Race and Ethnicity
- Race - a category of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society deem socially significant.
- Ethnicity - refers to the characteristics of a group based on shared cultural identity and derived from a common language, nationality, religion, or ancestry.
- Minority Group - a group that is singled out for unequal treatment and who regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination.
- Dominant Group - the group with the most power, the greatest privileges, and the highest social status.
Shared Characteristics of Minority Groups
- Membership in a minority group is an ascribed status
- Physical or cultural traits that distinguish minorities are held in low esteem by the dominant group
- Minorities are unequally treated by the dominant group
- Minorities tend to marry within their own group
- Minorities possess a strong sense of solidarity
Prejudice and Discrimination
- Prejudice - an attitude, or prejudgment, applied to an entire category of people, such as the poor, women, and racial minorities. Prejudices can be positive or negative, but are usually negative.
- 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.
- Stereotypes - prejudicial, exaggerated descriptions of some category of people.
Patterns of Racial-Ethnic Group Relations
Dominant Group Actions: Forms of Acceptance
- Amalgamation is the process by which subcultures of various groups are blended together, forming a new culture; this is the highest level of minority group integration (e.g., Interracial marriage is common in Brazil)
- Assimilation refers to the process by which a minority adopts the dominant group's culture, blending into the larger society. (e.g., In the U.S. many minority groups have adopted ways of dominant culture)
- Cultural Pluralism refers to the peaceful coexistence of various racial and ethnic groups, with each retaining its own subculture. (e.g., Germans, Italians and French co-exist relatively peacefully in Switzerland)
Dominant Group Actions: Forms of Rejection
- Segregation is the spatial and social separation of a minority group from the dominant group, forcing the minority to live in inferior conditions.
- de jure segregation - segregation that is mandated by law (e.g., Jim Crow period in the US; Apartheid in South Africa)
- de facto segregation - segregation that is a result of custom or practices that reinforce isolation (e.g., self-segregation)
- Expulsion (or Population Transfer) refers to a process in which a dominant group expels a minority group from an area.
- Extermination (or Genocide) is the systematic annihilation or attempted annihilation of a people based on their presumed race or ethnicity.
Minority Group Actions
- Separation occurs when a minority group rejects their inferior label yet accepts segregation. (e.g., Black separatism in the 1960s)
- Integration is when inferior status and segregation are rejected -- and achievement of equality with the dominant group is attempted. (e.g., Mainstream civil rights movement in the U.S.)
- Submission is when members of a minority group accept both the inferior status and segregated role imposed by the dominant group. (e.g., Black slaves in the 19th century)
- Withdrawal is when minority group members accept their inferior status, yet reject segregation by withdrawing from their minority group.
Racial Minorities in the US
- Native Americans are believed to have migrated to North America from Asia 10,000 to 35,000 years prior to white settlers.
- Although they were perceived as homogenous and grouped together as "Indians," they are a culturally diverse group of over 500 tribes, including the Inuit (Eskimos), Cherokee, Navaho, Chippewa, and Sioux.
- As a result of diseases brought by the Europeans, forced migrations, and genocide, the 2 million native inhabitants of North America in 1492 (the arrival of Columbus) were reduced to 240,000 by 1900.
- White settlers viewed the Native Americans as biologically and morally inferior and labeled them as uncivilized "savages" and "heathens" in order to justify their genocide, forced migration, and forced assimilation.
- White immigrants took control of Indian land through battles and bogus treaties. The treaties with the federal government promised adequate housing, schooling, and health care-but none have been adequately implemented.
- Entire nations were forced to moved in order to accommodate the white settlers. The "Trail of Tears" was one of the most disastrous of the forced migrations. In the coldest part of the winter of 1832, over half the Cherokee Nation died during or as a result of their forced relocation from the southeastern United States to an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma.
- Life on the reservations is characterized by high rates of poverty, unemployment, suicide, alcoholism, domestic problems, and high drop-out rates in school. About 1/3 of Native Americans live on reservations today.
- The experience of African Americans has been uniquely marked by slavery, segregation, and discrimination.
- Between 1619 and the 1860s, about 500,000 Africans were forcibly brought to North America, primarily to work on southern plantations, and these actions were justified by the devaluation and stereotyping of African Americans. Under the master-servant relationship, slaves were viewed as children or "subhuman" and were denied access to learning/acquisition of skills.
- Slavery was abolished in 1863 (after more than 200 years) by the Emancipation Proclamation. Freed slaves soon faced prejudice and discrimination under the Jim Crow Laws, which assured that blacks were segregated in housing, employment, education, and all public accommodations.
- African Americans who did not stay in their "place" were the victims of violent attacks and lynch mobs. It is estimated that as many as 6,000 lynchings occurred between 1892 and 1921.
- In 1964, the Supreme Court declared in Brown v Topeka Board of Education that the "Separate but Equal" policy was unconstitutional.
- In spite of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, African Americans remain overrepresented in lower-level occupations, underrepresented in political positions of power, and economically marginalized. The African American unemployment rate remains twice as high as that of whites.
- Hispanic Americans (or Latinos/as) are the largest and fastest growing racial minority group. 70% of Latinos are concentrated in just four states: California, Texas, New York, and Florida. They are composed of several distinct subgroups, based on a common language, culture, and geographic area. Officially tallied at 30 million people (perhaps more due to illegal immigrants who have avoided public officials and census forms), Latino subgroups include Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans.
- Mexican Americans are the largest subgroup (64%) of the Hispanic population. They were conquered and subordinated following the defeat of Mexico in 1848 by the U.S. As a result of the war, Mexico lost more than half of its territory (It is now the U.S. Southwest). The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo allowed Mexicans living in the conquered territories to remain-this formed the nucleus of this group.
- Puerto Ricans are a recent immigrant group, mostly found in New York City and Chicago. The greatest influx came in the 1950s as a result of poor economic conditions and lack of employment opportunities. Immigration has been easy because (1) Puerto Ricans have been considered U.S. citizens since 1917 (although they can not vote in U.S. presidential elections), and (2) the establishment of direct airline services makes immigration rapid.
- Cuban Americans live primarily in the Southeast, especially Florida. As a group, they have fared somewhat better than other Hispanics because many Cuban immigrants were affluent professionals and businesspeople who fled Cuba after Castro's 1959 Marxist revolution. A second wave of Cuban immigrants, who arrived in the 1970s, has fared worse. Many had been released from prisons and mental hospitals in Cuba, and their arrival fueled an upsurge in prejudice against all Cuban Americans.
- Asian Americans are a diverse minority group made up of 12 distinct subgroups, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean; they are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S.
- The Asian American experience can be divided into two distinct phases of immigration:
- Those who came in the 1800s-Chinese mostly, followed by Japanese, Korean, and Filipinos. They were predominantly male unskilled laborers, who engaged in agricultural and industrial work. They expected to stay a few months to earn money and return to their native countries; however, restrictive immigration policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act prevented them from entering or leaving the U.S. The Chinese and Japanese were perceived as a labor threat and were considered a "yellow menace" that needed to be eliminated.
- In 1965 until present, another wave of immigrants came to the U.S. under more liberal immigration policies. Most of these immigrants came from affluent backgrounds and possessed higher education and workplace skills. They also brought their families and capital with them.
- During World War II, when the U.S. was at war with Japan, nearly 12,000 Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps, where they remained for more than two years despite the total lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to this country. This action was a direct violation of the citizenship rights of many second-generation Japanese Americans who were born in the United States. Only the Japanese immigrants were singled out for such treatment-German and Italian immigrants avoided this fate.
- Asian Americans are often collectively referred to as a "model minority," but this label obscures the prejudice that they face, the fact that not all Asian Americans are successful, and is used as a way to blame other racial minority groups.
Racial-Ethnic Stratification in the US
- Income and Wealth
- Educational Attainment
- Employment Status
- Health Status and Life Chances
Explanations of Racial and Ethnic Inequality
- Internal Explanations attribute racial and ethnic inequality to each group's abilities and characteristics (e.g., biological and psychological theories).
- External Explanations emphasize external constraints, disabilities, limitations, and barriers to which minority groups are subjected and that serve as barriers to achievement (e.g., dominant group rejection, institutional discrimination).