Term Paper: Race: Hazards and Benefits Corporeal

Pages: 8 (2789 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race  ·  Buy for $19.77

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Based on recent trends and the findings of the above studies, the life expectancy of African-American males should continue to increase due to increasing incarceration rates. The Bureau of Justice Statistics predicts that 1 in 3 African-American males born in 2007 are expected to spend time in prison during their lifetime (Bonczar, 2003). By comparison, only 1 in 17 White males born at the same time are predicted to have the same fate. Race can therefore manifest corporeally in the form of dramatic changes in life expectancy.

Race Defined

The anthropologist John Shea (2011) argued recently that the differences between races are an arbitrary and useless distinction scientifically or socially. From his perspective, humans that lived two million years ago were just as capable as modern humans in using the technology at their disposal. In other words, if the child of a caveman were to be transplanted into a 21st century home, he or she would have little trouble learning to master an X-box game or attending college. The implications of this view is that the estimated 200,00-year time span between the emergence of Homo sapiens and the 21st century did not create any significant differences in intelligence or behavior. By contrast, racial differences emerged during relatively miniscule periods of time when populations were separated geographically. This implies that if there was no real difference between the first H. Sapiens and modern man, there cannot be any real difference between racial groups. Shea goes still further and points to the evidence that there is no significant difference in the sophistication of tool making between H. sapiens, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus. This observation implies that the intellectual and behavioral sophistication between different hominid species may be insignificant, which makes racial differences seem laughable by comparison.

In response to Shea's statement that race is a discredited scientific principle, Malcom Johnson (2011) wrote a letter to the American Scientist editors and argued that race is a valuable concept that has advanced medical research into individualized medicine and mechanisms of disease susceptibility. To support his contention, Johnson pointed out that medical research has revealed that disease prevalence and drug interactions can be divided along racial lines.

Shea (Johnson, 2011) responded by stating that the concept of race is primarily a social construction, which probably arose when sea travel to other continents became commonplace about 500 years ago. According to Shea, race distinctions represent genetic differences that arose during periods of geographic reproductive isolation, not intellectual and behavioral adaptations. In addition, Shea suggested that efforts to define disease and drug susceptibility along racial lines is a waste of time, because it shifts the focus and research funding away from discovering what causes diseases in the first place.

Becoming Ethnic

Shea's (2011) argument that race plays no useful role in society rings true. In an increasingly multicultural society, the concept of racial purity is not only anti-social, but obviously ridiculous and without merit. A viable alternative may be the fostering of cultural and ethnic identities as a protection against race-based discrimination that still seems to flourish in some corners of American society.

However, there are signs that the situation is improving. For example, a sitting president with an African-American identity was recently reelected to a second term. In addition, a recent study examined the utility of cultural identity capital in the workplace and revealed that workers with an outward appearance that assigned them to a racial or ethnic group tended to exploit this identity to their professional advantage (Ho and Bauder, 2012). Physical appearance, or the corporeal manifestation of race, is one form of identity capital these workers use to their advantage in social situations at work. The ethnic appearance of a client, supervisor, or coworker is also used by workers in a manner that allows them to interact socially in a culturally-sensitive manner.

When it comes to conferring a racial identity to a person, society seems to play the dominant role. Most people no longer believe that racial awareness is something people are born with, but a trait that is conferred by society and the childhood environment. Families can also play an important role, but this may be primarily a protective response. When a sample of Latino adolescents from several Midwestern high schools were interviewed, what researchers found was that ethnicity was reinforced by family social interactions independent of appearance (Gonzales-Backen and Umana-Taylor, 2011). The authors of this study interpreted their findings as evidence that parents with a strong ethnic identity will in turn instill a strong ethnic identity in their children, regardless of how 'ethnic' the child appears. The corporeal manifestation of race therefore plays a minor or insignificant role in how Latino families raise their children.

Conclusions

The above studies reveal that society has historically provided a strong negative interpretation of racial appearance with sometimes appalling consequences. For example, the extreme paradox between the government's attempts to penalize hate crime, while at the same time preferentially incarcerating a large percentage of the African-American population, reveals how dominant society can be in controlling the fate of individuals based on nothing more than their appearance. The corporeal manifestation of race within a race-based society can therefore determine an individual's mental and physical health, life expectancy, and socioeconomic status. However, within many Latino families the corporeal manifestation of race does not influence whether parents choose to define their children as ethnic or not. Racialized individuals can therefore find sanctuary within their families and immigrant communities.

If only more Americans paid attention to the views of anthropologists like John Shea, the concept of race could be dispensed with. If race is nothing more than the sum of a few genetic differences arising from periodic reproductive isolation, then any differences are merely superficial. Such a view would solve a lot of problems.

References

Bell, James and Lim, Nicole. (2005). Young once, Indian forever: Youth gangs in Indian Country. American Indian Quarterly, 29(3/4), 626-652.

Bonczar, Thomas P. (2003). Prevalence of imprisonment in the U.S. populatin, 1974-2001. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved 2 Dec. 2012 from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/piusp01.pdf.

Clarke, Christina A., Miller, Tim., Chang, Ellen T., Yin, Daixin, Cockburn, Myles, and Gomez, Scarlett I. (2010). Racial and social class gradients in life expectancy in contemporary California. Social Science & Medicine, 70, 1373-1380.

Gonzales-Backen, Melinda A. And Umana-Taylor, Adriana J. (2011). Examining the role of physical appearance in Latino adolescents' ethnic identity. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 151-162.

Harper, Gary W., Davidson, Jonathan, and Hosek, Sybil G. (2008). Influence of gang membership on negative affect, substance use, and antisocial behavior among homeless African-American male youth. American Journal of Men's Health, 2(3), 229-243.

Ho, Mabel and Bauder, Harald. (2012). 'We are chameleons': Identity capital in a multicultural workplace. Social Identities, 18(3), 281-297.

Johnson, Malcom and Shea, John. (2011). Is race real. American Scientist, 99(4), 276.

KFF (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation). (2006). Young African-American men in the United States. KFF.org. Retrieved 2 Dec. 2012 from http://www.kff.org/minorityhealth/upload/7541.pdf.

Nussbaum, A. David and Steele, Claude M. (2007). Situational disengagement and persistence in the face of adversity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 127-134.

Patterson, Evelyn J. (2010). Incarcerating death: Mortality in U.S. state correctional facilities, 1985-1998. Demography, 47(3), 587-607.

Shea, John J. (2011). Homo sapiens emerged once, not as modern-looking people first and as modern-behaving people later. American Scientist, 99, 128-135.

Son of the South (2008). The American Indian. SonOfTheSouth.net. Retrieved 2 Dec. 2012 from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/american-indians/.

Swann, William B. Jr., Gomez, Angel, Huici, Carmen, Morales, J. Francisco, and Hixon, J. Gregory. (2010). Identity fusion and self-sacrifice: Arousal as a catalyst of pro-group fighting,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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