PREFACE The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United Statesis a five-part book that gives special attention to the social construction of race and ethnicity in the United States. It offers an in-depth and eye-opening analysis of (a) the power of the U.S. system of racial classification to shape our understanding of race and race relations, (b) the way in which this system came into being and has been preserved/perpetuated, and (c) the real consequences this system has on life chances. The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United Statesis not just a book of readings. Each of the five parts leads off with an in-depth essay or overview that grounds the set of readings in sociological theory. Readings were selected for their potential to stimulate critical thinking and self-examination. In addition, each reading begins with one or more study questions to help readers clarify/identify key concepts and issues. The idea for this book grew out of our frustration with the misleading way in which the idea of "race" is treated in most textbooks that address this concept. Many authors, for example, accurately point out that race is not a meaningful biological concept, but then they proceed to define race in a way that highlights biological traits and to show photographs suggesting that race is a definitive, clear-cut attribute. This book also developed out of a shared commitment to improve the quality of our teaching and to gain a fuller understanding of the impact that the idea of race has on a society that is consumed by it. The logic, organization, articles, and ideas evolved out of conversations with other teachers and from students responses to class material. As one example of how student input helped to shape this book, we asked students to respond in writing to the idea that "race" is a myth and is based on the false assumption that people can be divided into distinct racial categories. While there are always a few students not surprised by this idea, the majority cannot see how this is possible--as these sample comments show: I don't understand how this is possible but 1 am open-minded about it. If there is no such thing as race, why can I look around at the people in the class and know their race? If race is a myth, why is race such a big deal in this country? Such responses motivated us to ask and answer several difficult questions that are central to this book: (1) How is it that racial categories are treated as mutually exclusive when we can identify many cases in which people have complex biological histories? (2) If classification schemes in fact are based on a false assumption, why do they seem so clear-cut? (3) Why have government officials spent so much physical and mental energy devising rules for classifying people according to race? (4) "Why do we so easily recognize races when walking down the street if race is a myth?" (Haney Lopez 1994:19). (5) If race is a myth, should we dismantle classification schemes? In writing and selecting the readings, we struggled with how to refer to "race." Should we always put the word racein quotation marks? Should we always qualify references to a person's race with the words people classified asblack, white, and so on? In the end, we concluded that the idea of race is real if only because its consequences are real. However, we believe that people must shift their understanding of the meaning of race away from a term referring to clear biological divisions of humanity, to a term referring to "a way in which one group designates itself as 'insider' and other groups as 'outsiders' to reinforce or enforce its wishes and/or ideas in social, economic, and political realms" (Rorhl 1996:96). The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United Stateswas created with the goal ofFerrante, Joan is the author of 'Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United States', published 2000 under ISBN 9780130283238 and ISBN 0130283231.