Race and Ethnicity
Read this chapter for a review of race and ethnicity. As you read through each section, consider the following points:
- Can you identify areas in your life where race and ethnicity have an effect?
- Take note of the differences between race and ethnicity. Explore the idea behind race being a social construction, rather than a biological identifier. Take note of the definitions of majority and minority groups.
- Take note of the differences between stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism. Challenge yourself to think about some common stereotypes you might be familiar with.
- Read about how the major theoretical perspectives view race and ethnicity. On a separate piece of paper, make a list of examples of culture of prejudice. For example, when you see an actor of (presumably) Middle Eastern descent in a film, how often are they either the hero or the villain? When you're watching television and commercials come on, what are some common themes you notice in the racial categories of the actors? How about images in high fashion magazines? Often times, when women of color appear in these ads, they are eroticized in some way, creating a visual of someone who is less than human.
- Take note of the definitions of genocide, expulsion, segregation, pluralism, and assimilation. Also, pay attention to amalgamation and how it is somewhat similar to the classic melting pot theory.
- Focus on the different experiences of various ethnic groups in the United States. Due to the current racial stratification in the U.S., how might race or ethnicity affect access to valuable resources like education or health care?
Racial, Ethnic, and Minority Groups
Race is fundamentally a social construct. Ethnicity is a term that describes shared culture and national origin. Minority groups are defined by their lack of power.
Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
Stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about groups of people. Prejudice refers to thoughts and feelings, while discrimination refers to actions. Racism refers to the belief that one race is inherently superior or inferior to other races.
Theories of Race and Ethnicity
Functionalist views of race study the role dominant and subordinate groups play to create a stable social structure. Conflict theorists examine power disparities and struggles between various racial and ethnic groups. Interactionists see race and ethnicity as important sources of individual identity and social symbolism. The concept of culture of prejudice recognizes that all people are subject to stereotypes that are ingrained in their culture.
Intergroup relations range from a tolerant approach of pluralism to intolerance as severe as genocide. In pluralism, groups retain their own identity. In assimilation, groups conform to the identity of the dominant group. In amalgamation, groups combine to form a new group identity.
Race and Ethnicity in the United States
The history of the U.S. people contains an infinite variety of experiences that sociologist understand follow patterns. From the indigenous people who first inhabited these lands to the waves of immigrants over the past 500 years, migration is an experience with many shared characteristics. Most groups have experienced various degrees of prejudice and discrimination as they have gone through the process of assimilation.