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Understanding the Construction of Race

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1. Describe what is meant by the social construction of race. How can this concept be applied to Americans from multiple racial backgrounds?

2. Discuss how racism can be viewed as both functional and dysfunctional for a society. Be sure to include the three major sociological views in your discussion.

3. Define the term model minority and discuss which minority group is perceived as living up to that image. Why do you think other minorities have not been as fortunate in obtaining a "model" status?

4. Describe how affirmative action programs are perceived by some to have both helped and hindered the mission and goals of certain minority groups. Give examples to support your answer.

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This solution will assist the student in understanding the construction of race and what affirmative action is.

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1. Describe what is meant by the social construction of race. How can this concept be applied to Americans from multiple racial backgrounds?

The social construction of race basically means that society determines how race is defined and associated. So this means that the definition of race can change with respect to time, generations and cultures and in different countries.

Some scholars, from the United States, state that there isn't any coherent, fixed definition of race. This is based on the way race has been documented over time.

To give you an example, James McPherson, a historian, points out that White U.S. Southerners, not only saw themselves as a separate race from Blacks, but also saw themselves as a race apart from White U.S. Northerners. Writing about the 1800s, he explained that there were "ethnic" differences between the White Southerners and the White Northerners.

In Europe, around the same time, William Ripley sought to delineate race by head type (the actual shape of the human head).

Other scholars articulate race as a way for the powerful to control people through classification.

When society determines what constitutes "White," "Black," Brown," "Yellow," or "Red," it is a social construct and can differ in meaning in different societies. The history of race has taken into account geography, language, ancestry, and socially accepted impressions as its basis. Some argue that race is an idea, not a fact.

In the U.S., there is the social construct of the commonly known "one drop rule" where a person is labeled as "Black" when any fore parent or ancestor is Black even if that person may not be visibly Black.

To provide you with a comparison, in Canada, race is constructed differently where people don't need to disaggregate themselves. They can be identified as their multiple races. What Canada has done when they ask for you to identify yourself on an official form is that they ask for what you "visibly" look like. This is neither better nor worse; it is just a different way of constructing race.

In the U.S., people who are multiracial usually have to classify themselves into a category other than "White," such as "Black," "Hispanic," or "Asian." Asian in this context does not necessarily include Indians from India, ...

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