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SOC101Y1 (470)
Chapter 8


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Robert Brym

SOC101: January 16th, 2013 CHAPTER 8: RACE & ETHNICITY - Dudley George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police officer during the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park - The Ipperwash inquiry into the death of Dudley George turned up some ugly racist views expressed by provincial government officials - Ethnic and racial tensions in Canada do not often end in physical violence or violent deaths. And, in comparison to many other countries, ethnic and racial relations seem peaceful here. - The sociology of ethnic and racial relations concerns primarily the study of how power and resources are unequally distributed among ethnic and racial groups - Race and ethnicity are ascribed characteristics. We assume that we are born with a certain race or ethnicity that cannot be changed. - Sociologists believe it is more useful to see race and ethnicity as certain kinds of achieved statuses - statuses that are acquired by virtue and social definition Ethnicity - Is something that people possess because of differences in language, culture, customs, national origin, and ancestry - Sociologists who emphasize the socially constructed nature insist that ethnicity is a "transactional" process. - Ethnic groups are made up of people who identify themselves, or who are identified by others, as belonging to the same ancestral or cultural group - "Ethnicity" is self-defined and reflects "a share 'we-feeling' within a collectivity (groupness) whose symbol components can vary [over] time and place" - Ethnic identities are situational, variable, and flexible - Why do some of us define our ethnic roots or identity as "Canadian"? - Some may simply be unaware of or uninterested in our so-called roots so by default we define ourselves as Canadian - Defining ourselves as Canadian is a political act used to express our dissatisfaction with government's policy of multiculturalism - The ethnic English-Canadian is a new social creation Race - Most scientists believed that races were real and objective subdivisions of Homo sapiens - These divisions were supposedly based on a combination of unalterable physical and genetic characteristics - Features, such as skin colour, hair texture, body and facial shape, genetic diseases, metabolic rates, and distribution of blood groups, were used to construct various racial typologies - The most common typology was the division of humanity into "Caucasoid," "monogoloid," and "negroid" races - Racial classifications based on a characteristic, such as skin colour, are as illogical as racial classifications based on the length of index fingers - Race and Ethnicity are important parts of our social reality Racism - If race is a biological myth, what is racism? - Sociologists defined racism as "the belief that humans are subdivided into distinct hereditary groups that are innately different in their social behaviour and mental capacities and that can therefore be ranked as superior or inferior" - New racism was developed by Martin Barker - It involves the beliefs that, although races of people cannot be ranked biologically, they are different from each other and that social problems are created when different groups try to live together. - These beliefs should be considered racist because of their underlying intent: to socially exclude, marginalize, and denigrate certain groups of people - 9% of Canadians considered themselves strongly or moderately racist - Institutional racism refers to "discriminatory racial practices built into such prominent structures as the political, economic and education systems" - Institutional racism can take three forms: 1) Some institutional practices are based on explicitly racist ideas - e.g. Chinese people were excluded from certain jobs and were denied the right to vote in federal elections until 1947 - Japanese Canadians were denied their basic civil rights, were forcibly expelled from the west coast of British Columbia, and had their property confiscated during World War II - Status Indians were denied the right to vote in federal elections 2) Some institutional practices arose from, but are no longer sustained by racist ideas 3) Institutions sometimes unintentionally restrict the life-chances of certain group through a variety of seemingly neutral rules, regulations, and procedures - This is sometimes referred to as systemic discrimination - Word-of-mouth recruiting in organizations and inflated educational requirements for nontechnical jobs are also forms of systemic discrimination because they unintentionally put minority group at a disadvantage in the distribution of scarce resources like jobs Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations - Four approaches that seek to explain various forms of ethnic and racial hostility 1) Social Psychology - focus on how prejudice (an unfavourable, generalized, and rigid belief applied to all members of a group) and racism satisfy the psychic needs of certain people - Frustration-aggression… It explains prejudice and racisms as forms of hostility that arise from frustration - The theory suggests that people who are frustrated in their efforts to achieve a desired goal (a better-paying job for example) respond with aggression - Minority ethnic and racial groups are convenient and safe targets of displaced aggression - The concept of scapegoating is sometimes used to explain anti-Semitism - negative attitudes and everyday discrimination directed against Jews 2) Primordialism - The primordialist thesis suggests that ethnic and racial attachments reflect an innate tendency for people to seek out, and associate with, others who are similar in terms of language, culture, beliefs, ancestry, and appearance - Sociobiologists suggest that prejudice and discrimination stem from our supposedly biologically grounded tendency to be nepotistic - People are inherently both altruistic (prepared to sacrifice their own individual interests for the sake of the group) and ethnocentric because they want to pass on their genes to their own group 3) Normative Theories - Concentrated on the way in which prejudices are transmitted through socialization and the social circumstances that compel discriminatory behaviour - For example, the socialization approach focuses on how we are taught ethnic and racial stereotypes, prejudices, and attitudes by our families, peer groups, and the mass media - Socialization theories are superior to social-psychological and primordialist approaches because they emphasize the way in which ethnic and racial prejudices and attitudes are learned through social interaction 4) Power-Conflict Theories - Karl Marx - Orthodox Marxists argue that racism is an ideology - a set of statements shaped by economic interests about the way the social world "really works" - Racism is ideological is used by capitalists to mystify social reality and justify the exploitation and the unequal treatment of groups of people 5) Race and the Split Labour Market - Split labour-market theory was developed by Edna Bonacich - It suggests that racial and ethnic conflict is rooted in differences in the price of labour (e.g. Chinese worked earned about one-half of the wages that white workers earned in the same jobs - Split labour-market theory makes three other points that are relevant to the analysis of ethnic and race relations in general a) It argues that individual racism, ethnic prejudice, and institutional racism emerge from intergroup conflict b) The theory maintains that prejudicial ideas and discriminatory behaviour are ways of socially marginalizing minority groups that the dominant group sees as threats to their position of power and privilege c) The theory suggests that to understand ethnic and racial relations, we need to look beyond individual personalities and sociobiological processes and analyze processes of economic
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