Basic Concepts in the Study of Racial and Ethnic Relations
In the 1980s Susie Guillory Phipps, the wife of a white businessperson in Louisiana, went to court to try to get the racial designation on her birth certificate at the Louisiana Bureau of Vital Records changed from colored to white. A 1970 Louisiana blood law required that persons with one-thirty-second or more Negro blood (ancestry) were to be designated as colored on birth records; before 1970 any traceable amount of African ancestry had been used to define a person as colored. The white-skinned Phipps was the descendant of an eighteenth-century white plantation owner and an African American slave, and her small amount of African ancestry was enough to get her classified as colored on her official Louisiana birth certificate. Because other records supported the designation, Phipps lost her case against the state of Louisiana.1
This controversy raises the basic question of how a person comes to be defined as white or not white in U.S. society. It is only under racist assumptions that having one black ancestor makes one black while having one white ancestor does not make one white. If the latter were the law in Louisiana, of course, many black residents there those who have at least one white ancestor (often a slaveholder) would be classified as white! This story illustrates that racial categories are constructed and defined socially and politically, not scientifically.
A logical place to start making sense out of this system of racial definition is with basic terms and concepts. People have often used such terms as racial groups and prejudice without specifying their meaning. Since these are basic concepts in the study of intergroup relations, we will analyze them in detail.
ISSUES OF RACE AND RACISM
Racial Groups and Hierarchies
Both racial group and the more common term race have been used in a number of senses in social science and popular writings. Human race, Jewish race, White race such terms in the literature suggest a range of meanings. In sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe, the word race was used for descendants of a common ancestor, emphasizing kinship linkages rather than physical characteristics such as hair type or skin color. It was only in the late eighteenth century that the term race came to mean a category of human beings with distinctive physical characteristics transmitted by descent.2
In the 1600s François Bernier was one of the first Europeans to sort human beings into distinct categories. Soon a hierarchy of physically distinct groups (not yet termed races) came to be accepted, with white Europeans, not surprisingly, at the top. Africans were relegated by European observers to the bottom, in part because of (black) Africans’ color and allegedly Aprimitive culture, but also because Africans were often known to Europeans as slaves. Economic and political oppression resulted in a low position in the white classification system, or what can be termed Aracial subordination. 3
Immanuel Kant’s use of the German phrase for races of mankind in the 1770s was one of the first explicit uses of the term in the sense of biologically distinct categories of human beings. In 1795 Johann Blumenbach, a German anatomist, established a racial classification system that became an influential typology. At the top of his racial hierarchy were the Caucasians (Europeans), followed in order by the Mongolians (Asians), the Ethiopians (Africans), the Americans (Native Americans), and the Malays (Polynesians). Blumenbach was the first to use the term Caucasian; he felt that the Europeans in the Caucasus mountains of Russia were the most beautiful race of men. Ever since, Europeans have been called by a term that originally applied only to a small and unrepresentative area of Europe. Blumenbach also chose the term Caucasian because he believed the earliest human beings came from there. (Twentieth-century archaeologists have found the earliest modern human remains in Africa.)4
The concept of race as a biologically distinctive category was developed by northern Europeans who, for much of their histories, had been largely isolated from contact with people who differed from them physically or culturally. Before the development of large sailing ships in the late 1400s, they had little contact with people from Asia, Africa, or the Americas. Soon, however, it was these northern Europeans who established slave systems in the Americas. The slave colonies were legitimated and rationalized by the northern Europeans, including the English, who classified African slaves as a lesser race. The idea of race was not developed from scientific observations of all human beings. Rather, race was, from its inception, a folk classification, a product of popular beliefs about human differences that evolved from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. 5
From the eighteenth century to the twentieth century, the use of race by biologists, physical anthropologists, and other scientists increasingly drew on this folk classification of race in the sense of biologically distinctive groups. The scientists who used race in this sense reflected their own racial prejudices or those of the general public. The scientists themselves undertook efforts to document the existence of the differences that the European cultural worldview demanded and had already created. 6 Basic to this increasingly prevalent view was the theory of a fixed number of biologically distinct races with differing physical characteristics and the belief that these characteristics were hereditary and thus created a natural hierarchy of groups. By the late nineteenth century, numerous European and U.S. scientists and popular writers were systematically downgrading all peoples not of northern European origin, especially southern Europeans and Jewish Europeans, as inferior races. 7
This singling out of people within the human species in terms of a biologized race hierarchy is a distinctively European and Euro-American idea. AIndigenous peoples...have observed and appreciated cultural diversity as variations on cosmological themes. As a rule, the indigenous worldview encompasses all humanity. 8 In the view of M. Annette Jaimes, indigenous peoples around the globe typically emphasize Abuilding alliances across a variety of racial and ethnic groups. U.S. examples include the assistance in agricultural techniques given by Native Americans to early European settlers and later to Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during World War II (see Chapter 11) in concentration camps located near reservations in the western United States.9
The development of ideological racism is rooted in European global expansion that began in earnest in the late 1400s. We can define ideological racism specifically as an ideology that considers a group’s unchangeable physical characteristics to be linked in a direct, causal way to psychological or intellectual characteristics and that, on this basis, distinguishes between superior and inferior racial groups.10 The scientific racism of such European writers as Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, a French diplomat, in the mid-nineteenth century was used to justify the spread of European colonialism in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. A long line of racist theorists followed in De Gobineau’s footsteps, including the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. They even applied the ideology of racial inferiority to culturally distinct white European groups, such as Jewish Europeans. In a racist ideology, real or alleged physical characteristics are linked to cultural traits that the dominant group considers undesirable or inferior.
Ideological racism has long been common in the United States. For example, in 1935 an influential white University of Virginia professor wrote:
The size of the brain in the Black Race is below the medium both of the Whites and the Yellow-Browns, frequently with relatively more simple convolutions. The frontal lobes are often low and narrow. The parietal lobes voluminous, the occipital protruding. The psychic activities of the Black Race are a careless, jolly vivacity, emotions and passions of short duration, and a strong and somewhat irrational egoism. Idealism, ambition, and the co-operative faculties are weak. They love amusement and sport but have little initiative and adventurous spirit.11
This example of crude ideological racism links physical and personality characteristics. Although this type of racist portrait often passed for science before World War II and in today’s white supremacy organizations (for example, the Ku Klux Klan), some of it still does it is, in fact, pseudoscience. Ideological racists have accepted as true the stereotyped characteristics traditionally applied by whites to various outsider groups.
Modern biologists and anthropologists have demonstrated the wild-eyed irrationality of this racist mythology. The basic tenet of racist thinking is that physical differences such as skin color or nose shape are intrinsically and unalterably tied to meaningful differentials in basic intelligence or Acivilization. Yet, despite periodic assertions of such a linkage by white supremacy groups and pseudoscientists, no scientific support for this assumed linkage exists.
Indeed, there is no distinctive biological reality called race that can be determined by objective scientific procedures. The social, medical, and physical sciences have demonstrated this fact.12 Given the constant blending and interbreeding of human groups over many centuries and into the present, it is impossible to sort human beings into unambiguously distinctive races on genetic grounds. There is too much overlapping of genetic characteristics across the variety of human populations. Two randomly selected individuals from the world’s population would have in common, on average, about 99.8 percent of their genetic material. Most of the genetic variation in regard to human populations Aoccurs within populations, not between them. 13 There are genetic differences between geographically scattered human populations, but these differences are slight. The racial importance of the slight dissimilarities is socially, not scientifically, determined.
Human populations singled out as races are simply groups with visible differences that Europeans and European Americans have decided to emphasize as important in their social, economic, and political relations. Such racial categorizing is neither objective nor scientific. Indeed, there are many different ways of classifying human populations in terms of genetic characteristics: One such procedure would group Italians and Greeks with most African blacks. It would classify XhosaCthe South African >black’ group to which [South African] President Nelson Mandela belong Swedes rather than Nigerians. 14 What physiologist Jared Diamond has in mind here are the antimalarial genes that are not found among the light-skinned Swedes or dark-skinned southern African groups like the Xhosas, but are commonly found in northern African groups and among Europeans such as Italians and Greeks. These antimalarial genes may be more important for human beings than those determining skin color variations, yet they are not used by Europeans or Euro-Americans, including pseudoscientists, for their Aracial classifications.15
There is only one human race (Homo sapiens), to which we all belong. Every human being is in fact distantly related to every other human being. The indigenous view of human beings, previously noted, is now accepted by most scientists.16 Nonetheless, the lack of scientific support has not lessened the popularity of racist ideologies. The scholar Ashley Montagu has noted the extreme danger of ideological racism, a view shaped in part by his observation of the consequences of the German Nazi ideology, according to which there were physically distinct Aryan and Jewish races.17 That racist ideology lay behind the killing of millions of European Jews (and other Europeans) during the 1930s and 1940s.
Today, social scientists view race not as a given biological reality but as a socially constructed reality. Sociologist Oliver C. Cox, one of the first to underscore this perspective, defined a race as Aany people who are distinguished, or consider themselves distinguished, in social relations with other peoples, by their physical characteristics. 18 Similarly, a racial group has been defined by Pierre van den Berghe as a Ahuman group that defines itself and/or is defined by other groups as different from other groups by virtue of innate and immutable physical characteristics. 19
A racial group is not something naturally generated as part of the self-evident order of the universe. A person’s race is typically determined by and important to certain outsiders, although a group’s own self-definition can also be important. In this book we define a racial group as a social group that persons inside or outside the group have decided is important to single out as inferior or superior, typically on the basis of real or alleged physical characteristics subjectively selected. Racial group distinctions are rooted in ideological racism, which, as we noted previously, links physical characteristics to Ainferior or Asuperior cultural and intellectual characteristics.
In the United States, a number of groups would fit this definition. Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans have had their physical characteristics, such as skin color and eye shape, singled out by dominant white Americans as badges of social and racial inferiority. Some groups once defined as racial groups and as physically and mentally inferior groups at thatCare no longer defined that way. In later chapters we will see that Irish and Italian immigrants were once defined as inferior races by native-born Anglo-Protestant Americans. Later, the social definition of these European immigrants as a racial group was replaced by an Anglo-Protestant construction of these groups as white and as ethnic groups, a term we will examine shortly.
These examples of Irish and Italian Americans make it clear that racial definitions are not fixed essences that last forever, but instead are temporary constructions that are shaped in social and political struggles in particular times and in particular societies. Racial definitions can change and even disappear.
Why are some physical characteristics, such as skin color, selected as a basis for distinguishing racial groups, whereas other characteristics, such as eye color, seldom are? These questions cannot be answered in biological terms. They require historical and sociological analysis. Such characteristics as skin color are Aeasily observed and ordered in the mind. 20 More important than ease of observation is the way economic or political subordination creates a need to identify the powerless group in a certain way. In justifying exploitation, the exploiting group often defines the real (or alleged) physical characteristics singled out to typify the exploited group as inferior racial characteristics. Technological differences in weaponry and firepower, for example, between European and African peoples facilitated the enslavement of Africans in the American colonies. In turn, the generally darker skin of the Africans and their descendants came to be used by white groups as an indicator of subordinate racialBcultural status. Skin-color characteristics have no inherent meaning; in group interaction they become important because they can be used to classify members of the dominant and subordinate groups.
Knowledge of one’s relatives sometimes affects one’s assignment to a racial group, particularly for those who lack the emphasized physical characteristics. At various times in many societies, people have been distinguished not only on the basis of their own physical characteristics but also on the basis of a socially determined Arule of descent. 21 For example, in Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler’s officials often identified Jewish Germans on the basis of their having one or more Jewish ancestors or relatives.
Ancestry and Multiracial Realities
The socially applied rules of descent have varied greatly from society to society. For example, in some countries there are special categories or designations for mixed-ancestry groups, such as the Coloreds for people with African and European ancestry in South Africa. Many Latin American countries recognize two or more mixed-ancestry categories. Mixed-ancestry distinctions have been rare in the United States. In the case of African Americans, interracial blending has, over time, caused dark skin color to become a less reliable characteristic for those making racial distinctions, and the rule of descent has gained more importance as a mechanism of racial identification to perpetuate discrimination. Today, black Americans Aevidence an unusually wide range of physical traits. Their skin color extends from ebony to a shade paler than many >whites.’ 22 Indeed, the majority of black Americans are not literally Ablack, but rather are some shade of the color brown.
In many U.S. communities, the social aspect of the defining process becomes obvious when a light-skinned person, say, of one-eighth African ancestry but with none of the physical traits most whites associate with African Americans, is regarded as black because one of his or her ancestors is known to be of African ancestry. Sometimes termed the one drop of blood rule, this odd rule of descent is unique to the United States. Indeed, in Caribbean nations such as Jamaica or in many parts of Africa, a person who is one-eighth African in ancestry and seven-eighths European would be considered white.
Mixed racial ancestry does not fit neatly into the traditional U.S. system of racial categorizing. Today, there are millions of children in interracial families, and growing numbers of interracial marriages take place annually. The existence and experiences of these Americans underscore the social construction of racial identities. Consider the case of Tiger Woods, a talented golfer. In 1997, at the age of 21, Woods became the center of media attention when he won a number of major golf tournaments, including the Masters tourney, where he posted a record score.23 Woods’s racialBethnic background is quite complex. He has described his ancestry as one-eighth white, one-eighth Native American, one-fourth African American, one-fourth Thai, and one-fourth Chinese. However, the mass media have often portrayed Woods as African American. Following his major victories, his father also spoke of him as a black sports star, and Woods presented himself in some early commercials as black. Later Woods accented his mixed ancestry and seemed to some observers to play down his African American identity. After some criticism by African Americans who were proud of his achievements and his African ancestry, Woods issued a statement that he was proud of his African American and other ancestry.24
Nonetheless, many in the media have continued to view Woods as a black sports star, and it seems likely that far more Americans see him as African American than as multiracial. After Woods won the Master’s tourney, a white golfer, Fuzzy Zoeller, spoke about Athat little boy and joked that he hoped Woods would not pick collard greens and fried chicken, or whatever it is that they eat, for the next Master’s championship dinner.25 This white golfer saw Woods as an African American. He later met with Woods and apologized for his comments.26
In the late 1990s, Congress debated the addition of a Amultiracial category in the U.S. census for the year 2000, a change supported by many Americans of mixed racialBethnic ancestry. Others suggested that the presence of such a box might reduce the count in other categories, such as Ablack, which would hurt civil rights enforcement in some areas. Congress decided against the creation of a specific multiracial category for the 2000 census. Instead, individuals were allowed to mark multiple ancestry groups. This debate clearly indicates that racial designations are socially constructed and maintained. As a result, in the 2000 census 6.8 Americans-out of a total of 281 million-indicated that they had multiracial ancestry.27
These census data are only the tip of the iceberg; additional millions of Americans have known multiracial and multiethnic backgrounds. Many Americans’ ancestry is some mixture of European, African, Native American, Asian, or Latino backgrounds, and today increasing numbers of people are willing to acknowledge this reality and assert their multiracial identities. Numerous organizations of and periodicals for people of mixed ancestries are now available. Attention to issues of multiethnic ancestry, interracial dating, intermarriage, and interracial families will escalate over the next few decades as the mixed-race aspect of the American people is ever more openly acknowledged.
What Is an Ethnic Group?
The term ethnic group has been used by social scientists in two different senses, one narrow and one broad. Some definitions of the term are broad enough to include socially defined racial groups. For example, in Milton Gordon’s broad definition, an ethnic group is a social group distinguished Aby race, religion, or national origin. 28 Like the definition of racial group, this definition contains the notion of set-apartness. But here the distinctive characteristics can be physical or cultural, and language and religion are seen as critical markers or signs of ethnicity even where there is no physical distinctiveness. Today, a number of scholars, such as Werner Sollors in an introduction to The Invention of Ethnicity, still view religious, nationalBorigin, and racial groups as falling under the umbrella term ethnic group.29
Other scholars prefer a narrower definition of ethnic group, one that omits groups defined substantially in terms of physical characteristics (those called racial groups) and is limited to groups distinguished primarily on the basis of cultural or nationalBorigin characteristics. Cultural characteristics include language; national origin refers to the country (and national culture) from which the person or his or her ancestors came.
The English word ethnic comes from the Greek word ethnos, originally meaning Anation. In its earliest English usage, in the fifteenth century, the word referred to culturally different Aheathen countries, that is, those not Christian or Jewish. The first usage of Aethnic group to denote national origin developed in the period of heavy immigration from southern and eastern European nations to the United States in the early twentieth century. Since the 1930s and 1940s, a number of prominent social scientists have suggested that the narrower definition of ethnic group, more in line with the original Greek meaning of nationality, makes the term more useful.30
Social scientist W. Lloyd Warner, who was perhaps the first to use the term ethnicity, distinguished between ethnic groupsCwhich he saw as characterized by cultural differences and racial groups, characterized substantially by physical differences.31 More recent scholars have also preferred the narrower usage. In van den Berghe’s view, for example, ethnic groups are Asocially defined but on the basis of cultural criteria. 32
In this book, the usual meaning of ethnic group will be the narrower oneCa group socially distinguished or set apart, by others or by itself, primarily on the basis of cultural or nationalBorigin characteristics. Such set-apart groups, such as Irish Americans or Italian Americans, usually develop a strong sense of a common cultural heritage and a common ancestry. Some broad social categories, such as the religious category of ABaptists, have been considered by some to be ethnic groups, but in the sense we use the term here they are not. Religious groups that are open to relatively easy conversion are not, strictly speaking, ethnic because ethnicity says something about accepted lines of common descent or national origin as well as current cultural characteristics.
Many social analysts who use the broader definition of ethnic group (that is, the one that includes racial groups) argue that the experiences of people defined as Anonwhite are essentially similar to the experiences of white groups. Some social scientists have argued that in the United States the situations and experiences of non-European groups such as African or Asian Americans are in broad ways similar to those of white immigrants from Europe, especially in regard to the process of gradual integration into the Anglo-Protestant core society. Some analysts further assume that the experiences of both European and non-European groups are adequately explained by the same theoretical frameworkCtypically the conventional assimilationist framework (see Chapter 2).33
In contrast, many analysts who prefer the narrower definition of ethnic group as a constructed category that differs in important ways from the term racial group view the experiences of subordinated racial groups as distinctively different from those of white European ethnic groups.34 The public and scholarly use of the umbrella term ethnic group for all groups, including racial groups, in the last two decades has had political and racial overtones: AIndeed, the substitution of >ethnicity’ for >race’ as a basis of categorization is accompanied by increasing unwillingness among the dominant group to accept responsibility for the problems of racism. 35 While Essed’s point is accurate for much writing that views such groups as African Americans and Mexican Americans as ethnic groups that are no different in their experiences from groups like Italian Americans and Irish Americans, it does not apply to those scholars who prefer the term ethnic group because they feel its use indicates that all groups have genuine and significant cultural histories.36
In addition, many scholars emphasize the point that all socially constructed racial groups contain subgroups that can be seen as ethnic groups because they have distinctive cultural identities. Examples of this include Italian Americans within the white racial group and Jamaican Americans within the black racial group.
Definitions of racial group and ethnic group which emphasize their social meaning and construction directly reject the biological determinism that views such groups as self-evident with unchanging physical or intellectual characteristics. People themselves, both outside and inside racial and ethnic groups, determine when certain physical or cultural characteristics are important enough to single out a group for social purposes, whether for good or for ill.
A given group may be viewed by different outsiders or at different times as a racial or an ethnic group. Indeed, some groups have been defined by the same outsiders on the basis of both physical and cultural criteria. During the 1930s, Jewish Germans, for example, were identified as a race in Nazi Germany, in part because of physical characteristics that were alleged to be different from those of other Germans. However, identification of Jewish Germans for persecution by Nazi bureaucrats and storm troopers was based more on ethnic characteristics cultural characteristics such as religion or language and genealogical ties to known Jewish ancestors than on physical characteristics.
In their first contacts with European societies, black Africans were viewed in ethnic rather than racial terms. St. Clair Drake’s research on early black African contacts with Europeans and lighter-skinned North Africans has shown that in the first centuries of contact-during the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman periods-European outsiders generally attached far greater significance to Africans’ culture and nationality than to their physical characteristics. Before the sixteenth century Aneither White Racism nor racial slavery existed. 37 Similarly, Frank Snowden has demonstrated that the early encounters between African blacks and Mediterranean whites led to a generally favorable image of African blacks among whites and to friendships and intermarriage much different from the blackBwhite relations in modern race-conscious societies. While some Europeans in these periods did express negative views of Africans’ color, these views never developed into an acute color consciousness linked to an ideological view of Africans as an inferior species with intellectual deficits. Virulent color prejudice in the form of ideological racism emerged only in the modern world, primarily in the imperial expansion into Africa and the Americas by European nations seeking colonies between the 1400s and the 1700s.38 Historical conditions have shaped whether and how skin color becomes a marker in the processes of exploitation and oppression.
Ancestry is important to the concept of ethnic group whether it is defined in a narrow or a broad sense. Perception of a common ancestry, real or mythical, has been part of outsiders’ definitions and of ethnic groups’ self-definitions. Sociologist Max Weber saw ethnic groups broadly as Ahuman groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent. 39 In addition to a sense of common ancestry, a consciousness of shared experiences and of shared cultural patterns is important in shaping a group’s identity.
Recently, a number of social scientists have focused on the ways in which people’s constructions and conceptions of their own and others’ ethnic identities change over time and from one situation to another. These social constructionists emphasize the importance of studying the ways in which ethnic boundaries, identities, and cultures are negotiated, defined, and produced through social interaction inside and outside ethnic communities. 40 Drawing on her field research, Mary Waters has shown the options white Americans have with regard to their ethnic identity. A white person of both English and Irish ancestry may choose either ethnic identity, both, or none, preferring in the latter case to identify only as AAmerican. 41 Waters has also documented how Afro-Caribbean immigrants sometimes view themselves as African Americans and sometimes as an ethnic group distinct from native-born blacks within the African American racial group.42 Nonetheless, Afro-Caribbean Americans have no choice in how they are viewedCas black AmericansCby the dominant white group. This fact of American life again reveals the central role that power inequalities play in the social definition of certain human groups as racial groups.
We should note that racial group and ethnic group are only two of the terms used in research on racial and ethnic relations. Among the other terms are majority group and minority group.43 Louis Wirth explicitly defined a minority group in terms of its subordinate position: A group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. 44
However, many scholars today consider it more accurate to use the term dominant group for the majority group and the term subordinate group for a minority group. This usage is appropriate because a majority group in this sense can be numerically a minority, as was once the case with white Europeans in a number of colonial societies. Indeed, if current population continue, the white majority, in population terms, is likely to become a statistical minority in the United States by the middle of the twenty-first century.
THE MATTER OF CULTURE
Cultural differences between groups are usually at the heart of racial and ethnic relations and conflict. Sociologists and anthropologists generally define culture as the shared values, understandings, symbols, and practices of a group of people. The shared symbols are the means by which people Acommunicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life. 45 There are cultural objects (the symbols and practices) as well cultural creators and cultural receivers (the people who create and use the cultural objects).46
In Chapter 2 we will observe the importance of culture in the process by which one group adapts to another. We will examine the concept of dominant culture, the understandings and symbols created and controlled by a powerful group, as well as the concept of an immigrant culture, the understandings and symbols of an immigrant group entering the sphere of the dominant culture. Milton Gordon has argued that new immigrant groups coming into North America after the English have tended to give up much of their own cultural heritage to conform to the dominant Anglo-Protestant core culture: AIf there is anything in American life which can be described as an overall American culture which serves as a reference point for immigrants and their children, it can best be described, it seems to us, as the middle-class cultural patterns of, largely, white Protestant, Anglo-Saxon origins, leaving aside for the moment the question of minor reciprocal influences on this culture exercised by the cultures of later entry into the United States. 47
In subsequent chapters we will also see how some subordinated racial and ethnic groups have drawn on their well-developed cultures to resist discrimination and slavish assimilation to the dominant Anglo-Protestant culture. Some analysts describe these as cultures of resistance.48
The cultural heritage and present cultural understandings of subordinated groups, such as Native Americans or African Americans, have positive historical and current significance. They not only foster a sense of identity and pride but also facilitate the group’s survival and enhance its ability to resist oppression. For example, the strong family and kinship values of various Native American societies enabled them to survive in the face of Euro-American invasions of their lands. Contrary to prevailing white stereotypes about black families, the strong family ties of African Americans have fostered a sense of pride and identity and have provided crucial support for coping with widespread discrimination from whites.
PREJUDICE AND STEREOTYPES
Another important term in the study of intergroup relations is prejudice, which in popular discourse is associated mostly with negative attitudes about members of selected racial and ethnic groups. An understanding of how and why negative attitudes develop is best achieved by first defining ethnocentrism, which was long ago described by William G. Sumner as the Aview of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it. 49 Individuals who develop positive ethnocentrism are characterized by a loyalty to the values, beliefs, and members of their own group. Ethnocentrism often prompts negative views of outgroups through a constant evaluation of outgroups in terms of ingroup values and ways. Such negative views are manifested in prejudices and stereotypes that influence the social, economic, and political interaction among groups.50
Prejudice has been defined by Gordon Allport as thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant. 51 The term prejudice comes from the Latin word praejudicium, or a judgment made prior to knowledge or experience. In English the word evolved from meaning hasty judgment to the present connotation of unfavorable bias based on an unsupported judgment. Although prejudice can theoretically apply to favorable prejudgments, its current usage in both popular speech and social science analysis is almost exclusively negative. Defined more precisely, prejudice is, to closely paraphrase Allport, an antipathy based on a faulty generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group as a whole, or toward an individual because she or he is a member of that group.52 As used in this text, prejudice has both an emotional and a cognitive aspect; it involves a negative feeling or attitude toward the outgroup as well as an inaccurate belief. An example might be I as a white person hate black and Latino people because black and Latino people always smell worse than whites. The first part of the sentence expresses the negative emotion (the hatred); the last part, an inaccurate generalization. This latter cognitive aspect has been termed a stereotype that is, an overgeneralization associated with a racial or ethnic category that goes beyond existing evidence.
Why do some people stereotype others? Why have Irish Americans been stereotyped as lazy drunkards, African Americans as indolent, Italian Americans as criminals with Mafia ties, Asian Americans as treacherous Orientals? Such questions encourage us to examine the role that prejudices and stereotypes play in the history and daily lives of individuals and groups.
Stereotyped images take many different forms. For example, anthropologist Jane Hill has researched the widespread use of mock Spanish as part of the negative images for Latinos in the United States. Many non-Latinos, especially European Americans, sprinkle their language with made-up mock-Spanish terms such as no problemo, el cheapo, and hasty banana, and phrases like hasta la vista, baby. These and similar mock Spanish terms appear on billboards and in movies, in cartoons, on cards and other items in gift shops, and in elite board rooms. This mocking of the Spanish language, Hill notes, indicates a stereotyping of Latinos, especially Mexican Americans.53 Ridicule of Mexican American language or speech is racist because it has meaning in relation to underlying racist stereotypes. This mocking enables its perpetrators to support traditional hiearachies of racial privilege without seeming to be racist in the blatant sense.
White attacks on variants of Latino and black English are not just concerned with language. Instead, they show a general unwillingness to accept the speakers of that language and social choices they have made as viable and functional. . . . We are ashamed of them, and because they are part of us, we are ashamed of ourselves. 54 Language mocking and subordination are not about standards for speaking as much as they are about determining that some people are not worth listening to and treating as equals. The subtle and covert practices of linguistic racism reach to the deepest level of the white self. Such mocking blends attitudes and actions; it is part of the Ahundreds of taken for granted commonplace utterances that function to 'racialize' their targets, constructing them as members of a human group represented as essentially inferior."55
Sociological analysts of stereotyping emphasize group pressures on individuals for conformity or rationalization, while psychological analysts stress individual irrationality or personality defects.
Much research has highlighted the expressive function of prejudice for the individual. FrustrationBaggression theories, psychoanalytic theories, and authoritarian personality perspectives focus on the externalization function of prejudice the transfer of an individual’s internal psychological problem onto an external object as a solution to that problem. Psychologically oriented interpretations often attribute racial or ethnic prejudice to special emotional problems of sick or abnormal individuals, such as a deep hatred of their own fathers.56
In a classic study of prejudice and personality, The Authoritarian Personality, T. W. Adorno and his colleagues argued that people who hate such groups as Jewish Americans or black Americans typically differ from tolerant people in regard to central personality traits specifically, that they tend to exhibit authoritarian personalities. 57 Those with authoritarian personalities differ from others in their greater submission to authority, tendency to stereotype, superstition, and great concern for social status. They see the world as sinister and threatening, a view that easily leads to intolerance of outgroups that occupy subordinate positions in the social world around them.
Some scholars have raised serious questions about this stress on the expressive function of prejudice. They have suggested that social conformity may be a much more important factor for most prejudiced people.58 Most people accept their own social situations as given and hold the prejudices taught at home and at school. Conformity to the prejudices of relatives and friends is a major source of individual prejudice. In this view, most prejudices are not the result of deep psychological pathologies, but rather reflect shared social definitions of outgroups. In such cases prejudice functions as a means of social adjustment. Most of us can think of situations in which we or our acquaintances have adjusted to new racial beliefs while moving from one region or setting to another. As Schermerhorn notes, prejudice is a product of situations, not a little demon that emerges in people simply because they are depraved. 59
An additional function of prejudice is to rationalize a subordinate group’s powerless position. Herbert Blumer suggested that prejudice is more than a matter of negative feelings possessed by members of one group for another; it is also Arooted in a sense of group position. 60 The dominant group comes to defend and rationalize its privileged position. Prejudice is deeply rooted in the history of human contacts, but modern prejudices can sometimes be found grouped together in some type of ideological racism. Fully developed racist ideologies, as we have noted, appear to have arisen with European imperialism and colonization of people of color around the world. Modern prejudice, Oliver C. Cox argues, is a divisive attitude seeking to alienate dominant group sympathy from an >inferior’ race, a whole people, for the purpose of facilitating its exploitation. 61 When peoples are subordinated, as in the cases of the white enslavement of Africans in the American colonies and the restrictive quotas for Jewish Americans in some colleges in the 1920s and 1930s, those in power here, Anglo-Protestant whites gradually develop views that rationalize the exploitation and oppression of others.
This tendency to develop a racial ideology that defends privilege persists. Scholars in several disciplines have suggested many whites possess a racial consciousness that consists of not just a few prejudices but a broader structure of racialized thought, a way of processing information about themselves and people of color. A sense of superiority, overt or unconscious, grows out of a process in which whites grow up with power over and separated from people of color. Many racial ideas are formed by the informal lessons whites learn as children at home and school and as adults as they absorb messages from the media and socialize with relatives, coworkers, and friends.62
Some members of dominant groups who discriminate are mainly motivated by a desire for economic or political gain. Such people strive to maintain their undeserved privileges, whether or not they rationalize the striving in terms of racial prejudices and stereotypes.63 Such striving involves a system of inequality in which the dominant racial group benefits economically, politically, and psychologically and acts to maintain its benefits. In the everyday world of discrimination, it is likely that the desire to protect privileges will be accompanied by negative views of the group targeted for discrimination.
Images of people of color that are held by dominant white groups today have many similarities with stereotypes of the past, although some changes have occurred since the 1960s. Researchers David Sears and John McConahay have identified what they term symbolic or modern racism that is, white beliefs that serious antiblack discrimination does not exist today and that African Americans are making illegitimate demands for social changes. These social psychologists have found that among whites old-fashioned racism favoring rigid segregation and extreme stereotypes has largely been replaced by this modern racism whose proponents accept modest desegregation but resist the large-scale changes necessary for full racial integration of the society.64 Similarly, Lawrence Bobo has suggested that whites have an ideology of bounded racial change. That is, whites’ support for changes in discrimination ends when such changes seriously endanger their standard of living. Many whites display a loosely coherent set of attitudes and beliefs that, among other things, attributes patterns of black white inequality to the dispositional shortcomings of black Americans. 65
Thomas Pettigrew has noted white reactions to the achievements of African Americans in the recent years and has suggested that what he calls the ultimate attribution error on the part of whites includes not only blaming black victims for their failures but also discounting black successes by attributing the latter to luck or unfair advantages rather than to intelligence and hard work.66 While this research on modern racism has mostly examined white attitudes toward black Americans, many of the new concepts can be used to interpret white prejudices and stereotypes directed at other people of color.
Public discussions of discrimination and of government programs to eradicate it (for example, affirmative action) are often confusing because the important dimensions of racial or ethnic discrimination are not distinguished. As a first step in sorting out the confusion, we suggest the diagram in Figure 1B1. Key dimensions of discrimination include (a) motivation, (b) discriminatory actions, (c) effects, (d) the relation between motivation and actions, (e) the relation between actions and effects, (f) the immediate institutional context, and (g) the larger societal context.67 A given set of discriminatory actsCsuch as the exclusion of Jewish American applicants from Ivy League colleges in the 1920s or the exclusion of many children of color from all-white public schools until the 1960sCcan be looked at in terms of these dimensions. One can ask what the motivation was for this discrimination. Was it prejudice, stereotyping, or another motive? One can also ask what form the exclusionary practices actually took. For example, in the case of segregated public schools in the South or Southwest, white school administrators refused black or Latino children entrance into their buildings. Also of importance are the long-term effects of these discriminatory practices. One effect was the poorer school facilities many black and Latino children encountered. Yet these practices were not the actions of isolated white administrators. Rather, they were part of an institutionalized pattern of segregated education, the effects of which are still present in U.S. society. Finally, such patterns of school segregation were part of a larger social context of general subordination of black and Latino Americans across various institutional areas. Today, as in the past, racial discrimination remains a multidimensional problem encompassing most institutional areas of U.S. society.
Research on Prejudice and Discrimination
Much research on discrimination has focused on one type of motivationCprejudice [see (a) in Figure 1B1]. Many analysts emphasize the relation between prejudice and discrimination [(d) in Figure 1B1], viewing prejudice as the critical cause of discriminatory treatment of a singled-out group. Allport suggested that few prejudiced people keep their prejudices entirely to themselves; instead they act out their feelings in various ways.68 In his classic study An American Dilemma (1944), Gunnar Myrdal saw racial prejudice as Athe whole complex of valuations and beliefs which are behind discriminatory behavior on the part of white Americans. 69 A few years later Robert K. Merton suggested that for some people discrimination is motivated not by their own prejudices but by fear of the prejudices of others in the dominant group.70
Some experimental studies by social psychologists have focused on the relationship between prejudice and expressed discrimination. These researchers have examined whether prejudiced people do, in fact, discriminate, and, if so, how that prejudice is linked to discrimination. Such studies have generally found a weak positive correlation between expressed prejudice (for example, on questionnaires) and the measured discriminatory behavior. Knowing how prejudiced a subject is does not necessarily help predict the character of his or her actions. In addition, some experimenters have tried to develop nonobvious measures of discrimination. One such measure involved setting up an experimental situation in which whites encountered a black person (a confederate of the researcher) who needed help making a phone call at a public telephone. The researcher found that the racial identity of the person needing help often affected the type of white response. Opinion surveys of white attitudes toward black Americans have shown a significant decline in certain old-fashioned racist attitudes since the 1940s. However, some experimental researchers have asked whether the whites responding to such surveys are concealing their prejudices. Reviewing laboratory studies that used less obvious measures of discrimination, such as the phone call experiment just mentioned, Faye Crosby and her associates have shown that overt discrimination by whites varies with the situation. It is more likely in anonymous situations than in face-to-face encounters that whites have with blacks they know. The researchers noted that experimental studies have found much more antiblack discrimination than they should have if the unprejudiced views that many whites express in surveys were their real views. Many seem to hide their actual racial views when responding to opinion pollsters.71
Recently surveying college students on three major campuses, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tyrone Forman discovered that racial attitudes expressed on short-answer survey items were frequently different from those expressed to questions requiring some commentary. On a brief survey item 80 percent of the 451 students said they approved of marriages between blacks and whites. However, when a smaller but similar group of students was interviewed in depth this figure dropped to only 30 percent. Given time to explain, the majority expressed some reservations about marriage across the color line. This study suggests that a majority of well-educated whites still hold more or less traditionally racist attitudes on issues like intermarriage.72
Defining Institutional and Individual Discrimination
The emphasis on individual prejudice and on bigoted individuals in many traditional assessments of discrimination has led some scholars to accent the institutionalization of discrimination. For example, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and Charles Hamilton have distinguished between the concepts of individual racism, exemplified by the actions of white terrorists bombing a black church, and of institutional racism, illustrated by accumulating institutional practices that lead to large numbers of black children suffering because of seriously inadequate food and medical facilities in U.S. cities.73 Carmichael and Hamilton introduced the concept of institutional racism to the discussion of U.S. racial relations. They move beyond a focus on individual bigots. Institutional racism can involve actions in which dominant group members have Ano intention of subordinating others because of color, or are totally unaware of doing so. 74 We should note that the term racism is used here for patterns of discrimination that target racially subordinated groups, such as African, Asian, or Latino Americans.
In his analysis of racial discrimination and mental health, Pettigrew has distinguished between direct and indirect racial discrimination, applying the latter term to restrictions in one area (such as screening out job applicants because they do not have a college degree) that are shaped by racial discrimination in another area (historical exclusion of black Americans from many white universities prior to the 1960s).75
Recent conceptual work on racial discrimination emphasizes the close relationship between its individual (micro) and institutional (macro) dimensions, which must be viewed as two aspects of the same phenomenon. Social psychologist Essed has underscored the mutual interdependence of the macro and micro dimensions of racial discrimination. From the macro perspective, racism is a system of structural inequalities and a historical process. From a micro perspective, racism involves individual discriminators whose specific actions are racist Aonly when they activate existing structural racial inequalities in the system. 76 The routine actions of discriminators reinforce and are shaped by a hierarchical system of racial dominance and inequality.
The group context of discriminatory actions is very important. The working definition of discrimination we emphasize in this book is as follows: actions carried out by members of dominant groups, or their representatives, that have a differential and harmful impact on members of subordinate groups. The dominant and subordinate groups we focus on here are racial and ethnic groups. From this perspective, the most serious discrimination involves harmful practices taken by members of powerful racial and ethnic groups against those with much less power and fewer resources. Discrimination involves actions as well as one or more discriminators and one or more victims. A further distinction between intentional (motivated by prejudice or intent to harm) and unintentional (not motivated by prejudice or intent to harm) is useful for identifying different types of discrimination.77
Drawing on the two dimensions of scale and intention, we suggest four major types of discrimination. Type A, isolate discrimination, is harmful action taken intentionally by a member of a dominant racial or ethnic group against members of a subordinate group, without the support of other members of the dominant group in the immediate social or community context. An example would be a white Anglo police officer who implements anti-Latino hostility by beating up Mexican American prisoners at every opportunity, even though the majority of Anglo officers and department regulations specifically oppose such actions. (If the majority of Anglo officers in that department behaved in this fashion, the beatings would fall under the heading of type C discrimination.) The term isolate should not be taken to mean that type A discrimination is rare, for it is indeed commonplace.
Type B, small-group discrimination, is harmful action taken intentionally by a small number of dominant-group individuals acting in concert against members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups, without the support of the norms and of most other dominant group members in the immediate social or community context. The bombing of Irish Catholic churches in the 1800s by small groups of British Americans or the burning of crosses at the homes of people of color in several U.S. cities in the early 2000s by members of white supremacist groups are likely examples.
Type C, direct institutionalized discrimination, is organizationally prescribed or community-prescribed action that by intention has a differential and negative impact on members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups. Typically, these actions are carried out not sporadic but are routinely by a large number of dominant-group individuals guided by the legal or informal norms of the immediate organizational or community context. Historical examples include the intentional exclusion, by law, of African Americans and Jewish Americans from certain residential neighborhoods and jobs. Type C discrimination can be seen today in the actions of those white real estate agents and owners who regularly create barriers for people of color seeking homes in white neighborhoods. These discriminating whites are acting in accord with informal norms shared by many whites in their communities.78
Type D, indirect institutionalized discrimination, consists of dominant-group practices having a harmful impact on members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups even though the organizationally or community-prescribed norms or regulations guiding those actions have been established with no intent to harm. For example, intentional discrimination institutionalized in the inadequate school facilities provided for subordinate group members such as black, Latino, and Native AmericansCresulting in inadequate educations for many of themChas often handicapped their attempts to compete with dominant-group members in the employment sphere, where hiring and promotion standards usually include educational credentials. In addition, the impact of past discrimination lingers on in the present: Current generations of groups once severely subordinated usually have less inherited wealth and other resources than current generations in the white group.
The Sites and Range of Discrimination
Discrimination includes a spatial dimension. For instance, in a white-dominated society, a racially subordinated person’s vulnerability to discrimination can vary from the most private to the most public sites. If the latter is in a relatively protected site, such as with friends at home, then the probability of experiencing racial or ethnic hostility and discrimination from dominant-group members is low. In contrast, if that same personCfor example, a professor is in a moderately protected site, such as in a departmental setting within a predominantly white university, the probability of experiencing hostility and discrimination increases, although the professional status of the professor may offer some protection there. The probability of hostility and discrimination may increase further as this person moves from work and school settings into such public accommodations as hotels, restaurants, and stores, or into public spaces such as city streets, because the social constraints on discriminatory behavior are weaker there. As we will see in the chapters that follow, those members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups who have ventured the most into settings once reserved for members of dominant groups, either in the past or in the present, are the most likely to face substantial discrimination and hostility.79
In his classic book The Nature of Prejudice, Gordon Allport notes that discrimination by members of a dominant group against those in a subordinate group ranges from antilocution (speaking against), to avoidance, to exclusion, to physical attack, and finally, to extermination.80 For example, a dominant-group member, such as an English American, may try to exclude a Jewish American from her or his university or club. Or a non-Asian American may hurl a racist epithet at a Chinese or Korean American walking nearby.
One can also distinguish subtle and covert categories of discrimination from the more blatant forms. Subtle discrimination can be defined as unequal and harmful treatment of members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups that is obvious to the victim but not as overt as traditional, Adoor-slamming varieties of discrimination. In modern bureaucratic settings such as corporate workplaces, many white employers and employees have internalized inclinations to subtle discriminatory behavior that they consider normal and acceptable. This type of discrimination often goes unnoticed by nondiscriminating members of the dominant group.81
For instance, in research on African American managers who have secured entry-level positions in corporations, Ed Jones has found a predisposition among whites, both coworkers and bosses, to assume the best about persons of their own color and the worst about (black) people different from themselves in evaluating job performance. Like Pettigrew’s Aultimate attribution error, this critical predisposition, which can be conscious or subconscious, can result in discrimination in promotions that is more subtle than the blatant discrimination of exclusion. The black managers interviewed by Jones and other researchers report that their achievements are often given less attention than their failures, while the failures of comparable white managers are more likely to be excused in terms of situational factors or overlooked. This negative feedback on a black worker’s performance makes it more difficult for her or him to perform successfully in the future.82
Covert discrimination, in contrast, is harmful treatment of members of subordinate racial and ethnic groups that is hidden and difficult to document and prove. Covert discrimination includes sabotage and tokenism. For example, in one research study, a black female mail carrier reported that white male coworkers were hiding some of her mail, so that when she returned from her route, there was still mail waiting to be delivered. Because of this sabotage, her white manager blamed her and gave her a less desirable route.83 Asian, African, and Latino Americans are sometimes hired as tokens or window dressing : they are placed in conspicuous positions just to make an organization look good instead of being evaluated honestly in terms of their abilities for higher-level employment. Some employers hire a few for Afront positions in order to reduce pressures to expand the number of employees from racially or ethnically subordinated groups to more representative proportions. Tokenism can thereby become a barrier to individual and group advancement.
Cumulative and Systemic Discrimination
Various combinations of blatant, covert, and subtle forms of discrimination can coexist in a given organization or community. The patterns of discrimination cutting across political, economic, and social organizations in our society can be termed systemic discrimination. One National Council of Churches group portrayed systemic racial discrimination this way: Both consciously and unconsciously, racism is enforced and maintained by the legal, cultural, religious, educational, economic, political, environmental and military institutions of societies. Racism is more than just a personal attitude; it is the institutionalized form of that attitude. 84 Related to this systemic discrimination is the cumulative impact of much discrimination on its victims. Particular instances of racial or ethnic discrimination may seem minor to outside observers if considered in isolation. But when blatant actions, such as verbal harassment or physical attack, combine with subtle and covert slights, such as veiled sabotage, the cumulative impact of all this discrimination over months, years, and lifetimes is usually far more than the sum of the individual instances. Racial and ethnic oppression is typically both systemic and cumulative, and its victims often pay a heavy cost.
Responding to Discrimination
The responses of subordinate-group members to discrimination can range from deference or withdrawal to verbal and physical confrontation to legal action. Even where dominant-group members expect acquiescence in discrimination, some subordinate-group members may not oblige. Victims often fight back, sometimes in organized ways, as was exemplified by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and sometimes by individuals in everyday settings, especially if they are among those subordinate group members with some monetary or legal resources. Discrimination that begins as one-way action may become two-way negotiation, often to the surprise of the discriminators.
Consider this example from research by Joe Feagin and Melvin Sikes, in which a black woman manager in a U.S. corporation describes a meeting with her white boss about her job performance:
We had a five scale rating, starting with outstanding, then very good, then good, then fair, and then less than satisfactory. I had gone into my evaluation interview anticipating that he would give me a VG (very good), feeling that I deserved an outstanding and prepared to fight for my outstanding rating. Knowing, you know, my past experience with him, and more his way toward females. But even beyond female, I happened to be the only black in my position within my branch. So the racial issue would also come into play. And he and I had had some very frank discussions about race specifically. About females, but more about race when he and I talked. So I certainly knew that he had a lot of prejudices in terms of blacks. And [he] had some very strong feelings based on his upbringing about the abilities of blacks. He said to me on numerous occasions that he considered me to be an exception, that I certainly was not what he felt the abilities of an average black person [were]. While I was of course appalled and made it perfectly clear to him....But, when I went into the evaluation interview, he gave me glowing comments that cited numerous achievements and accomplishments for me during the year, and then concluded it with, so I’ve given you a G. You know, which of course just floored me....[I] maintained my emotions and basically just said, as unemotionally as I possibly could, that I found that unacceptable, I thought it was inconsistent with his remarks in terms of my performance, and I would not accept it. I think I kind of shocked him, because he sort of said, well I don’t know what that means, you know, when I said I wouldn’t accept it. I said, I’m not signing the evaluation. And at that point, here again knowing that the best way to deal with most issues is with facts and specifics, I had already come in prepared....I had my list of objectives for the year where I was able to show him that I had achieved every objective and I exceeded all of them. I also had...my sales performance: the dollar amount, the products...both in total dollar sales and also a product mix. I sold every product in the line that we offered to our customers. I had exceeded all of my sales objectives. You know, as far as I was concerned, it was outstanding performance.
Then she noted the final result:
So he basically said, well, we don’t have to agree to agree, and that was the end of the session. I got up and left. Fifteen minutes later he called me back in and said, I’ve thought about what you said, and you’re right, you do have an O. So it’s interesting how in fifteen minutes I went from a G to an O. But the interesting point is had I not fought it, had I just accepted it, I would have gotten a G rating for that year, which has many implications.85
This example of an attempt at employment discrimination is a common one and illustrates a number of points made in this chapter. Because of certain physical characteristics, this woman was viewed by her white boss as a member of a racial group he stereotypes as generally incapable. He discriminated against her by downplaying her accomplishments with a low evaluation. In this case she did not accept his negative rating. Because of prior experience with his negative attitudes, this woman came to the interaction with some expectation of having to counter his actions. The one-way action that was probably expected by the boss soon became two-way negotiation. This black woman made tactical use of her resources to win a concession and a changed evaluation.
Over the last two decades there has been an increase in the number of middle-class Americans people of color who have the resources to contest blatant discrimination more directly and, sometimes, successfully. Microlevel discrimination may be the first stage in a two-way encounter. The initial discrimination, the counter, and the discriminator’s response, as well as the resources and perceptions of those involved, are important aspects of everyday racism in the United States.
Does Reverse Discrimination Exist?
Many neoconservative analysts, both scholars and popular commentators, have written about reverse discrimination and reverse racism in recent decades. Most of these discussions argue that white Americans suffer seriously from the implementation of affirmative action programs that attempt to redress discrimination against those in other subordinate racial groups. During the Ronald Reagan and George Bush administrations in the 1980s and early 1990s, the idea of reverse discrimination was used to legitimate a restructuring of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice, so that both formerly pro-affirmative-action agencies became opponents of affirmative action programs.
Much of the neoconservative discussion uses the phrase reverse discrimination in order to deflect attention from the serious problem of large-scale patterns of institutionalized discrimination still directed by whites against people of color. Discrimination, as conceptualized by most scholars of racial and ethnic relations, emphasizes the dominant groupBsubordinate group context of discrimination. Racial discrimination refers to the actions of members of dominant groupsCfor example, white AmericansCthat are taken to harm members of subordinate groups, such as blacks, Latinos, or Native Americans. Historically and today, systemic white discrimination, often called white racism when it targets racial groups, is not just a matter of occasional white bigotry but involves the white group’s power and resources to enforce white prejudices in discriminatory practices in all major social institutions.
Certainly, individual members of subordinated racial groups can be motivated by their prejudices to take action to harm those in the dominant white group. There is some antiwhite prejudice among people of color. There is also some antiwhite discrimination, but it is relatively uncommon compared with discrimination against people of color. With scattered exceptions, members of racially subordinate groups usually do not have the power or institutional position to express the prejudices they may hold about whites in the form of everyday discrimination. As a rule, African Americans and other people of color do not have the institutional support to inflict substantial and recurring discrimination on large numbers of whites in such areas as employment, business contracts, college classrooms, department stores, and housing. Indeed, not one member of these racially subordinated groups participates in systemic society-wide discrimination against white Americans, because the possibility does not exist in the United States. Indeed, there is no indication that any currently oppressed group would want to turn the tables and oppress white Americans on a large scale if they could do so.
Think for a moment about the historical and contemporary patterns of racial discrimination directed by large numbers of whites against just one major group, African Americans. That mistreatment has meant, and still means, widespread blatant and subtle discrimination by whites against blacks in most organizations in all major institutions in U.S. society in housing, employment, business, education, health services, and the legal system (see Chapter 8). For nearly four centuries now, many millions of white Americans have participated directly in discrimination against many millions of African Americans. Judging from opinion polls, at least 80 million whites currently hold some negative stereotypes of African Americans and millions of these whites discriminate under some circumstances. In addition, most whites still watch the antiblack discrimination that takes place around them without actively working to stop it. This widespread and systemic discrimination has brought extraordinarily heavy social and economic losses (the latter estimated to be in the trillions of dollars over nearly 400 years) for African Americans in most institutional sectors of this society.86
What would the reverse of this centuries-old antiblack discrimination really look like? The reverse of the institutionalized discrimination by whites against blacks would mean reversing the power and resource inequalities for several hundred years. In the past and today, most organizations in major institutional areas such as housing, education, and employment would be run at the top and middle-levels by a disproportionate number of powerful black managers and officials. These powerful black officials would have aimed much racial discrimination at whites, including many years of slavery and legal segregation. As a result, millions of whites would have suffered and would still suffer hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses and lower wages, as well as high rates of unemployment and political disenfranchisement for long periods, widespread housing segregation, inferior school facilities, and violent lynchings. That societal condition would be something one could reasonably call a condition that reversed the discrimination against African Americans. It does not now exist, nor has it ever existed.
What is usually termed reverse discrimination is something much different from this antiwhite scenario. The usual reference is to affirmative action programs that, for a time or in certain places, have used racial screening criteria to overcome a small part of the discrimination that targets people of color. Whatever costs a few years of affirmative action have meant for whites (or white men), those costs do not add to anything close to the total cost that inverting the historical and contemporary patterns of discrimination against people of color would involve. Affirmative action plans, as currently set up and there are far fewer effective plans than most critics suggestCdo not make concrete and devastating a widespread antiwhite prejudice on the part of people of color.87 As established and implemented, affirmative action plans have mostly involved modest remedial efforts (typically designed some years back by white men) to bring token-to-modest numbers of people of color and white women into certain areas of our economic, social, and political institutions where these groups have historically been excluded.
A modest number of white men have indeed paid a price for some affirmative action programs. If affirmative action is successful, it will entail some cost to be paid by those who have benefited most from centuries of racial and gender discrimination. Yet, to compare the scale of white male suffering to the scale of the suffering of people of color or white women from institutionalized discrimination is inappropriate and unrealistic.
A white man who suffers as an individual from remedial programs such as affirmative action in employment or education typically suffers in but one area of life (and often only once) and because he is an exception to his privileged racial group. A person of color who suffers from racial discrimination usually suffers in all areas of his or her life and primarily because the whole group has been and still is subordinated, not because he or she is an exception.88
In this chapter we have examined the key terms race, racial group, racism, ethnic group, minority (subordinate) group, majority (dominant) group, prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, individual and institutional discrimination, subtle and covert discrimination, systemic and cumulative discrimination, and reverse discrimination. These critical concepts loom large in discussions of race and ethnic issues. More than a century of discussion of these concepts lies behind the voyage we have set out on here and in the following chapters. We must carefully think through the meaning of such terms as race and racial group, because such concepts have themselves been used in the shaping of ethnic and racial relations, as they still do today.
Ideas about race and racial groups have been dangerous for human beings, playing an active role in the triggering, or the convenient rationalizing, of societal processes costing millions of lives. Ideas can and do have an impact. The sharp cutting edge of race, in the context of theorizing about racial inferiority, can be seen in the enslavement by white Europeans of millions of Africans between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries and in Nazi actions taken against European Jews and Gypsies in the 1930s and 1940s. Sometimes it is easy to consider words and concepts as harmless abstractions. However, some reflection on both recent and distant Western history exposes the lie in this naive view. The concept may not be Amightier than the sword, to adapt an old cliché, but it is indeed mighty.
1. Frances F. Marcus, ALouisiana Repeals Black Blood Law, The New York Times, July 6, 1983, p. A10.
2. Wilton M. Krogman, The Concept of Race, in The Science of Man in the World Crisis, ed. Ralph Linton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945) p. 38.
3. Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1969), p. 217.
4. Stephen J. Gould, The Geometer of Race, Discover, November 1994, pp. 65B66.
5. Audrey Smedley, Race in North America (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993), pp. 303B305.
6. Ibid, p. 26.
7. Peter I. Rose, The Subject Is Race (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 32B33; Thomas F. Gossett, Race (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), p. 3.
8. M. Annette Jaimes, ALiberating Race, in The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s, ed. Karin Aguilar-San Juan (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994), p. 369.
9. Ibid., p. 370.
10. See Pierre L. van den Berghe, Race and Racism (New York: Wiley, 1967), p. 11.
11. Robert Bennett Bean, The Races of Man (New York: University Society, 1935), pp. 94B96, quoted in In Their Place: White America Defines Her Minorities, 1850B1950, ed. Lewis H. Carlson and George A. Colburn (New York: Wiley, 1972), p. 106.
12. Eugenia Shanklin, Anthropology and Race (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994).
13. James Shreeve, ATerms of Estrangement, Discover, November 1994, p. 60; see also Paul Hoffman, The Science of Race, Discover, November 1994, p. 4.
14. Jared Diamond, ARace without Color, Discover, November 1994, p. 84.
15. Michael Banton and Jonathan Harwood, The Race Concept (New York: Praeger, 1975), pp. 13B50.
16. See Nathan Rutstein, Healing Racism in America (Springfield, MA: Whitcomb, 1993), pp. 1B51, 121B129.
17. Ashley Montagu, Race, Science and Humanity (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand, 1963).
18. Oliver C. Cox, Caste, Class, and Race (Garden ity, NY: Doubleday, 1948), p. 402.
19. Van den Berghe, Race and Racism, p. 9.
20. Michael Banton, Race Relations (New York: Basic Books, 1967), p. 57; see also p. 58.
21. Charles Wagley and Marvin Harris, Minorities in the New World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 7.
22. Thomas F. Pettigrew, A Profile of the Negro American (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand, 1964), p. 69.
23. Bill Zimmerman and Bob Herzog, AGolf: From Sheep to Tiger, Newsday, August 13, 1997, p. A34.
24. Denene Millner, AIn Creating a Word to Describe His Racial Makup, Golfer Tiger Woods Has Also Stirred Up a Round of Controversy among Blacks, New York Daily News, June 8, 1997, p. 2.
25. Wire reports, Newsday, May 20, 1997, p. A57.
26. Joe Drape, AWoods Meets Zoeller for Lunch, The New York Times, May 21, 1997, p. B13.
27. Barbara Vobejda, AHill Reassured on Racial Checkoff Plan for Census, The Washington Post, July 26, 1997, p. A4; Art Shriberg and Carol Lloyd, AInterracial Marriages Still Taboo, Tampa Tribune, June 5, 1997, p. 1.
28. Milton M. Gordon, Assimilation in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 27.
29. Werner Sollors, The Invention of Ethnicity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
30. William M. Newman, American Pluralism (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 19.
31. W. Lloyd Warner and Leo Srole, The Social Systems of American Ethnic Groups (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1945), pp. 284B286.
32. Van den Berghe, Race and Racism, p. 10.
33. See Nathan Glazer, ABlacks and Ethnic Groups: The Difference, and the Political Difference It Makes, Social Problems 18 (Spring 1971): 447.
34. D. John Grove, The Race vs. Ethnic Debate: A Cross-National Analysis of Two Theoretical Approaches (Denver, CO: Center on International Race Relations, University of Denver, 1974); Robert Blauner, Racial Oppression in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).
35. Philomena Essed, Understanding Everyday Racism (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1991), p. 28.
36. Letter to authors from Edna Bonacich, October 1994.
37. St. Clair Drake, Black Folk Here and There (Los Angeles: UCLA Center for Afro-American Studies, 1987), 1: xxiii. See also vol. 2 of this work.
38. Frank Snowden, Color Prejudice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 3B4, 107B108.
39. Max Weber, AEthnic Groups, in Theories of Society, ed. Talcott Parsons, et al. (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1961), vol. 1, p. 306.
40. Joane Nagel, AConstructing Ethnicity: Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture, Social Problems, 43 (February 1994): 152.
41. Mary Waters, Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990).
42. Mary Waters, The Intersection of Race and Ethnicity. Paper presented at annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1991.
43. This term was suggested by Donald M. Young in American Minority Peoples (New York: Harper, 1932), p. xviii.
44. Louis Wirth, The Problem of Minority Groups, in The Science of Man in the World Crisis, ed. Linton, p. 347.
45. Clifford Goertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), p. 89.
46. Wendy Griswold, Cultures and Societies in a Changing World (Thousand Oaks, CA: PinForge Press, 1994), p. xiv.
47. Milton M. Gordon, Assimilation in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 72B73.
48. See, for example, Bonnie Mitchell and Joe Feagin, AAmerica’s Racial-Ethnic Cultures: Opposition within a Mythical Melting Pot, In Toward the Multicultural University, eds. Benjamin Bowser, Gale Auletta, and Terry Jones (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995), pp. 65B86; Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1990).
49. William G. Sumner, Folkways (New York: Mentor Books, 1960), pp. 27B28.
50. Robin M. Williams, Jr., Strangers Next Door (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1964), pp. 22B25.
51. Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice, abridged ed. (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1958), p. 7 (italics omitted); see also pp. 6B7.
52. Ibid., p. 10 (italics added).
53. Jane H. Hill, AMock Spanish: A Site for the Indexical Reproduction of Racism in American English, unpublished research paper, University of Arizona, 1995; I draw here on Joe R. Feagin, Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 119.
54. Rosina Lippi-Green, English with an Accent (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 201.
55. Hill, AMock Spanish ; Jane H. Hill, AJunk Spanish, Anglo Identity, and the Forces of Desire, paper presented at Symposium on AHispanic Language and Social Identity, Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 10-12, 1994.
56. See Thomas F. Pettigrew, Racially Separate or Together? (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971), pp. 134B135.
57. T. W. Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950), pp. 248B279.
58. Williams, Strangers Next Door, pp. 110B113; Pettigrew, Racially Separate or Together?, p. 131.
59. R. A. Schermerhorn, Comparative Ethnic Relations (New York: Random House, 1970), p. 6.
60. Herbert Blumer, ARace Prejudice as a Sense of Group Position, The Pacific Sociological Review, 1 (Spring 1959): 3B7.
61. Cox, Caste, Class, and Race, p. 400.
62. See Charles R. Lawrence, The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection, Stanford Law Review 39 (January, 1987): 317B23; Gerald D. Jaynes and Robin Williams, Jr., eds. A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1989).
63. David M. Wellman, Portraits of White Racism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).
64. David O. Sears, ASymbolic Racism, in Eliminating Racism, eds. Phyllis A. Katz and Dalmas A. Taylor (New York: Plenum, 1988), pp. 55B58; John B. McConahay, AModern Racism, in Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism, eds. John F. Dovidio and Samuel L. Gaertner (Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1986).
65. Lawrence Bobo, AGroup Conflict, Prejudice, and the Paradox of Contemporary Racial Attitudes, in Eliminating Racism, eds. Katz and Taylor, pp. 99B101.
66. Marylee Taylor and Thomas Pettigrew, APrejudice, in Encyclopedia of Sociology, eds. Edgar F. Borgatta and Marie L. Borgatta (New York: Macmillan, 1992), p. 1538.
67. Figure 1B1 and portions of this discussion are adapted from Joe R. Feagin, AAffirmative Action in an Era of Reaction, in Consultations on the Affirmative Action Statement of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982), pp. 46B48.
68. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice, p. 14.
69. Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964; originally published 1944), vol. 1, p. 52.
70. Robert K. Merton, ADiscrimination and the American Creed, in Discrimination and National Welfare, ed. Robert MacIver (New York: Harper, 1949), p. 103. See also Graham C. Kinloch, The Dynamics of Race Relations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), p. 54.
71. Faye Crosby, Stephanie Bromley, and Leonard Saxe, ARecent Unobtrusive Studies of Black and White Discrimination and Prejudice, Psychological Bulletin 87 (1980): 546B563. See also Lester Hill, APrejudice and Discrimination (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1978). This paragraph also draws on Joe R. Feagin and Douglas L. Eckberg, ADiscrimination: Motivation, Action, Effects, and Context, in Annual Review of Sociology, eds. Alex Inkeles, Neil J. Smelser, and Ralph H. Turner (Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, 1980), pp. 3B4.
72. Ninety percent of the smaller group gave an Aapprove answer to the short question. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tyrone A. Forman, A>I Am Not A Racist But . . .’: Mapping White College Students’ Racial Ideology in the U.S.A., Discourse and Society, 11(2000): 51-86.
73. Charles Hamilton and Stokely Carmichael, Black Power (New York: Random House/Vintage Books, 1967), p. 4. See also Institutional Racism in America, eds. Louis L. Knowles and Kenneth Prewitt (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1969), p. 5.
74. Anthony Downs, Racism in America and How to Combat It (Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1970), pp. 5, 7.
75. Thomas F. Pettigrew, ARacism and the Mental Health of White Americans: A Social Psychological View, in Racism and Mental Health, eds. Charles V. Willie, Bernard M. Kramer, and Bertram S. Brown (Pittsburgh, PA University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973), p. 271.
76. Essed, Understanding Everyday Racism, p. 39.
77. Joe R. Feagin, AIndirect Institutionalized Discrimination, American Politics Quarterly 5 (April 1977): 177B200.
78. Diana M. Pearce, ABlack, White, and Many Shades of Gray: Real Estate Brokers and Their Racial Practices (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1976); Diana Kendall, ASquare Pegs in Round Holes: Nontraditional Students in Medical Schools (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1980).
79. Joe R. Feagin, The Continuing Significance of Race: Antiblack Discrimination in Public Places, A American Sociological Review 56 (February 1991): 101B116.
80. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice, pp. 14B15.
81. Nijole V. Benokraitis and Joe R. Feagin, Modern Sexism, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 39B43.
82. Ed Jones, AWhat It’s Like to Be a Black Manager, Harvard Business Review 64 (May/June 1986): 84B93; Thomas Pettigrew and Joanne Martin, AShaping the Organizational Context for Black American Inclusion, Journal of Social Issues 43 (Spring 1987): 41B78; Joe R. Feagin and Melvin Sikes, Living with Racism: The Black Middle Class Experience (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1994).
83. Benokraitis and Feagin, Modern Sexism, p. 135.
84. Quoted in Itabari Njeri, AWords to Live or Die By, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, May 31, 1992, p. 23.
85. Quoted in Joe R. Feagin and Melvin P. Sikes, Living with Racism (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1994), pp. 145B147.
86. See Joe R. Feagin and Herna Vera, White Racism: The Basics (New York: Routledge, 1995), Chap. 8; Feagin and Sikes, Living with Racism.
87. See Joe R. Feagin and Aaron Porter, AAffirmative Action and African Americans: Rhetoric and Practice, Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 21 (1995): 81B104. Nijole Benokraitis and Joe R. Feagin, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity: Action, Inaction, Reaction (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1978).
88. The last two paragraphs draw on Feagin and Porter, AAffirmative Action and African Americans: Rhetoric and Practice.