<< 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

is sociology a science
BRANDFORD Reply
which class
manisha
sociology notes are available on Mrunal site.
manisha
and also every sociology questions answer are available on 'yourarticlelibrary site
manisha
please someone should help me out three negative effects of ethnocentric sentiments
Vitus Reply
Is patriotism a form of mind control?
Leonard Reply
yes it is..it creates a feeling to protect one's country in war.
manisha
Good answer Manisha. Thanks for your honesty.
Leonard
Patriotism is what they propagate and preach the ideology of specific intetests.
Sadiq
Thank you Sadiq. Another good answer.
Leonard
how many types of families are their ?
aditya
Most of the time patriotism towards own country leads to enemy of other country. These border creates patriotism. these nations create patriotism.. patriotism is being taught to soldiers so tht thy can fight against enemy. bt wht if there would be no nation n earth is calld as 1 land without borders
manisha
Thank you Manisha. I see you really study Sociology.
Leonard
Aditya Jain, idk exactly, but I'd like to learn of them.
Leonard
its a logic outside of sociology subject.. o answered from my thinking..that there should not be any borders it creates much troubles of war.
manisha
types of family answer is given in detail on yourarticlelibrary
manisha
k thanks
aditya
at present , if there is no borders then it also leds to war , war for foods war for shelter, I mean for basic needs. because today society is not well managed by its own citizen everyone is suffering from greedness, crime rate will be also high...
mohit
it is difficult to make that one nation as international land I agree. societies doesn't changed like magic...only individual changes..n this leads to society changes..law changes and this leads to society changes
manisha
so much of capital and money is invested for war bombs rifles and if this created to make agriculture land..we can make earth beautiful rather than creating a havoc by wars.
manisha
I am absolutely agree with you Manisha
mohit
three factors accounting for cultural differences
Vitus Reply
(1) Contact (2) Technology Evolution (3) The geographical and ecological factor.
AGARTHA
please what are d approaches ro deviance
Achi
please I don't understand Mr Achi
Vitus
negative effects of ethnocentric sentiments
Vitus
what is sociological imagination
Gh
sociological imagination is to see other's perspective or view on problems or idea or practice.
manisha
Use wider lenses to consider the relationship between your personal experience and society as a whole. This will help you change perspectives on your story and your connections to society, to institutions, to history. Now you’re using the sociological imagination.
manisha
yeah, but just don't deceive yourself in the process.
Leonard
ok but it can be helpful in perceiving own problems in other way but at the end what we think is only matters. sometimes it changes our attitude n thinking n perspective.
manisha
difference between custom and culture
Gh Reply
costumes are made by people and every individual is having customes in there cultures.
Adil
What is conflict perspective
Najib
with conflict perspective,sociologist see the world in constant struggle and there is competition due to limited resources.
Fridaws
What is culture؟
Suha Reply
totally wey of life
TauceepH
Can anyone help me with Max Weber's theory on sociology?
NEETHU Reply
it's not Marx actually it's Weber..if u do have notes 4 dat culd me send it to me
NEETHU
wat is sociological imagination
Peter Reply
what are the important of sociology
Fatima Reply
what's meaning of sacred in sociology?
Annas Reply
Define Sociology in the light of its Subject Matter.? I need a comprehensive answer if somebody could help Please?
Sakhawat Reply
sociology is the science that studies human beings in the society
Tambi
sociology group of origanazition
Suha
difference between culture and custom
Gh
importance of sociology
Maqsood Reply
6.sociology has made broaden the outlook of man. 7 Sociology is of great importance in the solution of international problems. 
manisha
1 sociology detects and Solve Social Problems 2Sociology Helps in Planning and Development 3. Sociology makes a scientific study of Sociology 4 studies role of the institutions in the development of the individuals. 5 Helps in Preservation and Growth of Culture 6.sociology has made broaden the outl
manisha
sociology makes humans versatile
Emeka
what is sociology of education?
Ndifon Reply
what is the sociological approach to diversity in society
Paula Reply
what is the social problems?
sandip Reply
What is the difference between illness and disease
Wondaboy Reply

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