What is race?

Published 11 Apr 2017

The term race denotes the class one belongs in respect to some hereditary predispositions or characteristics. It is simply the classification of human beings into various categories depending on the likeness or similarities of their heritable character traits such as the color of their skin, texture of their hair or facial features. In this case, racism is the tendency to use ones race as the key determinant of how people should be treated thereby deeming some races as superior and others as inferior something that makes the latter be denied some rights, benefits or treatments. The essence of this paper is to illuminate light into what the term race according to various writers entails.

According to Gilroy (2002), we have had very serious ramifications all attributed to racial thinking and classics examples of this is the killing of Jews in Germany by Hitler in what he termed as race purification and the suppression of blacks’ rights in the United States where oppressive Jim Crow rules were used. It is because of the issue of racism that African Americans were subjected to servitude in the Americas because they were regarded as hardy and energetic to work in plantations unlike other races. Those who are disadvantaged by racism try their best to challenge the density of racism they are accorded to them by others who consider themselves superior while the beneficiaries of the same fight for the status quo to remain. People who have historically been subordinated are trying to rise out of their racial cocoon demanding to be treated as human beings and not like objects through declassification of races (Gilroy, 2002; 12).

Race itself is not something bad but its categorization has led to racial crisis in that important issues associated with ones race are ignored and given rise to others thereby paving way for more complicated problems. For people to free from racial thinking, people must be briefed on the historical importance of confronting it and why a step needs to be taken. Racism is something dynamic and is taking new form as time moves. There are many forms of race for example one that is tangible, that is one that can be used to trace ones origin a and another one which is subjective or that one which can be imposed on somebody through perception. In other situations, racism and its associated hostilities cease if one gets converted and behaves like the suppressor. It is because of this reason that Gilroy (2002) in his book challenges people to develop a constructive thinking where people are asked to reflect on the dangers of what he termed as race-thinking. He contends that racial thinking that has continued to persist even after people have made a significant move in bringing racism to an end bars the realization of fruits that democracy promises.

In his book, Prophesy Deliverance, West (2002) poses a challenge to the blacks to adopt a Marxism approach into their thoughts and stop thinking that it is race itself that has rendered them powerless in the society. He contends that it is classification of races in a hierarchical manner that is the main reason why African Americans have remained down in the social ladder thereby being rendered powerless. This is the same thing that Gilroy (2000) tries to put across when he says that it is because of people trying to divide the society by using ones race to classify people that the progress that was achieved by Civil Rights Movement is waning. He brings to our attention how some achievements made by blacks in the 1960s for example in hip hop rise in the 1980s led them to be a respected race and at the same time shows how the place of black culture has been taken by corporate interests and cultural expressions.

For this reason, people should stop thinking too much about the class they belong as it what has hampered the progress that was made by the civil rights movements in the 1960s. They should stop thinking that they are powerless because they belong to a particular class rather they should see racism as the problem.


  • Gilroy, Paul. 2000. Against race: imagining political culture beyond the color line.
  • 4th Edition. Harvard University Press.
  • West, Cornel. 2002. Prophesy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity. Westminster John Knox Press.
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