<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
  • 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?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

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

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

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

How can I have access to rural sociology lecture notes?
KIEH Reply
what is Karl max.
ALIYU Reply
karl Marx is a economist and he worked in sociology he proposed theory of communism
Zakir
communism said that Every member of society acquired equal rights means equal basic needs of life ...he said capitalism gain all the profits and worker remain in same situation they can't effort even his three times meals in a day
Zakir
What are the main tasks of Sociologist
Adamson Reply
Does a full Moon really trigger strange beh
Abubakar Reply
please does anyone doing Anthropology here. I need help on the notes
Pascal Reply
my course is a combination of sociology and anthropology. please I need some notes
Pascal
Actually am doing sociology
Abubakar
mmm ok I have a friend of mine who is offering Anthropology perhaps I will talk to him about the notes
Abubakar
where from u
BILAL
use your own reaearch and try to get your needs
yuusuf
Any body define Global implications nd technology
BILAL
hi
Elias
what are the differences and similarities between August Comte and Herbert Spencer theories? pls I need some response on that.
Elias
Hyy
BILAL
what are the advantages and disadvantages of multi​ culture
fazil Reply
hello
Pascal
hello
roamers
good morning from here
Pascal
morning
ram
good Morning
shoaib
please is there any way someone can have a private message here
Pascal
hii
fazil
hello
Pascal
hii
fazil
good morning pascal
fazil
hii
fazil
gd morning ram
fazil
plz try to answer the question above. don't say hi, helo and so on
yuusuf
Mr/Ms pascal there is no other option to have private massage here. try onother option to get private massages from here
yuusuf
trying to answer the advantage and disadvantage of multiculruralism. 1. The advantage is multethnic countries are home to majority of migrants a signifacant population of it being a highly educated skilled of workforces aroun the world.
yuusuf
2. Disadvantage may couse risk of social conflict occurs due to differences in relegios, beliefs, and practoces though ethnic retuals or certain weys of life that may couse rift between two or more groups.
yuusuf
more result plz References (Opinionfront.com)
yuusuf
How would you classify crimes like child abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence?
Omego Reply
I would say that these are very serious crimes especially because they hinge on the rights of human beings, therefore they would be classified as felonies. Felonies;are the most serious of crimes that one can commit.  
Douglas
what are the factors responsible for drug addiction using the theories of deviance
Cora Reply
parents are the first responsible for drugs addiction in our society today
Yakubu
what are the unique features of rural areas?
Gidion Reply
what is the positive influence of peer group on the adolescent
Nkolie Reply
i think the positive influence of peer group on the adolescent,overall is small but not big.
Ahsanul
yeah it more of the micro aspect towards positive behavior among peers on the adolescent
JOHNMIKE
Peer group makes a individual to know about the team work capabilities and also learns norms and values of society
roamers
explain problems of accommodation
Rank Reply
Explain the role of elites and type of elite theory
suleiman Reply
what statements are true according to sociologist Emile durkheim
Special Reply
hii
roamers
his perspective about suicide
Saidu
his perspective about division of Labour
roamers
founder of sociology and a significant figure in the feild of sociology. He was the functionalist.
shoaib
what is sociology
Ajisafe Reply
Sociology is a combined word. It is made up of one Latin word "socious" which means society and the other Greek word "logus" which means knowledge or science. The combination and merger of these two words gave rise to the word sociology.
Ame
absolutely cuz society can not come on it's own without much systematic observations according to The French philosopher and also the founder of sociology "Augusta comte" do he asserts to it the intellectual task of making discoveries of understandable nature of the socity and why behave the way
IBRAHIM
*they do
IBRAHIM
sociology is the systematic and scientific study of human groups, society,including patterns of relationships and social interaction and culture.
SOPHIA
personality of socialization
Abakim Reply
can someone explain personality of socialization
Abakim
personality of socialization...
roamers

Get the best Introduction to sociol... course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Introduction to sociology 2e' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask