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Race & Ethnicity

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University of British Columbia
SOCI 100
Debra Pentecost

Race and Ethnicity 01-30-2013 The Social Meaning of Race and Ethnicity Race  Race – a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society consider important  Based on physical characteristics – skin color, facial features, hair texture, body shape  Result of ancestors living in different regions of the world  Middle East (Western Asia) – cross roads of migration  Is a socially constructed concept  Why do people make so much of race? o Allows societies to rank people in a hierarchy, allowing some to think they are better than others “by nature” o Shapes access to wealth and prestige Ethnicity  Ethnicity – shared cultural heritage  People classify themselves to an ethnic group based on common ancestors, language, and religion  “Easily” modified – immigrants discard cultural traditions while Aboriginal people try to revive their heritage  Involves great deal of variability – people classify themselves to more than 1 ethnic group Minorities  Minority – any category of people distinguished by physical or cultural difference that a society sets apart and subordinates  Two important characteristics: o Minorities must share a distinct identity – based on physical or cultural traits o Experience subordination  Race or ethnicity often serves as a master status that overshadows personal accomplishments Prejudice and Sterotypes  Prejudice – rigid and unfair generalization about an entire category of people o Supported by little or no direct evidence o Either positive or negative prejudgments  Positive – exaggerate the virtues of people like ourselves  Negative – mild dislike or outright hostility o Can often take the form of stereotypes  Stereotypes – exaggerated descriptions applied to every person in some category o Especially harmful to minorities in the workplace Measuring Prejudice: The Social Distance Scale  Social distance – how closely people are willing to interact with members of some category  Great social distance – “they shouldn’t have been allowed in the country in the first place”  Least social distance – “I wouldn’t have them being a part of my family, through marriage” Racism  Racism – belief that one racial category is innately superior or inferior to another o Powerful and destructive form of prejudice Theories of Prejudice Scapegoat Theory o Prejudice springs from frustration among people who are themselves disadvantaged o Ex. blaming one’s low pay on the presence of minority co-workers o Scapegoat – a person or category of people, typically with little power, whom people unfairly blame for their own troubles  “safe targets” Authoritarian Personality Theory o Extreme prejudice – personality trait of certain individuals o People who show strong prejudice towards 1 minority are usually intolerant of all minorities o Authoritarian personality – conform to conventional cultural values, see moral issues as either right or wrong, look upon society as naturally competitive with “better” people dominating  Likely amongst people with little education and raised by cold and demanding parents Culture Theory o Some prejudice is found in everyone  Rooted in culture Conflict Theory o Prejudice is used as a tool by powerful people to oppress others  Ex. elites benefit when prejudice divides workers along racial and ethnic lines and discourages them from working together to advance their common interests o Minorities themselves encourage race consciousness to win greater power and privileges  “victims” entitles to special treatment Discrimination  Discrimination – treating various categories of people unequally  Prejudice : attitudes :: Discrimination : matter of action o Positive – special advantages o Ne
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