Skip to Main Content

Learn & Unlearn: Anti-racism Resource Guide

Lesson 5: Race/Culture as a Social Construct

Original post on @saic.maffairs posted 8/28/2020.

Foundation: Social Construction of Race

What does it mean that race is a social construct?

It’s important to distinguish between Race & Ethnicity: (Ethnicity: group of people sharing tradition, common ancestry, language). 
Race: A system of classification not rooted in accurate biological or scientific truth that supports dividing and empowering some social groups over others. 
The construction of race reinforces a social hierarchy based on the following: This is reinforced by:

Some religious assumptions (some races are ‘divine’ and ‘pure,’ / others are unholy, or soulless)
Scientific theory (natural order aka survival of the fittest - being ‘unfit’ or ‘weak’ is a result of being an inferior race versus it being a result of genocide)
Pseudo-scientific views (groups based on visible characteristics need to be ‘civilized’)
Eugenics, medical practices (reproducing ‘good’ genes and restricting reproduction of ‘bad’ genes)

Just because race is socially constructed, doesn’t mean that it fundamentally doesn’t affect our daily lived experiences. It means that its construction can be analyzed, critiqued, and through movement: redefined. 


“We want to be clear that when we talk about what it means to ‘do the work’ of anti-racism, reading lists aren’t ‘the work.’ Reading lists are for catching yourself up to speed, for educating yourself so that when you go into spaces (professionally, personally, politically) to do the work, you understand the context of your own actions and of the broader history of racism. Reading lists are like the required summer reading before school starts.” - Nina Berman

To Read

Flaxman Library Materials - May take up to 3 days from request to pickup. Instructions are available here.
I-Share Books - May take up to 10 days from request to pickup. Instructions are available here.

To Follow


To Reflect

What does a multiracial society look like? What needs to change to get here?
Can you tell the difference between race and ethnicity? 

To Act

Fractured Atlas in 2016 began race-based caucuses as a way to recognize the unique role we must take in our-anti-racism work. Read Racial Identity Caucuses. Do you have caucuses in your institution?
If you’re not a part of an affinity group, find one or form one
If you are a part of an affinity group, invite someone else to join
If you want support in finding a group, DM or email Multicultural Affairs: