Chapter 14

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Published on 10 Feb 2011
Chapter 14: Race and Ethnicity
Chapter examines meaning of race and ethnicity and how these social constructs have shaped
human history
Social Meaning of Race and Ethnicity
Defn: socially constructed category of people who share biologically transmitted traits that
members of a society consider important
Based on physical characteristics such as skin colour, facial features, hair texture and body shape
Entire societies define physical traits differently
Race and Ethnic Categories
Scientists invented concept of race” in 19th century as they tried to organize world’s physical
diversity, identifying three racial types
1. Cauasoid- relatively light skin and fine hair
2. Negroid- darker skin and coarse hair
3. Mongoloid- yellow/brown skin and distinctive folds on eyelids
No society contains biologically pure” people
Such categories imply hierarchal ranking which allows some people to feel that they are
inherently superior than others
Trend Toward Mixture
Genetic traits from around the world have become mixed
Multiracial ancestry
Defn: shared cultural heritage
Based on common ancestry , language, religion that gives them distinctive social identity
Objective criteria: traits such as ancestry, cultural practices, dress, religion and language
Subjective criteria: involve the internalization of distinctive social identity where people identify
themselves or are perceived by others as belonging to different group
Concept of “ethnicity” is socially constructed, becoming more important only when society
defines it that way
People can change their ethnicities by adopting a new way of life
From time to time, people actually renew ethnic ties and identities after 2 or 3 generations making
an effort to return to their roots
Defn: any category of people distinguished by physical or cultural difference that society sets
apart and subordinates
Based on race, ethnicity or both
Term minority has expanded to include people with physical disabilities, women, elderly people,
Two major characteristics of minorities:
1.Share a distinctive identity
2. Subordination
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- in Canada, minorities may have lower incomes and less occupational prestige than those of
British or French origin even if their levels of educational attainment are the same
Not all members of any minority are disadvantaged
Race or ethnicity serves as a master status which overshadows personal accomplishments
Prejudice and Stereotypes
Prejudice: rigid and unfair generalization about an entire category of people
-all people in some category are assumed to be the same with little evidence
-may be negative or positive
Stereotype: simplified description applied to every person in some category
Form of prejudice
Defn: belief that one racial category is innately superior or inferior to another
Pervades world history
First to be victimized: ancient Greeks, people of India, and Chinese
Historically, the assertion that certain categories of people are innately superior has provided
powerful justification for subjugation and establishment of vast colonial empires
Canadians are more tolerant of racial and ethnic minorities than Americans
Theories of Prejudice
Where does prejudice come from?
Focusing of frustration, personality, culture and social conflict
Scapegoat Theory-holds that prejudice springs from frustration among people who are
themselves disadvantaged
-scapegoat: person or category of people, typically with little power,
whom people unfairly blame for their own troubles
-because they have little power, they are safe targets, and minorities
are often used as scapegoats
Personality Theory
-T.W. Adorno – considered extreme prejudice to be a personality trait of
certain individuals
-research shows that people who express strong prejudice toward one
minority typically do so toward all
-Authoritarian personalities conform to conventional cultural values and
see moral issues as matters or right or wrong
-View society as a naturally competitive and hierarchal
-Found that people tolerant toward one minority are likely to be
accepting of all
-more flexible in their moral judgements and treat everyone as equals
-people with little education or demanding parents tend to develop this
type of personality
Culture Theory-some prejudice is found in everyone because it is embedded in culture
-Emory Bogardus- studied the effects of culturally rooted prejudices on
interpersonal relationships, devising the concept of social distance to
assess how close or distant people feel in relation to members of various
racial and ethnic categories
Conflict Theory-views prejudice as a product of social conflict
-powerful people use prejudice to justify their oppression of minorities
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