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Chapter 3

Social Problems Chapter 3 [COMPLETE] Notes - I 4.0ed this course

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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Chapter 3: Racial and Ethnic Inequality 3.1 Racial and Ethnic Inequality: A Historical Prelude US history is filled with violence and other maltreatment against Native Americans, • blacks, and immigrants. • Social scientists warn that the status of people of color has been worsening. • Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal published, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. The "dilemma" referred to by the book's title was the conflict between the American democratic ideals of egalitarianism and liberty and justice for all and the harsh reality of prejudice, discrimination, and lack of equal opportunity. 3.2 The Meaning of Race and Ethnicity Race: • Race - a category of people who share certain inherited physical characteristics, such as skin color, facial features, and stature. • A key question about race is whether it is more of a biological category or a social category. • Using physical differences like skin color, hair type, height, etc., scientists at one point identified as many as nine races: African, Native American, Asian, Australian, Aborigine, European (white), Indian, Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian. • Anthropologists, sociologists, and many biologists question the value of these categories and thus the value of the biological concept of race. For one thing, we often see more physical differences within a race than between races. • Another reason to question the biological concept of race is that an individual or a group of individuals is often assigned to a race arbitrarily. A century ago, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews who left their homelands were not regarded as white once they reached the U.S. but rather as a different, inferior (if unnamed) race. The belief in their inferiority helped justify the harsh treatment they suffered in their new country. Today, we call people from all three backgrounds white or European. • One-drop rule: Traditional rule in the U.S. that defines someone as black if she or he has at least one drop of black blood • In many Latin American nations, a person that was 75% white and 25% black would be considered white, whereas they would be black in the U.S. With such arbitrary designations, race is more of a social category than a biological one. Lessons from Other Societies: • In Brazil, anyone who is solely African is called a preto and anyone whose ancestry is both African and European is a branco. The fact that someone can count on being considered "black" in one society and not "black" in another society underscores the idea that race is best considered a social construction rather than a biological category. In terms of DNA, people with different racial backgrounds are much more similar than • dissimilar. • According to evolutionary theory, the human race began thousands and thousands of years ago in sub-Saharan Africa. As people migrated around the world, natural selection took over. It favored dark skin for people living in hot, sunny climates and favored light skin people in cooler, less sunny climates. Evolutionary evidence thus reinforces the common humanity of people who differ in the rather superficial ways associated with their appearances. Race as a Social Construction: • Social construction - A concept that has no objective reality but rather is what people decide it is. • In the view of social construction, race has no real existence other than what and how people think of it. Ethnicity: • Ethnicity - The shared social, cultural, and historical experiences, stemming from common national or regional backgrounds, that make subgroups of a population different from one another. • Ethnic group - A subgroup of a population with a set of shared social, cultural, and historical experiences; with relatively distinctive beliefs, values, and behaviors; and with some sense of identity of belonging to the subgroup. • Because of the problems in the meaning of race, many social scientists prefer the term ethnicity in speaking of people of color and others with distinctive cultural heritages. The terms ethnicity and ethnic group avoid the biological connotations of the terms race and racial group. 3.3 Prejudice • Difference between prejudice and discrimination: Prejudice is the attitude, while discrimination is the behavior. • Prejudice - A set of negative attitudes, beliefs, and judgements about whole categories of people, and about individual members of those categories, because of their perceived race and/or ethnicity. • Racism - The belief that certain racial or ethnic groups are inferior to one's own. • Stereotypes - Simplified, mistaken generalizations about people because of their race and/or ethnicity. Explaining Prejudice: • Theories of prejudice fall into two camps, social-psychological and sociological. Social-Psychological Explanations: • Authoritarian personality - A personality emphasizing such things as obedience to authority, a rigid adherence to rules, and low acceptance of people not like oneself and said to help account for racial and ethnic prejudice. According to the social-psychological view, authoritarian personalities develop in • childhood in response to parents who practice harsh discipline. • Whether their prejudice stems from their authoritarian personalities or instead from the fact that their parents were probably prejudiced themselves remains an important question. • Frustration theory (or scapegoat theory) - As an explanation of racial and ethnic prejudice, the view that individuals blame the problems they experience on racial and ethnic minorities and thus scapegoat them instead of recognizing the real sources of their own misfortunes. • Several psychology experiments find that when people are frustrated, they indeed become more prejudiced. Sociological Explanations: • Social learning theory is a popular sociological explanation that emphasizes conformity and socialization. • In this view, people who are prejudiced are merely conforming to the culture in which they grow up, and prejudice is the result of socialization from parents, peers, the news media, and other various aspects of their culture. • Supporting this view, studies have found that people tend to become more prejudiced when they move to areas where people are very prejudiced and less prejudiced when they move to locations where people are less prejudiced. • Group threat theory is a second sociological explanation that emphasizes economic and political competition. • In this view, prejudice arises from competition over jobs and other resources and from disagreement over various political issues. • Ethnic competition theory - Ethnic prejudice and conflict increase when two or more ethnic groups find themselves competing for jobs, housing, and other goals. • When railroad construction employment slowed in the 1870's, white mobs attacked the Chinese because they feared that the Chinese would look for work elsewhere and take away white people's jobs because the Chinese would accept less pay. They killed several Chinese and Congress had to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 that prohibited Chinese immigration. Correlates of Prejudice: • Although women are usually thought to be more empathetic than men and thus to be less likely to be racially prejudiced, recent research indicates that the racial views of (white) women and men are in fact very similar and that the two genders are about equally prejudiced. • This similarity supports group threat theory, in that it indicates that white women and men are responding more as whites than as women or men in formulating their racial views. • Less educated people are usually more racially prejudiced than better-educated people, and Southerners are usually more prejudiced than non-Southerners. The Changing Nature of Prejudice: • The Nazi experience and then the civil rights movement led whites to reassess their views, and Jim Crow racism gradually waned. • Many scholars say that Jim Crow racism has been replaced by a more subtle form of racial prejudice: stereotypes about African Americans, a belief that their poverty is due to their cultural inferiority, opposition to government policies to help them. • This new form of prejudice blames African Americans and Latinos themselves for their low socioeconomic standing and involves such beliefs that they simply do not want to work hard. Prejudice and Public Policy Preferences: • Whites who hold racial stereotypes or hostile feelings toward African Americans are more likely to be afraid of crime, to think that the courts are not harsh enough, to support the death penalty, to want more money spent to fight crime, and to favor excessive use of force by police. Key Takeaways: Social-psychological explanations of prejudice emphasize authoritarian personalities and frustration, while sociological explanations emphasize social learning and group threat. 3.4 Discrimination • Discrimination - With regard to racial and ethnic inequality, the arbitrary denial of rights, privileges, and opportunities to members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups. • The use of the word arbi
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