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Racial Inequality and Justice

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Elizabeth East

on 17 October 2017

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Transcript of Racial Inequality and Justice

Racial Inequality and Justice
E.East 2017
Overview of Today
Extra Credit reminder

Basic Sociological Concepts: race, ethnicity, and minority/dominant groups
Minority/Dominant group relationships
Layers and Levels of Racism

Group Reading Discussion
a group sharing apparent physical traits deemed by society to be
socially significant
is not
biologically or genetically significant
socially defined and supported as real
and is real in its consequences
linked to historical/institutional processes and current power relations
Race, Ethnicity, and Minority as Sociological Concepts
Race, Ethnicity, and Minority as Sociological Concepts
a group's national origin, language, and cultural or religious practices
often based on self-identification (voluntary)
but some acknowledgment or degree of acceptance by the larger group is often necessary
strong identities and connection to place and history
Race, Ethnicity, and Minority as Sociological Concepts
less powerful groups
who are dominated politically and economically by a more powerful group
discrimination on the basis of socially constructed AND visual characteristics/differences
like race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.
sometimes lower in numbers than dominant group
but not always the case:
Ex. South African apartheid, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, women in most societies
Minority and Dominant Group Relationships: Race
Next Tuesday
Reading Discussion Day!
Three readings
What Minority Status is Not
Minority Status
is connected to power and domination, as well as history in a place.
Minority status does not apply to shallow, numerical situations:
Ex. In the US, if you are a white person attending a predominately black school
Ex. if you are the only man in the room
forcibly removing
people from one part of a shared geographic space to another
Often done through policies of institutions like states (countries)
Ex. Native Americans and the movement to reservations
Ex. Global displacement due to ethnic clashes between dominant and minority groups
the practice of spatially or socially segregating people on the basis of race or ethnicity
Ex. Apartheid - state policies and restrictions
Ex. US segregation - then and now
Ex. "white flight"
Minority and Dominant Group Relationships: Race
the absorption of a minority group into the dominant culture
process (forced or voluntary) of adopting the norms, values, and folkways of the dominant culture
increases acceptance as well as safety of minority group
loss of cultural heritage
Ex. Northern European immigrants in the US
Ex. Native Americans in the US and assimilation processes
Minority and Dominant Group Relationships: Race
Layers and Levels of Racial Oppression: the US
System of oppression:
layered institutionally, interpersonally, internally

Institutional Layer of Racism
Institutionalized relationships that create a structure of economic, social, and political inequality
based on socially constructed racial or ethnic categories
supported by ideology and culture
historical context important!
Individual Discrimination v. Racism
The term
is reserved for understanding the actions and structural conditions that contribute
to the oppression of people of color
In the US, white people can experience discrimination based on their skin color
sociologically and statistically, however, this discrimination is
not supported institutionally
like discrimination against people of color (aka
is not made)
White people can also experience limited opportunities
this is more likely, however, attributed to class or gender than racial discrimination

Through a sociological lens,
"reverse racism"
does not exist
Layers and Levels of Racial
Oppression: the US
Interpersonal and Internalized Layers of Racism
Messaging, thoughts, jokes, slurs, and appropriations that work to dehumanize and objectify people
Strengthens racial inequality, bias, and treatment
Perpetuates institutional
layer of racism
Layers and Levels of Racial
Oppression: the US
The belief that race no longer matters in people's experiences or affects our institutions
"post-race" understanding of the world
support and basis for current downsizing of policies and programs to promote racial justice
Ex. Lack of support for affirmative action, school desegregation, busing, and voting rights
Understanding Difference Sociologically
* Not a sociological approach *
The belief that human behavior is "natural"
Predetermined by genetic, biological, or physiological traits explains our social order
Thus, not subject to change
Ex. Biological Differences, Gender, and Social Order

Social Construction of Difference:
* A sociological approach *
Difference is the result of human interaction and creation of culture and social institutions
Social order and difference exist as a product of human activity
Not born with innate senses of difference, but learn these through human interaction
Ex. Performing gender; ethnic traditions
For sociologists, constructing categories of difference happens in three main
What Constructs Categories of Difference?
Social Institutions
The set of rules and relationships that govern social activities in which we participate to meet our basic needs
Sociological categories of social institutions:
The family
: reproducing/sexual behavior, socializing, protecting the young, emotional comfort
: teaching knowledge, skills, values most important to society
: morality systems, place in the universe
: creates, controls, distributes material needs and resources
The state
: legal power to regulate behavior internal to a space; relations of that space to others
The media
: supplying information, reinforcing policies of other institutions, socializing, cultural values
policies and practices
of each of these institutions, influenced by our cultural values,
categories of difference are created, perpetuated, and possibly changed
Interpersonal contexts
Daily interactions with others
Rely on common "guidelines" for behavior from institutional contexts to define situations and create categories of difference
"Policing" each other per these guidelines
Internal contexts
processes through which we internalize the values and beliefs established in institutional and interpersonal contexts
guide our perceptions and actions of "appropriate" behavior per category we or others identify us with
Difference: Hierarchy and Power
Not just about difference, but also understanding
in these contexts, and, thus,
Historically and Currently:
who has had/still has power in a society?
how was/is this supported institutionally?
how was/is this supported culturally?
what groups have social mobility, rights, and freedom?
who governs? who wins? who loses?
Let's Value...
That we all have social positions we or others identify us with (not all of these are visible!)
That talking about race, gender, and sexuality isn't easy
That we may not know issues that folks have/have not faced
Listen to understand
That NOT talking about race, gender, sexuality, and other types of difference is not a solution to issues associated with these
Because categories of difference don't have to be a "bad thing"
Because this is the essence of sociological analysis - to understand how these categories of difference came to be and how they can be changed

Racial and Ethnic Justice
To address racism, we look at all levels:
What do I do to internalize ideas about race? Where did I learn these? Do I know when I'm doing that? Is it problematic or am I free to celebrate my differences?
What happens interpersonally? Friends/family/ co-workers?
Do we interrupt these processes? Do we contribute to this?
Laws, policies, policing, media coverage, social media consumption, educational efforts
Power and History:
Do I know the history of different places I live?
Do I know what other people have experienced?
Racial and Ethnic Justice
Think through the process of "helping" and working with communities that have historically been oppressed:
be aware of the "white savior" or rich person complex
listen to understand experiences, wants, and needs of individuals and communities
learning history and current power relations on multiple geographic scales

Minority and Dominant Group Relationships: Race
the mass, systematic destruction of a people or a nation
usually a national, ethnic, racial, and/or religious group
meaning of genocide is historically contingent
but more recently: criminalized
Micro-inequities and Microaggressions
everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color (and other oppressed groups)
usually well-intentioned people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them
An ethnic identity becomes

when it is subsumed under a forced label, racial marker, or “otherness.”

Racialization is the formation of a new racial identity in which new ideological boundaries of difference are drawn around a formerly unnoticed group of people.

Linked to institutional power and domination

the presence and engaged coexistence of numerous distinct groups in one society

no one group being in the majority and dominant group

Ex. Switzerland
but this is changing with immigration/globalization

Minority and Dominant Group Relationships: Race
White Supremacy
a racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races
and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races.

encourages us to value white people, white culture, and everything associated with whiteness above the people, culture, and everything associated with people of color.
We can encapsulate all of that by using the common white supremacist tagline, “white is right.”

White supremacy has roots in scientific racism and it often relies on pseudoscientific arguments
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