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Subordinate Groups

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The Consequences of Subordinate-Group Status • There are several consequences for a group of subordinate status. These differ in their degree of harshness, ranging from physical annihilation to absorption into the dominant group: 1) Extermination • The most extreme way of dealing with a subordinate group is to eliminate it. One historical example is the British destruction of the people of Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia. There were 5,000 Tasmanians in 1800, but because they were attacked by settlers and forced to live on less inhabitable lands, the last full-blooded Tasmanian died in 1876. • The term genocide is used to describe the deliberate, systematic killing of an entire people or nation. This term is often used in reference to the Holocaust, Nazi Germany’s extermination of 12 million European Jews and other ethnic minorities during World War II. The term “ethnic cleansing” was introduced as ethnic Serbs instituted a policy to eliminate Muslims from parts of Bosnia. More recently, a genocidal war between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda left 300,000 school-age children orphaned. 2) Expulsion • Expulsion refers to the process where a dominant group forces a specific subordinate group to leave certain areas or even vacate a country. European colonial powers in North America and eventually the U.S. government itself drove almost all Native Americans out of their tribal lands and into unfamiliar territory. • In 1979, Vietnam expelled nearly 1 million ethnic Chinese from the country, partly as a result of centuries of hostility between the two Asian neighbors. The expulsion of the Chinese meant that they were uprooted and became a new minority group in many nations, including Australia, France, the United States, and Canada. 3) Secession • A group ceases to be a subordinate group when it secedes to form a new nation or moves to an already established nation, where it becomes dominant. • For example, after Great Britain withdrew from Palestine, Jewish people achieved a dominant position in 1948, attracting Jews throughout the world to the new state of Israel. • Similarly, the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Armenian peoples all seceded to form independent states after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. 4) Segregation • Segregation is the physical separation of two groups in residence, workplace, and other social functions (e.g., the Apartheid system in South Africa; the Jim Crow period in the U.S.). Generally, the dominant group imposes segregation on a subordinate group. Segregation is rarely complete; intergroup contact inevitably occurs even in the most segregated societies. • Despite growing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S., the 2000 Census results show little change in segregation. Sociologists measure racial segregation using a segregation index (or index of dissimilarity). The index ranges from 0 to 100, giving the percentage of a group that would have to move to achieve even residential patterns. For example, Atlanta has an index of 65.6 for Black-White segregation, which means that about 66 percent of either Blacks or Whites would have to move so that each small neighborhood (or census tract) would have the same racial balance as the metropolitan area as a whole. 5) Fusion (A + B + C = D) • Fusion occurs when a minority and a majority group combine to form a new group. Theoretically, fusion does not entail intermarriage, but it is very similar to amalgamation, or the process by which a dominant group and a subordinate group combine through intermarriage into a new people. • This concept is expressed in the notion of a human melting pot, in which diverse racial or ethnic groups form a new creation, a new cultural identity. This idea, which became popular in the US in the early twentieth century, implied that the new group would represent only the best qualities and attributes of the different cultures contributing to it. • It is a mistake to think of the United States as an ethnic mixing bowl. Although there are superficial signs of fusion (e.g., a cuisine that includes spaghetti), most contribu
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