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Reading Lec 11 - Race & Ethnicity

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Sheldon Ungar

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Sociology January 19th, 2011.
Race & Ethnic Relations
New Society – Ch. 8
Objective definition of ethnicity – ethnic groups exist because of peoples social
attachments. Ethnicity is something that people possess because of differences in
language, culture, customs, national origin, and ancestry
Subjective definition of ethnicity – focuses on process of ethnic identification.
Sociologists who emphasize the socially constructed nature of perceived reality
insist that ethnicity is a “transactional process
20th century scientists believes races were subdivisions of Homo sapiens
Most common typology was division of humanity into “Caucasoid,mongoloid,
and “negroid races
Martin Barker: new racism involved beliefs that, although races of people cannot
be ranked biologically, they are different from each other and social problems are
created when different groups try to live together
Beliefs should be considered racist because of underlying intent to socially
exclude, marginalize, and denigrate certain groups of people, but to do so w/out
reference to unalterable biology
Institutional racism – discriminatory practices built into such prominent
structures as the political, economic, and education systems
3 Form of Institutional Racism
1.Some institutional practices based on explicitly racist ideas: e.g. Chinese were
excluded from certain jobs and denied right to vote
2.Some institutional practices arose from, but are not longer sustained by, racist
3.Institutions sometimes unintentionally restrict life-chances of certain groups
through variety of seemingly neutral rules, regulations, and procedures:
sometimes referred to as systematic discrimination, e.g. height/weight
requirements for jobs w/ police forces and fire departments did not necessarily
originate in racist ideas, but these requirements meant that for many years certain
Asian groups could not get jobs as police officers or firefighters.
Frustration-aggression – explains prejudice and racism as forms of hostility that
arise from frustration. Theory suggests people who are frustrated in their efforts
to achieve a desirable goal (higher pay) respond w/ aggression
Because real source of frustration usually too powerful to confront directly, people
take out frustration on less powerful
Minority ethnic/racial groups are convenient and safe targets of displaced
aggression scapegoating
Scapegoating – sometimes used to explain anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism – negative attitudes and everyday discrimination directed against

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Sociology January 19th, 2011.
Primordialist thesis – ethnic/racial attachments reflect an innate tendency for
people to seek out, and associate w/ others who are similar in terms of language,
culture, beliefs, ancestry, and appearance
Natural selection does not operate at level of individuals, but kin-related groups
cluster of genes passed on through kin selection
Ethnic/racial groups are large extended families
Since people have “natural tendency to want to pass on their genes, they favour
their “families
Thus people both inherently altruistic and ethnocentric because want to pass on
their genes to own group
Altruistic – prepared to sacrifice their own individual interests for sake of group
Human therefore naturally favour members of own ethnic/racial group
(“relatives) and have natural distrust/dislike to ‘nonfamily”
Normative Theories
Concentrate on way in which prejudice are transmitted through socialization and
social circumstances that compel discriminatory behaviour
E.g. socialization approach focuses on how we are taught ethnic/racial
stereotypes, prejudices, and attitudes by our families, peer groups, and mass media
Socialization theories are superior to social-psychological and primordialist
approaches because they emphasize the way in which ethnic/racial prejudices and
attitudes are learned through social interaction
Limitations of socialization theories is that they are unable to explain how
prejudicial ideas, attitudes, and practices arise in the first place power conflict
theories come into play
Power-Conflict Theories
Orthodox Marxists argue racism is an ideology – set of statements shaped by
economic interests about way social world “really works
In case of advanced capitalism, racism viewed by Marxists as an ideology that
justifies intense exploitation of racial minority and immigrant workers
Racist ideas used by employers as means of creating artificial divisions in working
class consciousness that would threaten social/economic order
Racist ideas help justify allocation of certain groups to low-wage, socially
marginal jobs
Split labour market – argues orthodox Marxism tends to assume that capitalist
class is all-powerful and other classes play no role in development of racist
Culture poverty thesis – suggests some ethnic groups do not readily assimilate,
hence poor because their culture does not value economic success, hard work, and
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