|The meaning of ‘race’ has changed over many centuries, but it is now generally accepted as something created by society. The American Anthropological Association’s statement on race states, “physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.”
While we may not be different biologically, the colour of our skin is the most visible difference among us, and it affects the way we interact with each other. Racial encounters carry a long history of abuse from colonization, which saw the establishment of a major group and a minor group. This situation still thrives today but ethnicity, gender, and economic status further inform the experience of the minority. Ethnicity is best defined as the practices and traditions of a racial group such as language, religion, behaviors, and culture.
Our current understanding of racism can be traced back to the period of industrialization of Europe and the colonization of non-European peoples in the 18th century, when there were rapid scientific and technological development. The ways and cultures of indigenous peoples and people of colour were seen as inferior to the white explorers and colonizers, and were therefore exploitable.
Today many countries are culturally diverse due to generations of immigration resettlement (refugees who have been selected to establish themselves in a country), diaspora (a dispersion of people from their original homeland), and forced displacement; however, race relations within a country remain tense and unstable. Racial and ethnic minority identities are shaped by the dominant culture, which controls the institutions of power (the legal and education system, media, etc.) that produce and maintain representations and stereotypes. In spite of this, ethnic and racial minorities are defining and creating their own identities.
Multicultural societies help promote cultural acceptance and pluralism (the state of having more than one culture in one geographic area), but they should be careful not focus on the simple aspects of culture such as food, dance, music, and clothing, as they do not represent a culture in its complexity and do not disturb the organization and power of the dominant culture.