Sociology

Andrew Rollings, Ph.D. Jun. 2006

RACE AND ETHNICITY RACE
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

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

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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