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Question

Original Posts: In 600+ words (this would be around 2.5 pages in MS Word), please respond to the following prompt(s)/question(s). Remember, collectively, your posts will comprise a large portion of your grade. Please make sure you write a well-organized and critical reaction to my question(s) below. Before posting your reaction, I recommend your create your response in Microsoft Word so you can revise, edit and save before you post. It might take you a couple days to compose your post. 


For this seminar, you will practice doing some research on your own! You will find and use 2-4 sources to complete the assignment. 

Like gender, race is a fundamental part of identity politics in our culture. 

For this seminar you will write an analysis of an issue surrounding race in the US. 



– First, think about the definition of race: how might the social construct of race shape the way race becomes a political discussion? Do race and gender have any commonalities in the way that they are constructed and the political repercussions of their definitions? Tip: “Google” the phrase “Race as a “Social Construction” and review the current discourse to get the wheels turning.

Craft a “mini-essay” (about 4-6 paragraphs, 600+ words) using ideas from 2-4 texts/sources you found (could be an article, video, documentary, podcast, etc.) firsthand experience, and/or any other insight you can offer to this conversation. In other words, What’s your Critical Reaction? Remember that we are building toward an understanding of identity politics; shape your responses to that end. Make sure to use summary, paraphrase and quote to accurately and succinctly explain ideas in each source.

Answer

Social Construction of Race and Gender

Race plays a critical role in contemporary identity politics. To understand this influence, it is ideal to examine how the idea of identity politics has evolved and the role that race has played. This way, one gets an idea of how race is socially constructed to serve specific political objectives. In America, identity politics gained prominence during the 1960s when the civil rights movement campaigned for major changes in the rights of racial minorities, primarily African Americans. In this regard, the idea of race was socially constructed by both the oppressed civil rights campaigners and dominant white supremacists as part of stage-setting in the unfolding political process. Black participants started using the concept of Black Power when expressing their views. More than ever before, African Americans started embracing the idea of pride and self-love as part of the fight against liberal racism that had been perpetrated by white Americans for centuries.

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The rise of identity politics during the 1960s triggered fundamental changes in the social construction of change. These changes continue to be seen even today across all social-cultural contexts in America. The contemporary political environment continues to be profoundly influenced by the question of race. For example, in 2008, President Obama succeeded in mobilizing racial minorities across America and uniting them based on the theme of change. This development may be viewed as a continuation of the identity-politics trend that started during the 1960s. It shows that the social construct of race can indeed shape the way race becomes a political discussion (Haney-López, 1994). When a presidential candidate inspires racial minorities to take pride in their racial diversity and to unite with a common goal of changing their country, he is essentially using race as a starting point of political debate. In this debate, the newly-inspired racial minorities may demand wide-reaching changes aimed at promoting their access to economic opportunities.

Like race, gender has also been socially constructed and defined in a way that profoundly influences political discussions (Shih, Bonam, Sanchez & Peck, 2007). Many female politicians have risen to political prominence by advancing the idea that gender inequality is the biggest problem of our time (BatTzedek, 1999). Moreover, they promote the notion that their continued membership in the powerful political elite is one of the ways through which gender equality is manifested. Such views may continue to take hold in society even when the political actions of female members of the powerful elite are geared towards perpetuating gender inequality and maintaining the status quo. Similarly, many people view Barack Obama’s rise to the country’s top job as a win for Black Power simply because he is of African American descent. Such people may continue to hold those views even in situations where President Obama appears to be promoting the political interests of whites over those of blacks and other racial minorities.

In summary, the argument here is that race and gender do not constitute a pre-existing reality, but rather they are simply social constructs that people use to build certain brands of identity politics. The resulting political identities tend to gain traction in society because they provide a platform through which the status quo can be changed. Many political developments of the twentieth century, including the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and Obama’s rise to presidency demonstrate that the best way of promoting a political idea is to build a brand of identity politics that is anchored on the social construction of race and gender.

References

BatTzedek, E. (1999). Identity Politics and Racism: Some Thoughts and Questions. Rain and Thunder, 5, Online.

Haney-López, I. (1994). Social Construction of Race: Some Observations on Illusion, Fabrication, and Choice. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Law Scholarship Repository.

Shih, M., Bonam, C., Sanchez, D. & Peck, C. (2007). The Social Construction of Race: Biracial Identity and Vulnerability to Stereotypes. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 13(2), 125–133.

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