Race as a Social Construct
The well-known “Thomas theorem” in sociology is defined as follows: “if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”. While we can acknowledge that race is a social construction and not a biological reality, it is also true that our race has an incredible impact on our identity and life chances. In this way, the effects of the idea of race are real.
According to historian Milton Meltzer, the rise of the transatlantic slave trade created an incentive to categorize human groups in order to justify the subordination of Africans as slaves. Because Christianity asserted that slavery was a dehumanizing institution and therefore forbidden, a story had to be created that made Black people less than human. Pseudoscientific theories of people of color being biologically inferior to Whites was that story. As Europeans began to sort themselves and others into groups based on physical appearance, they attributed to members of these groups certain behaviors and capacities that were supposedly deeply ingrained (biological). These supposed physical, intellectual, behavioral, and moral differences soon became part of common folk belief or "conventional wisdom".
Society's conceptualization of beauty is also intertwined with race (racism) as light skin phenotype is often correlated with beauty within the dominant society and social institution of mass media. An example of this is when AAPI (Asian American & Pacific Islander) women elect for cosmetic surgeries such as double eyelid, sculpted nose, or breast enlargement. Each of which produce a more White or European image. The women in Kaw's study indicated that they chose their surgeries to improve their social status, and to gain “symbolic capital,” thus prestige. Therefore, prestige is equated to looking White. Effectively, American culture "motivates women to view their feelings of inadequacy as individually rooted, as opposed to socially induced, thereby effectively convincing them to participate in the production and reproduction of the larger structural inequalities that continue to oppress them” (Kaw, 1993).