Race: Power of Illusion

Pierre Bourdieu Definition of Habitus

Based on Pierre Bourdieu, habitus is determined by the tendency of the person to use the body in a certain way as well as the interplay of mental habits. In the documentary, the legal and social framework of the Americans has well depicted and its role in the propagation of racial divisions and the concept of habitus.


The social framework ensured that the immigrants from Europe were given the lowest paying jobs, which had a great impact on their habits. As a result, discrimination ensured that they occupy the most disease-laden quarters. It also meant a lower social view for the immigrants. The lack of a legal framework for the ownership of land, whether through purchase or even lease, also impacted the habitus of the affected immigrants. Additionally, the legal platform conferred the right to the declaration of either black or white to the common man. The basis of being declared white or non-white was not scientifically based neither was it backed by a given common standard. As a means of societal divisions, these forms of injustice had effects on the habitus of those who were on the receiving end of the law.

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The lack of better social conditions for the immigrants and a defining law on who was white or not and the contribution of this definition to citizenship contributed to the habitus of those affected. They were led into a living way below the standards compared to the white population, which in turn lead to more stereotypical behavior and expectations amongst them.

Definition of White by the Americans

Based on the case of Takya, being white meant being Caucasian. The other groups who were not Caucasian were just considered as non-whites and would hence fall out of favor in the allocation of resources such as land. Based on the scientific interpretation, the court ruled that he could best fit into the Mongolian race as opposed to the white. Even though science was used in this incidence, the court could not be bound by it in the subsequent cases with the decision as to whether one was white being left to the common man to decide.

American Housing Policy

The housing policy is defined to have been based on the mere aspect of being white or non-white. There was the establishment of policies that made it easy for the whites to sign up for subsidized mortgages. At the time, the non-whites were considered to be a financial risk with most of the policies safeguarding the settlement of the white population, serving to delineate the rest from the available cheap housing policies. The benchmark process involved the empowerment of the white population through the formation of protective policies, while the rest of the population was delineated. The whites were favored in securing subsidized mortgages. The benchmark programs could be used to define habitus. In the end, the programs determined who got what. The impact this segregation had on the body habits of the non-white population through the predisposition to unsafe and neglected neighbors had an overall effect on the mentality of the residents as well. The divisions that were created by the segregation process had far-reaching consequences for the survival and habits of the people. Those who were left out by the policies suffered negative consequences as a result.