. Finally, I would like to say I think you do a good job supporting your claim not only with experience but with fact.

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