SOC Lecture – November 6 th
Race & Ethnicity
In Canada today…
Canada is a diverse and complex society composed of racially and ethnically
Canada is widely renowned for its cultural democracy and harmonious ethnic
Significant gains have been made in the past fifty years for ‘visible’ and ‘non-visible’
minority groups in Canada
However, racism is an important part of Canada’s history
Vertical mosaic: Canada’s ethnic groups are vertically arranged according to income,
power, and prestige
Dissimilarity (occupational differentiation) and inequality (stratification)
Lautard and Guppy compared 1971 to 2006 figures: concluded that ethnic
stratification was less pronounced in 2006 than 1971. The level of occupation
inequality between racial and ethnic groups in Canada was much smaller as time
Between 1931 and 2006 a decline in the significance of ethnicity occurred for both
occupational differentiation and stratification
Occupational differentiation: reduction of ethnic division of labour of 30% for men,
and 45% for women over 70 years.
Occupational stratification: reduction of 50% for men and 45% for women over 50
Yet, ethnic origin continues to affect occupational inequality.
Race: A social construct used to distinguish people in terms of one or more physical
markers. Those who have been singled out as inferior or superior, often on the basis
of physical characteristics such as skin colour, hair texture, and eye shape.
Research in genetics convincingly show that racial categorization based on
phenotypical differences (such as facial characteristics or skin colour) do not
correlate with genotypical differences (differences in genetic makeup) This leads geneticists to find race to be an “inadequate and even harmful way to
think about human biological differences”
Race matters because it allows forms of social inequality to be created and
perpetuated. Race matters because of how people treat one another because
of it. Race matters because of power.
Racialization: refers to the social and political processes by which racial groups are
socially constructed based on perceived physical differences.
Eugenics movement: founded on a social philosophy dedicated to improving human
heredity through selective breeding for ‘desirable characteristics’.
- Most famous proponent in the 20 century: Adolf Hitler
- Canadian example: Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act (1928) 4725 sterilizations
approved between 1929 and 1972.
An ethnic group is a collection of people distinguished, by others or by themselves,
primarily on the basis of cultural or nationality characteristics
Ethnic groups often share:
1. Unique cultural traits, such as language, clothing, holidays, or religious
2. A sense of community
3. Ascribed membership from birth
4. Territoriality or the tendency to occupy or identify with a distinct geographic
Ethnicity can provide a sense of identity and belonging, although not everyone
identifies with any one specific ethnic group.
Census is a political tool. It can be a useful tool when it generates data that
help to shape public policy for the benefit of the country’s citizen.
But it can also serve more subversive – and in some cases unabashedly racist
– political agendas
Both Canadian and American censuses allow a fair degree of choice. US asks
all respondents to identify their “race”, the Canadian form asks respondents
to identify their “ethnic or cultural origins”, as well as those of their
More than 200 different ethnic or cultural origins of respondents’ ancestors
More than 5 million Canadians, over 16% of country’s population, identified
themselves as members of visible minorities.
Canadian Employment Equity Act defines visible minority as ‘persons, other than
Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in color.’
Major regional differences in distribution in Canada
96% of members in Canada’s visible minority live in big cities (population rate is
43% of Toronto and 42% of Vancouver’s population are visible minorities.
Labels, Identity, and Symbolic Interaction
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, but outsiders may
impose new label 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 begins anew
Ethnic and Racial Labels: Imposition versus Choice
Idea that race and eth