Korean people usually seem to equate nationality with a single, homogenous racial group. This tendency is quite understandable since Korea is among the world’s most ethnically homogenous societies. Ethnic homogeneity is the norm for Korean society, but the U.S. is quite the opposite.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005, “white” people account for 74.67% of U.S. society. Although most people consider “whites” to be those of European descent, the legal definition includes peoples of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Therefore, the number of “white” people living in the U.S. seem to be artificially inflated. African?American people account for 12.12% and Asian?Americans (including Pacific Islanders) account for 4.46% of U.S. society.
Therefore, assuming that American people have a homogenous racial appearance is an inaccurate way of viewing American society. Since there are plenty of Chinese Americans, saying that Chinese people look different from American people would be incorrect. There are also plenty of Americans who look just like Koreans as well.
The U.S. is a very new society which was born from a history of colonialism, genocide and slavery carried out by European colonists and settlers. Some anthropologists, such as Gerald Sider, believe that racial categorization was intended to bring political and economic power to the European settlers of North America by exploiting the labor of African and Native American peoples.
Racial discrimination in the U.S. is a social problem which is connected to other political and economic problems involving inequality between people. For such reasons, generalizing North American peoples to be of Western European descent only contributes to the problems of social inequality by not giving proper recognition to other ethnic groups. In the U.S. and elsewhere, there are many people of mixed racial descent who couldn’t be categorized by typical racial classifications. Especially in this situation, labeling people by race becomes a questionable practice. If someone’s ancestors come from several different groups, such as European, Asian, African, Arab, Latin-Amecican, etc., then how can the person’s race be identified? Furthermore, why should people be classified by race? Can we learn anything about a person if we know how to identify them by a racial categorization?
Classifying race by regions and continents is also a flawed practice. Considering the Asian “race,” what kind of similarities are shared between Korean and Pilipino people that render them part of the same race? If ethnic characteristics are shared, then why are Pilipino people treated differently than Koreans in Korean society?
If someone tells me they are African, I still know nothing about their race. Why? Africa is considered to be the most racially diverse continent on the Earth. If someone tells me they are European, there is still no way to know if they are Celtic, Anglo?Saxon, Latin, Slavic, or Germanic.
Since there is no accurate way to racially classify people, I tend to view race as a social misunderstanding that will be forgotten in the future, once people become more accustomed to encountering those who have different physical appearances than themselves. Until that time, racial issues may stimulate inequality problems in multi?ethnic societies such as the United States.
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