Race: a social construct

Multiracial group in pool

Race is a way of classifying people into groups based on physical characteristics. These groups are socially constructed and there is no evidence to support biological ideas of races.

‘More than a century’s worth of biological study has failed to explain folk-racial categories in terms of genetic categories. This failure is due in large part to the well-documented fact that, as with any differences between human populations, the genetic differences within folk-racial categories range over a distribution that is larger than the average genetic differences between these categories’ (Clough & Loges 2008, p. 81).

Race is a socially constructed category that positions people in different ways so that some people have access to more resources and power than others. To avoid the trap of reifying race as biological entity, many authors write ‘race’ (using single quotation marks) rather than race, to indicate that the concept is problematic  (Nado Aveling, Murdoch University).

You will examine race as a social construct and how whiteness is positioned as the norm against which everything else is measured. This becomes the backdrop to teachers becoming better equipped to construct an anti-racism pedagogy and an inclusive curriculum that addresses racism, ethnicity and discrimination.

If social justice seeks to provide “equitable outcomes to marginalised groups by recognising past disadvantage and existence of structural barriers embedded in the social, economic and political system that perpetuate systemic discrimination” then our focus must  be on those groups of students who are served least well by our schools.[1]

Use Peggy McIntosh’s ‘White Privilege Checklist’—found within The Invisible Knapsack video—to consider the privileges that apply to you or that you have encountered.

The Invisible Knapsack

See also: https://www.pcc.edu/illumination/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2018/05/white-privilege-essay-mcintosh.pdf

Related content

Race video

Explorations of race

Activity: Explore a range of Australian and international resources and media on race and racism.

Read More


Clough, S & Loges, W 2008, ‘Racist value judgments as objectively false beliefs: A philosophical and social-psychological analysis’, Journal of Social Philosophy, vol.39, no.1, p. 81.

[1] http://our.murdoch.edu.au/Equal-opportunity-and-social-justice/