Reviewing from the last lesson:
If people look differently, why can’t they be scientifically separated into races based on the differences?
Yesterday’s lesson explained that racial categories are not scientific. There is no way to separate humans biologically, physically or scientifically into distinct racial groups. If there was, then racial groups would be the same all over the world. They would fit into the scientific classification system such as kingdom, order, phylum etc… But instead, each country/culture has its own racial types. Racial classification in each country is based on the country’s social, cultural and political history. In other words, each country constructs it’s own racial categories based on the unique dynamics within that country.
- Racial categories vary around the world.
- The categories are formed in each country because of the local social, cultural and political history.
For more information on how the race is socially constructed:
See the book Racial Formation by sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant.
The book by Omi and Winant called “Racial Formation” (1986) provides a detailed explanation of how the race is socially constructed. Here is a video of Omi and Winant explaining their seminal work.
Here is an excerpt: Racial Formation by Omi and Winant.
Race in Japan
For example, when I was in Japan, I asked some Japanese friends what races were in Japan and they said “nihon-jin and gai-jin,” which means “Japanese people and foreign people. In other words, the Japanese think that there are Japanese people in the world and then there is everyone else. And then I pressed him further and I said, “But aren’t there different groups within Japanese culture?”
My friend finally said, “Ahh yes… there were ancient Japanese who settled the islands from the north and there were ancient Japanese who settled the islands from the south, and you know how to tell who came from where? Earwax.” That’s right, earwax! He explained that some Japanese have dry flaky earwax and others have wet greasy earwax. That determines where your ancestors came from and a different biological group that you are a part of- essentially a different race. But that makes no sense to us because in the US we never think of earwax as part of race.
Race in Mexico
Mexico has a complex history involving Spanish imperialism. Spain was already a mix of different ethnicities/heritages when it invaded Mexico and mixed with the first nations people living there as well as with black Africans brought there through the Atlantic slave trade. The result is a complex mix of races. Here are the racial groups from the early history of Mexico
- Mestizo: Spanish father and Indian mother
- Castizo: Spanish father and Mestizo mother
- Espomolo: Spanish mother and Castizo father
- Mulatto: Spanish and black African
- Moor: Spanish and Mulatto
- Albino: Spanish father and Moor mother
- Throwback: Spanish father and Albino mother
- Wolf: Throwback father and Indian mother
- Zambiago: Wolf father and Indian mother
- Cambujo: Zambiago father and Indian mother
- Alvarazado: Cambujo father and Mulatto mother
- Borquino: Alvarazado father and Mulatto mother
- Coyote: Borquino father and Mulatto mother
- Chamizo: Coyote father and Mulatto mother
- Coyote-Mestizo: Cahmizo father and Mestizo mother
- Ahi Tan Estas: Coyote-Mestizo father and Mulatto mother
Race in Brazil
As opposed to the US, Brazil has a much longer and more diverse history of interracial marriage between indigenous people, former slaves from Africa and Portuguese immigrants. Because of this, Brazilians are far more conscious of physical variations within their population and less concerned with bloodlines and lineage. For example, in 1976, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) conducted a study to ask people to identify their own skin color. Here are the 134 terms, listed in alphabetical order:
Alva (pure white)
Alva-escura (dark or off-white)
Alverenta (or aliviero“shadow in the water”)
Alvarinta (tinted or bleached white)
Alva-rosada (or jamote, roseate, white with pink highlights)
Alvinha (bleached; white-washed)
Amarela-quemada (burnt yellow or ochre)
Avermelhada (reddish, with blood vessels showing through the skin)
Azul-marinho (deep bluish)
Bem-branca (very white)
Bem-morena (very dusky)
Branca-avermelhada (peach white)
Branca-melada (honey toned)
Branca-morena (darkish white)
Branca-queimada (sunburned white)
Branca-sardenta (white with brown spots)
Branca-suja (dirty white)
Branqui�a (a white variation)
Bronzeada (bronzed tan)
Bugrezinha-escura (Indian characteristics)
Burro-quanto-foge (“burro running away,” implying racial mixture of unknown origin)
Cabocla (mixture of white, Negro and Indian)
Cabo-Verde (black; Cape Verdean)
Cafe-com-leite (coffee with milk)
Casto (thistle colored)
Castanha-clara (clear cashewlike)
Castanha-escura (dark, cashewlike)
Chocolate (chocolate brown)
Clarinha (very light)
Cobre (copper hued)
Cor-de-caf (tint of coffee)
Cor-de-canela (tint of cinnamon)
Cor-de-cuia (tea colored)
Cor-firma (“no doubt about it”)
Crioula (little servant or slave; African)
Enxofrada (pallid yellow; jaundiced)
Esbranquecimento (mostly white)
Fogoio (florid; flushed)
Galega (see agalegada above)
Galegada (see agalegada above)
Jambo (like a fruit the deep-red color of a blood orange)
Loira (blond hair and white skin)
Loira-clara (pale blonde)
Malaia (from Malabar)
Marineheira (dark grayish)
Melada (honey colored)
Mestía (mixture of white and Indian)
Miscigena��o (mixed — literally “miscegenated”)
Morena-bem-chegada (very tan)
Morena-bronzeada (bronzed tan)
Morena-canelada (cinnamonlike brunette)
Morena-castanha (cashewlike tan)
Morena clara (light tan)
Morena-cor-de-canela (cinnamon-hued brunette)
Morena-jambo (dark red)
Morena-escura (dark tan)
Morena-fechada (very dark, almost mulatta)
Moreno (very dusky tan)
Morena-parda (brown-hued tan)
Morena-trigueira (wheat colored)
Mulatta (mixture of white and Negro)
Mulatinha (lighter-skinned white-Negro)
Negrota (Negro with a corpulent vody)
Paraba (like the color of marupa wood)
Parda (dark brown)
Parda-clara (lighter-skinned person of mixed race)
Polaca (Polish features; prostitute)
Pouco-clara (not very clear)
Pretinha (black of a lighter hue)
Puxa-para-branca (more like a white than a mulatta)
Quase-negra (most Negro)
Regular (regular; nondescript)
Retinta (“layered” dark skin)
Rosada (high pink)
Rosa-queimada (burnished rose)
Ruiva (strawberry blonde)
Russo (Russian; see also polaka)
Sapecada (burnished red)
Sara (mulatta with reddish kinky hair, aquiline nose)
Saraba (or saraiva: like a white meringue)
Trigueira (wheat colored)
Here is the Google form for this lesson. Open it in a new window and as you read this post answer when prompted.
Can a plane ride change your race?
Looking at the distinctions in Japan, Mexico and Brazil might not make sense to us because we view the race so differently. However, all of this is evidence that race is a social construction. Read the passage below (also available here) and then answer the questions after.
2. After reading the above passage, answer this:
Did the girl’s race change? Why or why not?
When finished, click here for an explanation. Read the explanation then answer #3 below.
3. Did you answer in number 2 the way I explained it above? If not, do you understand the explanation?
The next exercise will be examining different censuses from around the world. You will see that depending on where you are, the country’s census will classify you differently. Open the following link in a new window and in #4 note how you would be classified in each country. Feel free to simply type your response whether it is “white” or “other” or whatever. Be sure to respond to each country’s question(s).
Here is a link to different censuses around the world.
4. What are the different ways you would be categorized around the world? List them here. Make a note of how many different ways you would be classified as around the world (this is number 5).
5. Count the number of different responses you had for number 4. How many different ways would you be labeled?
6. Choose one of the countries from the link above and hypothesize how the country’s political, social or cultural history contributed to the way the country’s people view race today.
In sum, today we used our sociological imagination to examine how the race is different based on where you are. And that difference means you will be classified, viewed and treated differently based on where you are. You may even see yourself differently. In other words, you will experience the world differently based on where you are and how your race is perceived. Race is a social construction. Tomorrow we will see how race has changed over time right here in the US In other words, we will use our sociological imagination to see that race is different depending on when you are there as well.
7. Any questions about how race is a social construction?
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