Why is race such a big deal?

Race. What makes it such a big determining factor of inclusion in society? Why does it play such a big role in our daily lives? I believe that using race to discriminate against people ultimately stems from feelings of fear or sometimes of superiority.

Fear is oftentimes one of the most common motivators for unjust actions, in this case, for discrimination based on race. People often tend to fear the unknown. When faced with unfamiliar things, such as members of a different race, people can find ways to justify their discriminatory actions because of their uncertainty. In addition, fear stemming from outside factors can add on to preexisting fear stemming from the unfamiliarity of said people of a different race. This can cause a specific racial group or minority to be scapegoated in order to reassure the public. In the US, during WWII, the Japanese-Americans were a direct target of this fear because of “the color of their skins, the [alleged] repulsiveness of their features, their undersize of figure, their incomprehensible language, strange customs, and heathen religion…[which] conspired to set them apart.” (Hubert Howe Bancroft) When the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, many American citizens began to discriminate against the Japanese-Americans because they were afraid of the events that had taken place and of the war in general; they needed to find someone as their scapegoat and the Japanese-Americans happened to be the easiest to blame.

Besides fear of the unknown, majority groups can sometimes discriminate against smaller minority groups because of feelings of superiority. The use of race to determine social standing has long been a practice in many different countries around the world. During the late 19th century, the theory of Social Darwinism developed a way for many societies, mainly in European countries, to “prove” that some specific races were inferior to others. Social Darwinism was a way for specific races to justify “imperialism, racism, eugenics and social inequality at various times over the past century and a half.” (Social Darwinism – History) The growth and spread of the theory of Social Darwinism provides some insight as to why race played such a big role in history and how it still does in today’s society. While we may now know that this theory is undoubtedly incorrect, it still unfortunately doesn’t stop people from discriminating against particular races because they believe that this specific race is supposedly inferior to them.

Although it may be difficult to unlearn these harmful thoughts and feelings because they have been a part of our society for so long, it is important that we, as a community, try our hardest to treat everybody, regardless of their race, equally and to be proud of the diversity that our country has to offer. Oftentimes, the feeling “belonging” can result from being part of the majority, be it race, religion, or gender. However, it is no one’s place to decide who belongs and who doesn’t. No one should be excluded, despite their differences, because no one factor can truly decide who belongs.

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