In it’s meaning in society. The main question

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In Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s article Racial Formations, they introduce the unsuccessful case of Susie Guillory Phipps who sued the Louisiana Bureau of Vital Records to change her racial classification from black to white, in efforts to discuss this social construct of race in the United States. They explained how Phipps was legally “black” according to her birth certificate which was in accordance to a 1970 state law that states anyone with at-least one-thirty second “Negro Blood” to be black. This legal battle raised controversy about the idea of race and it’s meaning in society. The main question here is what is race and how is it thought of as a biological concept. Many scientists have attempted to determine racial categories, however now they attempt to separate it from social determination. They argue more that the truth of race is within the innate characteristics. Race as a social concept is also a major factor here. Omi and Winant state that “racial categories and the meaning of race are given concrete expression by the specific social relations and historical context in which they are embedded”. White is considered “pure” and any racial intermixture makes a person “nonwhite”. A key term they used was “hypo-descent” which means being associated with the subordinate group to avoid being questioned of your true identity. If you have any negro descent you are considered black. This alludes to what the Susie Guillory Phipps case represented as a racial logic. Racial formation is a phrase used to understand racial categories in this society and how they shape social meanings. One interesting idea about race is that we use it to depict who a person is. With the use of stereotypes, people get preconceived notions of what a specific racial group would look like. Omi and Winant’s article on racial formations helped me understand the topic of race and ethnicity in American life because they explain the major theories that have proved the reason for why we separate races based on physical characteristics. Skin color differences are essentially thought to determine physical capabilities, artistic temperaments, and intellectual abilities in an individual. I liked how the article mentioned how film and television usually disseminate images of racial minorities. It is evident that the media is able to dominant societies perspective of how a certain race is “supposed” to be seen. Racialization is what this is specifically. It is this historical development of what race is. It is an ideology where there are pre-existing conceptual proponents that occurred due to the challenging political projects to propose similar proponents differently. Furthermore, they work to interpret racial identities. The people of high authority in society are the ones who really determine a whole category for a group. Reading this article, I was able to differentiate between what racialization is in comparison to stereotypes. Racialization is more of a historical and ideological development of race that is set by higher powers that make decisions for the society and it is a process of putting the same type of people in one category. For example, the Asian minority typically get grouped into one category as if they are all the same, although this is not the case. Asian Americans include different ethnic groups such as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Stereotypes are more so a fixed idea of someone or something in particular that has always been seen this way. For example,  there is a criminal stereotype for black people. Omi & Winant stress that for us to alienate racialization we must break the habits of thought involving discrimination, social stratification, cultural domination, and so on. These authors definitely proved their argument when they emphasized the need for change in order to attain racial formation which is a socially constructed identity. Throughout history, race has been a sensitive topic and an unstable concept which has been constantly altered due to politics. Reading this article I can better understand how race became so socially constructed overtime. 

Categories: United States


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