The problem of interracial relations derives from the problem of the perception of the concept of race which is often perceived in the wrong way and implies the existence of the inequality between representatives of different racial groups. However, Linda Holtzman and Leon Sharpe, in their article Theories and Constructs of Race reveal the fact that the concept of race is a social construct which has little to do with the real life. The researchers suggest that the development of the concept of race occurred under the impact of the historical development of society, economic disparities, socio-cultural norms and beliefs, and media which ultimately shaped the concept of race and contributed to the formation of the concept of white supremacy and the inferiority of the non-white population to the extent, that there was even the problem of the inferiority among the non-white population since non-white Americans often believe that they are a priori in ad disadvantaged position compared to white Americans because of their race.
The thesis statement of the article is: While race itself is fiction, the consequences of racism are a historical and contemporary fact of American life. In such a way, the authors place emphasis on the social construct of the concept of race and argue that racism emerge in the US on the ground of historical and cultural influences build up on the ground of the fictional concept of race. The belongingness to certain racial group was an important attribute which though was artificially created by society to explain social inequality and historically existing disparities within the US society. The thesis statement reveals the key idea of Holtzman and Sharpe concerning race since the researchers view race as a social construct which involves the historical oppression of racial minorities by the majority.
Another important idea developed by Holtzman and Sharoe is the idea that “the centrality of race in our society is one of the core tenets of critical race theory (CRT)” (603). The authors attempt to create the theoretical framework for the social construct of racism. They refer to the CRT as the theory that focuses on the race as the fundamental concept or backbone of the contemporary society. The centrality of the race implies that social relations are vulnerable to the impact of race and are race-oriented. However, Holtzman and Sharpe are skeptical about the real significance of race but they view it as an artificial concept to justify or explain social relations and inequality between people.
At the same time, the researchers argue that “foundational elements of racial inequity often go unexamined, under-analyzed, or misrepresented by the mainstream media” (Holtzman & Sharpe 603). Therefore, the authors argue that the problem of the racial inequality is under-researched. This is why they imply that the perception of the racial inequality may be biased and vulnerable to the criticism of society.
Furthermore, the researchers (Holtzman & Sharpe 604) argue that “the mischaracterization of contemporary racial oppression as interpersonal and episodic gets in the way of our ability to come to grips with its fundamental nature, which is structural and systemic”. The extrapolation of interpersonal relations on interracial relations reveal the social nature of the concept of race and racial inequality. The racial inequality has a strong social background and derives from interpersonal relationships rather than the real inequality between people determined by their race.
The continuous racial targeting of people of color and the privileging of whites, along with misinformation about race passed along from one generation to the next and reinforced through the media, has imbued people of all races with a distorted sense of personal and group identity (Holtzman & Sharpe 604). In such a way, the researcher reveal a considerable impact of mass media and dominant culture on the formation of the concept of race and interracial relations. The development of the concept of race is important and emerges under the impact of the dominant culture that leads to the construction of the biased concept of race.
This is why Holtzman & Sharpe argue that the illusory standard of a white societal norm reinforces the notion that people of color are not merely different but also deficient (Holtzman & Sharpe 605). In such a way, the racial inequality implies the deficiency of minorities. The researchers convey the idea that the concept of race leads to the formation of the biased attitude to people belonging to racial minorities. The majority views them as deficient just because they believe them to be different and inferior to representatives of the majority.
At the same time, the espousing of racial openness and egalitarianism while simultaneously harboring negative racial attitudes is prevalent in contemporary society (Holtzman & Sharpe 605). The researchers reveal the intrinsic controversy persisting in the contemporary society, where claims to racial equality come into clashes with racially-biased and prejudiced attitude of people to representative of other racial groups.
The toleration of duplicitous frontstage/backstage behavior contributes to the perpetuation of an American societal norm that enables schools, employers, public service providers, real estate brokers, law enforcement agencies, and a host of other institutions to publicly embrace equal opportunity policies while privately engaging in practices that deny equal access and fair treatment to members of racially targeted groups (Holtzman & Sharpe 605). Hence, even though publicly organizations, institutions and individuals stand for racial equality and pretend to condemn racism, but, in reality, they still remain racially biased. This is why racial inequality persists and people often remain racist in their private life, while pretend to be tolerant in their public life.
Another important idea developed by Holtzman & Sharpe in their article is the idea that misinformation about race and identity also contributes adversely to the socialization of people of color in the United States (606). The researchers believe that racial biases affect the socialization of individuals. as a result, the process of socialization is biased too and leads to widening gaps between white Americans and non-white ones.
In such a situation, people of color in America have always had to wage a battle against internalized racism, a condition that can cause an individual to assume self-deprecating attitudes and engage in self-destructive behaviors that reflect the traumatizing effects of racial targeting
Internalized racism, which is always involuntary, is a direct byproduct of historical and ongoing racial targeting (Holtzman & Sharpe 606). This means that racism is not only the problem of the white majority but also it is the problem of the non-white minority. Racial minority groups grew up in racially-biased environment and form the erroneous perception of the concept of race. This is why they suffer from internal racism believing that they are inferior to whites.
In this regard, skin color, the most common visual cue that most of us use as a determinant of race, does not reflect extreme genetic difference, nor does it reflect a distinct evolutionary history (Holtzman & Sharpe 607). In other words, the color has become the distinct attribute of the social status and perception of the individual in society as well as the self-perception of the individual. At the same time, the researchers argue that the “identity and relationship dynamics of race are so pervasive in our lives today that it feels as though current notions of race have existed since the beginning of historical time” (Holtzman & Sharpe 608). People believe that the concept of race was stable and did not change in the course of time. Racial relations persisted throughout centuries but status quo persisted and nourished the white supremacist ideology.
This is why Holtzman & Sharpe lead the audience to the idea that erecting a social construct with the epic staying power, counter-rational robustness, and destructive force that has been exhibited by “race” over the centuries was not a brief or simple process (609). This is why the concept of race is apparently the social construct defined by social and cultural norms rather than by real inequality between people. The concept of race turns out to be the social construct that has little to do with the real inequality. The inequality between races derives from beliefs and views of people shaped under the impact of objective factors such as economic disparity, poverty and historical marginalization of minority groups.
In such a situation, the researchers (Holtzman & Sharpe 610) arrive to the conclusion that “students in elementary school and high school in the United States receive limited and often distorted information about our country’s racial history”. In such a way, the vicious circle is repeating since again students learn socially-biased race and grow up full of prejudices and wrong beliefs about race. The biased concept of race leads to the racial inequality and unequal treatment of people belonging to different racial groups. Therefore, the elimination of racial inequality should start with the elimination of the social construct of race and biased attitude toward race and persisting racial inequality.
- Holtzman,L. and Sharpe, L. Theories and Constructs of Race, 599-614.