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SOCIOL 1A06 Chapter Notes -Meritocracy, Working Mother, Risk Society


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCIOL 1A06
Professor
Tina Fetner

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C H A P T E R 9
Race
THE MYTH OF RACE
Race can be defined as a group of people who share a set of characteristics—usually
physical ones—and are said to share a common bloodline.
Racism is the belief that members of separate races possess different and unequal
human traits.
Race is a social construct that changes over time and across different contexts. To be
white in America, for example, changed from being a somewhat inclusive
category in the late eighteenth century to being much more narrowly defined in
the mid-to-late nineteenth century and then shifted back to a broader definition
in the mid-twentieth century. All these changes were in response to social
realities.
T H E C O N C E P T O F R A C E F R O M T H E A N C I E N T S T O A L L E L E S
In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the idea of race did not exist as we know it today.
People recognized broad physical differences between groups of people, but they
did not discriminate based on those differences.
As Europeans came into contact with different peoples and cultures during the Age of
Exploration, racism was used to justify the conquest and colonization of foreign
lands.
In the nineteenth century there were a number of scientists and thinkers researching
and attempting toexplain” racial differences. Many of their efforts were biased
due to ethnocentrism (the judgment of other groups by one’s own standards and
values), so they were actually “explaining” white superiority.
Social Darwinism, another nineteenth-century theory, was the notion that some
groups or races had evolved more than others and were better fit to survive and
even rule other races.
Backers of eugenics (the science of genetic lines and the inheritable traits they pass on
from generation to generation) claimed that traits could be traced through
bloodlines and bred into (for positive traits) or out of (for negative traits)
populations. This thinking influenced immigration policy in the early twentieth
century, when undesirable populations were kept out of the country so they
wouldn’t pollute the “native” (i.e., white) population.
The one-drop rule, which evolved from U.S. laws forbidding miscegenation, was the
belief that “one drop” of black blood makes a person black. Application of this
rule kept the white population “pure” and lumped anyone with black blood into
one category.
Today DNA testing is used to determine people’s racial makeup, and while this process
may be more accurate, on some level, than nineteenth-century racial measures,
it still supports the notion of biological racial differences.

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R A C I A L R E A L I T I E S
Racialization is the formation of a new racial identity in which new ideological
boundaries of difference are drawn around a formerly unnoticed group of
people. A recent example of racialization is the anti-Muslim backlash in America
since 9/11. Being Muslim is linked in the mind of Americans to being Arab, so
anyone who “looks Arab” (for men its often linked to skin color and facial hair
and perhaps clothing, and for women its often linked to the use of a head scarf)
is thought to be Muslim and therefore anti-American.
R A C E V E R S U S E T H N I C I T Y
Race is imposed, usually based on physical differences—hierarchical, exclusive, and
unequal; ethnicity is voluntary, self-defined, nonhierarchical, fluid, cultural, and
not so closely linked with power differences. An ethnic identity becomes
racialized when it is subsumed under a forced label, racial marker, or “otherness.
Symbolic ethnicity is ethnicity that is individualistic in nature and without real social
cost for the individual. Whites who explore and express an affinity for their
European roots can be said to be adopting a symbolic ethnicity. It makes them
feel good about their heritage and its something they can focus on and express
when they choose to; it isn’t an identity that they must assume all the time.
E T H N I C G R O U P S I N T H E U N I T E D S T AT E S
European colonizers decimated Native American populations through war and the
introduction of new diseases as well as through the practice of forced
assimilation, whereby Native American children were put in government-run
schools and taught to reject their culture and embrace Anglo culture. Today
Native Americans are on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
The black community in America is marked by high rates of poverty, crime,
unemployment, incarceration, and health problems. The community is also
expanding as new immigrants from Africa and even “old” immigrants from the
Caribbean resist being lumped together with African Americans.
The Latino population in American is very diverse, though one common trait is that
most Latino immigrants have come to the United States voluntarily in search of
economic opportunity. Latinos have a somewhat ambiguous racial identity—
sometimes they are grouped with whites and sometimes not.
The first wave of Asian immigrants to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century
was made up mostly of unskilled laborers. The current, second wave consists
primarily of well-educated and highly skilled people from all over Asia. Asians are
unique among U.S. minorities in that they generally achieve a high economic
status.
T H E I M P O R TA N C E O F B E I N G W H I T E
White people are not identified, first and foremost, by their attachment to a specific
race, so they have more flexibility and power to choose how they want to be

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identified. Being the dominant race, they don’t have to think about race much at
all.
The development of whiteness studies is important because it shows that being
white—something that has been held up as a standard of normality or
neutrality—is as much a social construction as any other racial category.
M I N O R I T Y M A J O R I T Y G R O U P R E L AT I O N S
Robert Park’s 1920 straight-line assimilation model involved four stages—contact,
competition, accommodation, and assimilation; in 1964, Milton Gordon offered
up a variation on Park’s model, one that involved seven stages that immigrants
could pass through or become stuck in. Gordon did not assume that full
assimilation was always the outcome.
Ethnic identification can persist even after a group has become fairly well
assimilated. One explanation for this phenomenon is primordialism (the ethnic
ties are fixed in a deeply felt connection to one’s homeland culture); another is
that it is in people’s interests to maintain a strong ethnic identification—it
serves as a type of interest group to promote and protect its members.
Pluralism, in the context of race and ethnicity, refers to the presence and engaged
coexistence of numerous distinct groups in one society, with no one group in
the majority.
Segregation is the legal or social practice of separating people on the basis of their
race or ethnicity. Segregation was official policy in the United States,
particularly in the South, until the 1960s, but despite being illegal for over 40
years, there is still ample evidence of segregation in American society today,
particularly in schools, housing, and prisons.
The most contentious form of minority–majority group relations is, of course,
outright conflict. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic extermination of a
national, racial, political, or cultural group.
G R O U P R E S P O N S E S T O D O M I N AT I O N
Four ways that groups respond to oppression are withdrawal, passing, acceptance,
and resistance. Acceptance and resistance can be closely linked, as members of
an oppressed group might appear to accept their subordinate position while
internally they feel enormous resentment. Overt collective resistance can take
the form of revolution, nonviolent protest, or riots.
P R E J U D I C E , D I S C R I M I N AT I O N , A N D T H E N E W R A C I S M
Prejudice is negative thoughts and feelings about an ethnic or racial group;
discrimination is harmful or negative acts against people deemed inferior on
the basis of their racial category.
While overt racism is, for the most part, considered unacceptable in America today,
a new kind of racism is on the rise in America and elsewhere, which focuses on
cultural and national differences rather than racial ones.
H O W R A C E M AT T E R S : T H E C A S E O F W E A LT H
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