Reading Summary

Reading Summary
Your name: Kenneth Lamborn
Reading: Racial Formation in the United States
Summary (One Paragraph):
This article begins by telling the reader the story of Susie Guillory Phipps, and her attempt to change her
racial classification from black to white. Her birth certificate said that she was black, because Louisiana
designates anyone with “one-thirty-second” black ancestry to be black. She didn’t win her lawsuit, and that
loss sparked an intense conversation about what race really is. In fact, race is a very modern concept, going
back to when the Americas were first being settled – the white settlers were thrown into a world of selfreflection, forced to ask themselves about their religions and theories about humanity. Science, however,
quickly disproved most of the ideas that these settles formed about people of color. Now, race serves as
largely a social construct, grouping people together based on their economic status, political agenda, culture,
etc – race is such an important part of how we judge people in the US that it is actually uncomfortable for
people when they cannot identify the race of someone. Even as race has changed throughout time, it remains
a key part of how people are perceived in the US, even though throughout many other parts of the world,
race holds much less importance.
List of primary claims made in this reading:
Race was originally a means of labeling people due to the ignorance of white persons settling other
parts of the world.
Now, race is a social construct that is so deeply embedded in the US that “racial identity” is key to
how every single person is perceived by other people.
Race is elastic in that it changes with the political and economic climates.
Key quote (no more than a sentence or two): “Racial beliefs operate as an ‘amateur biology,’ a way of
explaining the variations in ‘human nature.’”
Why I chose this quote: This quotation really shows the importance that society in the United States places
on race today. It’s completely true – people use race as a means to define and judge other people, and even
assign them certain characteristics that may or may not be true at all about the individual.
Questions that I want to explore:
What can be done in our modern society to lessen the importance of race?
Is judging people based on their race embedded into human nature, or is it a modern phenomenon
that we have become too accustomed to?
What would a society without racial judgment be like?