EXPLAINING PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION
Scapegoat theory asserts that prejudice and discrimination originate in the
frustrations of people who want to blame someone else for their problems.
The theory originated with the work of American psychologist John Dollard.
Authoritarian personality theory (Theodor Adorno) asserts that extreme
prejudice is a personality trait of people who strongly believe in following
cultural norms, traditions, and values.
Culture theory asserts that some prejudice is healthy and part of all
cultures. It occurs because some belief in the benefits of one’s own culture
over others (called ethnocentricism) is healthy, since it unifies the group.
Social distance: Emorgy Bogardus’s concept of the relative distance people
feel between themselves and other racial/ethnic groups.
Culture of prejudice A value system that promotes prejudice,
discrimination, and oppression.
Functionalist Theory Functionalist theory examines the role of prejudice
and discrimination. Limited prejudice, they would argue, acts to draw groups
closer together. Thus, racist ideologies and the prejudice and discrimination
that they breed often promote social cohesion and, in turn, social stability.
Conflict Theory Conflict theory assumes that people naturally compete
over limited resources; of course, prejudice and discrimination are logical
outcomes of that competition. Two key approaches to prejudice and
discrimination are discussed below. 1. Dual labour market theory Asserts
that modern societies have two distinct labour markets (called the primary
and secondary labour markets). 2. Marxist exploitation theory Asserts
that the powerful economic elite promotes and benefits from prejudice and
Symbolic Interactionist Theory Symbolic interactionists are keenly aware
of the social environment when constructing their insights into prejudice and
discrimination. They believe that a person’s attitudes and perceptions about
minority groups are not innate, but rather learned as a required component
of culture or an expression of class conflict. It follows that because prejudice is learned, it can be unlearned. Selective perception The process whereby
people see only those things that reinforce their preconceived perceptions.
Contact hypothesis The proposal that prejudiced attitudes can decline with
Post-colonial theory An approach that examines the ways in which the
colonial past has shaped the social, political, and economic experiences of a
THE FIVE CATEGORIES OF MINORITY RELATIONS
Sociologists put forth five general categories to help define how dominant
groups interact with minority groups, from the most exclusionary to the most
inclusive: genocide, expulsion or population transfer, segregation and
separatism, assimilation, and cultural pluralism or multiculturalism.
The intentional extermination (extinction) of all members of a category of
people (such as those belonging to a particular religion, ethnicity, or
nationality) by another group of people.
Genocide of a minority group is most likely to occur when three conditions
(1) the dominant group is much larger than the minority,
(2) the minority is of little or no economic value to the dominant group, and
(3) the dominant group needs a scapegoat to blame for economic or military
In the last 100 years is the Holocaust. Hitler and his Nazi regime
exterminated 6 million Jewish men, women, and children as well as hundreds
of thousands of Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses,
physically and mentally disabled people, communists, political opponents,
prisoners of war, and many others.
EXPULSION OR POPULATION TRANSFER
Sometimes, under the same circumstances that can lead to genocide, the
dominant group forces a minority group to leave the country or confines
them to a particular location.
Canadian example of a population transfer occurred between 1755 and
1763, when French-speaking Acadians were exiled by the British from what
is now Nova Scotia. Over 12 000 people were exiled and many died from
illness, drowning, misery, and starvation. More recent global examples of
large-scale forced migration include Serbia’s expulsion of as many Muslims
as possible beginning in the late 1990s. SEGREGATION AND SEPARATISM
The formal physical or social separation of dominant and minority groups.
The Canadian Aboriginal reserve system is one example of segregation.
Today, there are approximately 600 occupied land reserves for First Nation
peoples in Canada.
A concept related to segregation is separatism. Separatism is voluntary
structural and cultural isolation by minority groups from the dominant group.
While segregation is imposed by the majority to separate them from the
minorities, separatism is pursued by the minority as a means of preserving
their cultural integrity. The classic Canadian example of separatism is the
Quebec sovereignty movement.
A one-way process that occurs when a minority group sheds its differences
and assumes the traits of the dominant group.
CULTURAL PLURALISM, OR MULTICULTURALISM
The retention of minority groups’ cultural identities and the promotion of
cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity by the larger society. In 1971 Canada
became the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as official
policy. Canadian multiculturalism is grounded on the belief that, while all
citizens must be treated equally, we should not overlook how our differences
enrich our society.
The contrasting American approach to integrating minority populations is
commonly referred to as the melting pot which means the blending of new
immigrants’ traditions and cultural identity into the dominant American
MINORITY GROUPS IN CANADA
Aboriginal peoples and the Québécois (special-status groups in Canada
according to the Constitution), and Chinese Canadians and black Canadians
(the second- and third-largest visible minority groups in Canada,
In 2006, Aboriginal peoples accounted for 3.8 percent of Canada’s total
population. Many Aboriginal communities have made impressive strides to
increase education levels, decrease infant