INTRODUCTION TO MULTICULTURALISM- Essay
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The purpose of this essay is to present the argument concerning the issue of 'race' as a term, and whether it is a concept which should be presented as a means of differentiating between individuals. There will be reference to where the notion of race originates and its implications on contemporary society. In addition the progress of scientific study into biology will be presented in relation to the issue of 'race', from Darwinism to contemporary DNA analysis. Next there will be an overview of the primordial approach to explaining identity and the links associated with this and the history and development of 'race' and its connotations. In response to this the constructivist argument will be presented including the idea of race to be socially constructed. This will support the proposal to discard the term 'race'. A brief link back to the scientific development of genetics will be apparent here to support this approach. The general argument of this essay will be leaning towards the abolition of the term and its connotations when used by social scientists. Before looking at the background to this debate it is important first to try to define The term race is seen to be a relatively modern one, developing in the late 18th century during Europe's imperial expansion.
(Guillaumin, 1999:360) However, with the idea that humans are 'naturally' different disappearing, there are still differences between the groups ('races') within society. For this argument, with the aim of social sciences being to study society and human behaviour, it would be impossible to ignore that there is a division. "Given that race is seen as a scientific sociological factor and that racial differences are taken to exist and to have a determining saliency, there is a need to specify the meaning of 'race' outside the officially recognised group classifications of apartheid. But with the 'fact' of 'race' contradicted by scientific research findings in modern biology and genetics, what kind of conceptual terminology of 'race' is adequate for such a task?" (Ratcliffe, 1994:98) The terminology associated with 'race' is rife in modern society, for example words such as "white" and "black" are used to distinguish between people, usually for appearance purposes. One would find the question of ethnic origin followed by these types of words and others as choices for the response. They provide an essence of identity for most humans which has come to be a natural aspect that we look at subconsciously. So, despite there being no scientific proof to back up the original idea of 'race', it could be a more fitting and useful idea for social scientists to look at the reasons behind this behaviour and the meanings humans attach to it.
In conclusion, one must attempt to answer the question at hand. It is important, primarily to determine whether or not 'race' exists. Due to the fact that 'race' is scientifically disprovable from the work of Darwin to the current DNA analysis, one could argue that it does not exist. It would seem fitting, therefore, to abandon the use of the term. However, as Ratcliffe states, "To exclude it altogether would be to deny its presence in contemporary debates". (Ratcliffe, 1994:4) As this is apparent and race still exists for people as a conceptual tool, it is perhaps more useful for social scientists to use it as a means of understanding its presence in society, thus social inequalities and conflict between groups. One must also ask the underlying vitriolic debate as to the placing of values in sociological research. Can research be value-free and, if so, should it? Those who argue that it can be free from exterior factors take an objective view to their study and claim that the role of social scientists is simply to observe social facts for authenticity of their findings. However, if at all, when discussing the 'race' debate, perhaps it would be more advisable to carry out value-laden research with a committed means to stand on a particular side of the debate as a means to break down hierarchies and empower the participant.
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