Seeing race as a social construct

When I teach about race in sociology classes, I often begin by asking students how and when the idea of race came about.

Lesson one? Race is not a biological reality - it’s a social construct.

That doesn’t mean there’s no biological basis to it at all - anyone can tell the difference between different skin tones and understand the role genetics play in passing on traits. However, if you were to try to divide the world into discrete racial categories based on genes, you couldn’t.

Where, exactly, in North Africa would you draw the line between black people and white people? Where in Central Asia is the split between Middle Eastern or European and Asian?

 

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