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How do race and ethncity impact on formation of identity?

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Introduction

How do 'race' and 'ethnicity' impact on the formation of identity? Identity is a key concept within the social sciences, revolving around how individuals or groups of people in society are identified. The formation of identity is a complex process. 'Race' and 'ethnicity' are key elements impacting upon the formation of identity. This essay will explain what is meant by 'race' and 'ethnicity' and how identities are formed. It will then explain how structure shapes the formation of identity and explain how social changes cause uncertainties leading to the formation of new identities. 'Race' is a term used to categorize humans by their visible differences i.e. White, Asian or Black. However, in social sciences, 'race' is put in quotation marks to emphasize the fact that it should not be classified on the basis of physical characteristics only but, should account for the fact race is socially constructed term and serves an essential purpose in relation to the formation of identity. ...read more.

Middle

The black people were successful in changing their identities although they were constrained by structure. Racial and ethnic identities are formed by collective action, political and policy changes highlighting how the terms are fluid and change over time. The quotation marks around the term show that they do not distinguish between personal and social identity, but acts as a collective identity concept Racialization and ethnicization are preferred concepts in the social sciences because they show that identities adopted are part of a process that is dynamic. They are also the structures that constrain control over forming identities. For example, racisms. The murder of Stephen Lawrence is a classic example of institutional racism. Assumptions were made according to race and ethnic background, "in the minds of the police he was only a black boy so why bother" (Woodward, 2004, p 122). This shows that social polices lead to diversity. Institutional racism has been criticised for being a "social construction" (Woodward, 2004, p 120). ...read more.

Conclusion

The sub-categorisation of ethnic identities is used in everyday life such as in the media, job applications and insurance documents. The importance of the emergence of new and changing identities in a multi-ethnic society has led to uncertainties about what it means to be British, "There is a tension between the new opportunities and diversity of multiculturalism and the constraints of the remnants of racism which still permeate societies such as the UK and impinge upon our understanding of what it means to be British" (Woodward, 2003, p 127). Stereotypes, racisms, and social policies are the structures that generate control over the identities that are given. Like in the example, of Stephen Lawrence. Uncertainties around British national identities cause diversity in contemporary UK. Collective action forms new identities alongside political and policy changes. Racialized and ethnicized identities are social structures and they impact on the identity that is given, social structures change and individuals change, proving that they are not fixed identities, but fluid and changing. In conclusion, 'race' and 'ethnicity' evidently impact on the formation of identities. ...read more.

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