Literature Review Chapter: Race? Racial Formation

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[. . .] Hence, it is way too comprehensive to observe and control how difficult it is to be "colorblind" and treat everyone equally despite their origin and physical attributes.

To wrap up this argument, it can be said that the racial formation theory states that the society is encompassed with racial projects and discrimination. This concept of racial discrimination is purely ideological and is usually instilled in the minds of people automatically. A certain level of "common sense" is involved in each individual where that influences his or her way of comprehending, reacting and interpreting any situation. In circumstances like these, it is not possible to eliminate such a phenomenon unless it is tracked down, explicitly and implicitly in the social construct. Because race can be traced back to history, it is possible to understand how significant this phenomenon is in society and how it changes over time and changes society with it. It is also essential to know how racism actually came about in society and for that, it is important to know the historical evolution of the concept.

The Evolution of Modern Racial Awareness:

The distinction between the different races and human groups dates back to prehistory, and can be found even in the earliest documents like the Bible and Herodotus. But the origin of the concept goes back to the Europeans in America. The hostility and suspicion that existed between the Christian residing in Europe and the "others," which were Jews and Muslims, is not exactly seen as racial formation because this hostility existed mainly due to the religious grounds (Omi and Winant, 1994).

The emergence of "racism" can be dated back to the time when the European explorers reached the West and the categories and distinctions began to emerge on the basis of skin color, nationality and race. The European explorers basically handled capitalist goods. Soon they found something which would prove to be their greatest treasure for the years to come. The Europeans came across people who were different in aspects such as looks and how they behaved. These new "discoveries" challenged the existence of the Europeans and the very notion of the origin of these people. This challenge soon heated things up and it was now a matter of concern for the Europeans. The question which rose due to this discovery was whether all these people could be classified as belonging to the same family and having the same origins because they differed in numerous ways. The Europeans now started considering how it was possible to enslave and rule over these natives. This gave rise to debates surrounding issues on religion which gave the idea that Europeans were the rulers and any one from a different background would not be considered above them (Omi and Winant, 1994).

Then began the process of seizing territories and goods and enslaving the natives and making them part of the labor force who worked for these Europeans. This also began a process of African slave trade which considered the Europeans as the so called children of God and it gave them a superior hand above the people of other races and backgrounds. These concepts and incidents actually gave rise to this concept of superior and inferior colors and races and therefore, divisions were created in the community. Two classes were made following these events, that of "Europeans" and the "Others." This division among the people turned out to be one of the greatest historical racial formation events. This discrimination started to spread from the Western Hemisphere to other parts of the world.

Introduction to the racist reactions:

Back in March 1985, around 2500 people of Alabama came together to protest against one of the most dramatic movement in history. Before this, Martin Luther King Jr. had also led a similar movement, twenty years ago, whereby he led 4000 people on a march which was fifty miles long and stretched from Selma to Montgomery. These civil rights movements proved to be a turning point for the voting rights of the Black people. Twenty years before this, the president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev Joseph E. Lowery addressed the crowd saying that they had "faith" but the government of the country failed to give everyone equal rights. (Omi and Winant, 1994) Even the Reagen administration was trying to overcome this problem of racism and turn the clock for the Black people.

It was sad to see that whatever Lowery pointed out was quite true and the stance of the blacks in America was gradually deteriorating and the standard of their life was also worsening with lesser employment opportunities, poverty levels falling even more, mortality rates increasing drastically and the gap between the whites and blacks widening gradually. Despite all these problems, the people of America remained rather calm but eventually the whites got frustrated of providing for the underprivileged blacks. The blacks got suppressed more and more and the differences in the racial treatment became more and more evident in every aspect of life.

Even though a lot of emphasis has been laid on the movements to overcome this inequality in the society, no one really cares enough to find out how these racial issues actually contributed to the shaping of political movements. Even in recent years, a lot of attempts have been made in order to revitalize these concepts of the past and try to eliminate the existence of this concept from our society. Three new perspectives have sprung up in an attempt to look into the ideas and objectives of the civil rights movements in the past and to gain a better understanding how they came about and to what extent they were successful, those being the Far Right Paradigm, The New Right Paradigm and the Neo-conservatism (Omi and Winant, 1994).

Social Construction Theory:

In the beginning of the 1980s, policy theorists looked towards the policy design approach that basically addressed the factors determining the public policy design such as designing, selecting, execution and evaluation (Bobrow and Dryzek, 1987). The idea of the social construction of separate target populations was not recognized until the late 1980s (Schneider, 1990).

The social construction of the target population has been formed so as to explain a number of elements and dilemmas attached to the democratic policy that other framework do not consider in a very clear manner. Certain questions that arise in relation to the public policy are as to how different groups are treated differently after the public policy is passed, why some groups in society suffer on the basis of others, why is there a differential form of treatment for particular groups and so on. This theory and research into the social construction of policy making can be quite helpful in deriving the evidence needed to judge why these problems exist such as non-effective problem solving, absence of democracy. This theory attempts to understand the differences in the designing of policy and it also points out that different groups in the society have different relationship and terms with the government. Hence, they receive differential treatment and access to opportunities. The political groups may treat the groups on the basis of the kind of reputation, social and economic standing that they have, rather than the equal treatment they claim to provide. These categorizations greatly affect the efficiency levels of the governmental organizations and their political discourse and implementation of policies (Ingram, Helen. 1957).

Development of the Social Construction Framework:

There was a time when social construction was seen as something a person would interpret and analyze according to his or her own understanding. It was believed that there was no single definition by which "reality" could be defined and it varied from person to person. (Mannheim, Karl.1936). It was later stated that the knowledge that we gain and interpret are a result of the social relationships that exist in society. The social problems that are seen are a mere interpretation and analysis of being classified as "problematic" in society (Bacchi, 1999). The basic problem lies in actually classifying something to be problematic. The orientation with the social sciences is that they are open to a person's own analysis. There are no strict rules stating what to believe. Social construction of reality is an exercise whereby everyone's varying opinions constructs what they believe to be true. The images, stigmas, phenomena, stereotypes are all subjective analysis of the people.

The terms "target groups" and "target population" are used to describe the groups that get the advantages and the drawbacks of the different parts of the policy design. The policy designs are made up of all the elements that have any influence on the target populations. The elements are made up of aims that are to be attained and the problems that need to be resolved. And the tools that are useful for the inclusion and exclusion.

Propositions related to the social construction of target groups:

Under this proposition, the policy designs are examined. Their social construction is focused on and how the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Race? Racial Formation.  (2011, May 18).  Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

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"Race? Racial Formation."  18 May 2011.  Web.  26 May 2019. <>.

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"Race? Racial Formation."  May 18, 2011.  Accessed May 26, 2019.