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Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity

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Published by Andrew Rollings

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Published by: Andrew Rollings on Jun 13, 2011
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Andrew Rollings, Ph.D. Jun. 2006

Race is a social category and ascribed status based on physical characteristics and physical differences, especially such things as skin color, nose shape, hair texture, etc. If necessary, you can refresh your memory about the concept of category and how it differs from a group and the concept of ascribed status Since the 18th century, Western culture has categorized the human population into three broad racial groups: Caucasians - light skin and fine hair Negroids - darker skin and thick hair Mongoloids - yellow or brownish skin and distinctive eyelid folds These categories came from an influential classification scheme developed by Carolus Lineaeus (17071778) and Johann Friederich Blumenbach, (1752-1840), Lineaeus' successor. They divided the human species into: • "European" category (Homo Sapiens europeaeus) described as white, serious and strong • Asiatic (Homo sapiens asiaticus) described as yellow, melancholy, and greedy • African (Homo sapiens afer) described as black, impassive and lazy • Native Americans (Homo Sapiens Americanus) described as red, ill-tempered, and subjugated Since then science has disproved the foundation for such thinking. No important biological differences exist between "races." Biologically "races" don't exist. Humans form a single species. Physical variability occurred over thousands of generations because people lived in different physical environments. Race has more to do with geography than biology. In fact, there's more variation within a so-called "racial group" - blond and black hair among Caucasians or height differences among Asians - than between "the races." Still race is sociologically important because people believe these physical differences are real. "Race" is a label, a perception, and a socially constructed definition of reality, not a real fact. Race truly proves the "Thomas theorem" that "if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." So, although race is not real, its consequences are real. Racism is a reality. Prejudice is a real psychological and sociological phenomenon. Discrimination really occurs. Marginalization occurs. Segregation occurs. Racially-based genocide occurs. The distribution of money, power, prestige, and life chances is strongly determined by racist thinking and racial discrimination. Racism in America It's not much of an overstatement to say America is a racist society. The importance of race in American culture and society can't be overestimated. Along with capitalism, democracy, and patriarchy, racism has shaped our national destiny. Race is etched deeply into our social structure and national psyche. As a part of the British Empire, early racial relations in America began as slavery. Compared to many other European societies, the "peculiar institution" lasted longer in the United States (the English abolished slavery in 1833 and the French in 1848). Emancipation in 1863 gave African-Americans legal

to the degree people treat them as real. Color is a major determinant of health and illness. segregation. treatment of Irish. one white and one black. Irish. White Northern European Protestants (WASPs . While other non-European groups have experienced prejudice. color is the major dividing line in our society. and the Civil Rights movement).7%). opened up opportunities for AfricanAmericans. ethnic relations in America have generally been peaceful. national origin.Race and Ethnicity freedom but did little to change their economic or social condition.White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) White Euro-American CatholicsJews. burned. albeit involuntary immigrants. or religion. these ethnic relations tend towards intolerance. As a multiethnic society with perhaps with the biggest mix of ethnic groups in history. prejudice. Hispanics. and Italians. After the brief period of Reconstruction (1865-1877). Poles. Major Racial/Ethnic Groups in American Society Generally America contains three major ethnic levels: 1.). We avoid talking about it. tortured. recently started to enjoy some mobility after centuries of oppression and segregation. and some Asian-Americans More specifically. ancestral origin. and New York) moved racism into the heart of modern America. Ethnicity tends to create conflict. American history stands out as a remarkable exception. Jews. the first paradox of culture. The "Northern Migration" of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South to Northern cities (especially Chicago. Sometimes such international relations stay at the level of mutual intolerance and disrespect but oftentimes the ethnic differences lead to warfare and conquest. ethnicity is a label. emphasizing and highlighting specific differences. traditions. plus some Asian-Americans African-Americans. and the structural characteristic of group boundaries. This follows from the human tendency towards ethnocentricism. language. and changed many basic structures of racism in America. treatment of Native Americans. Poverty largely breaks along the color line. the original inhabitants. generally they attempt to eliminate or dominate each other. AfricanAmericans watched wave after wave of immigrants come into American society and achieve some degree of assimilation and upward mobility. ethnic groups in American society have not shot. and violence. or beaten each other. history. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s ended Jim Crow. racial lynching. discrimination. friction. a perception.g. and even violence. sometimes with dramatic contrast. as the first non-whites immigrants. Racism creates two Americas. Racial intermarriage is rare (0. Ethnic differences are real to the degree they shape perception and behavior. Jim Crow laws. Perhaps more significantly. Rather than tolerance and mutual respect. etc. Except for three major exceptions (slavery. the ethnic groups in American society are: 2 . Russian Orthodox. Like race. More then sex. It transformed racism into an urban problem and a struggle between blacks and white ethnics (Italians. Jim Crow regimes in the Southern states disenfranchised and segregated African Americans in the late nineteenth-century.. 3. Crime exhibits strong color patterns. ETHNICITY Ethnicity is a social category based on culture. Still today racism exists in our society and may even be getting stronger. Detroit. Also revealing is how taboo the subject of race can be in American society. Japanese interments during WWII. and the Civil War) and other examples (e. the subject of race touches a raw nerve. Native Americans. Only African-Americans deviate from the main pattern of racial and ethnic relations characterizing American history. Ethnicity strongly influences relations and politics between societies or nations with differing ethnic identities. When a society or nation contains multiple ethnic groups. Cleveland. killed. Color distinguishes neighborhoods and housing. Pittsburgh. 2. more than almost any other topic. Even Native Americans. Given this general pattern in world history.

Southern and Eastern European + Irish Italian Irish Polish European Jews Russian Orthodox Asian-Americans Chinese Japanese Korean Vietnamese Laotian Filipino African American Latino / Hispanic Mexican Puerto Rican Cuban Other Latin American Native American Arabic 3 .Race and Ethnicity White Ethnics Northern European Protestants (WASPs) Germans English Scots Dutch Catholics .

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