Leaving Race Behind
The American Scholar, pp. 20-30
13 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2013
Date Written: Spring 2006
This paper argues that American society ought to move away from employing racial categories in favor of either ethnicity or the renunciation of such descriptors. It argues that race is both socially-constructed and arbitrary yet, at the same time, is treated as immutable and serves as the source of significant social tension and division. Yet, despite these facts, both the government and social scientists continue to legitimize racial divisions through surveys like the Census which force individuals to racialize themselves. The paper suggests that the growing Hispanic population places the country at a crossroads: will it push the members of this group into one or more racial groupings or will it encourage them to think in terms of history and heritage — categories far less prone to sowing division and discord? Finally, having made the case for the latter, the paper proposes a number of solutions for addressing the harms of historical and systemic racism without simultaneously propping up racial distinctions.
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