Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, May 12, 2014

Race is Socially Created and God's Master Plan

Who isn't taking about racial issues today? It seems to be a global problem. Many colleagues of mine are brainstorming, trying to come up with a solution. Well, here is the problem that they must first address the fact that race is socially created. I am surprised that they fail to realize what that means. And, they are always surprised to hear that it is not the kind of problem that man can overcome with man-made top down contrived solutions. Why? Because, it is a condition of man in this fallen world. From the perspective of a sociologist, it is a condition because it is a necessary social experience that leads us back to our creator.
Strictly speaking though as a sociology, it is the way we construct social reality... knowing who you are and are not. That is why we as social scientists can say race is socially constructed. It happens through socialization which is about and only about social interaction; the experience of the exchange of information. All social encounters we experience on a daily basis is an exchange information. In all forms of communication with the purpose of information exchange, we able to socially construct our social reality. In sharing information, we are constantly affirming 'who am I and who am I not... who are we and are not'. This is built into our program so to speak through the first socialization encounter... that being with our mother. In this world, (even in a virtual world) we have to be connected to a place, persons, to the people in it in order to experience identity in a social order and to experience that in a constant form called social stability 'culture'. Why? Because, if we did not have an identity in a social order given to us through socialization in a place... we could be catatonic. We would have to live our life everyday in the same way... starting from the beginning. By the end of the day, we would not have accomplished much since most of the day we spent re-learning everything about social reality in a place. You see, the socialization of who I am and am not gives meaning to our life. We understand what it means to be 'me' and what it means not to be 'me'. We experience what it means to belong to a group as 'me' which we can recognize as 'our' group i.e. ' my family'.

Race is a feature of the socialization process. It is about making social distinctions which give us meaning. This experience of the self through others allows us to be members of group which has its identity in a sense given to it by those who find themselves in a place together; remaining there together because of like physical beauty 'features', like mindedness and likeness in general. When you meet someone for the first time, you discrimination, you make social distinctions. You are looking for how they are like you, what you have in common. In this way, we get a clear point of departure, a clear knowledge of who we are and are not and what is comfortable and possible between us. Race is socially created by all people in every culture. Social distinctions in fact create diversity.

Now, can there be racial tensions, prejudice and discrimination? Yes. We naturally discriminate. It happens through the experience of who I am and am not, who we are and are not. We make social distinctions based on the information we have and the comfort it gives us. We get into our groups and we set up boundaries for reasons of comfort and social stability... so we don't have to recreate ourselves the next day. Yes, we as a group will leave out those who are not us and embrace those who are. Can those who are not us feel left out? That is a good question. They can if they do not have a group of their own which they can experience who they are and are not...yet, if they recognize another group, they already have social identity, they already have had that experience of who I am and am not. So, what could make one group or another group of people want to be like or included by another group... a group that they are not? Good question. The other group may seem better off or somehow superior in skills in a place. Thus, another group may find value in the other group and wish to integrate. That has happened many times in our history. Most of Americans today have or are experiencing this as they become American citizens. People come to the US thinking it is a better place.
What about when a group takes over another group? What examples illustrate this?  First, keep in mind that regarding all social relationship, there are social dynamics - subordination and domination. They are working together more or less. Without them, we would experience entropy and it would all be over in the meaning that there would be no meaning as to who I am and am not. When those dynamics are at work, it is a given that one will appear to be more or less better. One may appear to carry more weight as in social connections 'clout' depending on who they are in place and who values them in that place which can be as simple as in having greater skills to overcome a particular place 'geography'. So, what about when one group takes over another... the Roman Empire was known for this. It happens most often in this way- the social dynamics being at work, set the stage of a winner and loser or one group that will submit and the other dominate. Can they both be winners? Only if they are able to completely integrate with each other as in a 'fusion' and become a new group. They could also become a new group taking positive aspects from both but favoring the one which appears to have greater evidence of sustainability in a place.
Nonetheless, this kind of take over or submission to one group can only happen through the workings of social dynamics. The results of the social dynamics are both legitimately and illegitimately perceived by both groups or more: the integrating group (s) and the host or 'winner' group (s). Can there be issues which have unacceptable preferences? Certainly, even after what has appeared to be a full integration, when the workings of social dynamics have arrived at a winner-loser. The way to deal with such issues, as one group may become dissatisfied with the other group or is disappointed with the group in which they integrated into by choice or lost the battle to, is to let them over time... work it out.
Booker T. Washington, an African American, had one of the best solutions for working it out, he called it - The Politics of Accommodation. In this solution, over time, the integrating group slowly becomes more and more like the group which they seek to integrate with. Hopefully, that group 'host group', will be accommodating. More often than not, in this way, racial issues or any kind of issue (difference) will diminish to the point that race or any issue is no longer an issue. One could apply this to corporate office dynamics.

God also had a 'master' plan. Acts 17:24 says "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And, He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the world earth and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him."
What does this mean for us, for a group? It means that God knew of man's social experiences and man's needs... in that every man needs to know who he is and is not in this fallen world, which man caused because he disobeyed God, his creator. God understands that every man as a group only understands itself as a group when it encounters other groups; which could lead to conflict. God suggested that we wait before we just jump out there seeking ways to understand ourselves through other men, we need to first understand who we are in Him. Eventually, in our knowledge of who we are in God, we will better understand others, tolerate them in letting them solve their own battles, we will pray that they seek the Lord before we try to make them like us. As Americans, we have good intentions. We like to make others like us because we think we have it better here and everybody should be like us because it is better. However, in this line of thinking, we deny other groups their experience of seeking the Lord and letting Him help them out to prosper. We also hurt our relationship with God by doing His job, our work is to rest in the Lord knowing that He made all the nations and He has a time set for them. And,when we recognize this... recognize God's purpose, we will no longer have racial issues.

1 comment :

  1. God is a creative genius who loves variety. While the idea of "race" is socially constructed, the actual physical differences - which are really just skin-deep - are God-created. How many times does scripture warn us not judge only by that which can be seen, but to judge as God judges - by knowing the real person inside. there is only one Human race and within that race, are slight variations just like every other species on earth. Look how many dog varieties man has bred. How hypocritical of mankind to accept all these human-created varieties but mock and even hate the God-created ones!