Race from a Sociological Perspective

Scholars have developed a theory that states, as soon as you are born you are given a racial label. This is because race is not something people are born with instead is something society has created (Desmond and Emirbayer).

Race as a social construct

Race in itself is largely confused as an idea that was created by nature, but in actuality, the term race is a social construct created by social interaction to label people based on origin, physical characteristics, and in some cases, centered around social class.

The term race leads directly into the idea of racial domination; it is an action that occurs when whites either consciously or subconsciously commit acts that oppress an opposite race (Desmond and Emirbayer). Racial domination is seen in institutional settings, and also on an interpersonal level. In many cases, the racial domination that occurs on an interpersonal level happens without the violator realizing it.

The idea of racial dominance can relate heavily to white privilege.

Racism is something that gives people of color a large disadvantage in life, and in many cases, white people are oblivious to the fact that when those disadvantages are placed on people of color, they receive many advantages just because they are white (McIntosh). This tells us that white privilege is unearned and unjust in all aspects of society. Many people who possess the advantages of white privilege, don’t realize the dominance it gives them for everyday tasks, and on the contrary, can make tasks seen as simple, complicated and unattainable to many people of color.

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In the modern day, we can see examples of the fallacy of fixed racism in society. Many white people nowadays believe that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not the people who are committing hate crimes and using derogatory language, but this article proves that racism looks different in society today. We are all apart of a larger picture where non-white people are oppressed not only living their day to day lives but also when they are trying to get a new job or obtain wealth.

History has built a foundation upon the opinion that white is the more dominant race, and because many white folks choose not to address the privilege they are given, the cycle of oppression continues (McIntosh). Racism is based on the assumption others make on a person of color’s background. According to the article ‘Optional Ethnicities: Only For Whites?,’ people with a European ancestry have a larger range of social mobility that allows them to choose which ethnic background they would rather individually identify with, which is unlike many Americans with non-European backgrounds whom society doesn’t give that privilege to. Symbolic ethnicity is an idea that ethnicity is chosen and that choice comes without any real social costs (Waters). Unlike many Americans with European descent, non white folks who aren’t given the privilege to chose the ethnic group they wish to identify with have to worry about where they live, the job they have, what groups of people they associate with, and the opportunities they are given that will help their chances to succeed in America (Waters).The reason this topic is relevant when thinking about racism is because of the inequalities seen between the separate ethnic groups; European and non-European. On one hand, McIntosh explains that Americans with European descent enjoy keeping ties with their ethnic background of choice because it brings them a sense of uniqueness because a large portion of American is from the same background. Whereas even though folks from non-European descent may not resonate with the ethnicity society labels them with, it still influences their life heavily. In many cases, white people are oblivious to the fact that they even have the privilege to choose what part of the world they want to identify with, which again relates to white privilege.

Applying the Sociological Perspective

Up until this point I have never thought that racism has shaped my life experiences or given me privileges that many people of other races do not receive, but after analyzing, ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,’ and ‘What is Racial Domination?’ and reflecting on the points made by these sociologists, it is very evident that racism affects everyone in America today, regardless their skin color. I think it would be easy for a sociologist to view my life and tell me that I possess the advantages of white privilege. An opportunity that I have been given in my life so far that could have potentially been different if I was a nonwhite citizen was when I got my first job. I was a receptionist that cleaned at night when no one was there.

The manager of the salon put trust in me to be respectful to the business and not cause trouble. I was given the opportunity to make some extra money at night, and in some institutions, it is difficult for people of color to obtain a career that they can make enough money to just avoid the poverty line and provide for their families. Scholar Peggy McIntosh stated in her article that, white privilege is the built-in advantage white folks receive based on their race. Scholars would also say that this is also an example of racial dominance on an institutional level because I was given an extra opportunity that would be difficult for most people of color to obtain. I think that the fact that I had the ability to be in a company alone, without the manager knowing much about my character, displays white privilege, racial dominance and the upper hand we are given in and out of the workplace.

In society today it is sadly not uncommon to hear reports over law enforcement bringing their own racist, preconceived notions into the real world, and blowing small altercations out of proportion. In my life, I have only been pulled over one time for speeding and I had been let off with a warning. After reading about white privilege in Peggy McIntosh’s article, I can recognize that a scholar would point out that if I were a person of color, a simple situation as small as speeding could be taken to another level, but because of the stigma placed on people of color and my white privilege, I was let off without any consequences, which isn’t the case for most non-white folks because of the disadvantages that come from society’s stereotypes.

Black Lives Matter Campaign

I think the Black Lives Matter campaign is showing white people that even when it comes to basic human rights, like law enforcement, we are more privileged than people of color because of the ideals society has been built on. While white privilege has backed my other examples, this example focuses on the social mobility I am given to choose what ethnicity I socially identify with, just because of my European background. When my family and I found out we had a large Irish ancestry the first thing that my dad said was, ‘sweet now we can REALLY celebrate St. Patrick’s day,’ and we all just laughed.

After reading Mary Water’s article, ‘Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only?’ I realized that this action is exactly what scholars expect of Americans with a European ancestry to say; we were displaying symbolic ethnicity. Scholars would view a family like mine as one with a large amount of social mobility and ability to choose which social identities through ethnicity we wish to characterize ourselves with. Americans with European descent do not have much to worry about when it comes to their ethnic background because it does not heavily influence our lives unlike many people of non-European descent. Reflection I had always viewed racism as something that didn’t affect me because I am not a racist person, but because I am white and carry white privilege with me wherever I go and do not recognize it, I am still apart of a larger issue.

After reading and analyzing, ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,’ ‘What is Racial Domination,’ and ‘Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only?,’ I realize that even if I am not contributing to the problem, the direct effect of black oppression is white privilege. Prior to reading these articles, I thought white privilege was just about white people having an easier time fitting into society. Now I realize that not only do I carry all the advantages of living in regular society, but I also have the advantage of choosing how others view me based off what part of my ethnic background I want to . I think as I go through the motions of everyday life I will start to recognize situations that would be harder if I were nonwhite and not only appreciate that, but also try and make people of color feel more accepted and safe around me because change starts with one person.

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Race from a Sociological Perspective. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/race-from-a-sociological-perspective/

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