The Consequences of Subordinate-Group Status
There are several consequences for a group of subordinate status. These differ in their degree of harshness, ranging from physical annihilation to absorption into the dominant group:
- The most extreme way of dealing with a subordinate group is to eliminate it. One historical example is the British destruction of the people of Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia. There were 5,000 Tasmanians in 1800, but because they were attacked by settlers and forced to live on less inhabitable lands, the last full-blooded Tasmanian died in 1876.
- The term genocide is used to describe the deliberate, systematic killing of an entire people or nation. This term is often used in reference to the Holocaust, Nazi Germany's extermination of roughly six million European Jews and millions of other people (e.g., homosexuals, people with disabilities, communists, and other political opponents) during World War II.
- The term "ethnic cleansing" was introduced as ethnic Serbs instituted a policy to eliminate Muslims from parts of Bosnia.
- Expulsion refers to the process where a dominant group forces a specific subordinate group to leave certain areas or even vacate a country. European colonial powers in North America and eventually the U.S. government itself drove almost all Native Americans out of their tribal lands and into unfamiliar territory.
- In 1979, Vietnam expelled nearly 1 million ethnic Chinese from the country, partly as a result of centuries of hostility between the two Asian neighbors. The expulsion of the Chinese meant that they were uprooted and became a new minority group in many nations, including Australia, France, the United States, and Canada.
- A group ceases to be a subordinate group when it secedes to form a new nation or moves to an already established nation, where it becomes dominant.
- For example, prior to annexation, Texas seceded from Mexico in 1836 as a result of the hostility between the Mexican government and American settlers.
- Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Armenian peoples all seceded to form independent states leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
- Eleven southern U.S. slave-holding states forming the Confederate States of America sought to secede from the United States during the Civil War.
- Segregation is the physical separation of two groups in residence, workplace, and other social functions (e.g., the Apartheid system in South Africa; the Jim Crow period in the U.S.). Generally, the dominant group imposes segregation on a subordinate group. Segregation is rarely complete; intergroup contact inevitably occurs even in the most segregated societies.
- Despite growing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S., results from the census bureau show little change in segregation. Sociologists measure physical segregation using a segregation index (or index of dissimilarity).
- Fusion (A + B + C = D)
- Fusion occurs when a minority and a majority group combine to form a new group. Theoretically, fusion does not entail intermarriage, but it is very similar to amalgamation, or the process by which a dominant group and a subordinate group combine through intermarriage into a new people.
- This concept is expressed in the notion of a human melting pot, in which diverse racial or ethnic groups form a new creation, a new cultural identity. This idea, which became popular in the US in the early twentieth century, implied that the new group would represent only the best qualities and attributes of the different cultures contributing to it.
- It is a mistake to think of the United States as an ethnic mixing bowl. Although there are superficial signs of fusion (e.g., a cuisine that includes spaghetti), most contributions of subordinate groups are ignored.
- Marriage patterns indicate the resistance to fusion. People are generally unwilling to marry out of their own ethnic, religious, and racial groups. Surveys show that 20 to 50 percent of various White ethnic groups report single ancestry.
- There is only modest evidence of a fusion of races in the United States. Racial intermarriage has been increasing, and the number of interracial couples immigrating to the United States has also grown. In 1980, there were 167,000 Black-White couples, but by 2000 there were 363,000. Nevertheless, interracial couples still account for only 2 to 3 percent of all married couples.
- Assimilation (A + B + C = A)
- Assimilation is the process by which a subordinate individual or group takes on the characteristics of the dominant group and is eventually accepted as part of the group. The majority dominates in such a way that the minorities become indistinguishable from the dominant group.
- To be complete, assimilation must entail an active effort by the minority group individual to shed all distinguishable actions and beliefs and the unqualified acceptance of that individual by the dominant society.
- Assimilation is very difficult. The person must forsake his or her cultural tradition to become part of a different, often antagonistic culture. Members of the subordinate group who choose not to assimilate look on those who do as deserters. Assimilation is viewed by many as unfair or even dictatorial. However, members of the dominant group see it as reasonable that people shed their distinctive cultural traditions.
- Assimilation does not occur at the same pace for all groups or for all individuals in the the same group. Assimilation tends to take longer under the following conditions:
- The differences between the minority and majority are large
- The majority is not receptive, or the minority retains its own culture
- The minority group arrives in a short period of time
- The minority group residents are concentrated rather than dispersed
- The arrival is recent, and the homeland is accessible
- In the United States, dominant White society encourages assimilation. The assimilation perspective tends to devalue alien culture and to treasure the dominant.
- Pluralism (A + B + C = A + B + C)
- Pluralism is the situation where various groups in a society have mutual respect for one another's culture--a respect that allows minorities to express their own cultural without suffering prejudice or hostility. Whereas the assimilationist seeks the elimination of ethnic boundaries, the pluralist believes in maintaining many of them.
- In the United States, cultural pluralism is more an ideal than a reality. Although there are vestiges of cultural pluralism (e.g., in the various ethnic neighborhoods in major cities), the rule has been for subordinate groups to assimilate. The cost of cultural integrity has been high. The various Native American tribes have succeeded to a large extent in maintaining their heritage, but the price has been bare subsistence on federal reservations.
- The most visible controversy about pluralism is the debate surrounding bilingualism-the use of two or more languages in places of work or education, with each language being treated as equally legitimate.
- As of 2000, about one of every six people (17 percent) speak a native language other than English at home. In California, this proportion is more than 40 percent. Consequently, all segments of society are affected. The California state judicial system officially provides court interpreters in 100 different languages. In education, bilingualism has seemed to be one way of helping millions of people who want to learn English to function more efficiently within the United States.
- A proposed Constitutional amendment has been introduced that designates English as the "official language of the nation." Proponents of restricting bilingualism view the English language as the "social glue" that keeps the nation together. By contrast, Hispanic leaders see this movement as a veiled expression of racism.
Prejudice and Discrimination
- Prejudice - a negative attitude, or prejudgment, applied to an entire category of people, such as the poor, women, and racial minorities.
- Discrimination - an act of unfair or unequal treatment directed against an individual or a group.
- Individual Discrimination - negative treatment of one person by another on the basis of perceived characteristics.
- Institutional/Systemic Discrimination - negative treatment of a minority group that is built into society's institutions.
Theories of Prejudice
- Scapegoating Theory argues that people who face prejudice are society's victims. This theory suggests that people transfer the responsibility for a failure to some vulnerable group. For example, Adolph Hitler used the Jews as the scapegoat for all German social and economic ills in the 1930s. Similarly, immigrants in the United States are often blamed by "real Americans" for their failures to get jobs or secure desirable housing.
- Scapegoating theory fails to explain why a certain group is selected or why frustration is not taken out on the real culprit when possible.
- Authoritarian Personality Theory argues that some people have a personality type that is likely to manifest prejudice. - Theodore Adorno and his research team claimed to have isolated the basic characteristics of the authoritarian personality, which developed from an early childhood of harsh discipline:
- adherence to conventional values
- uncritical acceptance to authority
- concern with power and toughness
- A child with an authoritarian upbringing obeyed and then later treated others as he or she had been raised.
- Adorno's study has been widely criticized on numerous grounds, including the equation of authoritarianism with right-wing politics, its failure to see that prejudice is more closely connected to other characteristics (e.g., social class), and the concentration on factors behind extreme racial prejudice rather than more common expressions of hostility.
- Exploitation Theory is a part of the Marxist tradition; it views racial subordination in the United States as a manifestation of the class system inherent in capitalism.
- Racial prejudice often is used to justify keeping a group in a subordinate position, such as a lower social class. Conflict theorists in particular stress the role of racial and ethnic hostility as a way for the dominant group to keep intact its position of status and power. Indeed, this approach maintains that even the less affluent White working class uses prejudice to minimize competition from upwardly mobile minorities.
- The exploitation theory of prejudice is persuasive. Japanese Americans were the object of little prejudice until they began to enter occupations that brought them into competition with Whites. The movement to keep Chinese out of the country became strongest during the late nineteenth century, when Chinese immigrants and Whites fought over a dwindling number of jobs. Further, the enslavement of African Americans and the expulsion of Native Americans were to a significant degree economically motivated.
- Although many cases support the exploitation theory, it is too limited to explain prejudice in all its forms. First, not all minority groups are exploited economically to the same extent. Second, many groups that have been the victims of prejudice have not been persecuted for economic reasons, such as the Quakers or gays and lesbians.
- The Normative Approach takes the view that prejudice is influenced by societal norms and situations that encourage or discourage the tolerance of minorities.
- Societies develop social norms that dictate not only what foods are desirable (or forbidden), but also what racial and ethnic groups are to be favored (or despised). Social forces operate in a society to encourage or discourage tolerance.
- The force may be widespread, such as the pressure on White Southerners to oppose racial equality while there was slavery or segregation. It may also be limited, as in the case of a man who becomes more sexist as he competes with three women for the same position in a prestigious law firm.
Bogardus Social Distance Scale
- Robert Park and Ernest Burgess first defined social distance as the tendency to approach or withdraw from a racial group. Emory Bogardus conceptualized a scale that could measure social distance empirically. This Bogardus scale asks people how willing they would be to interact with various racial and ethnic groups in specified social situations. People are asked whether they would be willing to admit each group
- To close kinship by marriage (1.00)
- To my club as personal chums (2.00)
- To my street as neighbors (3.00)
- To employment in my occupation (4.00)
- To citizenship in my country (5.00)
- As only visitors to my country (6.00)
- Would exclude from my country (7.00)
The Content of Prejudice: Stereotypes
- Stereotypes are unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not take individual differences into account. Evidence for traits may arise out of real conditions. For example, more Puerto Ricans live in poverty than Whites, and so the prejudiced mind associates Puerto Ricans with laziness. Similarly, some activists in the women's movement are lesbians, and so all feminists are seen as lesbians.
- Numerous scientific studies have been made of these exaggerated images. This research has shown the willingness of people to assign positive and negative traits to entire groups of people, which are then applied to particular individuals. Stereotyping causes people to view Blacks as superstitious, Whites as uncaring, and Jews as shrewd. Lakota Sioux member Tim Giago speaks strongly against the widely accepted, commercially successful use of stereotypes in the continued use of Native Americans as mascots for athletic teams.
- In the last 30 years, we have become more aware of the power of the mass media to introduce stereotypes into everyday life. For example, almost all television roles showing leadership feature Whites. Even urban-based programs such as Seinfeld and Friends prospered without any major Black, Hispanic, or Asian American characters.
- A 1998 national survey of boys and girls aged 10 to 17 asked "How often do you see your race on television?" The results showed that 71 percent of White children said "very often," compared with only 42 percent of African Americans, 22 percent of Latinos, and 16 percent of Asian Americans. Generally, the children viewed the White characters as affluent and well educated, whereas they saw the minority characters as "breaking the law or rules," "being lazy," and "acting goofy."
Stereotyping in Action: Racial Profiling
- Racial profiling is any police-initiated action based on race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than person's behavior. Generally, profiling occurs when law enforcement officials, including custom's officials, airport security, and police assume that people fitting certain descriptions are likely to be engaged in something illegal.
- This profiling can be a very explicit use of stereotypes. For example, the federal anti-drug initiative Operation Pipeline specifically encouraged officers to look for people with dreadlocks or for Latino men traveling together.
- On the New Jersey Turnpike, African Americans accounted for 17 percent of the motorists but 80 percent of those pulled over by the police.
- The reliance on racial profiling persists despite overwhelming evidence that it is misleading. Whites are more likely to be found with drugs in the areas where minority group members are disproportionately targeted. Nationwide, 80 percent of the country's cocaine users are White, but law enforcement tactics concentrate on the inner-city drug trade.
- There is a self-fulfilling nature to racial profiling. If overwhelmingly Blacks and Latinos are investigated, they will account for the majority of successful arrests. Data presented in 1999 indicated that Blacks constitute 13 percent of the country's drug users, 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges, 55 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.
Relative Versus Absolute Deprivation
- Conflict theorists have pointed out that it is not absolute, unchanging standards that determine deprivation and oppression. Although minority groups may be viewed as having adequate or even good incomes, housing, health care, and educational opportunities, it is their position relative to some other group that offers evidence of discrimination.
- Relative deprivation refers to the conscious experience of a negative discrepancy between legitimate expectations and present actualities. In contrast, absolute deprivation implies a fixed standard based on a minimum level of subsistence below which families should not be expected to exist.
- Karl Marx pointed out that, although the misery of the workers was important in reflecting their oppressed state, so was their position relative to the ruling class. In 1847, Marx wrote "Although the enjoyment of the workers has risen, the social satisfaction that they have has fallen in comparison with the increased enjoyment of the capitalist."
- Institutional discrimination is the denial of opportunities and equal rights to individuals and groups that result from the normal operations of society. Social scientists are particularly concerned with the ways in which patterns of employment, education, criminal justice, housing, health care, and government operations maintain the social significance of race and ethnicity.
- A few documented examples of institutional discrimination include:
- Standards for assessing credit risks works against African Americans and Hispanics seeking to establish businesses because many lack conventional credit references. Business in low-income areas where these groups often reside also have much higher insurance costs.
- IQ testing favors middle-class children, especially the White middle-class, because of the types of questions included.
- The entire criminal justice system, from the patrol officer to the judge and jury, is dominated by Whites who find it difficult to understand life in poverty areas.
- Hiring practices often require several years' experience at jobs only recently opened to members of subordinate groups.
- Many jobs automatically eliminate people with felony records or past drug offenses, which disproportionately reduce employment opportunities for people of color.
The Informal Economy and the Underclass
- The secondary labor market affecting many members of racial and ethnic minorities has come to be called the informal economy. The informal economy (or underground economy) consists of transfers of money, goods, and services that are not reported to the government. This label describes much of the work in inner-city neighborhoods and poverty-stricken rural areas.
- Workers are employed in the informal economy seasonally or infrequently. The work they do may resemble the work of traditional occupations, such as mechanic, cook, or electrician, but these workers lack the formal credentials to enter such employment. The informal economy also includes unregulated child-care services, garage sales, and the unreported income of craftspeople and street vendors.
- According to the dual labor market model, minorities have been relegated to the informal economy. Although the informal economy may offer employment, it provides few safeguards against fraud or malpractice that victimizes the workers. There are also few of the fringe benefits of health insurance and pension that are much more likely to be present in the conventional marketplace. Therefore, informal economies are criticized for promoting highly unfair and dangerous working conditions.
- The workers in the informal economy have are ill prepared to enter the regular economy permanently or to take its better-paying jobs. Frequent changes in employment or lack of a specific supervisor leaves them without the kind of r�sum� that employers in the regular economy expect before they hire. Also, some of the sources of employment in the informal economy are illegal (e.g., fencing stolen goods, prostitution, narcotics peddling).
- Many members of the informal economy, along with some employed in traditional jobs, make up what is called the underclass of American society. The underclass consists of the long-term poor who lack training and skills. Conflict theorists, among others, have expressed alarm at the proportion of the nation's society living at this social stratum.
- In 1990, the underclass included more than 3 million adults of working age, not counting children or older adults. In the central city, about 49 percent of the underclass in 1990 was African American, 29 percent Hispanic, 17 percent White, and 5 percent other.
- The term underclass often is invoked to establish the superiority of the dominant group. Even if it is not stated explicitly, there is a notion that social institutions have not failed the underclass but that somehow they are beyond hope. All too often, the underclass is treated as a homogenous group and the object of scorn, fear, and embarrassment.
- Some scholars have expressed concern that the portrait of the underclass seems to blame the victim, making the poor responsible. Sociologist William Wilson and others have stressed that it is not bad behavior but structural factors, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs, that have hit ghetto residents so hard. Associated with this structural problem is isolation from social services. Additionally, the disadvantaged lack contact or sustained interaction with the individuals or institutions that represent the regular economy.
- Redlining is the pattern of discrimination against people trying to buy homes in minority and racially changing neighborhoods.
- Research finds that in twenty-five metropolitan areas, housing agents showed fewer housing units to Blacks and Latinos, steered them to minority neighborhoods, and gave them less assistance in finding housing that met their needs. Other recent studies reveal that lenders are more likely to turn down a mortgage request from a minority applicant than from an equally qualified White and that lenders give minority applicants far less assistance in filling out their forms.
- People in predominantly minority neighborhoods have also found that service deliverers refuse to go into their area. This service redlining covers everything from parcel deliveries to repair people to food deliveries.
- Environmental racism refers to the overwhelming likelihood that toxic-producing plants and toxic waste dumps are located where poor people, especially racial minorities, live.
- The irony of the poor having to sacrifice to the most harmful environmental problems is that they are not the polluters-the affluent are. The wealthy drive excessively; travel in jet planes; have large, air-conditioned homes; consume large quantities of resources (conspicuous consumption); and have the most waste to dispose.
Exclusion of Minorities in Social Clubs
- A particularly insulting form of discrimination seemed finally to be on its way out in the late 1980s. Many social clubs had limitation forbidding membership to racial/ethnic minorities and women. For years, exclusive clubs argued that they were merely selecting friends, but in fact, a principal function of these clubs is as a forum to transact business.
- Memberships are restrictive organizations remain perfectly legal. The rise to national attention as professional golfer Tiger Woods made the public aware that there were at least twenty-three golf courses he would be prohibited from playing by virtue of race. In 2002, women's groups tried unsuccessfully to have the golf champion speak out as the Master's and British Open played on courses closed to women as members.
The Glass Ceiling
- Discrimination persists for even the well-educated and those who come from the best family backgrounds. As subordinate group members are able to compete successfully, they sometimes encounter attitudinal or organizational bias that prevents them from reaching their full potential. This barrier, referred to as the glass ceiling, blocks the promotion of a qualified worker because of minority membership.
- There are numerous reasons for glass ceilings. Decision makers may be concerned that their clientele will not trust them if they have too many people of color or may worry that a talented woman could become overwhelmed with her duties as a mother and a wife and thus perform poorly in the workplace. The glass ceiling can also result from sex-, race-, and ethnicity-based stereotyping and harassment, unfair recruitment practices, and lack of family-friendly workplace policies.
Explaining Inequality: The Pseudoscience of "Intelligence" Testing
- The theme of intellectual inferiority along racial lines has received much public attention since World War II. Earlier in the twentieth century, this theme was applied to White immigrants, who were considered to be very inferior in intelligence to native-born Anglo-Protestants, but in the past few decades, the focus has been on Americans of color.
- Arthur Jensen and Richard Herrnstein, along with a few other White social scientists, have alleged that differences in "intelligence test" (IQ) scores are not determined primarily by environmental factors such as education, socialization, racial discrimination, and socioeconomic circumstances, but reflect real genetic differences between Black and White groups.
- In the 1930s a number of social psychologists began seriously questioning whether IQ test results could be used as evidence of genetically determined differentials. They showed how White-Black differences in test scores reflected major differences in education, income, and living conditions. A number of studies showed that the test scores of Black children improved with better economic and educational environments.
- Strikingly, results from large-scale IQ testing revealed that Black children and adults in some northern states scored higher than Whites in some southern states. Using the logic of Jensen, Herrnstein, and Murray, one would be forced to conclude that White Southerners were mentally and "racially" inferior to Black Northerners.
- The most fundamental problem for those who insist on racial differences is the equation of these test results with general intelligence; that is, there is a problem of what social scientists call the "validity" of a measure.
- From the beginning, these so-called intelligence tests have been misnamed. These tests measure only selected verbal, mathematical, or manipulative skills. Clearly, they do not measure many aspects of human abilities, such as creativity and imagination. They do not measure musical, artistic, farming, fishing, and many other skills that reflect human intelligence. They penalize those who do not spend their lives enmeshed in the culture of the test makers.
- Intelligence is more accurately defined as a complex ability to deal creatively with one's environment, whatever that environment might be. At best, only a very small portion of human intellectual ability can be revealed on any short test.
Explaining Inequality: The Culture of Poverty Perspective
- Anthropologist Oscar Lewis identified the "culture of poverty" embraced by Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. The culture of poverty embraces a deviant way of life that involves no future planning, no enduring commitment to marriage, and absence of the work ethic. This culture supposedly follows the poor, even when they move out of the slums.
- The culture of poverty view is another way of blaming the victim: the affluent are not responsible for social inequality, nor are the policy makers; it is the poor who are to blame for their own problems. This stance allows government and society to attribute the failure of antipoverty and welfare programs to the poor, rather than to the programs themselves. Conflict theorists, noting a similar misuse of the term underclass, argue that it is unfair to blame the poor for their lack of money, low education, poor health, and low-paying jobs.