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5 New York City Law Review 175 (2002)


This essay will explore racial dissonance and how it affects our thinking about race relations and social policy in America. The first part of this essay will examine the concept of race. Though we often think of race as delineating real characteristics that exist objectively, race is actually a socially created abstraction. In addition, how this abstraction changes over time will also be explored. This is another way of saying that "colored people" has been replaced by the term "black people." The difference between the two terms raises important questions about social policy. Next, this article explores the connection among racial terms, social change, and social policy. It will explore in broad terms what it means to be colored in America and how the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s replaced the term "colored" with the terms "African-American" and/or "Black." The essay seeks to answer the question of what is the difference between the terms and how does that difference shape race relations and social policy. Specifically, why is it difficult to formulate a social policy, such as affirmative action, and apply it to the needs of colored people, but less difficult if we apply it to black people?