People are social animals as stated by an Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. It means that despite the many primitive constructs people have, they have created something that shapes them and serves as a major dividing line from all other species; and that is a society with all of its values and beliefs. The personal experience of being white proves that race has greatly shaped the personality by creating various challenges and making one more vulnerable to particular aspects of social life. At the same time, race has become a tool to overcome personal issues when facing certain social expectations and more accepting toward people with different backgrounds.
Regarding society, it is important to understand its underlining nature. People tend to live and be shaped up by societies while in the process, they become the small chains to make the latter work and transform according to their beliefs. Society is one of the major determinants on the way people perceive themselves and approaches to particular characteristics they were born with such as gender and race. The latter affects people’s perception through creating and strengthening particular stereotypes that exist regarding various racial groups. Being white or black shapes individual consciousness through daily social interactions, education, and growth. From a very young age, the person is taught particular things about one’s race; for instance, a child may learn that everybody should be respected despite his/her race. On the contrary, in case a person grows up in a segregated community, he/she may be told that people of other races must be hated or avoided. However, although both approaches are opposite and seek to instill polar views inside the person’s head, they have one aspect in common. Whether the person learns to respect all racial backgrounds or despise some, he or she also realizes the difference between the races. Moreover, if races did not matter in the modern world, they would not have been learned and explained at schools and discussed in society. People do not stress on respect toward redheads or brunettes because it is something out of social agenda, and the society does not divide the individuals based on the color of their hair. However, it does divide the people based on the color of their skin, and it is something that people learn from a very young age.
Therefore, growing up as white has shaped individuals greatly making one’s personal experience more open toward vulnerabilities. Being white is often regarded as a privilege due to the fact that throughout history, whites were considered more important than blacks and even enslaved them. Therefore, there is a general belief that white people tend to have fewer insecurities than those of other races, specifically due to the history which has impacted one greatly and made more vulnerable. Living in a society where being one often meant being blamed for the various items in the past also shaped the personality because one behaved and thought based on the social norms and expectations.
The fact that I am white has influenced my communication with people of different races and cultures greatly. For instance, it often prevented me from building healthy relations with others, and I felt different from the rest on various occasions. The other aspect of being white was the feeling of being excluded from communication. Whites did not have the same sort of gatherings and social events as people who represented minority groups. The latter tended to be more organized and collected compared to the whites who did not form and felt a sense of community. Therefore, the race has created a particular vulnerability of being more exposed to social criticism and having fewer contacts and tools to depend on.
It is important to admit that being white does not necessarily mean thinking about one’s race constantly. Contrarily, the thoughts of the race were rather rare. However, the feeling of being different from other races and carrying out particular characteristics due to one’s race has shaped the personality and made one view society and human relations based on the norms and expectations for the representative of the Caucasian race. According to Carse, affliction often makes people recede to the background, and they stay along with their vulnerabilities letting them define their individual persona (38). This is something that happens to an individual when he or she seeks to identify oneself with race and changes his/her attitudes, behavior and the way of thinking.
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Therefore, the perception of race has been socially constructed because it has been instilled into people from the young age when they learned the differences between the races and the way society viewed those differences. It made a person vulnerable by exposing him/herself to the social expectations and criticism of the race. In addition, it resulted in drawing a distinctive dividing line between people of different races who could communicate freely but were influenced by the lingering presence of history. Thus, the sole concept of race has led to the various vulnerabilities of self-perception and relating to others. It also created confusions in communicating with the people who represented different cultural backgrounds.
Overall, the issue of race has been raised complicated entirely by the society which expects people to stick to this definition of themselves without accepting the ability to change the race or one’s definition of race. Heyes states that people are now much more accepting to those who change their gender than to those who change their race because the latter act is considered rather alien and wrong for society (267). Therefore, the overall social norms result in vulnerability concerning racial identification. As individuals suffer from social constructs, they tend to carry them on later through personal stereotypical views.
As aforementioned, Carse states that people grow up according to their backgrounds; consequently, the isolation they experience due to external characteristics makes them more vulnerable (39). This process is applicable when speaking about race, as well. However, it is important to add that racial identification and vulnerability helps the individual to flourish, as supported by the personal example. Representing race is difficult due to the abovementioned issues; however, due to them, the person has to accept one for who he/she is and deal with the possible criticism and social expectations. Even more importantly, the vulnerability makes the person more accepting of others as well as braver when fighting with the social injustice since the acts against individuals become more relevant and appealing to those who suffer from similar attacks. Hence, experiencing race and vulnerability contributes to the flourishing of an individual capable of developing due to the previous challenges.
Nevertheless, one can argue that race cannot stir such emotional transformations because it is not something individual but rather shared. Despite the lack of clear dividing lines, people still tend to live in communities where their race is represented. Therefore, growing up in such a way, the race does not work as an identifying factor and can work only in case the person is being threatened or mistreated due to the race. In other situations, when society is in relative stability and acceptance, the race does not lead to serious inner reflections and changes within the personality. In the era when segregation and racism are being justly criticized, the race lost its defining role and no longer remains a tool to label an individual.
Although the argument does have a sound base, it is important to understand that race, as well as any other factor (whether it is something an individual influence or not), play a significant role on the formation of the personality. It is a part of who the person is, and it is one of the aspects for which society judges the person. That is the reason the race remains an extremely delicate aspect of human persona because it can result in inner and external struggles as well as help the individual overcome them in the end.
The racial identification is a step toward identifying oneself as a member of a particular community or as a loner. However, the identification process does not take place without paying amends to the race as one of the reasons the person chooses a particular set of behavior. Therefore, this concept cannot be ignored and viewed as insignificant when forming a personality. Moreover, although society does criticize racism and seeks to eliminate it, the everyday racism that is not so much verbal or physical but stereotypes toward the people of different races is still present among people. It is one of the key reasons for the vulnerabilities if people believe in particular items about their and other races. Nevertheless, in case people do not want to admit the aspects of race identifying and everyday stereotypes, they will not be able to overcome them. The only way to accept the race and eliminate the differences artificially created through history and societies is by admitting them and reducing their importance and value when building communications. This way, it would be possible to turn one’s vulnerability into a tool toward the flourishing of the individual. Personal experience is great proof of that. After a long period of struggles and insecurities when speaking with the people of other races, one has learned to find approaches to them and accept perspective recognizing their inner vulnerabilities. Therefore, individual vulnerability allowed one to build bridges in the end and overcome some of the biggest issues regarding interracial communication and self-acceptance.
Identifying an individual through the race only is not the way a person should think of oneself; however, the sole fact that society still operates with the term “race” proves that this concept remains important for the community and cannot be overlooked. Many people still consider race an extremely important factor when setting a particular behavior or communication strategy. This explains the social construction of the definition of race and the way racial identification leads to particular vulnerabilities people experience through it. However, race can be a part of the person’s traumatic experience as well as become a tool to overcome challenging and inner struggles and serve as a purpose to flourish by developing stronger human skills and being able to relate and accept others.
My personal experience serves as a good example that being white and identifying oneself through race can become a source of vulnerability for individual growth. This agent often results in challenges in everyday communications and interactions and causes particular expectations from society as well as further issues on the personal level. Therefore, race is an influential factor in development and growth because it changes people’s attitudes toward others and themselves and exposes the person to more struggles in the social and personal aspects of life. However, as race becomes a vulnerability, it can contribute to personal flourishing whenever an individual develops stronger personal qualities or leads to various challenges. It helps the person to achieve full potential since he or she is exposed to more difficulties, and at the same time, one can develop personalized solutions for them. The issue is important since it explains important aspects of human personality and people’s nature. In addition, it demonstrates the way one’s disadvantage or personal insecurity can become the tool for growth and transformation.