SOCI 1002 E
Foundations of Sociology
Week 8: Race and Ethnicity
• Rankism: rank-based abuse. It offends human dignity and is based on power.
• Mutability of Rank: Everyone has suffered from rankism at one point – explanation for
someone’s empathy against discrimination.
• Rank and power differences: not the problem, abuse of power and rank is the problem.
• Use of power to discriminate, exploit, demean and disrespect is the problem. Ex: boss
harassing an employee, teacher humiliating a student.
• Rankism is a problem if one believes all human beings are entitled to a fundamental
equality of dignity.
• Need to be a promotion of legitimate uses of rank and an elimination of illegitimate uses
which lead to discrimination and prejudice.
Race and Ethnicity in Canada
• Canada is known for its cultural democracy and ethnic diversity.
• Significant gains have been made in the past 50 years for ‘visible’ and ‘non-visible’
minority groups in Canada.
• Racism is still an issue in Canada.
Social Construction of Race
• Racial categorization based on phenotypical differences (such as facial characteristics or
skin colour) does not correlate with genotypical differences (differences in genetic
• Race: a social construct used to distinguish people in terms of one or more physical
markers, such as skin colour, hair texture, eye shape, etc, usually with profound effects
on their lives.
• Race matters b/c it allows forms of social inequality to be created and perpetuated. Race
matters b/c of how people treat one another b/c of it. Race matters b/c of power. Ethnicity
• Ethnic group: collection of people distinguished, by others or by themselves, primarily on
the basis of cultural or nationality characteristics.
• Ethnic groups: often share cultural traits such as language, clothing, holidays, religious
practices, a sense of community, ascribed membership from birth, geographic area.
• Provides a sense of identity and belonging.
Relations between Race and Ethnicity
• Symbolic interactionists suggest development of racial and ethnic labels as well as
ethnic and racial identities, is typically a process of negotiation:
• Members of a group may have racial or an ethnic identity, outsiders may impose new
labels on them.
• Group members then reject, accept or modify label.
• Negotiation between outsiders and insiders eventually results in crystallization of new,
more or less stable ethnic identity.
• If social context changes again, negotiation process beings anew.
• Imposition versus Choice
• Idea that race and ethnicity are socially constructed does not mean that everyone can
always choose their racial or ethnic identity freely.
• Are wide variations over time and from one society to the next in degree to which people
can exercise such freedom of choice.
• As well, in a given society at a given time, different categories of people are more or less
free to choose.
Majority and Minority Groups • Majority: dominant group that is advantaged has a superior resources and rights in a
• Minority: subordinate grou