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Racial Formations

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Throughout the course of history, the common, static ideology of race has been defined as a primarily socio-historical concept (Omi and Winant 1986, p. 13). While race has been both indicated and represented by many politicians, religious factions, and scientific experts as a term that has identified the characteristics of a human being, it was based solely on the physical and genetic criteria of one’s skin color. Over time, the concept of “Racial Formations in the United States,” according to sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant, has been socially constructed and transformed as the process where racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, destroyed, and reformed (Omi and Winant 1986, p. 14). By maintaining control over diverse individuals through certain social, economic, and political projects and practices, racial formations has been used and abused as a political weapon and social norm by the white majority. However, while the ideology of race isn’t synonymous with the practices of prejudice, I wish to justify Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s theory from various research, memoirs, and debates of individuals such as Richard Wright, Pem Davidson Buck, and Karen Brodkin, who have studied the historical development or experienced challenges associated with the topic.

While non-white communities grew up under the shadow of oppression, men like Richard Wright, endured many trials and tribulations until reluctantly accepting their racial consciousness when living upon biased, socio-historical laws. In his autobiographical sketch entitled: “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow,” Wright recalls his childhood days as an African-American living under strict segregation laws in the Southern United States. While living among other African-American families on the other side of the railroad tracks, Wright illustrates his early process of racialization, a process of attributing racial identification into various ethnic groups, relationships, and society, as a young boy in Arkansas after finding himself fighting a couple of white kids. After returning home injured from the ordeal, Wright was then chastised and punished by his mother, who taught her naïve son not fight with white boys (Wright 1937, p. 23). As Wright began to learn more valuable lessons during his hardships after moving from Arkansas to Mississippi, he was cautious enough to avoid further conflicts and maintaining neutral relationships around white individuals. Although Wright claimed that if he found himself working for and with white individuals, he had to be submissive if he wanted to keep your job for much longer (Wright 1937, p. 26-27). However, when it came to living in the Deep South as an African- American male, Wright had to inevitably subject himself to the cruel acts of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse on an everyday basis.

After the events following the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the ideologies of racialization would remain unchanged. While white individuals tended to view themselves as the superior race compared to non-white minorities, their white privilege has been argued as their ultimate right to benefit themselves and take advantage of non-white individuals. However, in Pem Davidson Bucks article “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege,” she explains the origins of how the elite taught white European settlers the importance of their white privilege in comparison to non-white individuals such as enslaved Africans or local Native Americans (Buck 2001, p. 21). By establishing power relationships, the construction of whiteness began to manipulate poor white settlers into believing that by constructing racial formations and identifications associated with whiteness among their colonies, they would gain the upper hand in obtaining the rights to own property, raise livestock, bear arms, and eventually enslave other human beings. However, when radical concepts of “race mixing” began to emerge, white women were prohibited from engaging in any relationships with African, Native Americans, or any other non-white population that would cause mulatto offsprings; resulting in an increased punishment for women who dared to break the 1691 law protecting white purity. While the separation of whites and



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