INTRODUCTION TO RACE
Use with Section A of the lesson on racial discrimination
Race refers to a group of people who share the same physical characteristics such as skin tone, hair texture, and facial features. The transmission of traits from one generation to another is a complex process that is examined in a field of study called genetics.
So why does race matter?
Race is a significant social issue because people use racial differences as the basis for discrimination. Much of today's racism can be traced to the era of colonialism that began in the 1400s. When Europeans began colonizing Africa and the Americas, the white settlers adopted the idea that they were superior to the other races they encountered. The false notion that Africans and Native Americans were inferior (along with the desire for economic power) justified the Europeans' taking land and enslaving people. In this way, naturally-occurring racial differences became the basis for systems of exploitation and discrimination.
Racism is the systematic practise of denying people access to rights, representation, or resources based on racial differences. As you will learn in this lesson, racism involves more than personal actions of individuals. It is a thorough system of discrimination that involves social institutions and affects virtually every aspect of society.
It's important to remember that racism is neither natural nor inevitable.
Through history, people of different racial groups have interacted and
co-existed peacefully. During the Middle Ages, for example, Europeans
looked up to the people of Africa and China, whose civilization and culture
were considered to be more advanced. As noted, however, these ideas changed
significantly during the colonial area.
for this discussion: