How is race more a sociological classification than a biological one?Discuss and provide situations in which an individual’s race may be mistaken or taken for granted. In the United States the...

How is race more a sociological classification than a biological one?

Discuss and provide situations in which an individual’s race may be mistaken or taken for granted. In the United States the key stratifying variable is race; in Europe it is SES. Why do you think there is this difference?

Asked on by matt09

5 Answers | Add Yours

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Great question! Biologically, we are not that different. Although there are some genetic predispositions, we are not sure they don't result from sociological purposes. How a person acts is a sociological construct, not a biological one. Our beliefs about different races result from behaviors, and those behaviors are due more to culture than race.
readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is an important and pertinent question. Race is debated on a biological level, but there is no consensus. Therefore, it is almost pointless to talk about race from a biological level. What we are left with are social constructs. The important point to remember here is that these constructs will differ from place to place. With that said, each society has certain stereotypes based on how a person looks. Also these things have a profound influence on how people are treated. Based on the pigment of a person's skin, people make assumptions about intelligence, morality, and tastes, to name a few things. What complicates things further is that people's looks can be very deceptive.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Because the biology of the different races are very similar.  There are minor variations in appearance, i.e. secondary characteristics, that is, but aside from that it's just color of skin that sets apart the races.  The biology is the same.  People have been socialized to treat the races differently, hence the sociological classification.  Racism is a social disease.

As interracial marriage and mixed race children become more and more common in American society and the world, what few biological differences there were become even less apparent over the generations.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There are a couple of things here which might need to be addressed.  The first would be the explanation of race as a sociological classification.  Part of the reason why the issue of race resides to heavily in sociology would to analyze the subjective and collective perceptions about it.  The analysis of behavior of individual towards race is one reason why sociologists study it incessantly.  At the same time, I think that one of the premises posited might be heavily debated.  Coherent arguments can be launched which suggest that the key stratifying variable might not be race, but class, gender, or sexual orientation.  To suggest that racial stratification occupies a greater or more significant position than other characteristics might neglect the role that multiple characteristics possess and their convergence into one another.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Race is a sociological classification because there is no way of accurately describing it in a scientific way.  How does one classify which person is white and which is black if two people have various mixes of racial background?

It is the key stratifying variable in the US because of our history of having a multi-racial society.  Most European countries lacked racial diversity and would have had no reason to stratify on those lines.

To me, the best example of when race is mistaken is in the case of mixed race individuals.  My brother and I have the same parents yet he is seen as a white person and I am not because of how different we look.


We’ve answered 319,641 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question