Part 1 Section B-
Question: Several of the reading have discussed how understanding of race shape the experiences of
individuals and groups in major social institutions as well everyday life. Drawing upon readings and
lecture material, comment on this observation.
What is a social institution? A social institution is a collection of individuals banded together in
pursuit of a common purpose. A social institution may be a school, church, town, community, etc. It is
important to know that we live our lives through social institutions. It all begins with where we are born,
how we were educated, where we work, who we worship (in a church or by spirituality), and eventually
how we die. For example, even if you were to take a break from social media, you would still be living in
an institution because that is also part of your identity. The same could also be true for race, both
formally and informally and how it’s defined, theorized, and experienced in daily life.
After figuring out what social institution(s) you belong to, it is important to also reflect on
yourself as well. A scholar known as Lisa Lowe, encourages us to conduct a historical ontology (branch of
metaphysics dealing with the nature of being) of ourselves. Asking yourself questions like: what is real
and how do we know it’s real? Conducting a historical ontology further allows one to understand who
they are in relation to race or any other multiple identity. None of us has a singular identity, we actually
have different roles and different identities (student, son/daughter, and boyfriend/girlfriend). Your
identity however, is not fixed, it is fluid and always changing. Lisa Lowe is trying to get us to answer the
question of, who are we really and how can we conduct historical investigating about who it is we think
we are. It is important to note that race is not real, but it is real in its consequences. Race has been
constructed (socially and politically) and defined through a number of social institutions.
The Thomas Theorem states that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their
consequences”. This means that the interpretation of a situation causes the action as there are life and
death consequences. For instance, there are consequences in terms of housing, like the people that
were displaced in Chicago as discussed in the Fernandez book. If people were not being displaced and
kicked out of their homes, then the rise of the Young Lords Organization would have never happened.
There are also consequences for how Serena Easton is treated and how shifting from one neighborhood
to another allowed her to take on the role as a student, while making the transition into a different