SOCIOL 2S06 Final: RACE AND RACISM THEORIES

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Published on 22 Apr 2016
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Theories of Race and Racism
Introduction and Historical Overview of Race
The biological Perspective
o Racial Classifications: (1920s) ,
scientists believed that human beings could be divided up into
real and objective categories called races
subdivisions based on physical and genetic characteristics (e.g.
skin color, metabolic rates)
Typology of so called “races”:
“Caucasoid” White
“Mongoloid” - Asian
“Negroid”- Black
A notion developed that some races were superiority and other
were inferior
o Current Conceptions: (1930s),
scientists had started to raise serious concerns about the
concept of race
began to question the typology, thinking changed over the next
couple decades
By the 1950s, scientists had reached a consensus that racial
classification are arbitrary, that genetic differences between
groups are small, and genetic differences are behaviorally
insignificant
it was concluded that “races” are a biological myth
Outside of academia there continued to be wide spread belief
that there are at least three biological races
The Sociological Perspective
o Theoretical Explanations:
socially constructed physical and genetic characteristics to be
important
Historically-developed and socially produced a collective
understanding that these differences (especially skin colour)
actually matter
The idea of “races” has social significance and provides a basis
for social inequality
Racism
Old & New Racism
o Old racism: refers to the belief that some “races” are biologically
superior and others are biologically inferior (i.e. Caucasians seen as
superior and others seen as inferior)
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o New racism: goes beyond the physical and genetic differences, refers
to the belief that “races” of people are culturally different from each
other and social problems emerge when they try to live together
Developed by British sociologist Martin Barker in early 1980s
he was observing British politicians who would suggest that
Britain was being morally weakened by immigrants who were
black or East Indian
Institutional Racism: refers to discriminatory racial practices that are built into
political, the economic, and educational structures/ systems
*** 2 forms of institutional racism
1. Systematic Racism form of institutional racism which is deliberate
involves institutional practices that are based on explicitly
racist ideas
Ex. residential segregation, exclusion from jobs, denial of
voting rights
2. Systemic Racism Unintentional
It involves institutional practices that are seemingly neutral
but negatively affect certain groups
Example for many years there were height restrictions to
become a police or firefighter, nothing deliberate about
excluding a certain group but it did affect certain Asian groups
who did not meet the height requirement (unintended
consequence)
The Development of Theories of Race and Racism
Classical Theory
o Karl Marx spent a lot of time talking about capitalism society , but
there are some scattered passages of his work where he eludes to the
issues of race and racism
He suggests that the development of capitalism came at the
expense of Aboriginal peoples, East Indians, and blacks
o W.E.B. Du Bois African-American sociologist in the late 19th century
and early 20th century (not long after Marx died)
Offered groundbreaking insight of race relations, the
experiences of African-American’s, and the persistence of
racial inequality
influenced by Marx
Contemporary Theory: refers to all theory that was developed after
classical theory (began around early 20th century)
o A lot of the developments around race and racism date back to the
1960s
o Neo-Marxian theories of racism and racial conflict (1960s onward)
o Critical race theory (1980s onward)
o Critical theories of race and racism (1990s onward)
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A Biographical Sketch of Du Bois
Early Years
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois
Born in the northern United States (1868)
Raised in a small, largely middle class town in this town there were blacks
and there were whites, but relations between blacks and whites were pretty
good because of these good relations, Du Bois experienced little
discrimination as he was growing up
University Education
Started undergraduate degree at Fisk University in Tennessee (1885) this
university was a university for blacks and it was in the Southern United
States
o He was shocked by what he saw racism in the South, being
discriminated against
He graduated with undergraduate degree and began studies at Harvard
University (1888)
o Specialized in philosophy but was also becoming interests in new area
of study of sociology
o PhD dissertation of African Slave trade
Spent some time studying in Europe at the University of Berlin (one term
while studying at Harvard)
o While here he met Max Weber as he talked to Weber he became
more and more convinced that sociology was a discipline that could
help him to understand the kinds of things he wanted to understand
in relation to race and racism
Completed PhD at Harvard in 1895 when he completed his PhD he became
the first African American to ever receive a PhD from Harvard University
University Career
Faced discrimination when looking for jobs even in the Northern US
He started applying to black universities
He accepted a position at Wilberforce University in Ohio (1894) Methodist
university for Blacks
o While here he met a student names Nina Gomer and ended up
marrying her
Took position in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania (1896) there
was resistance from white faculty, some of them didn’t appreciate him being
there so he wasn’t given an office and he wasn’t allowed to teach, he was only
allowed to do research
o Did a study on blacks in Philadelphia, published The Philadelphia
Negro: A Social Study (1899)
Taught sociology at Atlanta University (1897-1910) went to the
segregated south so him and his wife were forced to live in segregated
housing in very poor living conditions they had a son but he died due to
the living conditions they were in
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