Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Louwanda Evans & Joe R. Feagin
The term race in its modern sense was first used in the 1700s by Europeans and European Americans to refer to what is now also called a “racial group.” Initially, race referred to biological differences believed to exist as distinctions between individuals or groups; however, racial groups can be understood as identity groupings as well as government-protected categories. Although race was once believed to signify significant biological differences, nearly all social scientists now refer to race as a social construct. Race as a social construct can also signify differences or distinctions in an existing racial hierarchy. In a society, the process of racial “othering” or differentiation of “us” from “them” often causes significant changes in major societal institutions through embedded forms of racial discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping. Given a racial hierarchy—a system of stratification—substantial inequality among a society's racially defined groups can persist for centuries. As a racial hierarchy can ...