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  • Describe how major sociological perspectives view race and ethnicity
  • Identify examples of culture of prejudice

Theoretical perspectives

We can examine issues of race and ethnicity through three major sociological perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. As you read through these theories, ask yourself which one makes the most sense and why. Do we need more than one theory to explain racism, prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination?

Functionalism

In the view of functionalism, racial and ethnic inequalities must have served an important function in order to exist as long as they have. This concept, of course, is problematic. How can racism and discrimination contribute positively to society? A functionalist might look at “functions” and “dysfunctions” caused by racial inequality. Nash (1964) focused his argument on the way racism is functional for the dominant group, for example, suggesting that racism morally justifies a racially unequal society. Consider the way slave owners justified slavery in the antebellum South, by suggesting black people were fundamentally inferior to white and preferred slavery to freedom.

Another way to apply the functionalist perspective to racism is to discuss the way racism can contribute positively to the functioning of society by strengthening bonds between in-groups members through the ostracism of out-group members. Consider how a community might increase solidarity by refusing to allow outsiders access. On the other hand, Rose (1951) suggested that dysfunctions associated with racism include the failure to take advantage of talent in the subjugated group, and that society must divert from other purposes the time and effort needed to maintain artificially constructed racial boundaries. Consider how much money, time, and effort went toward maintaining separate and unequal educational systems prior to the civil rights movement.

Conflict theory

Conflict theories are often applied to inequalities of gender, social class, education, race, and ethnicity. A conflict theory perspective of U.S. history would examine the numerous past and current struggles between the white ruling class and racial and ethnic minorities, noting specific conflicts that have arisen when the dominant group perceived a threat from the minority group. In the late nineteenth century, the rising power of black Americans after the Civil War resulted in draconian Jim Crow laws that severely limited black political and social power. For example, Vivien Thomas (1910–1985), the black surgical technician who helped develop the groundbreaking surgical technique that saves the lives of “blue babies” was classified as a janitor for many years, and paid as such, despite the fact that he was conducting complicated surgical experiments. The years since the Civil War have showed a pattern of attempted disenfranchisement, with gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts aimed at predominantly minority neighborhoods.

Feminist sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (1990) developed intersection theory    , which suggests we cannot separate the effects of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other attributes. When we examine race and how it can bring us both advantages and disadvantages, it is important to acknowledge that the way we experience race is shaped, for example, by our gender and class. Multiple layers of disadvantage intersect to create the way we experience race. For example, if we want to understand prejudice, we must understand that the prejudice focused on a white woman because of her gender is very different from the layered prejudice focused on a poor Asian woman, who is affected by stereotypes related to being poor, being a woman, and her ethnic status.

Interactionism

For symbolic interactionists, race and ethnicity provide strong symbols as sources of identity. In fact, some interactionists propose that the symbols of race, not race itself, are what lead to racism. Famed Interactionist Herbert Blumer (1958) suggested that racial prejudice is formed through interactions between members of the dominant group: Without these interactions, individuals in the dominant group would not hold racist views. These interactions contribute to an abstract picture of the subordinate group that allows the dominant group to support its view of the subordinate group, and thus maintains the status quo. An example of this might be an individual whose beliefs about a particular group are based on images conveyed in popular media, and those are unquestionably believed because the individual has never personally met a member of that group. Another way to apply the interactionist perspective is to look at how people define their races and the race of others. As we discussed in relation to the social construction of race, since some people who claim a white identity have a greater amount of skin pigmentation than some people who claim a black identity, how did they come to define themselves as black or white?

Culture of prejudice

Culture of prejudice refers to the theory that prejudice is embedded in our culture. We grow up surrounded by images of stereotypes and casual expressions of racism and prejudice. Consider the casually racist imagery on grocery store shelves or the stereotypes that fill popular movies and advertisements. It is easy to see how someone living in the Northeastern United States, who may know no Mexican Americans personally, might gain a stereotyped impression from such sources as Speedy Gonzalez or Taco Bell’s talking Chihuahua. Because we are all exposed to these images and thoughts, it is impossible to know to what extent they have influenced our thought processes.

Summary

Functionalist views of race study the role dominant and subordinate groups play to create a stable social structure. Conflict theorists examine power disparities and struggles between various racial and ethnic groups. Interactionists see race and ethnicity as important sources of individual identity and social symbolism. The concept of culture of prejudice recognizes that all people are subject to stereotypes that are ingrained in their culture.

Short answer

Give three examples of white privilege. Do you know people who have experienced this? From what perspective?

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What is the worst example of culture of prejudice you can think of? What are your reasons for thinking it is the worst?

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Further research

Do you know someone who practices white privilege? Do you practice it? Explore the concept with this checklist: (External Link) to see how much of it holds true for you or others.

References

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2008. Distinguishing Features of Black Feminist Thought . London: Routledge.

Durkheim, Émile. 1982 [1895]. The Rules of the Sociological Method . Translated by W.D. Halls. New York: Free Press.

Nash, Manning. 1964. “Race and the Ideology of Race.” Current Anthropology 3(3): 285–288.

Rose, Arnold. 1958 [1951]. The Roots of Prejudice , fifth edition. Paris, France: Unesco. Retrieved November 19 (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0007/000733/073342eo.pdf).

Questions & Answers

what is difference between factor and cause
Ritu Reply
what are the types of sociology
Jerry Reply
There are Two types of sociology. Namely 1) Qualitative sociology 2) Quantitative Sociology.
Syed
But there are sociological trends and theories which came into light over the period of time
Ashish
types can be classified on basis of methodology (qualitative, quantitative, interpretative) on basis of subject matter (sociology of crime, law etc) on basis of perspectives (conflict, structural-functionalist) also historical classification like modernism, post modernism etc.
Sourabh
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Muhammad
They are two types of sociology; 1, Basic (pure) sociology and 2,Apply sociology.
Mohamed
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Ritu Reply
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Ritu
Indian
Sourabh
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Muhammad
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Amoo
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Indian
SHIVAM
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Amoo
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Ritu
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Ritu
the different kind of term for collective behavior is a. groip with same thinking
LISA Reply
plz answer,The grades in various subjects of a student are given below .Testat 5%level of significance that there is sognificant difference ib grades.Mathematics= 72,80,83,75.Statistics=81,74,77,88.English=82,90,87,80.Research=74,71,77,70.
Asma
"same thinking" seems a bit too structured for collective behaviour which is spontaneous and unstructured.
Sourabh
crowd,social moments,moral panic,riots ,disaster,mobs,riots,mass hysteria ,fads and crazes are some kind of collective behaviour
Ritu
one example of collective behaviour like we sing national anthem
Ritu
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Amoo
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Ritu Reply
please don't take it other way I am asking bcz it will be good for all to know about nationality since we connected due to this group ... And how many countries have this app spread, how many countries have people connected
Ritu
India
Himanshu
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Ritu
Where can find the exam past paper and exercises of sociology?
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is there. no you tube
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Ojewande Reply
every one can start any relevant topic on sociology... bcz every question is imp about society
Ritu
explain the term subculture
Peter
identify and explain four types of subculture in the school
Peter
explain why the status of the teacher is important in schools
Peter
explain the meaning of social stratification
Peter
a subculture is just what is sound like a smaller culture group within a larger culture; people of a subculture are a part of the larger culture but also share a specific identity with in a small group
Ritu
thousands of subculture exits within united state ethnic and racial share language,food and costume of Thier heritage
Ritu
social stratification means .. Differentiation of posts is the main belief of social stratification. Social norms are taught through social stratification.
Ritu
In social stratification, the relationship with different situations becomes part of the social system. In a stratified society, inequality is found in people.According to which some people are considered higher or lower than others
Ritu
respected sir u r asking about why a status of teacher is imp I'm schools.. sir Without a teacher, there cannot be a school. Even a society cannot imagine ... Ancient Time Selekar has changed the nature of the teacher so far. Values ​​did not decrease ..
Ritu
teachers are very important for make a future of students .. everyone comes in this world with some special power ... but He is a teacher who makes a student release his internal power ..
Ritu
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has told in one of his autobiography 'The Power of Prayer' that .." we came with a Divine Fire in Us."That Divine Fire cannot be achieved without teacher's help.
Ritu
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Ritu Reply
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Aimal
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Ritu
difference between prescience and premonition is that prescience is knowledge of events before they take place; foresight; foreknowledge while premonition is a clairvoyant or clairaudient experience, such as a dream, which resonates with so
Aimal
hi
APARNA
in short foreknowledge is the knowledge of something before it's happened .and premonition a knowledgeof something is going to happen specially unpleasant
Ritu
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Ritu
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Muhammad
Who is the father of modern sociology
Shah Reply
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Who is the father of sociology
Shah
august compte is called a father of sociology
Ritu
what can one become after studying sociology in Nigeria
Chisom Reply
What is the Socialization is culturally specific, but this does not mean certain cultures talking about?
Sammi Reply
yes
Kenneth
v
Kenneth
what is serfdom by Karl Marx
Ritu Reply
the condition of a tenant farmer bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of a landlord. it is Another form of slavery.
APARNA
thanks
Ritu
ghati and legory is markx
Abid
we often listen that he does root learning or he understand the concepts still I don't know what is difference between those ....which symptom shows ...
Ritu Reply
I asked from many literate people but don't gave a satisfied answer
Ritu
i asked from many literate people but they don't gave satisfied answer
Ritu
.....
Ritu
watch Jordan Peterson lectures on learning, it can clarify your misunderstanding
Sourabh
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Rafiq
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Badar
difference between understanding and root learning ..Because both seem the same from outside
Ritu
I would recommend watching Jordan Peterson lectures on learning (available on YouTube), It may help.
Sourabh
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Ritu
learning and understanding are two sides of one coin.
Rafiq
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Abid
which one is firt and which one is late democrat and development?
Mohamed
inequality and social fractionalization how differenciated?
Siam Reply
fractionalization is reality it's positive .without social fractionalization social system will be destroy ... it is compulsory and inequality is a negative approach .both are different
Ritu

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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