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Chapter 3
Racial and Ethnic Inequality
Race and Ethnicity
 a socially constructed category of people who
share biologically transmitted traits that a society
defines as important
 sociologists view racial categories at best as
crude and misleading and at worst as a harmful
way to divide humanity
 Shared cultural heritage
Multiracial People
7 million in US describe themselves as
As time goes on, fewer people see one
another in rigid racial categories
Race and Ethnicity
While race and ethnicity are different, the
two may go together when groups share
not only certain physical traits but ethnic
traits as well
 examples: Korean Americans and Native
Race and Ethnicity
The racial and ethnic diversity in the
United States is a product of immigration
 The “Great Immigration” extended from
the end of the Civil War (1865) until the
outbreak of World War I (1914)
 “Nativists” opposed immigration as
they feared that immigrants might
overwhelm neighborhoods and
schools and threaten the country’s
mostly English culture
Recent Immigration
The next great immigration began in
1965 when Congress ended the quota
 Immigrants came mainly from Mexico
and other Latin American nations, as
well as the Philippines, South Korea,
and other Asian nations
The Current Immigration
• in 2006, the total U.S. population
reached 300 million including about 35
million who are foreign born
• it is estimated that 1 million illegal
immigrants enter the country each year
from Mexico
Minority: any category of people, identified
by physical or cultural traits, that a society
subjects to disadvantages
 They share a distinctive identity
 They tend to be disadvantaged
 About one-fourth of the people in the U.S.
fall into a minority racial or ethnic category
Patterns of Minority – Majority
Genocide – the systematic killing of one
category of people by another
Segregation – the physical and social
separation of categories of people
Patterns of Minority – Majority
Assimilation – the process by which
minorities gradually adopt the cultural
patterns of the majority population
Pluralism – a state in which people of all
racial and ethnic categories have roughly
equal social standing
The Social Standing
of U.S. Minorities
•Native Americans
•African Americans
•Asian Americans
•Hispanic/Latino Americans
•Arab Americans
Native Americans
Conflict has marked the relationship
between Native Americans and
explorers/colonizers since the late fifteenth
 At first the U.S. government saw Native
peoples as independent nations and
tried to gain land from them through
 It soon used military power against
those unwilling to bargain
Native Americans
In 1871, the U.S. declared Native
Americans wards of the federal
government, granting them various forms
of “assistance”
 These attempts to encourage
assimilation resulted in many Native
Americans becoming dependent on the
government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs
Native Americans
Native Americans gained full citizenship
in 1924.
During the 1990s, Native American
organizations reported gains in new
membership applications
One-fifth of all legal gambling in the
country takes place in casinos on
Most Native Americans continue to
struggle and share a profound sense of
injustice endured at the hands of whites
People of African Descent
People of African ancestry arrived in the Americas
along with the early European explorers
While slave traders brought 500,000 Africans to the
U.S. as slaves, not all people of African descent were
In the Dred Scott case of 1857, the U.S.Supreme
Court declared that people of color were not citizens
The Civil War brought slavery to an end
“Jim Crow” laws barred black people from voting,
sitting on juries, and institutionalized segregation
People of African Descent
By the early 1950s, opposition to
segregation was building
 the landmark Supreme Court decision
in the 1954 case, Brown v. the Board of
Education, eliminated “separate but
equal” schooling
 Rosa Parks sparked the bus boycott that
desegregated public transportation in
Montgomery, Alabama
People of African Descent
In the 1960s the federal government
 passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964
 passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965
 passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
Together, these laws brought an end to
most legal discrimination in public life
People of African Descent
Today, the struggle isn’t over
 below-average incomes
 rate of poverty is twice the national
 college completion rate is well below the
national average
People of Asian Descent
Asian Americans include people with
historical ties to dozens of Asian nations.
The largest number have roots in China, the
Philippines, India, South Korea, and Japan
The first Asians to migrate to North America in
the modern era came from China and Japan
because of the Gold Rush of 1849
Once the demand for cheap labor lessened,
whites pressured legislatures and courts to bar
Asians from certain work
People of Asian Descent
World War II brought important change to
Japanese and Chinese Americans
 President Roosevelt’s Executive Order
9066 forcibly relocated all Japanese
Americans to internment camps where
they stayed until 1944
Chinese Americans fared better
 In 1943, the federal government ended
the 1882 ban on Chinese immigration
and extended citizenship to Chinese
Americans born abroad
People of Asian Descent
Many Asian Americans prospered as the
postwar economy grew
By the 1980s, Asian Americans were called
the “model minority” based on their
cultural commitment to study and hard
work and their outstanding record of
Many Asian Americans have assimilated
into the larger cultural mix
Hispanic/Latino People
Hispanics came to the United States from
Central and South America, the Caribbean,
and Spain
Since few think of themselves as “Hispanics”
or “Latinos”, there is no single Latino culture
A high birth rate and heavy immigration
have resulted in Hispanics surpassing
African Americans as the nation’s largest
racial or ethnic minority
Hispanic/Latino People
While the social standing of Hispanics is
below the U.S. average, various categories
of Latinos have very different rankings
 The most well off are Cuban Americans,
who have greater education and enjoy
higher incomes
 Puerto Ricans have the lowest relative
ranking - median family income is barely
half the national average
Arab Americans
Arab cultures are diverse but share the
Arabic alphabet and language and Islam
as the dominant religion.
Immigration to the U.S. from many
nations has created a culturally diverse
population of Arab Americans
Arab Americans are diverse in terms of
social class
Prejudice is any rigid and irrational
generalization about an entire category of
Stereotypes -exaggerated descriptions
that are applied to everyone in the same
category - greatly contribute to the
perpetuation of prejudice
The most serious kind of prejudice is racism -the
assertion that people of one race are innately
superior or inferior to others
 in today’s society, racism is less blatant than it
once was
 But institutional racism, or racism at work in
the operation of social institutions, still exists
 subtle forms of racism are still very much part
of our national life
Measuring Prejudice:
The Social Distance Scale
In the 1920s Emory Bogardus developed this
scale to measure prejudice among U.S. college
High social distance meant high negative
Today’s students:
 Are more accepting of minorities
 See less difference between the various
 Express the most prejudice toward Arabs and
Two key factors in the cause of prejudice:
personality factors
 societal factors
Multiculturalism: educational programs
designed to recognize cultural diversity in
the U.S. and to promote respect for all
cultural traditions
While prejudice is an attitude,
discrimination is a matter of actions
 Discrimination can be positive or
 Institutional discrimination is
built into the operation of social
institutions, including the economy,
schools, and the legal system
Because prejudice and discrimination
reinforce each other, societies can subject
minorities to a vicious cycle of
One strategy designed to break the vicious
cycle of prejudice and discrimination is
Affirmative Action
 creates policies intended to improve the
social standings of minorities subject to
historical prejudice and discrimination
Affirmative Action: Reverse
Discrimination or Cure for Prejudice?
Policies intended to improve the social
standing of minorities
Targeted to those who are subject
to historic prejudice and discrimination
University of California Regents V. Bakke
Structural-Functional Analysis:
The Importance of Culture
The Culture of Poverty
Critics contend that this approach defines
people as responsible for their own
Symbolic-Interaction Analysis:
The Personal Meaning of Race
When race becomes a master status, it
becomes a personal trait that overwhelms
all others and defines any person of color
Critics contend that race involves more
than individual behavior
Social-Conflict Analysis: The
Structure of Inequality
The Importance of Class
Multicultural Theory
Critics contend that social-conflict theory:
 understates what people in the U.S.
have in common
 takes away people’s responsibility for
their own lives
 tends to minimize the significant
strides that have been made in dealing
with social diversity
Culture and Effort Matter
Conservatives claim that differences in
culture set some parts of the population
apart from others
 People in various racial and ethnic
categories have different values and
 A free society must be an unequal
Society and Government Matter
Liberals contend that cultural differences
are not the main reason for inequality
 they view racial and ethnic inequality as
resulting mostly from prejudice and
discrimination built into society’s
 they urge people to avoid thinking that
minorities are themselves the “social
Fundamental Changes Are Needed
Radicals suggest two ways to solve the
problem of racial and ethnic inequality:
 Attack the source of all inequalitycapitalism itself
 Eliminate the concept of race because it
provides an ideological basis for dividing