Lesson 9: Race and Ethnicity Robert Wonser Introduction to Sociology Lesson Outline



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Lesson 9: Race and Ethnicity

  • Robert Wonser
  • Introduction to Sociology

Lesson Outline

  • Race and ethnicity defined
  • What is a minority?
  • Racism, discrimination and prejudice defined
  • Invisible knapsack
  • Theories
  • Life chances
  • Some statistics
  • Race relations

Reifications

  • Race and ethnicity are social constructions.
  • They are defined and maintained through interaction.
  • They do not exist biologically.
  • They are reifications, social constructions.

Race and Ethnicity Defined

  • Race is a socially defined category, based on real or perceived biological differences between groups of people.
  • Ethnicity is a socially defined category based on common language, religion, nationality, history, or another cultural factor.

Race and Ethnicity Defined (cont’d)

  • Sociologists see race and ethnicity as social constructions because they are not rooted in biological differences, they change over time, and they never have firm boundaries.
    • Ex: white
  • This woman is not real.
  • She was created by a computer from a mix of several races.

Defining Race and Ethnicity (cont’d)

  • The distinction between race and ethnicity is important because ethnicity can be displayed or hidden, depending on individual preferences, while racial identities are always on display.

Race and Ethnicity Defined (cont’d)

  • Symbolic ethnicity is an ethnic identity that is only relevant on specific occasions and does not significantly impact everyday life.
  • Crowds line the streets at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. How is this an example of symbolic ethnicity?

What Is a Minority?

  • A minority group is made up of members of a social group that is systematically denied the same access to power and resources available to the dominant groups of a society, but who are not necessarily fewer in number than the dominant group.

Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimination

  • Racism: a set of beliefs about the superiority of one racial or ethnic group.
    • Used to justify inequality
    • Often rooted in the assumption that differences between groups are genetic.
  • It is an ideology.

Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimination (cont’d)

  • Prejudice: (a thought process)
  • Discrimination: (an action)
    • unequal treatment of individuals because of their social group
    • usually motivated by prejudice

Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimination (cont’d)

  • Individual discrimination (or racism) is discrimination carried out by one person against another.
  • Institutional discrimination (or racism) is discrimination carried out systematically by social institutions (political, economic, educational, and others) that affect all members of a group who come into contact with it.

Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimination (cont’d)

  • Institutional racism is pervasive.
  • If all racist people went away racism would still exist because it is in our institutions.
  • It does not reside in any one person but is in the fabric and patterned interactions (social structure).

The Flipside to Disadvantage

  • Racism and discrimination disadvantages some but benefits others in the form of an invisible unseen privilege.
  • Invisible knapsack refers to the unearned resources (carried in the Invisible Knapsack) that are not in broad view or intended to be seen.
  • “White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks. 
  • * I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  • * I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  • * I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented
  • * If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Race in America

  • Functionalist theorists
    • Focus on the ways that race creates social ties and strengthens group bonds
    • Acknowledge that such ties can lead to violence and social conflict between groups

Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Race in America (cont’d)

  • Conflict theory focuses on the struggle for power and control over scarce resources.

Race as an Interactional Accomplishment

  • Symbolic Interactionists focus on the ways that race, class, and gender intersect to produce an individual’s identity.
  • They see race as an aspect of identity established through interaction.
  • There are several different ways that we project and receive our racial and ethnic identities.

Theories of Race in Review

An Ethnic Snapshot of America Today

Race, Ethnicity, and Life Chances

  • Race and ethnicity influence all aspects of our lives, including health, education, work, family, and interactions with the criminal justice system.

Number of Executions and Race of Prisoners Executed, 1976–2009

Race, Ethnicity, and Life Chances (cont’d)

  • Health care is an area in which we find widespread disparity between racial and ethnic groups.
  • Disparities in access to health care may help explain the life expectancy rates for men and women of different races.

Americans without Health Insurance by Race, 2007

U.S. Infant Mortality Rate, 2005

U.S. Life Expectancy by Race, 2007

Race, Ethnicity, and Life Chances (cont’d)

  • In U.S. education, the highest high school dropout rates are associated with those from economically disadvantaged and non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Educational Attainment Based on Race, 2007

Race, Ethnicity, and Life Chances (cont’d)

  • Inequality can also be seen in the workplace and in income distribution.
  • People of color, who are less likely to achieve high levels of education, are more likely to have lower-paying jobs.

Median Net Worth of Households

Race, Ethnicity, and Life Chances (cont’d)

  • Finally, non-whites are more likely to interact with law enforcement.

Race Relations: Conflict or Cooperation

  • Genocide is the deliberate and systematic extermination of a racial, ethnic, national, or cultural group.
  • Population transfer the forcible removal of a group of people from the territory they have occupied.

Race Relations: Conflict or Cooperation

  • Internal colonialism is the economic and political domination and subjugation of the minority group by the controlling group within a nation.
  • Segregation is the formal and legal separation of groups by race or ethnicity.

Race Relations: Conflict or Cooperation

  • Assimilation the minority group is absorbed into the mainstream or dominant group, making society more homogeneous.
    • Racial assimilation racial minority groups are absorbed into the dominant group through intermarriage.
    • Cultural assimilation racial or ethnic groups are absorbed into the dominant group by adopting the dominant group’s culture.

Race Relations: Conflict or Cooperation

  • Pluralism (or multiculturalism) is a pattern of inter-group relations that encourage racial and ethnic variation within a society.

A Class Divided

  • A Class Divided video

Take Away Points:

  • Race and ethnicity are social constructions, or reifications.
  • They do not exist in the natural world but only in the social world.
  • They have real consequences and are used as the basis for inequality.
  • Like social class, they have effects on life chances.

Lesson Quiz

  • 1. A socially defined category based on common language, religion, nationality, history, or another cultural factor is called:
    • a. ethnicity
    • b. symbolic ethnicity
    • c. symbolic race
    • d. race

Lesson Quiz

  • 2. The unequal treatment of individuals because of their social group is called:
    • a. racism
    • b. Discrimination
    • c. prejudice
    • d. institutional racism

Lesson Quiz

  • 3. Light-skinned African Americans who attempt to live as white in order to avoid the consequences of being black in a racist society are practicing:
    • a. racial passing
    • b. social fraud
    • c. ethnic cleansing
    • d. symbolic racism

Lesson Quiz

  • 4. An idea about the characteristics of a group describes:
    • a. prejudice
    • b. assimilation
    • c. discrimination
    • d. stereotyping

Lesson Quiz

  • 5. The pattern of intergroup relations that encourages racial and ethnic variation within a society is called:
    • a. pluralism
    • b. segregation
    • c. population transfer
    • d. assimilation

For Next Time:

  • The other major social category regarding inequality:
  • Gender, another social construction
  • Be sure to Read! (check your syllabus for assigned readings!)


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