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The goal of this tutorial is to help you objectively analyze the phenomena of race and ethnicity as well as some of the world wide patterns of discrimination based on them. In doing this, it is important to suspend our own biases as much as possible and to take a cultural relativity approach. That is to say, we must not let our own cultural biases get in the way of understanding the lives of other people. This is a very difficult task given the emotionally charged feelings and deep beliefs that most people have concerning race and ethnicity. However, suspending these attitudinal barriers in order to gain a better understanding of the phenomena is worth the effort. Have you ever asked yourself what are the defining characteristics of being "white" or "black" in America today? Is it solely a matter of skin color? Are other factors as important or even more important? What makes someone "Hispanic " or "Latino ." Is it language? Country of origin? Cultural traditions? Family values? Religion? Skin color? Can you be "white" or "black" and Hispanic at the same time? Can you be a non-Spanish speaking member of one of Mexico's Indian communities and be Hispanic? Are people from Spain and Portuguese speaking Brazilians Hispanic? The answers to these questions probably are not entirely clear to you nor are they to most Americans. It addition, the answers very likely will differ depending on the region of America in which you live.
Test yourself. Which of these people do you think is Hispanic? Look at them carefully...
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The ways in which we personally acquire our own group identities are often complex. Similarly, the way we assign group identity to others is not always straight forward. Race and ethnic group labels in America are not clearly
based on criteria that everyone understand, agree with, and can easily use. As a result, someone else may label you in a way that you consider inaccurate and very offensive. This can instantly create a barrier to open communication even if the slight was unintended. To comprehend the human diversity of the United States or any other country, it is important to first understand the criteria commonly used for making group distinctions. These generally are based on cultural and/or biological factors. Americans tend to see each other in terms of age, economic class, religion, gender , ethnicity, and race. We are usually a member of a particular group for each of these criteria. Which of our group identities is most important varies with the social situation. In America today, gender, ethnicity, and race often have the most far ranging impacts on us as individuals. Ethnicity refers to selected cultural and sometimes physical characteristics used to classify people into groups or categories considered to be significantly different from others. Commonly recognized American ethnic groups include American Indians, Latinos, Chinese, African Americans, European Americans, etc. In some cases, ethnicity involves merely a loose group identity with little or no cultural traditions in common. This is the case with many Irish and German Americans. In contrast, some ethnic groups are coherent subcultures with a shared language and body of tradition. Newly arrived immigrant groups often fit this pattern. It is important not to confuse the term minority with ethnic group. Ethnic groups may be either a minority or a majority in a population. Whether a group is a minority or a majority also is not an absolute fact but depends on the perspective. For instance, in some towns along the southern border of the U.S., people of Mexican ancestry are the overwhelming majority population and control most of the important social and political institutions but are still defined by state and national governments as a minority. In small homogenous societies, such as those of hunters and gatherers and pastoralists , there is essentially only one ethnic group and no minorities.
African American For many people, ethnic categorization implies a connection between biological inheritance and culture. They believe that biological inheritance determines much of cultural identity. If this were true, for instance, African American cultural traits, such as "black English", would stem from genetic inheritance. We now know that this is not true-biological race and culture are not the same thing. The pioneering English anthropologist Edward Tylormay have been the first scientist to understand this fact and to state it Senagalese in print. In 1871, he wrote that cultural traits are entirely learned. Subsequently, a baby can be placed into another culture shortly after birth and can be thoroughly enculturated to that culture, regardless of their skin color, body shape, and other presumed racial features. For example, both women in the photographs on the right are genetically African, but they do not speak the same language nor do they share any other significant cultural patterns due to the fact that they were brought up in very different societies. The African American woman is far more similar culturally to her European American neighbors than to the West African woman from Senegal.
A race is a biological subspecies , or variety of a species, consisting of a more or less distinct population with anatomical traits that distinguish it clearly from other races. This biologist's definition does not fit the reality of human genetic variation today. We are an extremely homogenous speciesgenetically. As a matter of fact, all humans today are 99.9% genetically identical, and most of the variation that does occur is in the difference between males and females and our unique personal traits. This homogeneity is very unusual in the animal kingdom. Even our closest biological relatives, the chimpanzees have 2-3 times more genetic variation than people. Orangutans have 8-10 times more variation. It is now clear that our human "races" are primarily cultural creations, not biological realities. The commonly held belief in the existence of human biological races is based on the false assumption that anatomical traits, such as skin color and specific facial characteristics, cluster together in single distinct groups of people. They do not. There are no clearly distinct "black", "white", or other races. The popularly held view of human races ignores the fact that anatomical traits supposedly identifying a particular race are often found extensively in other populations as well. This is due to the fact that similar natural selection factors in different parts of the world often result in the evolution of similar
adaptations. For instance, intense sunlight in tropical latitudes has selected for darker skin color as a protection from intense ultraviolet radiation. As a result, the dark brown skin color characteristic of sub-Saharan Africans is also found among unrelated populations in the Indian subcontinent, Australia, New Guinea, and elsewhere in the Southwest Pacific.
Distribution of the B blood type allele among humans Sub-Saharan African Fijian (Southwest Pacific) South Indian
The actual patterns of biological variation among humans are extremely complex and constantly changing. They can also be deceptive. All of us could be classified into a number of different "races", depending on thetraits that are emphasized. For example, if people are sorted on the basis of stature or blood types, the geographic groupings will be clearly different from those defined on the basis of skin color. Using the B blood type for defining races, Australian Aborigines would be lumped together with most Native Americans. Some Africans would be in the same race as Europeans while others would be categorized with Asians. Historically in the Western World, human "races" have been defined on the basis of a small number of superficial anatomical characteristics that can be readily identified at a distance, thereby making discrimination easier. Focusing on such deceptive distinguishing traits as skin color, body shape, and hair texture causes us to magnify differences and ignore similarities
between people. It is also important to remember that these traits are no more accurate in making distinctions between human groups than any other genetically inherited characteristics. All such attempts to scientifically divide humanity into biological races have proven fruitless. In the final analysis, it is clear that people, not nature, create our identities. Ethnicity and supposed "racial" groups are largely cultural and historical constructs. They are primarily social rather than biological phenomena. This does not mean that they do not exist. To the contrary, "races" are very real in the world today. In order to understand them, however, we must look into culture and social interaction rather than biology.
Nature of Ethnicity
All around the world, members of ethnic and so-called "racial" groups commonly use ethnic symbols as badges of identity to emphasize their distinctness from other groups. Language, religion, and style of dress are common ethnic symbols. In addition to such cultural traits, biological characteristics may be important at times as well. The Canadian women shown on the right are using their clothing to strongly communicate their Greek identity on a special occasion. African American Canadian women using clothing to symbolize ethnicity is usually their Greek ethnicity defined by dark brown skin color. However, shared experience and dialect are often as important since the range of skin coloration is quite broad among African Americans today due to centuries of African Americans interbreeding with Europeans, Native Americans, and, more recently, Asians. Ethnic group unity needs to be reinforced by a constant emphasis on what traits set the members apart from others, rather than what they share in common with the outsiders. This is a universal means of boundary
maintenance, or defense, between ethnic groups. Ethnic symbols are convenient markers for making "we-they" distinctions and are the focal points for racism and other unpleasant manifestations of ethnocentrism . They also mask in-group differences. In the United States. for instance, they help propagate the myth that there is a single, coherent AmericanIndian ethnic group. The same goes for Hispanics, European Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Whether or not individuals in minority ethnic or "racial" groups prominently emphasize their ethnic symbols may vary with the situation. They may not emphasize them if they are trying to identify with or join the dominant culture in their society. That is to say, they may de-emphasize the things that make them different if they wish toassimilate into the dominant ethnic group. For instance, the children of many immigrants to the United States prefer to speak in the local colloquial dialect of English rather than in their parents' native language. Likewise, they choose to dress and act like other Americans in their schools. This has the effect of making them less different from their neighbors while estranging them from their parents. Assimilation can be speeded up by marriage across ethnic or "racial" boundaries. As intermarriage becomes common, ethnic/racial differences often are progressively blurred. Not surprisingly, many ethnic/racial group organizations are opposed to intermarriage--they see it as a tool of ethnocide . The effect of intermarriage on reducing ethnic group identity can be seen in the reduction of discrimination against each of the European immigrant group in North America after several generations. In the case of Jews, discrimination lasted longer but has also reduced dramatically with the progressive increase in marriage to non-Jews. In the early 1960's, only 6% of American Jews married outsiders. By 1985, the rate had grown to nearly 25%. By the mid 1990's it was 52%. Over these four decades, discriminatory barriers to Jews largely disappeared. Of course, there were social changes in America that also contributed to the reduction in institutionalizeddiscrimination.
African Americans have had a relatively low frequency of intermarriage, though this is beginning to change also. In 1970, only 2.6% of their marriages were with European Americans. By 1993, the rate had increased to 12.1%. The number of intermarriages by African American men has been 3½ times higher than those by African American women. However, the intermarriage rate for African American women is now growing at a relatively faster rate.
Asian and Latin Americans have a comparatively high intermarriage rate with other ethnic/racial groups. Among Asian Americans, 12% of the men and 25% of the women have intermarried with others, especially European Americans. The relatively high rate of intermarriage for Asian and Latin Americans likely is an indication of a lower resistance to assimilation in their communities and a greater acceptance of them by the dominant European American society. However, assimilation is not easy or even possible for members of some minority groups since they are subject to more persistent stereotyping and discrimination. This is generally the case with African Americans today. Partly in response to this rejection, assimilation has ceased being a desirable goal of many African Americans. When ethnic differences are strongly emphasized, as in the case of "black" and "white" Americans today, it inevitably leads to increased polarization. It also leads to false notions of biological and cultural homogeneity within these groups. In addition, it results in a selective blindness in looking at the past. Polarized people easily fall into the trap of justifying an interpretation of history that favors their own group and demonizes others. This occurred in a particularly sinister way in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990's, after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Previously peaceful and overtly friendly Muslims, Croats, and Serbs living there brutally slaughtered each other to repay perceived past wrongs and to "ethnically cleanse" the land.
The American mass media and government historic preoccupation with black/white relations has tended to make othersmaller ethnic groups relatively invisible and discounted their concerns. This is ethnic discrimination by not acknowledging the existence of people and not taking them into consideration. An Filipino Americans example of a largely overlooked ethnic group is the unobtrusive Filipino population concentrated in Southern California. Few Americans realize that they are the 2nd largest recent immigrant group in the country.
Forms of Discrimination
Prejudice and discrimination based on presumed ethnic/racial differences are universal--they are found in various forms in all societies. Acts of prejudice range all the way from benign classification of people to cruel persecution. However, the term racism has come to be imprecisely applied to all of these behaviors. Kwame Appiah, a British and Ghanaian scholar of African American issues, has made a useful distinction between kinds of prejudicial behavior. He uses the term racialism for the more benign forms of discrimination such as categorizing people for reference purposes on the basis of age, gender, and ethnicity/race. He reserves the term racism for harmful discrimination such as not hiring someone because of their "race." This distinction will be followed here. We are all racialists. It is normal to categorize people in our daily lives based on a number of traits. It can be a useful aid in predicting behavior. For instance, when you are lost in a strange city, you very likely approach an adult rather than a young child for help because you surmise that the adult will know more. Similarly, when you want to take an out-of-town guest to a good traditional Mexican restaurant, you may ask a Mexican American friend for recommendations. However, when categorizing leads to behavior that harms another person, it becomes racism.
No one ethnic/racial group has the monopoly on racism. Even members of groups that are aggressively discriminated against by others may think and act in a vicious racist manner. Racism has been a common element in American history. However, the most pervasive racist acts are not being carried out in Recent hotspots of severe racism America today. Far from it. Over the last two decades, they have been in such places as the former Yugoslavia, Israel, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Rwanda, South Africa and Sudan. In all of these countries, ethnic identities have been strongly emphasized as a government policy. The result has been the rise of tribalism and even genocide in some regions. Throughout history, there have been numerous atrocities carried out in the name of ethnic/racial purification. If racism and ethnic persecution are indeed as much a part of human nature as ethnocentrism, we can expect that such atrocities will occur in the future as well. While racism is universal, its focus usually changes in the transition from Small-scale societies to large-scale ones. The smallest societies are almost always biologically and culturally homogenous without ethnic group distinctions. In such societies, the target of racism is other societies. Strangers are often thought of as being not quite human. In contrast, large societies are often heterogeneous and have many ethnic groups. The targets of racism are mostly other ethnic groups within the same society. In Italy, for instance, Northern Italians often look down upon Southern Italians and stereotype them as being ignorant, dishonest, and lazy. Southern Italians often view Northern Italians as being impersonal, dull, and not trustworthy. A similar north-south stereotyping occurs in China. We have seen that prejudice in human interaction is a universal phenomenon. The results of prejudgment can range all the way from relatively harmless racialist categorizing to vicious racist acts. By strongly emphasizing ethnic symbols for boundary maintenance purposes, ethnic groups indirectly foster racism which, in turn, can become an effective tool in preserving and enhancing the distinctness of the groups. However, racism and other unpleasant products of heightened ethnic identity can also diminish as a result of increased communication and intermarriage between groups.
Ethnic Identification Process
One's ethnic/racial identity may result from self-identification or from an imposition by others. Identifying other people's ethnicity for them has always been a powerful political tool for controlling, marginalizing, and even getting rid of them. From the early 1930's through the mid 1940's, the Nazi's in Germany methodically labeled people as being Jews even though they did not always personally identify themselves as such. In most cases, this label was tantamount to a death sentence. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the European American dominated political system in the U.S. restricted legal rights of people they defined as being African, Asian, or Native American in ancestry. Their property and voting rights were limited and they were treated as 3rd class citizens. Similarly, in Japan today, tens of thousands of 2nd and 3rd generation resident Koreans who have adopted the Japanese language and culture are given only limited rights if Japanese or Koreans? they retain their Korean citizenship. They are not allowed to be fully Japanese because dual citizenship is not permitted. This leaves them in a marginal status and limits their job prospects. People in political and economic power usually define their own ethnic/racial group as being superior and others as being inferior. This can be done by laws that restrict rights and privileges. It also can be done in subtle pervasive ways even when ethnic favoritism is officially illegal. For example, throughout much of the 20th century in Early 20th century photo of African American servants America, "white" became identified in popular literature, films, and the mass media with intelligent, good, pretty, and successful, while "black" was identified with the opposite. The early 20th century photo (on the right) of African Americans depicted as an underclass of servants satisfied the common European American perception. The unfavorable portrayal of African Americans still continues today, to some extent, with TV news programs focusing on black gang violence, welfare
mothers, and relatively poor performance in school. After generations of images reflecting this view, many African Americans came to define themselves negatively. It was not a mere coincidence that the "black power" political movement of the 1960's created the catch phrase "black is beautiful." This was a conscious effort to counter negative images with a positive one. African Americans are not unique in having a relentless negative image of themselves portrayed in the popular media. Mexican Americans, Arab Americans, and some Southeast Asian groups are also experiencing it to some degree. In fact, most minority groups in heterogeneous societies like the United States have had a similar experience. Even European immigrants, such as the Irish in the 19th century, were commonly portrayed in the press as being dirty, stupid, alcoholic, and violent. Before the Civil War in the southern states, Irish immigrants were hired for construction jobs that were considered too risky for black slaves because they were monetarily valuable, unlike the Irish. Even as late as the mid 20th century, unemployed Irishmen in the Northeastern U.S. were at times faced by signs saying "No Irishmen need apply." Hollywood's strongly negative portrayal of specific ethnic groups continues. However, the targets have changed. Today, Moslem Arabs, Iranians, and Afghans are consistently cast as irrational terrorists and villains in action films. They have been impersonalized and stereotyped on-screen with derogatory slurs such as "rag heads." They have mostly replaced Germans, Japanese, American Indians, African Americans, Eastern European, Chinese, and Communists from any nation as the most dangerous "bad guys." Whether you have a negative or a positive self-image stemming from your ethnicity/race, gender, or physical condition generally has a powerful effect on the way you relate to others and lead your own life. For instance, a belief that you are not likely to succeed in education, because "members of your group are inherently less intelligent," can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why try to succeed in school if you think that you will fail? Likewise, a strong belief that most members of another group actively discriminate against your group is likely to lead you to be distrusting of the others and to even seek revenge against them. In North American middle class "white" families today, it is not uncommon for teenagers to feel a lack of ethnic identity. There is a perception that they are not anything. This should not be a surprise since their education has generally emphasized the value of ethnicity for others but not them. The use of terms such as "people of color" for African, Asian, and Native Americans in
a sense stigmatizes European Americans as "people without color"--a negative classification. This along with revised American history that emphasizes the unfairness of "whites" in their interactions with others leads many European American youths to have a somewhat negative image of their ethnicity and of themselves. Subsequently, they become eager vessels to accept the ethnic traits of others. This may be one of the reasons that they have readily adopted the music, style of dress, and slang of Black America. Likewise, tacos, burritos, and other Mexican foods have become as popular as hamburgers for teenagers and young adults, especially in the Southwest.
Creation of New Ethnic Groups
During the 19th century, new ethnic groups were created by European colonial governments in order to facilitate ruling their new indigenous subjects. This was the case in Australia and over much of Western North America where there had been small, independent bands of foraging societies. The bands were combined into larger political units by government officials in order to simplify the control of them. Indigenous leadership positions, such as chiefs, were created for peoples who previously did not have the concept of a leader who could act and speak for their societies. Similarly, the colonial powers forced diverse ethnic groups to see themselves as being part of larger nations with common ethnicity. This European colonial empires in 1938 was the case in India, Malaysia, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and much of Africa. In part, these new nations were created to facilitate control. Some ethnic groups have been created by themselves for the rational goal of gaining political and economic power. It has been suggested that this was the case with Latinos in the United States. Until the1960's, their identity was mostly as distinct Mexican American, Cuban American, and Puerto Rican groups. Since then, a feeling of shared cultural identity as "Hispanics" has been fostered by Latino leaders. At the same time, the significant cultural differences between these groups have been underplayed in order to reinforce Latino unity. As new Central and South American immigrants
arrived, the Latino ethnic group redefined itself to incorporate them as well. Even Portuguese speaking Brazilians have been included. The creation and recognition of a homogenous Hispanic identity was fostered by the national government. The term "Hispanic" was actually created by federal bureaucrats working under President Nixon in the early 1970's.
We have seen that ethnic identity is often complex. It can change dynamically through time as situations alter. It can be created by self definition or others can define it for us whether we wish them to or not. The power to label others is the power to control them. Our stereotypes of groups has a strong effect on how we view and relate to members of those groups. It also can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves. Definitions of ethnicity and "race" have immense political importance in America today. Those ethnic groups that have a high public visibility generally have political clout. Those that are largely invisible do not.
What are You?
Shortly after birth, most Americans have the ethnic/racial group identity of their biological parents placed on their birth certificates. This provides an identity for children that will usually stay with them throughout their lives and will have a major impact on how they see themselves and how others treat them. It often restricts their choices of friends and marriage partners. It may give them advantages or it may create road blocks in their educations, careers, and the neighborhoods in which they wish to live. Many, if not most, European Americans now believe that this official ethnic/racial classification and life-long tracking is unnecessary. The writer Tony Morrison has observed that "whites see themselves as unraced." For those who do not label themselves in terms of "race", official racial designations naturally seem irrelevant and even counter productive to social harmony and individual rights. In contrast, members of ethnic/racial minorities generally see value in this group classification system because they do not
consider themselves to be "unraced." For them, labeling may prevent their official invisibility and subsequent social and economic discrimination. This view is not surprising considering the history of past discrimination and even slavery of some groups. The official state and national government practice over the last century in the U.S. was to try to force everyone into one of a number of specific racial/ethnic categories for the national census, hiring goals, college admission records, etc. Ultimately, these categories are based on the false assumption that somewhere there are "pure races" and "pure cultures." Such groups do not exist today and may never have existed due to intergroup mating and to the more or less constant diffusion of culture traits around the world. Despite the fuzzy assumptions about the nature of ethnicity and race, groups based on these phenomena continue to be officially recognized largely because it is politically popular. In many cases, being assigned to a particular ethnic/racial group on birth certificates and national census reports in America is somewhat arbitrary and mostly based on how people wish to define themselves and their children. In part, this is due to the fact that the high frequency of intermarriages has resulted in millions of Americans who no longer have a simple, straight forward group identity--they could be legitimately placed into a number of ethnic/racial group categories. Which ethnic/racial category is selected for birth certificates and national census reporting has tended to vary with the social situation and historical changes. The Chumash Indians of the Santa Barbara area of California provide an example of this phenomenon. Up until the 1960's, it was thought that there were no surviving Chumash. The last one had presumably died in the 1940's. In fact, for a generation, they had been defining themselves as Mexican for census purposes. Only with the political reawakening of Native Americans in the 1960's did they once again claim to be Chumash. Now even people with very remote Chumash genetic ancestry and virtually no Chumash cultural heritage are claiming to be Chumash. In the 1990 U.S. census, everyone who was not defined as being Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander apparently was assumed to be "black" or "white." This simplistic system was used despite the fact that for four centuries, there has been considerable intergroup mating and extensive cultural exchanges between European, African, and Native Americans. Asians and Pacific Islanders have also been added to the mix over the last 1½ centuries, especially in Hawaii and urban areas of thewestern states.
Many Americans of mixed ancestry do not fully identify with the single racial/ethnic category that they have been assigned to and do not feel comfortable with it. For instance, when one parent is of European and Chinese descent and the other is African and Native American, what single category would their children fit into? For "Multi-racial" Americans many Americans with complex ancestries such as this, the answer is that they are multi-racial, mixed-racial, or multi-ethnic. The number of these multi-racial children in America has doubled during each of the last 3 decades. When asked to provide personal family information for the year 2000 Census, nearly 7 million Americans reported that their ancestry included two or more "races." The real number of multi-racial Americans is certainly far higher. Government agencies have been officially blind in the past to such realities except for providing the option of the ambiguous category of "other race" on information request forms. There are several active national lobbying groups trying to get a "multi-racial" category added to future censuses and other federal records. Strongly opposing this addition are racial/ethnic rights organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of La Raza. Apparently, their opposition is due to anticipated decreased numbers in their groups and a subsequent loss of political power. While the year 2000 census for the first time allowed people to identify themselves as being members of more than one "race", a "multi-racial" category was not allowed. Compounding the problem of getting an accurate picture of American society, the U.S. Census Bureau decided that people who identified themselves as black and some other "racial" group on the year 2000 census would be counted as being black for some purposes--they would not be given a choice. This created the curious situation in which someone who is 90% Asian and only 10% black would not be considered Asian. There has been an inconsistency in the official definition of ethnic/racial group categories in America. Depending on the company, institution, or government entity, the number of categories used over the last two decades has ranged from 5 to 20 or more. The trend has been progressively to break down all categories, except "black" and "white", into smaller, more specific groupings. For example, the Pacific Islander group category is now commonly divided into Filipino, Guamanian, Hawaiian, Samoan, and "Other Pacific Islander."
"Other Pacific Islander" (woman from Tonga)
In addition, some people have been officially shifted from one category to another in the census. For instance, people from India were commonly defined as "white" in the past. Now, they are usually considered to be Asian or given their own group category--Indian or East Indian. Despite objections based on feelings of national identity, people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka also are usually labeled as being Indian.
Ethnic Identity in Other Societies
Outside of the United States, the racial/ethnic pie has been divided up differently. During the apartheid era of South Africa (largely from the 1960's through the early 1990's), there were four officially enforced categories of "races"-- European (100% European), Asian (100% East Indian), African (100% African), and Colored (mixture of European and African). At times, siblings of mixed ancestry were placed into different "racial" groups based solely on skin color. As a result, some brothers and sisters were legally prohibited from socializing together. As a further indication of the arbitrariness of the South African system, business travelers from Japan were considered to be European. This allowed Japanese visitors to interact socially with the European minority that controlled the government and economy in South Africa.
Rigidly segregated stands at a South African sports stadium during the Apartheid era
In 17th century Spanish colonial America, there were 15 "racial" categories based on the percent of one's ancestry from different groups:
Bermejos Indios Negros Mulatos Mestizos 100% European 100% Native American 100% African European and African mixture (7 categories) European and Native American mixture (5 categories)
The term "mestizo" is still commonly used in Mexico. Depending on the person speaking, it can be a term of pride or of derision. "Ladino" is now more often used instead of "mestizo" in Central America. Cultural traits are often as important as biological ones in ethnic identity there. In Guatemala, for instance, it is often language (Spanish or Maya Indian), education, and style of clothing that are used to identify people as being ladino instead of indio (Indian). In 18th century French colonial Haiti, there were 9 categories of African and European mixture that were defined based on the assumption that people have 128 parts of inheritance:
Blanc Négre Mulâtre Sacatra Griffe Marabou Quateron Métif Mamelouc Quateronné Sang-mêlé 100% European (128 parts European ancestry) 100% African (128 parts African ancestry) 64 parts European and 64 parts African 8 to 32 parts European 24 to 39 parts European 40 to 48 parts European 71 to 100 parts European 101 to 112 parts European 113 to 120 parts European 121 to 124 parts European 125 to 127 parts European
These "racial" terms are still important to many people in Haiti, especially members of the largely mixed ancestry upper class. Similar kinds of distinctions are found in the neighboring Dominican Republic today.
Most people around the world are identified in terms of ethnic and/or "racial" identity at birth. However, ethnicity is not a static phenomenon. Ethnic groups can change through time in complex ways. Similarly, individual identity in heterogeneous societies today, such as the United States, Canada, and Brazil, can also be flexible--individuals may identify themselves as being members of different ethnic groups or "races" at different times. Unfortunately, governments usually are the last to recognize and respond to the changes. Ethnic/racial group organizations often play a major role in the definition of group identities and in the maintenance of boundaries between groups--they usually act as conservative forces by resisting assimilation into the majority population.
World Diversity Patterns
There are more than 6.5 billion people in the world today. Nearly 2/3 of them are Asians living on less than 1/3 of the land. Only about 5% of the world's people live in North America.
GEOGRAPHIC REGION Asia Africa Europe (including nations that were part of the Soviet Union) Latin America and Caribbean North America (U.S. and Canada) Near East Oceania (Pacific Islands) POPULATION 3,518,000,000 839,000,000 803,000,000 539,000,000 320,000,000 179,000,000 32,000,000 PERCENT OF WORLD 56.4% 13.5% 12.9% 8.7% 5.1% 2.9% .5%
Source: Global Population Profile: 2002, U.S. Census Bureau 2004
Just how many different societies, cultures, and ethnic groups make up the world's population is not certain. This is due, in part, to the fact that these social entities are not always distinct enough to clearly warrant their being considered as separate groups. For instance, Canada and the U.S. are separate nations but culturally and linguistically similar almost to the point of not being distinguishable by outsiders (except for French speaking Quebec Province).
Contributing to the problem of counting the number of societies, cultures, and ethnic groups is not only the overlapping nature of many of these groups but the fact that they are now changing rapidly as mass media and relatively inexpensive long distance travel increasingly blur cultural differences. We are experiencing culture change on a scale and at a pace that is unprecedented in human history. A good indication of cultural survival is the continued use of traditional languages and dialects. People who are unable to readily communicate because of language differences are more likely to maintain cultural differences as well. Linguists estimate that the world's peoples speak 50006000 languages. The most common "native" language is Mandarin Chinese. English is a distant third.
SPOKEN AS "NATIVE" LANGUAGE 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Mandarin Chinese Hindi (India) English Spanish Bengali (India and Bangladesh) Portuguese Russian Japanese German (standard) Korean TOTAL SPEAKERS 874,000,000 366,000,000 341,000,000 322-358,000,000 207,000,000 176,000,000 167,000,000 125,000,000 100,000,000 78,000,000
Note: If the 15 major variants of Arabic are considered one language, Arabic is the 6th most common language in the world having 198-201,000,000 native speakers. Source: Ethnologue Volume I: Languages of the World, 14th ed. (2000). These statistics are only rough approximations in most cases.
While English is not spoken as a native language by the largest number of people, it is the most world wide in its distribution. It has become the second language of choice in most countries. About 1/4 to 1/3 of humanity now understand and speak it to some degree. As English and a few other major languages grow in popularity and as cultural diffusion accelerates, many of the languages of smaller ethnic groups are dying. As many as 1/2 of the languages in the world are no longer spoken by children. This is a major step in the direction of language and cultural extinction. The languages that are becoming extinct are not doing so because they are "primitive" or unable to allow adequate communication. They are dying because their speakers find it
more useful to speak other languages. This is largely a result of the growth in influence and power of nation states over their indigenous minority populations and of the increasing globalization of our economies. The culture homogenizing effect of mass media should not be underestimated either. Much of the television programming viewed around the world originated in Western Nations. It is startling to realize that the most popular television shows world wide in recent years have been stereotypical American sitcoms such as "Will and Grace" and "Friends." The rapid global growth in the importance of the English language and of Western culture (especially American) has not been as straight forward and simple as it initially may seem. Cultural traits have not only diffused from the Western Industrial societies to the rest of the world. They have gone the other way as well. American society, culture, and language have become far more diverse. For instance, English now contains words from more than 240 other languages. In less than a generation, the cultural influences of Asia and Latin America especially have dramatically changed life in the U.S. and Canada. This has been particularly true of the food preferences inurban areas. Countering these rapid globalization trends in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been the dramatic resurgence of tribalism. While many small indigenous societies are disappearing into national societies, many larger ethnic groups are violently reasserting their presence and even independence from the nations that they have been integral parts of until now. The breakup of Yugoslavia into ethnically "purified" areas in the 1990's is a prime example. Similar "tribal" reemergences have occurred throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Tribalism also recently has spawned genocidal conflicts in Africa, especially in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, and Congo.
American Diversity Patterns
Most numerical data on ethnicity and "race" in the U.S. derive from national census data gathered every 10 years. Unfortunately, even the latest census is flawed due to inconsistent and incomplete data collection. It is likely that
some urban minorities and migrant farm workers are undercounted. In addition, people have been counted in terms of ethnicity and "race" mostly as a result of their own self-disclosure as to which categories they fit, and they had to choose from the limited list specified by the national government. The failure to allow people to identify with categories that they themselves subjectively volunteer makes the data less reliable. The U.S. Census Bureau considers some group differences to be racial and others to be purely ethnic. Specifically, they make an ethnic distinction between Hispanic and non-Hispanic. In contrast, categories such as Chinese and Vietnamese are considered racial.
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People of European ancestry are lumped together in the U.S. Census as "white", while everyone with African ancestry is considered to be "black." It is likely that the vast majority of people who are a mixture of the two, define themselves as being "black." This is a result of the now deeply ingrained historical pattern of considering someone who has even a minute percentage of African ancestry to be "black." This "drop of blood", or hypodescent , criterion for identity was once insisted upon by European Americans and is now strongly advocated by most African Americans. For example, the golfing pro Tiger Woods is usually claimed by African American organizations as being "black" despite the fact that he is only 1/8 African in ancestry. He is also 1/2 Thai, 1/4 European, and 1/8 Native American. The census categories for Native Americans, Latin Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders have been subdivided into smaller categories. Members of these groups are counted separately in terms of their specific national or ethnic origins. For instance, Pacific Islanders are counted as Filipinos, Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians, etc. Latin Americans are counted as Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, etc.
Cuban American women
Recent "black" immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are not similarly distinguished in terms of national origin on the census--they are lumped into the black, or African American, category without regard for their linguistic, religious, and other cultural differences. Many recent African and black Caribbean immigrants have been troubled by the fact that they are usually lumped into this category despite the fact that they think of themselves as Africans, Nigerians, Somalis, Jamaicans, etc. Likewise, many blacks whose ancestry included slavery in the U.S. do not feel kinship with these new immigrants because of their radically different historical and cultural backgrounds. Adding to this social division between native born and immigrant blacks has been the fact that the foreign born blacks more often have university degrees and subsequently are able to obtain higher paying jobs. Similar to the lumping of diverse peoples into the black category for the census, all European, Middle Eastern, and North African immigrants are defined as "white" without concern for their significant cultural differences. To learn how races were officially defined for the year 2000 Census click here.
Members of different European national groups (Danes and Spaniards) wearing traditional clothes that identify their ethnicity
Despite these limitations and peculiarities of the U.S. Census, it is instructive to examine its data and the trends that they indicate concerning race and ethnicity. The data from the year 2000 Census are summarized below:
RACIAL AND ETHNIC CATEGORIES Total U.S. population Race: (see note 1) --- One race --- White --- Black or African American --- American Indian and Alaska Native --- Asian --- Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander --- Some other race (see note 2) --- Two or more races (see note 3) 274,595,678 211,460,626 34,658,190 2,475,956 10,242,998 398,835 15,359,073 6,826,228 97.6% 75.1% 12.3% 0.9% 3.6% 0.1% 5.5% 2.4% NUMBER OF PEOPLE 281,421,906 PERCENT OF POPULATION 100.0%
Ethnicity: (see note 4) --- Hispanic or Latino (of any race) --- Not Hispanic or Latino 1. 2. 3. 35,305,818 246,116,088 12.5% 87.5%
There was no "decline to state" option allowed for "race" designation for the year 2000 Census. 97% of the people who reported that they were "some other race" said that they were also "Hispanic or Latino" in terms of ethnicity. There are 57 possible combinations of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 races that were allowed. 93% of the people who reported more than one race, reported only two. The most common combination was "white" with some other "race." 48% of Hispanics reported that they were "white" and 42% said they were "some other race."
The vast majority of Americans (97.6%) reported that they are only one "race." It is very likely that a significant percentage of this group actually could claim ancestry from more than one "race" but chose not to. Nearly a quarter of all Americans (24.9%) claimed to be either members of "non-white" racial groups or two or more "races." A comparison of the 1980-2000 censuses shows that the "non-white" groups have been increasing in numbers more rapidly than "whites."
RACIAL CATEGORIES (see note 1) Total U.S. population --- White --- Black --- American Indian and Alaska Native --- Asian and Pacific Islander INCREASE BETWEEN 1980 AND 1990 9.8% 6.0% 13.2% 37.9% 107.8% INCREASE BETWEEN 1990 AND 2000 13.2% 5.9% 15.6% 26.4% 46.3%
1. Because of major changes in the way "race" information was collected for the year 2000 Census, these data are not entirely comparable with data from earlier censuses. People who claim more than one race are not reflected in these data.
A similar trend of rapidly increasing numbers has occurred for Hispanics in comparison to non-Hispanics.
ETHNIC CATEGORIES Total U.S. population --- Hispanic or Latino --- Not Hispanic or Latino INCREASE BETWEEN 1980 AND 1990 9.8% 53.0% 6.8% INCREASE BETWEEN 1990 AND 2000 13.2% 57.9% 8.7%
NOTE: these data indicating dramatic increases in the size of minority groups relative to the majority European American or "white" population are deceptive. In small groups, a large percentage increase results from the addition of relatively few people. For instance, the increase in the Vietnamese population of 82.7% between 1990 and 2000 actually resulted from the addition of only 507,981 people. During the same period, the 5.9% increase among the "white" population resulted from 11,774,556 new people.
Over the long run, however, the trend of more rapidly increasing minority populations will have a cumulative effect in changing the broad demographic patterns in the United States. Projecting to the year 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that America will still remain predominantly "white" but that other groups will continue to increase disproportionately. Perhaps the most dramatic result of these changing population trends during the last few years has been that African Americans were replaced by Hispanics as the largest minority group. This change is a result of large numbers of immigrants entering the country from Latin America and high birth rates among Hispanics. Between 1990 and 2000, nearly 33 million people were added to our national population. This was the largest 10 year increase in U.S. history. The fastest growing regions were the "sunbelt areas" of the West and the Southeast. The patterns of diversity are not the same throughout America. Most ethnic and "racial" minorities are concentrated in major urban centers and in particular states. For instance, Hispanics of Mexican ancestry have their highest frequency in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. While they make up only 12.5% of the U.S. population, Hispanics now are 32.4% of California's population and 77.1% of them have a Mexican heritage. Greater Los Angeles is, in effect, the 2nd largest Mexican city--only Mexico City has a larger Mexican population. Half of all U.S. Hispanics live in California and Texas. However, the presence of people with Hispanic ancestry is now growing rapidly outside of the Southwest as well. This is particularly true in New York City, Chicago, and major farming regions such as the Yakima Valley in Washington.
CITIES WITH LARGE NUMBERS OF HISPANICS New York Los Angeles (see note 2) NUMBER OF HISPANICS (see note 1) 2,160,554 1,719,073 PERCENT OF POPULATION THAT IS HISPANIC 27.0% 46.5%
Chicago Houston San Antonio Phoenix El Paso Dallas San Diego 1
753,644 730,865 671,394 449,972 431,875 422,587 310,752
26.0% 37.4% 58.7% 34.1% 76.6% 35.8% 25.4%
It is likely that these numbers are undercounts because many undocumented aliens from Latin America apparently did not participate in the year 2000 Census. In East and South Los Angeles, Hispanics comprise 96.8% of the population. At least 4.2 million Hispanics live in Los Angeles County. This is 3.2 times more Hispanics than in any other county in the U.S.
Among the people who identified themselves as Hispanic in the year 2000 Census, the largest group by far consisted of those of Mexican ancestry. Well over half of all American Hispanics claimed to be Mexican.
HISPANIC CATEGORIES All Hispanic or Latino --- Mexican --- Puerto Rican --- Cuban --- Dominican --- Central American (excludes Mexican) --- South American --- Spaniard --- All other Hispanic or Latino NUMBER OF PEOPLE 35,305,818 20,640,711 3,406,178 1,241,685 764,945 1,686,937 1,353,562 100,135 6,111,665 PERCENT OF TOTAL HISPANIC POPULATION 100.0% 58.5% 9.6% 3.5% 2.2% 4.8% 3.8% 0.3% 17.3%
Among Americans of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, the largest groups in the year 2000 Census were Chinese, Filipinos, and Asian Indians. However, Koreans and Vietnamese are catching up.
ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER CATEGORIES All Asian --- Asian Indian --- Chinese --- Filipino --- Japanese POPULATION 10,242,998 1,678,765 2,432,585 1,850,314 796,700 PERCENT OF TOTAL ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER POPULATION 96.3% 15.8% 22.9% 17.4% 7.5%
--- Korean --- Vietnamese --- Other Asian All Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander --- Native Hawaiian --- Guamanian or Chamorro --- Samoan --- Other Pacific Islander
1,076,872 1,122,528 1,285,234 398,835 140,652 58,240 91,029 108,914
10.1% 10.6% 12.1% 3.8% 1.3% 0.6% 0.9% 1.0%
Implications of the Changing Population Patterns
Beyond the numerical data for ethnicity and "race" in America, it is important to grasp the human personal dimension of this diversity. It has had profound effects on the attitudes and actions of both minority and majority groups. Perceptions of racial identity are especially important among African Americans today. Their history of slavery and severe institutionalized discrimination are not easily put behind them. To the contrary, they have become important ethnic symbols in the "racial" boundary maintenance separating African Americans from other groups. The rate of loss of a minority group's distinct identity and the assimilation of its members into the majority population has depended on a number of historical and social factors. It has been relatively easy for most European immigrants to assimilate within 1-2 generations due to their similarity in physical appearance to the majority population. However, people with darker skin color have not been able to assimilate as readily or at all in some cases. This has been particularly true of African Americans and some Hispanics. As a result, assimilation now is often rejected as a goal by "minorities of color" in favor of gaining respect and acceptance as economically and politically equal but separate ethnic groups. Another major factor affecting the likelihood of assimilation has been the size and concentration of ethnic groups. Those that make up the predominate population in a large community greatly insulate their members from the dominant cultural patterns of the national society. Their members can live surrounded by people sharing the same ethnicity and speaking the same familiar language or dialect. In this situation, pressures to assimilate can be greatly ignored. This has been the case with many Mexicans and Central Americans in East and South Los Angeles. In part, this has also been due to
the continued high rates of immigration of Spanish speakers into these communities. When immigrants are isolated from others of their ethnic group, it is much more difficult for them to resist the pressure to assimilate. This was the case with some of the Vietnamese boat people who arrived in the 1970's. The children of those who were relocated in smaller towns in the Midwest, rather than major cities in California, usually acquired non-Vietnamese friends and learned relatively quickly to speak English without a Vietnamese accent. These are important first steps in assimilation. However, whether or not it occurs also depends on the acceptance of the newcomers by the majority population.
What Will the Future Be Like
Those Americans who favor a society which acknowledges the permanent existence of unassimilated or only partially assimilated ethnic/racial minorities generally advocate multiculturalism (or pluralism). This is essentially an encouragement of continued diversity. The concept of multiculturalism came to the United States from Canada in the 1970's. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, first used the term publicly in 1972 to describe the acceptance of a permanently unassimilated French speaking society in Quebec Province. Today, multiculturalism in Canada is a deep-rooted policy at every level of government and has been expanded to cover all ethnic groups. Multiculturalism has not been as widely accepted in the United States despite its support by national and state governments. Those Americans who wish to facilitate and speed up assimilation in order to reinforce national cultural unity generally advocate a cultural melting pot instead. This latter approach is one in which ethnic/racial distinctness is perceived of as getting in the way of developing a culturally homogenous American society. In the past, most of those who held this view apparently visualized the new American society as one in which everyone spoke English and had European American values, perceptions, and goals. "Americanization" of new immigrants essentially meant educating everyone in the public schools to be like the existing majority European American population. Americans have been forced by circumstances to focus on this debate over what the country should be like in the future. Generally, those advocating the
continuance of the older melting pot model are European Americans. Ethnic/racial minorities and younger, more politically liberal European Americans more often advocate the multiculturalism model. However, it is a mistake to assume how any American would vote on this issue based on their age, ethnicity, "race", and political leaning. It is a complex issue that also has become intertwined with questions of affirmative action, gender equity, sexual preference, rights of the disabled, and public costs of the massive immigration that has occurred over the last two decades. Richard Rodriguez, a leading American essayist and social commentator, believes that the debate between the multiculturalism and melting pot models is largely irrelevant because constant close contact between people of different ethnic/racial groups in the U.S. is progressively resulting in a blurring of the differences between them. Rodriguez suggests that "we are melting into each other" genetically and culturally. More and more children are being born with two or more different ethnic/racial backgrounds. He refers to Is America a physically and this as the "browning of America." However, he is not culturally "browning" society? only referring to skin color. He points out that we have developed a distinct national culture by borrowing from each other and creating a new cultural synthesis. Rodriguez believes that government policies supporting multiculturalism only put off the inevitable. However, he also thinks that the old melting pot model was incorrect in assuming that future generations will essentially be like European Americans today. What is emerging is a new fusion of peoples and cultures. Actually this process of genetic and ethnic intermixing has been going on since the beginning of the European colonies in North America more than four centuries ago. In recent generations, thehomogenizing of people and their cultures has been most intense in Hawaii and the southwestern states but is rapidly moving east and north. If asked the question of what the future will be like for Americans, Rodriguez would very likely say that we only need to open our eyes and really see what it is like today.
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