Have you ever heard someone say: “Race is a social construction”?

The statement is generally followed by more statements against classification based on race: Race doesn’t really exist. It is something we created. So we shouldn’t use it. Race doesn’t matter.

Or the extended version.

Please don’t judge me based on the color of my skin (usually black or brown). Skin color doesn’t mean anything. It’s just pigmentation. It’s just melanin. It’s not connected to anything like my intelligence. We are all human. There is nothing that separates black from white. We all have blood, guts, and organs. Don’t treat me differently from someone who looks like you. We’re the same.

I hear this all the time–usually by some black people in a majority white country who are trying to plead their case to a room full of white people about why they should be treated equally.

I don’t doubt that blacks and whites and everyone else should be treated equally. That much should be a universal consensus. Equal treatment under the law is a constitutional proclamation that should be upheld.

But when someone utters those words–race is a social construction–I always cringe, because what they are saying is patently false, or at its very best, could only hold truth in a small part.

The accuracy of the statement depends on two things:

1. Whose conception of race they are discussing? Is it the idea originally formulated by Ancient Africans or the manipulation of that idea by white Anglo-Saxons?

2. To what race are they referring? The idea of blackness or whiteness?

The Ancient Africans and the white Anglo-Saxons have two very different conceptions of race.

The Ancient Africans grounded their race theories in nature, physical science, and the earth. They called their home Kemet which meant “The Black Land.”

They rooted the concept of black and darkness being good and godly in the natural world. The rich, fertile soil is black or dark in color in the same way that brown rice, brown sugar, wheat flour, and wheat bread are healthier and provide more nourishment for the body than lighter-colored varieties. Fruits ripen when they are darker, hence the saying: “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

In the world we live in today, fruits and natural goods behave no differently than they did thousands of years ago.

The Ancient Africans derived their conception of race from these understandings of nature. The black race was the closest to the sun and to the gods. Lighter and even lighter shades of pigmentation followed farther away from the sun and distant from the gods. Black and therefore blackness was next to godliness.

In Ancient Africa, there was no notion of whiteness or a white race. Even in contemporary times, most African languages do not have a word to acknowledge a white race. The concept of whiteness simply does not exist in Africa.

Many thousands of years later, Anglo-Saxons misappropriated the Ancient African use of race for their own benefit. These Anglo-Saxons created their own story about race, describing a hierarchy of skin color where whites are at the top, blacks are at the bottom, and everyone else is somewhere in between.

Anglo-Saxons dismantled the Ancient African concept of race in two ways: First, they reversed the order of races that the Ancient Africans devised, in order to place black furthest away from the gods. Second, they created a white race that formerly did not exist to solidify their position at the top of the hierarchy.

The Anglo-Saxons became white Anglo-Saxons.

They disseminated this ideology of whiteness in their dictionaries and perpetuated their definitions of whiteness in academic institutions. Take, for example, the Merriam Webster dictionary, which defines as white as upright, fair, moral, pure, favorable, and not harmful.


In contrast, the Anglo-Saxon dictionary, defines black as evil, sad, gloomy, calamitous, grim, grotesque, distorted, hostile, angry, sinister, soiled, and dirty.


Anglo-Saxons disseminate propaganda that makes a clear distinction between black being negative and white being positive. These are likely the flawed logic–dialectics of positive and negative, of domination and subordination, of good and bad–that people are disagreeing with when they discuss the social construction of race.

But race is only a social construction insofar as we are referring to the Anglo-Saxon conception of race. We must distinguish this from the Ancient African thought many years prior.

Furthermore, we cannot say that skin color doesn’t matter or that it means nothing.

We know that the only men and women capable of becoming the world’s fastest sprinters have West African origins. The only men and women capable of becoming the world’s best distance runners, with the most endurance, have East African origins.

Both of these groups are black people.

Just because we cannot say why this is, does not mean that it is not a fact. Just because the majority people of West or East African origin are slow runners does not excuse the fact that all of the fastest runners are from these regions.

Race does matters for certain outcomes, even if we are not smart enough to understand how it works.

There is also something to be said about genetic diversity. Of all the world’s people, African peoples have the most diverse genetic makeup. However, because this difference is not to the benefit of Western (mostly white) scientists, it is undertheorized and underresearched in their academic institutions. This is the kind of research that can progress only if Africans are to pursue this research in their own academic institutions.

To stand by the claim that “race is a social construction and it doesn’t even exist” is to admit to a lack of thorough understanding of world history.

The first notions of race did not arise when Americans wrote the Declaration of Independence or when the first Greek civilization emerged. The history of race and skin color being associated with hierarchies began thousands of years prior to the Anglo-Saxon re-rendering of race.

The Anglo-Saxons created a fiction of race, inventing the idea that oppression– domination and subordination–was linked to color. Race in the way that it is imagined in the minds of Anglo-Saxons and practiced as a means to oppress individuals is not only harmful, but also untruthful.

But one can only say that race does not exist, is socially constructed, and shouldn’t matter in reference to this Anglo-Saxon version of race.

However, this fabrication should not be confused with the Ancient African concept of black that is substantiated in our physical world.

If anything, white is a social construction. Black has long been established.

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Nefetiti is the Chief Editor at Grandmother Africa. She holds two Bachelor degrees, a double major in Chemistry and Physics. Since 1997, Nefetiti has authored several reports on Democracy and the state of Republics in the African Union. She became an African Reporting Fellow in 2007. Before joining the Definitive African Record, Nefetiti trained as a Digital Media expert. If you enjoyed this essay and would like to support more content like this one, please buy me a cup of coffee in support of my next essay, or you can go bold, very bold and delight me. Here's my CashApp: $AMARANEFETITI



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