Race and Ethnicity
● A race is a human population that is believed to
be distinct in some way from other humans
based on real or imagined physical differences.
● Ethnicity, while related to race, refers not to
physical characteristics but social traits that are
shared by a human population.
The Changing Definitions of Race
● Essentialist - "A great division of mankind, characterized as a group by the sharing of a certain combination of
features, which have been derived from their common descent, and constitute a vague physical background,
usually more or less obscured by individual variations, and realized best in a composite picture."
● Taxonomic - "An aggregate of phenotypically similar populations of a species, inhabiting a geographic subdivision
of the range of a species, and differing taxonomically from other populations of the species."
● Population - "Races are genetically distinct Mendelian populations. They are neither individuals nor particular
genotypes, they consist of individuals who differ genetically among themselves."
● Lineage - "A subspecies (race) is a distinct evolutionary lineage within a species. This definition requires that a
subspecies be genetically differentiated due to barriers to genetic exchange that have persisted for long periods of
time; that is, the subspecies must have historical continuity in addition to current genetic differentiation."
Social Construct or Biological
● Some sociologists and biologists believe race is
a social construct, meaning it does not have a
basis in the natural world but is simply an
artificial distinction created by humans.
● The understanding of race as a social construct
is well-illustrated by examining race issues in
two countries, the U.S. and Brazil.
Biology and Genetics
● Some sociologists (and other researchers) still
believe that race is a valid and useful measure
when understood as fuzzy sets, clusters, or
● Some biologists and health care practitioners
also draw on race as it relates to specific
Prejudice, Bias, and Discrimination
● Prejudice is the pre-judging of something. Prejudice
involves coming to a judgment on a subject before learning
where the preponderance of evidence actually lies.
Alternatively, prejudice can refer to the formation of a
judgment without direct or actual experience. Prejudice
generally refers to negative views of an individual or group
of individuals, often based on social stereotypes.
● Discrimination is the actual mistreatment of a group or
individual based upon some criteria or characteristic.
● Although prejudice can lead to discrimination, the two are
● Racism can refer to any or all of the following
beliefs and behaviors:
– race is the primary determinant of human capacities
(prejudice or bias)
– a certain race is inherently superior or inferior to others
(prejudice or bias)
– individuals should be treated differently according to
their racial classification (prejudice or bias)
– the actual treating of individuals differently based on
their racial classification (discrimination)
● Individual-level racism is prejudice, bias, or discrimination
displayed in an interaction between two or more people.
● Examples of individual-level racism could include:
– a person believing people of other races/ethnicities are
intellectually inferior and that the inferiority is a characteristic of
– a person holding the belief that all young African males are
– an employer firing someone because of his/her race
● Structural racism refers to inequalities built into
an organization or system.
● Cultural racial discrimination, a variation of
structural racism, occurs when the assumption
of inferiority of one or more races is built into
the culture of a society.
● Historical economic or social disparity is a form
of inequality caused by past racism, affecting
the present generation through deficits in the
formal education and other kinds of preparation
in the parents' generation, and, through
primarily unconscious racist attitudes and
actions on members of the general population.
● Racial profiling involves the singling out of
individuals based upon their race for differential
treatment, usually harsher treatment.
● Bonilla-Silva suggests that a "color-blind racism" ideology supports racism while avoiding
any reference to race. Specifically, he outlines four frameworks of color-blind racism:
– Abstract Liberalism - using liberal language divorced from context and history to deny racism exists
(e.g., all Americans are free now so they can be whatever they want)
– Naturalization - (similar to the heavily critiqued study noted above) arguing that racial disparities,
segregation patterns, and other racial phenomena are natural occurrences divorced from historical
and structural socialization processes between races (e.g., whites just like to be around whites)
– Cultural Racism - (outlined in detail above) drawing on cultural based beliefs and arguments to
explain racial inequalities in contemporary society (e.g., blacks have too many babies or Mexicans
are just like that)
– Minimization - arguing that discrimination is no longer prevalent in society (e.g., its not a big deal now
like it was back then)
● Racism is usually directed against a minority population, but may also be
directed against a majority population.
● The definition of a minority group can vary, depending on specific context,
but generally refers to either a sub-group that does not form either a
majority or a plurality of the total population, or a group that, while not
necessarily a numerical minority, is disadvantaged or otherwise has less
power (whether political or economic) than a dominant group.
● A majority is that segment of the population that outnumbers all others
combined or one that is dominant.
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