Unpacking Race • Part 2:
Social Construction of Race

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3  Part 4 • Part 5

Our second session of the Unpacking Race workshop series focuses on the material consequences of racial construction for people of color.  We also explore immigrant experiences of adapting to U.S. racial constructs.

Definitions and Activity:

We played the Vehicle Game (click here to for details) and then used it to illustrate the following terms (borrowed from the Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice curriculum—see week 1):
  1. Institutional Racism: A system of advantage based on race and supported by institutional structures, policies and practices that create and sustain advantages for the domi- nant white group while systematically subordinating members of targeted racial groups. This relative advantage for Whites and subordination for people of color is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms, and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
  2. Individual Racism: The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both unconscious and con- scious levels, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of Whites.
  3. Active Racism: Actions that have as their stated or explicit goal the maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism advocate the continued subjugation of members of targeted groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the advantaged group. These goals are often supported by a belief in the inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people, culture, and values.
  4. Passive Racism: Conscious and unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and actions that support the system of racism, racial prejudice, and racial dominance and contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence, discrimination, or an ideology of white supremacy.
After we created moving sculptures to illustrate these forms of racism, we broke up into small groups and talked about the way these different kinds of racism manifest in our own lives, and how we might have the power to change these situations.

Readings and Videos:

This week's readings are drawn from the book White Privilege: Essential Readings from the Other Side of Racism, edited by Paula S. Rothenberg.  Workshops particpants have the option to read one of the following chapters:
  1. Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and Whiteness” by Neil Foley
  2. How Jews Became White Folks” by Karen Brodkin
  3. How White People Became White” by James E. Barrett and David Roediger
We also included the essay "Reflections By An ARAB JEW" by Ella Habiba Shohat.  Click on the titles of any of these essays to access the article online.

We've also included another 6-minute video excerpt from Race the Power of an Illusion: The Story We Tell, plus a 45-minute interview with Juan Gonzalez from DemocracyNow! on how U.S. intervention caused mass Latin American migrations.  The Democracy Now! video is viewable by clicking here, the excerpt from Race the Power of an Illusion can be viewed below: 

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