Du Bois and race conflict

Summary of Video #7 of Crash Course Sociology.

Race is a socially constructed category of people who share biological traits that society has deemed important. The concept of race changes across cultures and time – what race a person is seen as and how they are treated as a result. Race matters because of the power society gives it – it is a big determinant of social outcomes.

Du Bois, also the co-founder of the NAACP and editor of the Crisis, was one of the first proponents of race-conflict theory, which focuses on the disparities and conflicts between people of different races.

During the time Du Bios was born in 1868, race was seen as a biological construct, where blacks were naturally inferior to whites. Du Bios’s work, ‘The Philadelphia Negro’ was the first published study of the living conditions of African Americans, and argued that their poorer conditions were due to racial prejudice rather than racial inferiority. This will complete against prevailing perspectives at that time.

Race-conflict theory gave rise to modern fields of study in racial identity, racial formation, racial politics and racial resistance. For example, Omi and Winant argued that the concept of race originated as a tool to justify and maintain the economic and political power held by those of European descent. Today, Bonilla-Silva says that entrenched political and legal structures continue to hold back the progress of racial minorities.


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