Although modern society has become more tolerant, discrimination based on race is still relatively widespread. As Healey and Stepnick noticed, race remains the main factor for class inequality even now (215). Still, the concept and social construction of race itself changed a lot. For instance, four common racial identities were developed: border identity, singular identity, transcendent identity, and protean (Healey and Stepnick 222). Border identity implies a separate category apart from black and white, or just an ability to choose one’s identity, especially if it corresponds with the world perception of a person. Singular identity is a traditional understanding of race. People with transcendent identities deny the importance of the race, focusing more on some personal characteristics. Protean is a ‘chameleon’ who adjusts their identity to external conditions. Thus, the significant change is the transition from the dichotomous perspective on race to the more complex one. Moreover, racial identity started to share more similarities with other parts of identity. It is not permanent anymore but can depend on the social context, especially in the case of protean – people who adjust their behavior following a group they happen to be in.
As for the main events that influenced these alterations, one can mention World War II. The decline in different racial prejudices is widely observed in the graph from 1942 to 2012 (Healey and Stepnick 223). Among these, the attitude to segregated schools and neighborhoods, interracial marriages, and general beliefs in the supremacy of whites can be named. However, it is naïve to believe in the evaporation of discrimination as many people still support segregation. Moreover, it is complicated to assess the genuine attitude as people cannot be entirely honest on such issues as discrimination. Notably, even the people who admit their favorable disposition to racism do not imply any sense of superiority over the inferiority of a certain race (Healey and Stepnick 224). Instead, they explain their attitude in terms of cultural deficiencies. In other words, they believe in people’s responsibility for their actions and consider any failures as self-imposed cultural biases. Therefore, the implication of the modern racist opinion consists of the termination of any programs to reduce inequality.
Another prominent social change is the abolition of slavery itself. One of the significant practical consequences for the Black was the ability to establish their communities (Healey and Stepnick 227). On the one hand, it can be said that such a tendency led to the further disintegration between the Black and the White as the communication between them was reduced to a minimum. On the other hand, African Americans are still a part of a bigger society and hence, forced to interact with the world, though feeling more comfortable in a culturally identical community. The Black Power movement in the 1960s contributes to a more profound desire to explore the rich cultural heritage instead of assimilating with the dominant group.
To conclude, the relations between black and white did improve, but the long history of racial discrimination left her footprints. The notion of race as a social construct became much more complex, shifting from the dichotomous perspective to the several identities. Another feature of the modern racial identity concept is flexibility and adjustment to the social context. After the end of slavery, which was the turning point in the evolution of race, racial prejudices tended to decrease. Such events as World War II contributed to the improvement in the attitudes to segregation towards more tolerance.
Healey, Joseph F., and Andi Stepnick. Diversity and Society. Sage, 2020.