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Majority and Minority Group Relations

Majority and Minority Group Relations

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Published by Andrew Rollings

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Published by: Andrew Rollings on Jun 11, 2011
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Sociology
Andrew Rollings, Ph.D.Jun. 2006
M
AJORITY
 
AND
M
INORITY
G
ROUP
R
ELATIONS
Along with gender, race and ethnicity create majority/minority group relations in our society. Whites,especially whites with northern European background, and men are the majority groups in our society,with non-whites (African-Americans and some Hispanic and Asian-American groups), and women beingthe most important minority groups.As you can tell, sociology doesn't use the word "majority" and "minority" in the same way as everydayEnglish. Sociology doesn't define majority and minority in terms of numbers or mathematical ratios. Themajority isn't the group with the most people but the one with power and opportunity, although it also may,like white America, be the group that is numerically the majority. Minorities aren't groups with a smallpercentage of people but groups systematically excluded from power and the opportunity structure.
M
AJORITY
G
ROUP
The majority is the group, and usually there is only one majority group or very small number of majoritygroups, with the most power and control in the society.
Control the major institutions (economy, government, education, science, medicine)
Run important groups and organizations
Own or control most of the important resources (money, information, media, formal social control)Members of the majority have better opportunities compared to minorities and usually enjoy better life-chances. They have the necessary resources to control their destiny, protect themselves and their lovedones from the capricious forces of nature and society, and achieve their dreams and goals. They have thepower to shape social institutions to their advantage.Often members of the majority see themselves as superior to minorities and often that belief gets strongsupport by an ideology of superiority embedded deeply into the culture and social practices.
Believe they have a proprietary claim to privilege, power, and prestige
Label minorities as inferior; minority chars as inferior or deviantWhile not every member of the majority group sees themselves as superior to minorities or acts that way,majority superiority/minority inferiority is so deeply embedded in the culture and social structure that isoperates as an unconscious, background assumption working behind the scenes, even if some majoritypersons don't acknowledge it or try to resist its influence.The majority has a primary interest in maintaining its control of institutions and resources. As a result,majority members often feel threatened by minorities, fearing the minority is trying to take away whatthey've got. The majority often responds defensively to situations, using violence if necessary to protectits property, power, position, advantages, and opportunities.
M
INORITY
G
ROUP
Minority groups lack access, resources, privileges, and opportunities; they are systematically excludedfrom positions of power and wealth or limited in what positions and power they can attain. Minorities haveless power over their daily lives, often the victim of social forces and trends, lacking many of theresources needed to control their destiny. Rather than shaping social institutions, the lives of minoritiesget controlled by institutions that serve the interests of the majority.
 
Majority and Minority Group Relations
Minorities as a group systematically experience unequal treatment compared to the majority group.Minority group members often experience prejudice, discrimination, and oppression at the hands of majority group members or disadvantages and discrimination when dealing with the core institutions andorganizations in the society.
E
VIDENCE
 
FOR
M
AJORITY
 /M
INORITY
R
ELATIONS
Key evidence for majority and minority groups and their effects on people's lives exists when there aresystematic, long-term differences between the economic position and life chances of people categorizedby ascribed status.1.Gaps in income, wealth, education, occupation, life-style, power, and prestige2.Differences in life chances (health, life expectancy, infant mortality, educationalattainment, family stability, criminal prosecution, crime victimization, etc.)Other key indicators occur at the community and primary group level.1.Minorities may be excluded from living in majority-dominated communities andneighborhoods by systematic barriers on home buying and housing. These exclusions mayresult in segregated neighborhoods and urban ghettos.2.Restrictions on travel and everyday mobility backed up by law enforcement practices.3.Low number of friendships between majority and minority group individuals andsystematic exclusion of minorities from social clubs, country clubs, voluntary organizations,and other arenas for peer group relations.4.Low rate of intermarriage between majority and minority groups.Also important would be a history of conflict between majority and minority groups, especially the majoritygroup using violence and force to maintain its position and privileges. Such violence can be dramatic,such as lynchings, military operations, pogroms, race riots, holocaust, police crackdowns, etc., or it canbe more routine, such as police repression, civil rights violations, institutionalization, denial of welfare, etc.Minorities may also initiate violence, such as open rebellion, race riots, crime waves, separationistmovements, etc.Finally, an ideology of superiority would also be good evidence for a majority/minority structure. Thatideology might be explicit, stated openly as a political doctrine (e.g., Apartheid in South Africa or the Nazi"Aryan race" doctrine). Usually such ideology exists more quietly as understood assumptions and ideasnot spoken in "polite company."
P
ATTERNS
 
OF
M
AJORITY
 /M
INORITY
G
ROUP
R
ELATIONS
Majority-Minority group relations take on characteristic patterns. These patterns can be lumped into threecategories:1.
Acceptance
of minority groups by the majority group2.
Rejection
of minority groups by the majority group3.Minority group
reactions
 
M
AJORITY
G
ROUP
A
CCEPTANCE
- I
TS
F
ORMS
Majority groups "accept" minorities by giving minorities access to mainstream institutional power or allowing minorities to build a set of parallel institutions. Either way, majority acceptance gives minoritiessome degree of equality.Majorities can either voluntarily accept minorities or minorities can force the issue using pressure, protest,resistance, or other forms of political action. Voluntary acceptance is not necessarily benign or driven byhigh morals. Usually it is a pragmatic response based on necessity and core interests of the majoritygroup.2
 
Majority and Minority Group Relations
The main forms of majority group acceptance are:
Fusion
(sometimes called Amalgamation)Groups and subcultures blend together, forming a new group (e.g., interracial marriage in Brazil). Thisis the highest level of majority group acceptance, a true "melting pot." No strong evidence of a truemelting pot in American society.
 Assimilation
(sometimes referred to as Integration)Majority allows (even encourages) minority groups to adopt the dominant group's culture. Creates a"melting pot" heavily biased towards the majority (more accurately a "salad bowl" than a "melting pot").There are three general levels of assimilation, each representing a deeper, more profound acceptance of minorities by majorities:Economic assimilation [Working together]This occurs when minorities can get jobs and establish careers in economic sectors with high wagesand salaries and low unemployment. Within these sectors, it means minorities filling organizationalpositions with managerial authority, decision-making power, and influence over organizational policy.Social assimilation [Living together]A deeper level of assimilation occurring when minorities can move from ethnically and raciallysegregated neighborhoods and buy housing in communities with a high percentage of majoritypopulations.Intimate assimilation [Marrying each other]A deep level of assimilation that occurs when majority and minority individuals intermarry and mix atprimary group levels.In the United States the successful assimilation of white ethnics (e.g., Italians, Poles, Irish, etc.) into themajority WASP society has created an American culture based on "Anglo-conformity." White ethnicsvoluntarily gave up (even rejected) many of their distinctive cultural practices and eagerly adopted theways of the Anglo/WASP majority.Examples
English as the "unofficial" language used throughout the United States
"Suburban lawn, white picket fence" ideal for housing
Christmas trees (German practice) & Christmas cards (English custom)
Altering surnames (Zimmermann becomes Carpenter; Rittinghuysen becomes Rittenhouse;Rivoire becomes Revere; Whittier was originally Feuillevert)
Skinny, fair skinned standards of feminine beauty
Coats and ties as the "official" business costume for men (and similar formal modes for women)Generally this assimilation followed a three step process: First economic assimilation created conditionsfor social assimilation, which opened up opportunities for intimate assimilation. Although Asian ethnicgroups have not followed this pattern as strongly as white ethnics, the on-going assimilation of Hispanicpopulations is following this general pattern.Anglo-conformity has been enormously successful in maintaining peace and stability in our multiethnicsociety. Around the world and throughout history such a ethnic mixture, especially the astounding number of ethnic groups in America, tends to result in suppression, oppression, violence, and civil war. Not so inAmerica, one of the truly significant facts about our society when compared to others.3

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