Chapter Two: Fleras
Chapter Two: The Politics of Race
INTRODUCTION: RACE MATTERS
Race: “Culturally defined as a biologically based social construct involving the classification of persons
(typology) into hierarchal categories (taxonomy) on the bass of real or imagined characteristics. Race has
no empirical validity or scientific justification; nevertheless, people continue to believe it does and act
accordingly, thus reinforcing the sociological axiom that phenomena do not have to be real to be real in
Race mattered for primarily these reasons:
• a tool for justifying control and inequality
• an excuse for doing the inexcusable
• a framework for explaining human differences
• a rationalization for salving guilty consciences
Reifying: “Exercising the belief in unchanging human characteristics that are uniform and
stable within a certain category and impervious to social context or historical
• Race matters not because it’s real, but because it’s real in its consequences.
• Race is not real in the empirical sense, but because it is socially constructed, people perceive it as real.
• Canada is not a race-neutral society. It has been built upon centuries of racial division and
THE RACE CONCEPT: THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION
The focus of race has shifted from being a thing (a biological entity) to being a social construct.
Racialization: Involves a process in which individuals or activities are identified, labelled
(or stereotyped), and infused with negative racial connotations. With
racialization, racial significance is either structurally embedded within
institutional structures (“racialized inequality”) or cognitively embued by
association with particular groups, activities, or outcomes (e.g., crime may
be racialized by linking gangs with black youth).
Race relations does not exist in the sense of one “race” compared to another “race”. Instead, relations that
have been defined by reference to race have become “racialized”.
THE RACE CONCEPT: FROM BIOLOGICAL REALITY TO SOCIAL CONSTRUCT
- The Human Genome Project (2000), revealed that humans are 99.9 % genetically identical.
- Humans therefore all belong to a single biological species. There is phenotypic and genotypic variation,
but this variation only exists at the most superficial level. - From the 18th century onwards, a slew of classificatory schemes (or racial typologies) evolved. The most
common consisted of a threefold division into “Caucasoid” (white), “Negroid” (black), and “Mongoloid”
(Asian or Oriental) These categories were classified by physical features
- Most social scientists have rejected the validity of the race concept. There are many arguments against
this, but the most common include:
- Race cannot explain reality because discrete and distinct racially pure people do not exist.
- The integrity of these racial typologies (the classificatory schemes) are open to question because there is
a high degree of variation within these groups. (Example: there are many physical differences within the
category “Caucasoid”, just as within the other classificatory groups)
- Race concept is known to be confused with human variation. Differences do exist between humans, but
races do not exist as distinct populations with fixed inventories of characteristics.
- There is no evidence that some groups are smarter or faster, etc. Human behaviour involves genes,
culture, and social structure.
- A consequence of the race concept is a racial hierarchy (one race is superior than another).
- The concept of race has no biological validity or scientific justification. However, the concept of race