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sociology 103.doc

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Ryerson University
SOC 103
Tonya Davidson

EXPLAINING PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES 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. SOCIO-CULTURAL THEORIES 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 discrimination. 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 inter-group contact. Post-colonial theory An approach that examines the ways in which the colonial past has shaped the social, political, and economic experiences of a colonized country. 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. GENOCIDE 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 are met: (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 setbacks Example: 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. Example: 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. ASSIMILATION 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 culture. 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, respectively). ABORIGINAL PEOPLES 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
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