Friday, August 30, 2019

Part 1- Racial identity and culture Essay

Introduction The term race refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of characteristics and beliefs about common ancestry. 1 The most widely used human racial categories are based on visible traits (especially skin color, facial features and hair texture), and self-identification. Conceptions of race, as well as specific ways of grouping races, vary by culture and over time, and are often controversial for scientific as well as social and political reasons. The controversy ultimately revolves around whether or not races are natural kinds or socially constructed, and the degree to which observed differences in ability and achievement, categorised on the basis of race, are a product of inherited (i. e. genetic) traits or environmental, social and cultural factors. Some argue that although â€Å"race† is a valid taxonomic concept in other species, it cannot be applied to humans. Mainstream scientists have argued that race definitions are imprecise, arbitrary, derived from custom, have many exceptions, have many gradations, and that the numbers of races delineated vary according to the culture making the racial distinctions; they thus reject the notion that any definition of race pertaining to humans can have taxonomic rigour and validity. Today most scientists study human genotypic and phenotypic variation using more rigorous concepts such as â€Å"population† and â€Å"clinical gradation. † Many anthropologists contend that while the features on which racial categorizations are made may be based on genetic factors, the idea of race itself, and actual divisions of persons into groups based on selected hereditary features, are social constructs, whereas a new opinion among geneticists is that it should be a valid mean of classification, although in a modified form based on DNA analysis. 2 Racial and Ethnic identity and Development Racial and ethnic identity are critical parts of the overall framework of individual and collective identity. For some especially visible and legally defined minority populations in the United States, racial and ethnic identity are manifested in very conscious ways. This manifestation is triggered most often by two conflicting social and cultural influences. First, deep conscious immersion into cultural traditions and values through religious, familial, neighborhood, and educational communities instills a positive sense of ethnic identity and confidence. Second, and in contrast, individuals often must filter ethnic identity through negative treatment and media messages received from others because of their race and ethnicity. These messages make it clear that people with minority status have a different ethnic make-up and one that is less than desirable within main-stream society. Others, especially white Americans, manifest ethnic and racial identity in mostly unconscious ways through their behaviors, values, beliefs, and assumptions. For them, ethnicity is usually invisible and unconscious because societal norms have been constructed around their racial, ethnic, and cultural frameworks, values, and priorities and then referred to as â€Å"standard American culture† rather than as â€Å"ethnic identity. † This uncon-scious ethnic identity manifests itself in daily behaviors, attitudes, and ways of doing things. Unlike many minority cultures, there is little conscious instilling of specific ethnic identity through white communities, nor is differential ethnic treatment often identified in the media of white cultures. As we discuss throughout this chapter, everyone benefits from the development of a conscious ethnic identity and benefits as well when multicultural frame-works are used in their learning environments. Definitions of Racial and Ethnic Identity. The constructs of race and ethnicity in the United States are complex and difficult to define and frame. Researchers are not consistent in their meaning, which makes these concepts particularly challenging to grasp. To add to the confusion, racial and ethnic identity â€Å"transcends traditional categories and has become a major topic in psychology, literature, theology, philosophy, and many other disciplines†. The concept of racial identity, in particular, has been misunderstood and contested. Some meanings are derived from its biological dimension and others from its social dimension . As a biological category, race is derived from an individual’s â€Å"physical features, gene pools and character qualities†. Using these features as distinguishing characteristics, Europeans grouped people hierarchically by physical ability and moral quality, with Caucasians as the pinnacle, followed by Asians and Native Americans, and Africans last on the racial ladder. However, looking beyond these characteristics, there are more similarities than differences between racial groups and more differences than similarities within these groups. Today, literary and theoretical manifestations of racial identity are discussed not in biological terms (which may imply a racist perspective) but as a social construction, which â€Å"refers to a sense of group or collective identity based on one’s perception that he or she shares a common heritage with a particular racial group†. Racial identity seems most often, however, to be a frame in which individuals categorize others, often based on skin color. The use of skin color is one of many labeling tools that allow individuals and groups to distance themselves from those they consider different from themselves. Racial identity is a surface-level manifestation based on what we look like yet has deep implications in how we are treated. Ethnic identity is often considered a social construct as well. It is viewed as an individual’s identification with â€Å"a segment of a larger society whose members are thought, by themselves or others, to have a common origin and share segments of a common culture and who, in addition, participate in shared activities in which the common origin and culture are significant ingredients†. Ethnic identity seems most often to be a frame in which individuals identify consciously or unconsciously with those with whom they feel a common bond because of similar traditions, behaviors, values, and beliefs. These points of connection allow individuals to make sense of the world around them and to find pride in who they are. If, however, positive ethnic group messages and support are not apparent or available to counteract negative public messages, a particular individual is likely to feel shame or disconnection toward their own ethnic identity. Ethnic identity development consists of an individual’s movement toward a highly conscious identification with their own cultural values, behaviors, beliefs, and traditions. Ethnic and racial identity models provide a theoretical structure for understanding individuals’ negotiation of their own and other cultures.

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