What is your highest level of education?
Where did you do your elementary education?
Was it a multi ethnic/racial school?
If YES. How did you interact with students from:
- Other races
Where did you undergo your high school education?
Was it a multi ethnic/racial school?
If YES. How did you interact with students from:
- Other races
In which college did you study?
What was your area of study?
Why did you choose it? Was there any racial influence towards the choice of your career?
Social Interactions and Experiences
What is your religion?
If Christianity, specify your denomination?
What is the race of your church minister/pastor?
What contribution does the church make towards your life?
Does your religious faith influence your attitude and interactions towards people from other racial/ethnic backgrounds?
If YES. Explain how.
What kind of people do you often interact with?
Are they from race/ethnic group?
If YES. How does it influence your interactions to people from different racial/ethnic groups?
Do you believe in the superiority/inferiority of races/tribes?
If YES. Why?
Which is the most?
- Superior (specify)..
- Inferior (specify).
What would you do if you become a leader?
How would you treat people from:
- Other races/ethnic groups.
In your opinion, do you think racism/ethnicity is an emotive issue in this country?
If YES. How can it be ultimately resolved?
If granted an opportunity, what would you do to end racism/ethnic identity in the country?
Indeed, America is a highly diversified society. It consists of people from different racial, ethnic, religious, political and geographical backgrounds. This has inevitably resulted into the formation of classism in which different people are placed in different social stratum depending on their history, dominance and beliefs. In this regard, many of them have seized this opportunity to create and cling to their identities. This paper analyzes the role of racial and ethnic constructions in the determining of individuals behavior. It uses an interview conducted with two cohorts from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The paper gives more information on how their identities determine their general attitude towards life, an obvious reason for the differences in the outcomes of these interviews.
Racial and Ethnic Constructions
As a matter of fact, every human being naturally belongs to a certain race or ethnic group. It is a natural thing which can not be disputed. The identity to a specific race or ethnic group has a direct impact on the lives of individuals. ‘It determines their attitude and interactions in their day to day endeavors’ (Bonilla-Silver, 2011, 44). While many people constructively use their identities, others misuse it. According to these interviews, it was established that each of the subjects is associated with a race and tribe. Surely, they are aware of their racial and ethnic backgrounds because it heavily influences their day to day interactions. To the first subject, it is normal to refer to one’s race and ethnicity when tracing the historical developments in their life. He says that he became aware of his racial affiliation while still a young child. As a white, he was introduced into their culture at an earlier age. This progressively continued during his school days until he became an adult. Contrarily, the second respondent has grown up to believe that racial and ethnic identity is realities with which everyone is confronted. However, he asserts that they should not be abused, but properly used to harmonize the society.
The results from these interviews indicate that people have a strong attachment to their racial and ethnic affiliations. As Bonilla-Silver (2009, 86) exclaims, ‘over the years, the society has been seriously disintegrated’ because people do not use their identities to benefit others. Instead, as the second respondent claims, they have created unique labels to refer to each of these groups. This has seen some groups regarded as superior while others inferior. However, this paper establishes that these are unnecessary stereotypes which do not benefit the society in any way. Instead, people should embrace one another and learn to live in a harmony. This is the only way through which the society can develop.
Effects of Race and Ethnic Constructions on the Interviewees
Definitely, racial and ethnic constructions have greatly impacted on the lives of these subjects. Being brought up in different environments, each of these subjects had different experiences which directly influenced their attitude and beliefs in life.
During the interview, the first respondent acknowledged that, as a white, he became conscious of his identity at a very tender age. Initially, he was not aware of what it meant to belong to a certain race or ethnic group in the society. Since he was from a well to do family, he was brought up in an affluent neighborhood in which he only interacted with the white community. This continued until he finished he joined the university where he had the first encounters with people from other racial and ethnic groups. As he accepts, this really changed his life. As a white, he believed in the superiority of their race. Thus, he believes that he is a more special person as compared to people from other groups.
Because of this, he has grown up to despise the blacks and other minority groups. He feels that they are inferior people who do not deserve any respect. This explains how a person’s identity can play a role in determining their life. Had it not been for such an up bringing, he would have become a totally different person. His close associations with the white race made him believe in self-superiority. Sadly, he clings to his ethnic clique to disregard other people and treat them as second class citizens. This makes him to selectively interact with people during his time in the office, restaurant or at home.
As he explains, this is not something to be proud of. His prejudicial mind has really interfered with his day to day interactions. A part from succeeding in his career, he recounts how, on several occasions, he found himself in troubles. At one time, he spat on a black teenager from Congo. This happened while he was boarding a train. Regrettably, this incident landed him into the wrong side of the law. After serving a six-month jail term, he unfortunately lost his job. The same thing had happened to him in college when he slapped a black girl. Although he survived an expulsion, he was suspended for one month. This made him fail his Mathematics course.
On the other hand, the second respondent agrees that race and self-identified ethnicity can be constructive if properly used. As a minority race, he believes that it is a natural gift from God to belong to a certain race or ethnicity. Unlike the first respondent, he was brought up in a plural neighborhood. His parents always insisted on equality. He was made to believe that racism is just about complexion, but has nothing to do with prejudice. This made him believe in fairness and justice. Wherever he was, he was always aware that he was not supposed to look down upon anyone who comes from a different racial or ethnic group.
Thus, they took the advantage to learn about equality and respect for all regardless of their identity. To them, diversity was not something to be prejudiced, but be used for uniting the society. They were taught that everyone is equal and should be accorded a similar treatment. These lessons have greatly impacted on his life. He has learnt to tolerate all the people regardless of their racial and ethnic identity since he knows ‘that it is the only right thing to do’ ( Karen, 1999, 82). During the interview, he demonstrated that it is not justified for anyone to take advantage of another person and oppress them because of their identity. Moreover, he indicated that his identity has made him to understand more about the plights of people. Thus, he is always ready to ‘respect others without thinking of their racial or ethnic affiliation’ (France, 2001, 117). He adds that he is free to interact with everyone so long as they can have something to share. This is an excellent behavior which enables him to lead a self-fulfilling life. He is proud of himself because he is free to interact with everyone at home, at work or in the street without ever thinking about their race or ethnicity.
While agreeing that self-identity is not bad, he says that it is a reality which must be accepted. However, as a conscious mind, he asserts that it should not be misused. Just the same way he has been respecting others, he expects other people to emulate him. To him, harmony is integral and should always be valued. He hates anything to with the negative peer influence. To him, the formation of extremist cliques ‘may threaten his peace of mind’ (Stephan and Hartmann, 2006, 117). This is why he distances himself from them because they can force him to lookdown upon other people who are perceived to be from a different race or ethnicity.
In conclusion, race and self-identified ethnicity is a reality. Evidently, each person has to belong to a specific race or ethnicity. Unfortunately, many people fail to understand that society is highly diversified. Therefore, they take the advantage of this situation to identify their groups with superior labels while downgrading others. This has not helped the society, but contributed in promoting disintegration and subsequent animosity amongst these groups. Instead, everyone should behave like the second respondent who understands the role of tolerance in uniting the society. The interview actually revealed that the second respondent is not content with his attitude which has greatly contributed to numerous agonies. Had it not been for his association with his ‘superior’ race, life would probably be much better. Although they heavily influence people’s lives, race and self-identified ethnicity should be positively used to help in uniting the society. After all, they are natural endowments which should be properly used for the benefit of all the people.
Bonilla-Silver, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009. Print.
Karen Brodkin How Jews Became White Folks & What They Say About Race in America. Rutgers University Press, 1999. Print.
Stephan Cornell and Douglas Hartmann. Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World Second Edition. Pine Forge Press, 2006. Print.
Twine, France. Retheorizing Race and Whiteness in the 21st Century: Changes and Challenges. London: Routledge Publishers, 2011. Print.
Twine, France. A White Side of Black Britain: Interracial Intimacy and Racial Literacy. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. Print.
Twine, France. Racism in a Racial Democracy. The Maintenance of White Supremacy in Brazil. Rutgers University Press, 1997. Print.