In 1901, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois argued that, “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of colour line” (DuBois, 1901), which categorises individuals by their physical characteristics alone. He set out to demonstrate what it was like for black people, living through the African-American Civil Right Movement at the turn of the Twentieth Century (Carson, 1985). Since the turn of the Twentieth Century there has been great progress made for those on the other side of the ‘colour line’ but the problems associated with race remains. In the Twenty First Century the ‘colour line ‘of which Du Bois refers to, still needs to be broken. This essay will explore how ‘race’ has developed though out history; it will examine ‘race’ in the present day and how it impacts on people’s lives. The essay will also provide evidence to argue the fact that, ‘race’ is only skin deep and that there are no biological differences between each ‘race’, along with providing evidence to show that ‘race’ is a socially and politically constructed.
The difference of race is one of the reasons why I fear war may always exist; because race implies difference, difference implies superiority, and superiority leads to predominance. – Benjamin Disraeli (as cited in Bolander, et al., 1969, p.249)
Race is something that has caused problems amongst the populations of the world for centuries. According to Smedley, (2013), the term race was used to was first used to categorise humans in the late 16th century, previously to that early civilisations used class, status, religion and language to group different members of society together (Rogow, 2003). Even before the word ‘race’ was actually used it is evident that class and status played a major role in how people were treated, those who were considered to be from lower classes of society were considered to be degenerates and uneducated. Throughout the history of the civilisation there are endless amounts of documentation to show that civilisations around the globes have been subjected to discrimination, slavery, torture and death all because some hierarchy deemed there to be a just cause for this treatment.
Slavery in America is one such time in history that the hierarchy of a country thought it was acceptable to treat human beings abhorrently. Slavery first began in 1619 when the first groups of African slaves were brought to Virginia to help with farming tobacco (History.com, 2013). It was not until the American civil war (1861 – 65) had ended that 4 million slaves were liberated (History.com, 2013), but along with freedom came bigger problems, slaves were literally turfed out with no money, nowhere to go and no food to feed themselves or their children.
…Soon the waves began to sparkle, and everything caught the beautiful glow, before us lay the city of strangers. We had escaped from slavery.... But we were alone in the world. – Harriet Jacobs (as cited on, pbs.org, 2013)
This prompted the formation...