Defining your racial and ethnic identities has to do with how you classify race and identity and how others categorize them as well. Race refers to the conception that people can be categorized into groups based on skin color, hair texture, and facial features. Japanese is an example of a racial group. Ethnicity refers to a group of people who share a sense of connectedness based on national origin, language, or religion. Irish-Catholic is an example of an ethnic group. The term culture also appears in discussions about race and ethnicity. Culture refers to shared attitudes and behaviors, such as customs. People of the same race and ethnicity often share culture as well, and you may notice some overlap between culture, race, and ethnicity.
There are different approaches used to define racial and ethnic identities. Your text emphasizes an approach called constructionism. Constructionists argue that definitions of race and ethnicity cannot be separated from social processes, such as political, legal, economic, and other outside influences. They believe that these outside influences “construct” definitions of race and ethnicity, and definitions change as social processes change. For example, black children in the 1950s may have felt they were not as valued, not as competent, and not as “good” as white children because social processes at the time supported these ideas. Political and economic influences favored white children over black children. Social processes in the current era reject favoring white children over black children. Constructionism has both benefits and limitations when you consider your own racial and ethnic identities.
To prepare for this Discussion:
With these thoughts in mind:
Post a brief description of your racial and ethnic identities; that is, how do you define your race and ethnicity? After reading about the constructionist model, explain how it influences your racial and ethnic identities. In your explanation, include specific references that are personal to your racial and ethnic identity. Finally, briefly explain what you see are the benefits and limitations of a constructionist approach to one’s identity.
Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.
PSYC 3005: Racial and Ethnic Identities in America | Week 1
Welcome to Week 1 of Racial and Ethnic Identities in America
On January 20, 2009, on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He also became, in that moment, the first African American president, a singular identity that often supersedes all else. For many citizens, the symbolism of the historical inauguration moment was powerful and evocative of fulfilled aspirations of prominent civil rights leaders from the nation’s history. It was a distillation of the dreams of generations. And yet, in his own words, President Obama describes how his identities are multiple and complex:
“I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. […] I’ve gone to some of the best schools in American and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave-owners—an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles, and cousins of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”
President Obama’s experiences growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia, coming to terms as a youth with his identity by going by the nickname “Barry,” and being part of a multiracial family all contribute to his beliefs, worldview, and self-perceptions. How would you characterize his racial and ethnic identities? How might his own characterizations of his identity differ with how others see him?
This week, you will explore the meaning of race and ethnicity and the distinction between the two. You also will consider related concepts such as constructionism and social class.
Photo Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images
Review the Course Preview and read the Course Introduction
Rosenblum, K. E., & Travis T. C. (2016). The meaning of difference: American constructions of race and ethnicity, sex and gender, social class, sexuality, and disability (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Section I, “Framework Essay”
Section I, Reading 1, “‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity”
Section I, Reading 4, “Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America”
Section I, Reading 7, “Whiteness as an ‘Unmarked’ Cultural Category”
Section I, Reading 3, “The Evolution of Identity”
Select one of the following articles to review for your Application this week. (You do not need to read them all.)
Adeleke, O. A., Bamidele, R., & Omokeji, R. (2014). Indigenous capitalist class, social stratification, and life chances in contemporary Nigeria society. Public Policy and Administration Research, 4(7), 11–15. Retrieved from http://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/PPAR/article/viewFile/14378/14686
Mukherjee, R. (2000). Caste in itself, caste and class, or caste in class. Journal of World-Systems Research, 6(2). doi:10.5195/jwsr.2000.229. Retrieved from http://jwsr.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/jwsr/article/view/229
Rankin, B., Ergin, M., & Göksen, F. (2014). A cultural map of Turkey. Cultural Sociology, 8(2), 159–179. doi:10.1177/1749975513494878
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.
The U.S. Census is a population survey designed to count the number of people residing in the United States (citizen and non-citizen alike), along with various types of demographic data about them, such as age, sex, race, and homeownership rates. The purpose of the Census is to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. (Increases or decreases in state populations result in gaining or losing seats in the House.) It is also used to plan public works projects and plan for emergency relief, disease control, and labor initiatives.
Before you explore this week’s topics of racial and ethnic identity construction and social class, consider how racial and ethnic data is collected in the United States through the Census. Does the Census capture the data accurately and fairly? Is it even important to collect data about race and ethnicity? After you complete this week, you are encouraged to revisit your Spark answer to see if your thoughts and beliefs have evolved regarding this issue.
To prepare for this Spark:
Post your thoughts about the way the United States collects information about race and ethnicity on the Census form. In addition, what would you keep the same about the way race and ethnicity information is collected? What would you change?
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