The Impact of Society on Racial Identity


The race is defined as a “socially created concept that identifies a group as “different,” usually on the basis of ancestry or certain physical characteristics” (Ballantine, Roberts, Korgen 2018).

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Although we do not want to believe that there are problems relating to race in our world, we should face it rather than completely ignore it. The problem would most likely be fixed once people start learning more about other races. Everyone is so quick to judge others and they ignore the way others may feel because of that.

Racial identity is basically the color of one’s skin and the race they associate that color with. Societal input tends to make people twist their thoughts about racial identity. It is so difficult to identify yourself as what you truly are when you feel everyone around you is telling you to be someone different.

Throughout history, society has impacted the way that multiracial individuals see themselves. Stereotyping happens when “prejudice individuals use distorted, oversimplified, or exaggerated ideas to categorize a group of people and attribute personal qualities to them” (Ballantine, Roberts, Korgen 2018). Being prejudice is more just having a certain attitude toward a group of people while discrimination is actually putting it in action. Stereotypes and racial slurs about various races has been causing multiracial individuals to identify themselves in a way they wouldn’t initially identify themselves. For example, an individual who is black and white may reside with one specific race depending on who they are around and what society has pushed them to feel.

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If an individual is around a parent, they are likely to identify themselves correctly. When one is around different social groups, they may identify themselves as only one race over another because they feel they fit in better. For example, when you are with your best friends you may also identify yourself how you initially would, but around classmates you may not. If people around you are making you feel as though you should identify a certain way, you may start to feel that way around that specific group. It’s very important to recognize prejudice as an “understandable response of humans to their social environment (Ballantine, Roberts, Korgen 2018).

Society has taken away an individual’s chance to express themselves and actually be proud of who they are. Many individuals feel that they have to hide who they really are and it has led to a spoiled identity. In this paper, I am interested in learning how societal input affects the way an individual acts and identifies themselves around different groups of people. I am interested in who individuals feel the most comfortable around especially after experiencing stereotypes and negative input on a certain race. In this research, it is my main goal to prove that society has a large impact on the way multiracial individuals act around certain social groups which causes them to only be comfortable identifying regularly around specific people.

This problem is explained by the Conflict Theory. The conflict theory “contends that conflict is inevitable in any group or society that inequality and injustice are the source if he conflicts that permeate society” (Ballantine, Roberts, Korgen 2018). This theory originated with a man named Karl Marx and then have branched off since then. There is conflict with race, social class, gender, etc. By understanding the conflict theory, it gives us a better understanding on why race has a variety of problems that come along with it. Along with social class and gender, race is one of the largest conflicts that we face every single day. Not all see it through perspective of the conflict theory, but it is a problem that has been going on for a long while. Some feel that the conflict theory does not focus on anything but the macro-level analysis (Ballantine, Roberts, Korgen 2018).

Society has made many different stereotypes about race which has really affected how individuals see themselves. For example, a large stereotype is that black individuals are seen as more deviant than white individuals. Since this stereotype has raised, many have taken the role as being deviant because that is just what they feel people see them as and they believe it is a hard idea to shift. Since people see blacks as deviant, when a white individual does something that is deviant, it is a lot more surprising. This problem has to do largely with the labeling theory, which is said to lead to a spoiled identity. In Anthony R. Harris’s article “Race, Commitment to Deviance, and Spoiled Identity,” he performed research that made a conclusion about the role of race in labeling and self-definition. Harris challenged the idea that spoiled identity is an “outcome of deviant commitment and self-definition” by generating data from 234 black and white inmates (Harris 1976). It is believed that the relationship between the spoiling of identity and labeling is significant between white individuals, but not so much black individuals.

It is the belief of Anthony R. Harris that “the potentially ironic though disparate effects of deviant labeling in further spoiling the identity of ascriptive members caught for violating “their own” membership codes on the one hand and, on the other, furthering aligning the ascriptive nonmembers caught for violating someone else’s codes” needs to be taken into account. (Harris 1976). This explains that white individuals are seen to be as breaking their own rules when performing a deviant act, while black individuals are seen as breaking everyone else’s code because they are already seen as deviant. To consider this, Harris also explains that it would “require a rethinking of the role of labeling in creating and maintaining deviance” and also a better thinking on the idea that “spoiled identity is a necessary, socially invariant outcome of deviant commitment and self-definition” (Harris 1976).

David R. Harris and Jeremiah Joseph Sim have done research on the patterns of racial classification in adolescents. After running through a home survey with a large sample size, they concluded that “About 12 percent of youth provide inconsistent responses to nearly identical questions about race, context affects one’s choice of a single-race identity, and nearly all patterns and processes of racial classification depend on which racial groups are involved” (Harris and Sim 2002). They found that there is more than one factor going along with racial fluidity. One factor is that our world today is far different from the world before. Today, adolescents are more aware about diversity and they really put emphasis on their racial and self-identity. It is an idea that adolescents call themselves by a certain race, or multiracial, because their family or friends had made them feel that way. For example, if a multiracial parent calls themselves by a specific race over the other, the child will most likely follow them in doing so. They found that during the home interview, parents being present increased the parent’s perspective within a child. They “suspect that some children of monoracial parents classify themselves as multiracial because parents and children disagree about how recently mixed one must be to report being multiracial” (Harris and Sim 2002). The second factor is that multiracial groups tend to make socially distinct monoracial groups. The example they have given is White/American Indian, which is the largest multiracial group. It’s very different when it comes to white and black individuals. People are making their own groups and it conflicts with one’s racial identity because it is confusing when everyone around you is making you think differently.

Racial identity is something that is thought about all throughout the world. In the research of Edward Telles and Tianna Paschel, they have found the relationship between, skin color, race, and the impact of society. They took research about race from four different countries. They found that skin color predicts race in Panama, but it is the opposite in a place such as the Dominican Republic. They had concluded that race is not just physical, but it is also cultural (Telles and Paschel 2014). The way people see and identify each other is different in various nations. Countries who are more focused on their culture do not really have a problem with their racial identity. Whereas, countries that are not really culturally connected experience conflict when identifying themselves because they are more likely to fall into what society has to say about different races.


I want to expand the research on race and self-identification. Although there are other factors, the way society talks about a race can really impact the way they see themselves. I believe that as negative societal input increases, it causes multiracial individuals to change their view of their own self-identity around people who make them feel like they have to. To argue I will take a sample of 100 Le Moyne students and send out a survey. To get my sample, I will request a list of all Le Moyne students from the Registrar’s Office. I will then assign every single student a number until I have gone through the whole list. After doing this, 100 names will then be randomly picked using a random number generator, which will assure a completely random sample instead of picking the first 100 people I see on campus.

The survey will contain questions relating to race and self-identity. The students will have to identify their race and also their parents’ race. They will start off by being asked if they feel others treat them differently because of their race. They will then be asked questions about self/racial-identification and how much they feel society affects the way they see themselves. It will ask them whether they feel they have been left out because of their race and it has made them feel different about themselves. They will also be asked who they feel most comfortable identifying themselves to. This survey will be made off of google and I will email it to every student picked by the random sample generator.

The independent variable is race. The categories will be American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White, or other. The dependent variable is the social group that an individual feels free to identify themselves comfortably around. The categories will be family, friends, Best friends, Co-workers, classmates or other. I believe that if a person is multiracial, they will most identify themselves as they normally would around people that are closer with, such as parents, family, and best friends.


The research design I have created is made to show people that they do have an impact on how people self-identify themselves. This would also create thought for how to fix this problem and work together to find solutions. More research could possibly make a change regarding stereotyping and discrimination. A large part of the reason why we judge is that we do not have a proper understanding on why people are the way they are. Being more aware of racial identity can help you solve the problems relating to it. Aside from the research, just being aware of surroundings can help one be more aware of the different people around them. Research just like this one will show us that society does have a large impact on the way people identify themselves to certain people, which means that society can also work to fix it.

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The Impact of Society on Racial Identity. (2021, Aug 12). Retrieved from

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