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Analyzing Racial Formation Through Historical Studies

Rather, social problems arise from people's cultural assumptions and beliefs about how people who are perceived in terms of such categories may be treated. After all, few would object if people displayed a propensity to be extra kind to persons whom they perceived as belonging to another race.

If "race" is the conscious concept that arises from mental processes that operate generally far below the level of ordinary consciousness, then one can see how unlikely it is that American society could become "color-blind"łand yet one would not be assuming that America would be "racist" in a pejorative sense. Furthermore, as will be considered later, the very idea that America should be color-blind is itself political in origin, and is being used in an apparently hypocritical way to justify what amount to racist social policies.

Anthropologists have long thought that "race" is a cultural construct, not a physical reality. However, this view of race has only recently come to be the mainstream stance among scientists in general. The Los Angeles Times reported the views of half a dozen anthropologists and other scholars (including Michael Omi), presented to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, arguing that "race" has no biological meaning, since the "accidental" traits that people use to define race do not correlate in any way with mental ability, emotional maturity, physical stamina, compassion, or any other significant human trait (Hotz, 1995, p. A1). For example, C. Loring Brace, a biological anthropologist at the University of Michigan, stated that, "Race is a social construct derived mainly from perception conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality" (Hotz, 1995, p. A1). This article was followed a few weeks later by an editorial in the Times, pointing out the social importance of this research (Race, 1995, p. B6).

Racial categories as such are unnecessary in...

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