Tuesday October 1 Readings, Lopez, Davis, Hammond, Blee
The Social Construction Of Race by Lopez
- Describing the way that biological arguments about race continues to be used in the
legal system even though scientific research has concluded that there is no
biological basis for race.
- There is no genetic characteristics possessed by all lacks but not by non-blacks, and
o One’s race Is not determined by a single gene or gene cluster, nor are races
marked by important differences in gene frequencies (the rates of
appearance of certain gene types)
- Greater genetic variation exists within the population typically labeled black and
white than between these populations
o This finding refutes the supposition that racial divisions reflect fundamental
- The view that people are either “Caucasoid” “negroid” or “mongoloid” is a primitive
thought dating back to the middle ages, this is wrong.
- The history of science has been the history of failed efforts to justify social beliefs
- When we think of a white person, we think of a Caucasoid. However think about the
Chinese or Japanese. Are they not fair as well? This is one of the difficulties of
constructing races solely by reference to physical characteristics.
- Even the congress and supreme court describe a racial group as “a set of individuals
whose identity as such is distinctive in terms of physical characteristics or biological
- Human interaction, rather than natural differentiation must be seen as the source
and continued basis for racial categorization.
- The process by which racial meanings arise has been labeled racial formation
- Racial formation includes both the rise of racial groups and their constant reification
in social thought.
- Lopez uses the term “racial fabrication” in order to highlight four important facets of
the social construction of race:
o Humans rather than abstract social forces produce races
o As human constructs, races constitute an integral part of a whole social
fabric that includes gender and class relations
o The meaning-systems surrounding race change quickly rather than slowly
o Races are constructed relationally, against one another, rather than in
- “Fabrication” implies the workings of human hands, and suggests the possible
intention to deceive (ie. Racial fabrication)
- Because races are constructed, ideas about race form part of a whole social fabric
into which other relations, among them gender and class, are woven
- The process of racial fabrication continuously melt down, mold, twist and recast
races: races are not rocks, they are plastics.
Reproductive Rights by Angela Davis
- Argues that racist sterilization abuse is an important part of the debate on
reproductive rights in America - The racist deeds of predecessors, who had advocated birth control as well as
compulsory sterilization as a means of eliminating the “unfit” sectors of the
- It was not until the media decided that the causal sterilization of two Black girls (the
Relf sisters) in Montgomery, Alabama was a scandal worth reporting that the
Pandora’s box of sterilization was open, but by then it was practically too late to
influence the politics of the abortion rights movement.
o A 12 year old girl and her 14 year old sister who were irrevocably robbed of
their ability to bear children.
o Surgery was ordered by the HEW-funded Montgomery Community Action
Committee, funded by the US Department of Health
- Nial Ruth Cox, 18 year old girl who was threatened to have her welfare payments to
her family cancelled if she refused to submit to surgical sterilization
- Dr. Clovis Pierce In the 1970’s insisted that pregnant welfare women should “ have
to submit to voluntary sterilization if they wanted him to deliver the babies”
o “Tired of people running around having babies and me having to pay for
them with my tax money”
- By 1976 24% of all native American women of childbearing age have been sterilized
- Native American, chicana, Puerto Rican, and black women continue to be sterilized
in disproportionate numbers
- It is hardly coincidental that the increasing incidence of sterilization has kept pace
with the high rates of unemployment.
- While women of colour are urged at every turn to become permanently infertile,
white woman are urged by the same forces to reproduce themselves.
- There has been a reluctance to support the demands of the campaign against
sterilization abuse, for those women are often denied their individual rights to be
sterilized when they desire to take this step.
Blee’s The First Ku Klux Klan
- Blee’s study of women in the KKK in America shows how white supremacy offered
some women a route to racial power based on gender identity
- The rituals and organized terrorism of the first KKK were based on symbols of white
masculinity and vulnerable white femininity.
- The KKK summoned defeated sons of the Confederacy to defend the principles of
white supremacy against interference by Northerners and retaliation by freed black
- The Klan continued to merge ideas of sexual menace with those of racial and