Racialization And Racial Formation


One crucial and still unresolved issue is the existence of races in the spectrum of past and modern times. To date, there are several points of view with intermediate variants, but none of them gives an accurate and objective explanation. Michael Omi and Howard Winant managed to bring a bit of clarity to this situation, identifying two essential processes. Racial formation and racialization are critical concepts in determining the content and significance of racial classifications.

The Process of Racial Formation

According to Omi and Winant, the process of racial formation is an aggregate of phenomena based on creating, changing, and collapsing racial identities. In other words, such a moment results from connections between people’s lifestyles and social organization concerning the meaning of a particular ethnicity or category of nationals through images, ideas, languages, or media. Consequently, race, as a system of human populations, is actively and continuously constructed, challenged, and questioned within specific social contexts and history. In this case, the process of racial formation profoundly correlates with the arrangement and management of society, mainly relying on significant economic and political implications. Moreover, Omi and Winant suggest that behind the eradication of discrimination and transformations in social systems is a change in the way of thinking and behavior in response to race.

The Process of Racialization

The process of racialization refers to identifying people by unique characteristics, determined features, or attributing racial significance to specific events. It demonstrates that people attach racial meanings to certain individuals and perspectives to social groups or institutional systems. Racial inequality is one of the clearest examples of the consequences of this procedure. In its essence and nature, racialization is an individual, social, and cultural phenomenon.

The History of Race

Based on the knowledge from readings and online lessons, it is essential to emphasize that these processes tell about the history of race as a dynamic process and the misconception of seeing it exclusively in the light of the biological category ‘frozen in time’. Hence, a strategy of classifying citizens recognizes the presence of social criteria with clearly defined boundaries, helping to understand that concepts such as ‘black’ and ‘white’ or ‘American’ and ‘African’ change over time. However, people still pay attention to physical properties, but one should remember that categorization is a fundamental mental process, without which it is impossible to act at all, either in the physical world or in social and intellectual life. Moreover, due to Omi and Winant, an emphasis in the study of racial variation has shifted from static, non-adaptive, typological, and comparative approaches to social, cultural, economic, and political perspectives. Therefore, it is assumed that today’s races or major geographical groupings have appeared due to humans’ adaptation to various public phenomena.

In brief, races are a social reality rather than a neat representation of existing biological variation. Consequently, they should be understood in procedural, dynamic, and event-based terms, not as substances, essences, organisms, or personalities prompted by images of specific groups. One should think more about racialization and racial formation as practical categories, situational actions, cognitive schemes, discursive frames, institutional forms, political projects, or events. In this situation, racialization and racial formation appear as political, social, cultural, and psychological processes. Considering these aspects, it is possible to determine how and when people identify themselves, perceive others and the world, and interpret their concerns in racial terms yesterday and today. Moreover, it is conceivable to understand how a certain group of people “crystallizes” in some cases and remains latent or potential in others.


Summing up, one should state that the processes of racial formation and racialization are fundamental concepts that allow one to look at the history of race from a completely different perspective. It is necessary to understand that the ideas about human population systems are constantly changing, updated, and supplemented depending on the social, cultural, or historical context. Thus, people tend to attach racial meanings to specific situations and people; in a sense, this is a natural phenomenon.