Race and Ethnicity Essay
Race is a concept of human classification scheme based on visible features including eye color, skin color, the texture of the hair and other facial and bodily characteristics. Through these features, humans are ten categorized into distinct groups of population and this is enhanced by the fact that the characteristics are fully inherited.
Across the globe, debate on the topic of race has dominated for centuries. This is especially due to the resultant discrimination meted on the basis of these differences. Consequently, a lot of controversy surrounds the issue of race socially, politically but also in the scientific world.
According to many sociologists, race is more of a modern idea rather than a historical. This is based on overwhelming evidence that in ancient days physical differences mattered least. Most divisions were as a result of status, religion, language and even class.
Most controversy originates from the need to understand whether the beliefs associated with racial differences have any genetic or biological basis. Classification of races is mainly done in reference to the geographical origin of the people. The African are indigenous to the African continent: Caucasian are natives of Europe, the greater Asian represents the Mongols, Micronesians and Polynesians: Amerindian are from the American continent while the Australoid are from Australia. However, the common definition of race regroups these categories in accordance to skin color as black, white and brown. The groups described above can then fall into either of these skin color groupings (Origin of the Races, 2010, par6).
It is possible to believe that since the concept of race was a social description of genetic and biological differences then the biologists would agree with these assertions. However, this is not true due to several facts which biologists considered. First, race when defined in line with who resides in what continent is highly discontinuous as it was clear that there were different races sharing a continent. Secondly, there is continuity in genetic variations even in the socially defined race groupings.
This implies that even in people within the same race, there were distinct racial differences hence begging the question whether the socially defined race was actually a biologically unifying factor. Biologists estimate that 85% of total biological variations exist within a unitary local population. This means that the differences among a racial group such as Caucasians are much more compared to those obtained from the difference between the Caucasians and Africans (Sternberg, Elena & Kidd, 2005, p49).
In addition, biologists found out that the various races were not distinct but rather shared a single lineage as well as a single evolutionary path. Therefore there is no proven genetic value derived from the concept of race. Other scientists have declared that there is absolutely no scientific foundation linking race, intelligence and genetics.
Still, a trait such as skin color is completely independent of other traits such as eye shape, blood type, hair texture and other such differences. This means that it cannot be correct to group people using a group of features (Race the power of an illusion, 2010, par3).
What is clear to all is that all human beings in the modern day belong to the same biological sub-species referred to biologically as Homo sapiens sapiens. It has been proven that humans of different races are at least four times more biologically similar in comparison to the different types of chimpanzees which would ordinarily be seen as being looking alike.
It is clear that the original definition of race in terms of the external features of the facial formation and skin color did not capture the scientific fact which show that the genetic differences which result to these changes account to an insignificant proportion of the gene controlling the human genome.
Despite the fact that it is clear that race is not biological, it remains very real. It is still considered an important factor which gives people different levels of access to opportunities. The most visible aspect is the enormous advantages available to white people. This cuts across many sectors of human life and affects all humanity regardless of knowledge of existence.
This being the case, I find it difficult to understand the source of great social tensions across the globe based on race and ethnicity. There is enormous evidence of people being discriminated against on the basis of race. In fact countries such as the US have legislation guarding against discrimination on basis of race in different areas.
The findings define a stack reality which must be respected by all human beings. The idea of view persons of a different race as being inferior or superior is totally unfounded and goes against scientific findings.
Consequently these facts offer a source of unity for the entire humanity. Humanity should understand the need to scrap the racial boundaries not only for the sake of peace but also for fairness. Just because someone is white does not imply that he/she is closer to you than the black one. This is because it could even be true that you have more in common with the black one than the white one.
Origin of the Races, 2010. Race Facts. Available at: http://www.godandscience.org/evolution/sld099.html
Race the power of an illusion, 2010. What is race? Available at: http://www.pbs.org/race/001_WhatIsRace/001_00-home.htm
Sternberg, J., Elena L. & Kidd, K. 2005. Intelligence, Race, and Genetics. The American Psychological Association Vol. 60(1), 46–59. Web.
Ethnicity Influence on the Individual’s Position in Society Essay
People are different not only because of their appearances, habits, preferences, and behaviors but also because of their definite ethnic characteristics. It is important to note that the role of ethnicity as the significant factor of the individual’s development associated with the person’s identity can be discussed from several different perspectives which are the personal identity, the fact of belonging to a definite community, and the position in the society.
From this point, the question of ethnicity is closely connected with the concepts of identity and race. Ethnicity can be discussed with references to the national identity, and this aspect can influence the individual’s position within the certain society positively, negatively or it can have no obvious effects.
Although the fact of belonging to a definite ethnic group can influence the individual’s position in the society in a different way, it is necessary to state that ethnicity should be discussed as the influential factor only with references to its role in the personal and social interactions.
Race is the general notion in relation to which the world population is differentiated according to some biological characteristics. However, race as well as ethnicity can be discussed as predominantly social notions. According to Cornell and Hartmann, “races … are not established by some set of natural forces but are products of human perception and classification.
They are social constructs” (Cornell and Hartmann 23). In this case, ethnicity which is based on the definite culture, history, language, religion, customs, and traditions helps determine the social identities and divide people in ‘we’ and ‘others’ (Cornell and Hartmann).
Many people agree that sometimes this kind of differentiation can lead to conflicts between the representatives of various ethnic groups which are caused by stereotypes and prejudice and by the inability to accept the differences. Many modern societies are multiethnic that is why it is important to concentrate on the role of ethnicity in their development.
Ethnicity can be discussed as an individual and collective notion. Today, people are involved in a lot of social circles which can include the representatives of different ethnic groups.
The studies support the fact that members of a family often belong to one ethnic group, but when spouses are the representatives of different ethnic group the role of their ethnicity become significant for the spouses’ personal development and as the aspect of children’s upbringing.
Thus, ethnicity as the concept of an individual’s identity which develops in family does not provoke conflicts because it is taken-for-granted. The different situation can be observed while discussing ethnicity as the collective notion.
Ethnicity explicitly defines the interpersonal relations when it is associated with a kind of racial discrimination. Thus, many young African-Americans state that their race and ethnicity influence their social position. This position is often based not on their personal characteristics, but on the other people’s perceptions of them.
In this case, it is possible to speak about the invidious status of definite races and groups in the society. However, the question of race and ethnicity is not always prominent because it depends on the combination of such factors as ethnicity, gender, class, age, and religion.
If African-American respondents concentrate on the aspects of discrimination, the representatives of Latino ethnicity are inclined to agree that their ethnicity provides some social boundaries in their interactions with the other ethnic groups. However, in most cases, ethnicity is significant for them as the source of their cultural difference and identity.
Moreover, ethnicity influences their self-actualization more than their social status, and the representatives of the other ethnic groups support the viewpoint that the factor of ethnicity is influential for the individual’s finding his personal and social identity in being the part of a community and sharing the meanings.
The progress of globalization processes and the development of modern multiethnic societies result in persons’ paying less attention to ethnic differences in comparison with the situation which was typical for the parents and grandparents’ generation. The conflict of ethnicities at social settings is not as developed today as it was earlier.
Expanding their social circles, people usually do not focus on ethnic attributes and differences as the causes for conflicting or discriminating. Furthermore, today the notion of ethnicity is more significant for stating the personal identity with which social, cultural, and national identities are associated.
It is possible to conclude that today the role of ethnicity for developing social relations and taking the definite social position is rather exaggerated, and the ethnic factor is not as important as it was decades ago. However, there are examples of conflicts based on racial and ethnic misunderstandings and misconceptions which can lead to the development of prejudice in the society directed toward this or that group.
Nevertheless, ethnicity is important as well as the national identity because it is the base for the person’s cultural development, for forming his notions about freedom and boundaries. Providing the fundament for the collective identification within the community, ethnicity is also the source of the person’s self-actualization.
Cornell, Stephen and Douglas Hartmann. Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. USA: Sage Publications, 1998. Print.
Aging, Culture, Ethnicity and Family Care Essay
Bringing Culture Back Home: Aging, Ethnicity and Family Support, Jay Sokolovsky
The author conducts a literature review on the capability of the ethnic community to take care of its aging community. He aims to test the hypothesis that the ethnic community is more than able to take care of its elderly sufficiently. His reviews of the studies that have been conducted by other anthropologists indicate otherwise. In the Hispanic community, the culture was one of close family interaction and profound family loyalty. It has been perceived that the
Hispanic elderly receive the highest level of emotional family support. Sokolovsky highlights studies that have shown the levels of obligation and an expectation of kin support was declining in the Hispanic society. The elderly were not turning to family for assistance preferring to suffer in silence. The research by the author shows the limitations of the informal structures in dealing with the elderly. He proposes that the voluntary agencies should stop putting so much pressure on families to take care of their elderly kin.
Age of Wisdom: Elderly Black Women in Family and Church, Jane W. Peterson
The author sought to understand fully the role of elderly black women in the family and church. Relevant literature appreciated the role of black as wise women in the community. They helped in rearing the grandchildren and gave great advice to the adults. She participates in great decision making.
She is the organizer of the family reunions and the custodian of the family history. The author conducted her own research and spent time with an elderly woman called Lottie. Her experiences reinforced the findings of other studies on the role and importance of elderly black women.
The author spent time in the Refugee Church of God in Christ where she saw the elderly black woman regarded as highly. They are referred as mothers and deemed to be wise. This is due to their experiences in child birth and rearing, illness, death and other challenges in life. This shows the overwhelming support they will get in the family and church due to their age.
The Social and Cultural Context of Adaptive Aging by Southeast Asian Elders, Barbara W. K. Yee
The author over a period of twenty years has conducted mental health workshops. He examines the cultural transformation of the Southeast Asians in America over time from the perspective of the elderly generation. He researches on the coping and adaptive strategies used by the elderly Asians to the different culture in their current resident country.
He highlights his experiences with four elderly Asians in the article. The results showed there were cases of positive and negative adaptation. In America, the elderly advice is not treasured as the younger generation is embracing a whole new culture. These Asians were rescued from their countries by the families so they are totally dependent on their families for financial support.
They have lost their high status in terms of providing for their families and inheritance. The elderly who lived far from the family, by themselves had a tougher time adjusting to their new life. Yet in houses with teenagers there were high levels of intergenerational conflicts on culture. In some families there have been suicides, deaths and even murders in the elderly generation. Those who have successfully adapted had to learn English, compromise and adapt to the new cultures.
The Dynamics of Ethnic Identity and Bereavement among Older Widowers, Mark R. Luborsky and Robert L. Rubinstein
The authors studied the impact the ethnicity of an elderly individual assisted him or her to deal with bereavement. They found that the ethnic identity and practices in different cultures such as in the Irish, Jewish and Italian communities greatly assisted them to deal positively with the loss of a spouse in old age. It assisted them to adapt to life after the great loss.
The researchers found certain themes in adaptive and non-adaptive or destructive behavior in elderly that could assist the psychotherapists deal with the mourning elderly. They found out that culture was powerful. It connected the people biologically as they sought to know their family lineage (Luborsky, Rubinstein, 1997, p 305). Culture shaped their belief system giving them an ethnic identity. The strong link to culture and ethnicity assisted the aged to cope with life after the loss of a loved one.
Social Support Systems of Rural Older Women: A Comparison of the United States and Denmark, Dena Shenk and Kitter Christiansen
The authors sought to research on the perception of the use of formal services by elderly people in the rural areas. Case studies on elderly conducted in Minnesota and Denmark revealed that the Danish people viewed the use of formal services favorably. They saw that in choosing the formal services they could use, it gave them independence and decision making power. The Americans however viewed informal services negatively.
Formal services are perceived to be used when the individual’s informal network of family, friends and relatives have failed to support the elderly adequately. The elderly therefore tend to turn to the informal network first. They see the use of formal services as the loss of independence. The Danish links however with the formal service providers however were not as close or strong as the American links, for those who sought for formal services.
An Organization for the Elderly, by the Elderly: A Senior Center in the United States, Yohko Tsuji
The author sought to investigate how elderly people in the Lake District Senior Centre dealt with the culture. In America the elderly find themselves in a cultural dilemma since the dominant American cultural value are based on the pillars of independence, productivity and strength. The centre has gone against the societal norms that the elderly should be disengaged or isolated. The centre has shown otherwise, the day to day running of activities is carried out by the elderliness.
The board of directors and other committees that is involved in decision making is also mostly composed of the elderly. The elderly also self-finance themselves as a third of the budget is financed by the elders. During the day, there are workshops, seminars, group meetings of a recreational and educational nature. The elderly have a system of social network, exchange and support. They have learnt to assimilate the American culture in their everyday lives.
History, Community Context and the Perception of Old Age in a Rural Irish Town, Jeanette Dickerson-Putman
The author interviewed several people in Clifden and Blessington, Ireland to hear their perception of old age. The respondents viewed old age as the signal or signs of declining health and the lack of the ability to continue contributing to the society in terms of work due to frailty. The social life of the individual starts declining and even dies. Soon, the aged need a great support network in order to make it in life. The respondents noted that in old age, the people had a certain level of material security.
The government gave the old people good pension and other benefits. If the elderly did not have access to money, they would have a difficult old age. In terms of support, the family did not play a central role in taking care of the aged rather it was the close friends and confidants that took physical care of the individual. If the aged experience the loss of their spouses or had strained relationships with their children, they would receive very little emotional support.
The Irish respondents noted that in old age, one experienced contentment, peace, rest and a relaxed mind. However, at the old age, a downside was that there were individuals who experienced high levels of loneliness and bitterness. The project showed what the people considered as successful and unsuccessful aging.
Uncle Ed, Super Runner and the Fry Cook: Old Men on the Street, Jay Sokolovsky and Carl Cohen
The authors conducted a study in the New York, the Bowery, on the survival and experiences of the aging men in the streets. The society focuses on the plight of the homeless mainly in the winter however in spring, it stops being hot news. The homeless on the streets are still there and going through various hardships.
They found out that the hardships of living in the streets had the greatest impact on the old men who were more than 50 years and above. These were men who had lived on the streets for years, some even decades. They conducted case studies on three elderly homeless Their fieldwork results showed that despite the poverty experienced by the men on the streets they shared food, cash and cigarettes.
They also shared tips on how to survive on the streets. The friendship developed on the street served as a survival tactic. The old homeless people took to constant drinking to deal with the trauma of homelessness that brings desperation and hopelessness. They will continue drinking even if it endangers their health.
One Thousand Points of Blight: Old, Female and Homeless in New York City, Jay Sokolovsky
There was a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health on the experiences of homeless women on the streets of America. The author participated in the study and highlights a session he had with an elderly woman in her sixties in a women’s shelter located in the U.S Army armory. The elderly American male is able to handle the public shelters better than the female due to their experiences in jail, military and boarding houses.
The elderly female experiences a cultural and psychological trauma as she tries to adjust to the shelter environment. The conditions are rough as it is an environment where the toughest and abrasive survive. They have exhausted their kin resources. There is a perception that the number of homeless women has been decreasing however it is not true. The count has been decreasing since they shun the big shelters preferring the streets, small charity shelters and drop in shelters. The absolute count has been increasing.
Between Humans and Ghosts: The Decrepit Elderly in a Polynesian Society, Judith C. Barker
The author carries out research on the treatment that was given to elderly people in the Polynesian society. In the society, the old people were perceived to be mediators of the people between the world and the next world. They were regarded as being spiritually higher and they assumed the roles of witchdoctors and priests. The number of the elderly people was not high since the people used to die around the age of 35.
The people become mature and died quickly as they were living in very harsh environments. However, at that time they still existed non-supportive attitudes towards the people who had reached the critical area of their life. Since, they were no longer able to contribute to the society or look after themselves, they were perceived to be useless or already dead. There were reports that some of them were treated brutally.
They were seen to be a burden in the society. There was neglect of the old people who were physically impaired and it was acceptable in the society. There was a discrepancy in the status of older people in good health and the ones who were too weak to take care of themselves. Families did not call the doctors or nurses to treat the infected sores and painful joints of frail elders.
Dementia in Cultural Context: Development and Decline of a Caregiver Support Group in a Latin Population, J. Neil Henderson
The article highlights the phases that a caregiver support group went through in a Latin population. The author came up with a plan for the implementation of an Alzheimer disease support group for ethnic communities after observing that the existing groups in place had a predominantly white population.
The group was started in 1986. The group received funding from the government and the caregivers went through a thorough training on dementia and related diseases. Six months later, the aged in Latino community had joined the group and there was an aggressive system of follow up and support by the caregivers.
The group however died after two years. They could not support themselves after the project funding was cut off. The project showed the challenges faced by ethnic support groups since the project died due to lack of funds, overburdened care givers, the volunteer nature of the group and the lack of support by private and public organizations.
Aging, Disability and Ethnicity: An African-American Woman’s Story , Monika Deppen-Wood, Mark Luborsky and Jessica Scheer
The author interviewed an African-American woman to find out how she was dealing with old age and disability and whether her ethnicity aided her in any way in dealing with the challenges in old age. She relied heavily on her family members to take care of her and provide for her financially which they did. From her ethnicity she drew great courage to overcome the challenges in life. The transition stage in accepting her role as a nourisher, advisor and disciplinarian to her children was okay. She is regarded highly by her family members and considered a wise woman.
Long-Term Care and the Disabled Elderly in Urban China, Charlotte Ikels
The author conducted a research in China on the perception of dementia in old people and the long-term care of these individuals. He noted that in some Asian cultures such as India, Japan and Polynesia, dementia did not have an alarming impact on the family members.
The individual is seen as though he is cutting links with the natural world and connecting with the supernatural world. In the western world, however, the emphasis of the medical aspects of the disease made people not appreciate the way the cultural and social factors would mediate the impact of the disease.
In China, they had a culture of promoting the taking care of the elderly by the family. The children and relatives were relied on to take care of their parents and grandparents. The elderly parents lived close to the children’s residence. Overall the elders who were disabled were well taken care in the Chinese culture.
Liminality in an American Nursing Home: The Endless Transition, Renee Rose Shield
The author conducted a study in an American nursing home to investigate the experiences of the old people in the nursing homes. She observed the residents and the staff as they conducted their daily activities. She had the perception that the elderly in the nursing home were a close knit community sharing jokes and stories on the events in their lives.
They would tell each other of the engagements, weddings and birth experiences in their life. However she discovered it was not so. Life in the nursing home was marked by loneliness and dependencies. It was a solitary transition for the elderly.
The community did not support and rally around them unlike other stages in life. The residents were provided with the best medical and nursing care however they still faced the last days of their lives with inadequate emotional support, isolated from the world. She found that the society was unwilling to involve the elderly in opportunities to contribute to society, treating them like children. The society, fearful of death, is quick to transfer the care of the elderly to an institution instead of providing the warmth and support of a community.
Understanding Life Backwards, Joel Savishinsky
The author interviewed individuals who had just retired in order to find out how they were adjusting to life after retirement. He found out that the identities that individuals had before retirement affected their attitudes to retirement and their self esteem.
These identities affected the rate at which the individual would adjust to life after retirement. Even though the study revealed that there was no great impact of gender differences on the rate of adjustment, the individual’s identity and social background influenced the adjustment rate differently in the men and women.
On review of the mentioned articles, it is clear there is a great need in most societies to come up with better structures both in the informal and formal structures to take care of the elderly. The old people people play an important role as Jane Peterson in her article. They represent the wise in the community who are able to advise the younger generations on handling the bittersweet experiences in life. It is not good for family members to neglect taking care of them.
The aged experience high levels of loneliness, depression and isolation as they try to adjust to this new phase in their life where they have to be taken care of and depend financially on their children. The society should especially follow up on the homeless who are elderly. They have exhausted their kin resources and in their age cannot handle the harsh difficulties of life in the streets.
Luborsky, M & Rubinstein, R(1997) The Dynamics of Ethnic Identity and Bereavement among Older Widowers. In The Cultural Context of Aging: Worldwide Perspectives, edited by Jay Solovosky. 2nd Edition. Westport, Corn: Bergin and Garvey.
Race, Ethnicity and Crime Research Paper
Racism and ethnicity are one of the social evils that pose a big danger to the society. These are the main factors that have been contributing to crime in the contemporary world. Racial discrimination in America has a significant implication on crime in the region. Most of the racism in America has been between the whites against the blacks and vice versa. There are a number of incidences that has resulted into crime in the United States.
In many cases, most criminal activities in the United States are characterized by racism. Racism has resulted in a number of crimes, which has threatened security and peaceful co-existence among the people. There are a number of opposing issues concerning racism and disparity that has led to complication in the discussion of the issue of racism in the Criminal Justice System. For instance, there are economic differences among the people that have led to crime in the United States.
It is possible to have people from different race on low income group and also on the high income groups. The larger the differences between the poor and the rich, the high are the chances of crime. We also have differences in terms of biological heredity, psychological and other factors that may influence ones tendency to engage in crimes.
Racial differences have also led to crime in the United States. This can be explained through the discrimination that the vice has cultivated among the people. For instance, the idea that members of a certain group like the African Americans are more likely to commit a certain crime can lead to difficulties in fighting the vice. Similarly, the fact that the reason for doing so is psychological can also lead to serious difficulties.
This is because they tend to propose the inability of the public policy to solve these problems. This is unlike the social explanations where an individual can change through the public policy. From previous statistics, the results showed that the rate of arrests for the African Americans were higher than those in the other Americans (Anonymous, 2011).
There are several historical incidences that can clearly illustrate the issue of racism in America. One of this was the racism against African Americans through the institution of slavery. During this period, African Americans were enslaved and treated like property (Randall, 1998). This incident led to undermining and persistent racism against Africans.
Another incident in the history that can be used to demonstrate racism in America took place after the Mexican- American War in 1948 (Greenhaus and Parasuraman, 1990). During the period, Zoot Suit Riots clearly demonstrated the racism against Latinos. The Latin Americans were usually composed of people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. This made them more prone to racism.
Recently, the issue of racism has raised major concerns in the study of the criminal justice. In America, there are a significant difference between the number of the black Americans and the white Americans arrested and prosecuted for various crimes. This has raised concerns on the criminal justice practices.
There are a number of areas that differ in terms of races, a thing that may lead to differences in the criminal justice. One of these differences is the level of unemployment. Through racial discrimination, there is a significant difference in the level of unemployment in different racial groups. When the level of unemployment is high, the level of poverty is also high and therefore there are high chances of committing crimes. For instance, unemployed person may engage in stealing due to lack of livelihood.
Race may also lead to differences in political orientation. This leads to differences in the views among the people from different races. In some cases, some members from a certain group may feel that they are not properly represented. In such a situation, differing views may lead people to engage in criminal activities.
The issue of the race and crime can easily be understood through the analysis of the criminal etiology or the breaking of law. Breaking of the law can either be explained from individual or social perspectives. From the individual perspective, the crime is caused by the characteristics that an individual possess. These include heredity defects, intelligence, and body type among others (Heaven and Hudson, 2011). On the other hand, crime is seen to be caused by social or psychological reasons.
In my opinion, I believe that racism is of great importance in the criminal justice. This is because it has helped in explaining the patterns of crime in the society. Most of the criminal activities in the United States are rooted in the issues related to race. As already noted, previous statistics have revealed that certain groups of people in America are more likely to commit crime than others.
It is therefore necessary to study in terms of race differences. People from a certain race may have varying social psychological differences. This can significantly influence the conduct of individuals. For instance, there are some tendencies that are common in a particular racial group but not prevalent in others.
The concept of race has a significant implication on my future career as a police officer. To begin with, this may affect me through prejudice. As already seen, the past record has clearly revealed that there is more proportionate cases of criminals arrested and prosecuted from one racial group than the other (Lafree and Russell, 1993).
For instance, the past data has revealed that there are more cases of the African Americans engaged in crime. This may lead to a temptation of prejudice or bias in the process of executing duties. Due to intensification of the issue of racism in the society, I may also face the problem of undermining others. The citizens from other racial groups may be tempted to think that I am biased towards my race.
Another way through which race can affect my future profession is through career advancement. In most cases, racism has been integrated in the work place. For instance, the senior managers are tempted to promote only those employees from their racial group. Racism may therefore affect me in my career as a police officer.
In summary, race and ethnicity has a significant implication on America’s criminal justice system. Racial differences have significantly affected the crime patterns among the people. For instance, there are more reported cases of criminals from a certain group arrested and prosecuted in court. This can be explained from both the personal and the social perspective. Individual’s personal differences can increase the possibility of engaging in a certain form of crime. Social and psychological factors can also increase the chances of engaging in crime.
Anonymous. (2011). Race and Ethnicity – Race in U.S. Legal History, Native Americans, Black Americans and Crime, Policing and Minorities.
Greenhaus, J. and Parasuraman, S. (1990). Effects of race on organizational experiences, job performance evaluations, and career outcomes. Azcademy of Management Journal. 1990, Vol. 1, pp. 64-86.
Heaven, O. and Hudson, B. (2011). ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Crime. Web.
Lafree, G. and Russell, K.K. (1993). The Argument for Studying Race and Crime. Journal of Criminal Justice Education. 4, 273-289.
Randall, K. (1998). Race, Crime, and the Law. New York: Vintage Books.
Ethnicity Problems in United States Essay
The United States is a host to many varied cultures and is considered the world’s super power with developments that are envied all over the globe. The country’s democracy has undergone various changes over the years. It has also made several steps towards peace, and equity, among other principles of its foundation. However, this was not achieved in a day; in fact, it took several decades of civil wars and conflicts, among other problems to realize the American dream.
The country boasts of varied culture that arises from immigration. Every year, it receives people from other countries as immigrants. This has improved its credibility in the world. Some of the ethnicities that live in the United States include, Native Americans, African Americans, Chicanos, Asian Americans, among others. These ethnicities did not find it easy settling in the country.
They went through various obstacles such as discrimination, among others. This led to conflicts that spurred acts of atrocities. The strategies employed to fight against racial discrimination included political participation, armed resistance, legal system, and economic participation, among others. This paper will therefore explore each of these ethnicities, their most effective along with the least effective strategies employed in fighting against racial discrimination, as well as the evidence (Baugh 133-146).
These were indigenous people found in North America by the European colonialists. They lived in areas such as Alaska, Hawaii, among others parts. The community was composed of various tribes, ethnic groups and States. In most cases, these communities are referred to as Indians or American Indians.
The largest of these tribes included Apache, Iroquois, Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, among others. In the last 500 years, the community encountered discrimination and wars with European populations. These were mainly because they had encroached on their Native lands and also tried to displace them. In the process, most were killed; some assimilated, and others removed. In the 19th century, the communities were granted citizenship after several treaties and wars.
During United States’ fight, for independence against British, Native Americans sided with the latter hoping that they would help them avoid land seizure. This later backfired as the British handed over their land to Europeans. They also sided with Southern States during the civil war. George Washington later helped in restoring them as citizens with rights to vote even though they were not given the opportunity to govern themselves (Colin 34).
These are black Americans who were largely from the African continent during slavery. They were also known as American Negroes. It is quite important to note that this term is usually employed when refereeing to people with African ancestry (sub Saharan Africa). The majority of these communities were descendants of victims and survivors of slavery era.
They faced several problems as they fought for freedom, these included slavery, racial segregation, reconstruction and civil rights movement, among others. This community forms the second largest racial community in United States, only second to Whites. They formed part of the American military conflicts during civil wars. In addition, the community has been active in politics ranging from Martin Luther to Rice and the country’s current president Obama, among others (Baugh 133-146).
These are United States citizens of Mexican descent. This term was used widely during Mexican movements and was aimed at fighting against racism in the 1960s. The community is said to have lived in the United States as early as 1848, even though they are sometimes considered as the latest of immigrants, to arrive.
This is mainly because some of them crossed over and joined with indigenous American Mexicans. The war against mainstream whites between 1846 and1848 in New Mexico among other parts, left many casualties on Mexicans and attributed to their bitterness towards federal government. Their movement was also formed to help fight for affirmative action, immigration rights, globalization, among other issues (Toro 1).
These are American citizens with origins from peoples of Asia. They were first referred to as Orientals and this displeased them as they considered it a colonialist term. In this regard, they adopted the term Asian Americans, as a way of identification. They benefited from elimination of the Hart-Celler Act, which had restricted them from moving into the United States.
This development led to increased influx from Asia. Asian Americans are now estimated to have the highest attainment of education in United States. Moreover, they also form some of the best-paid employees in the country. Their fight against racial discrimination was also difficult as they fought against acts instituted to exclude them. These included among others, Asian as well as Chinese exclusion acts (History World International 1).
Areas in which they have been most effective when fighting against racial discrimination
These communities faced several challenges in their quest for equality and citizenship as well as acceptance in the American society by mainstream whites. This was achieved through many ways that included political participation, armed resistance, legal system, and economic participation, among others.
Native Americans fought for their rights to own ancestral land in the United States. However, this failed as they lost the battle to retain that land. In this regard, the most effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through political participation.
African Americans have had a long history of civil rights activists, conflicts as well as politics. In this regard, the most effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through political participation.
The Chicanos fought to govern themselves but lost to the federal government. In this regard, the most effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through political participation.
Most Asian communities immigrated for jobs in the 19th century. This helped empower them economically. In this regard, the most effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through economic participation.
Areas in which they have been least effective when fighting against racial discrimination
These communities used various means to fight against racial discrimination, some of which caused many casualties and was least effective. These were:
Native Americans had their own culture, which was anti-western. Therefore, in their quest for recognition, they fought against mainstream whites and lost. This was therefore the least effective method of fighting against racial discrimination.
African American used several means to fight for freedom and racial discrimination. The least effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through legal system.
Chicanos believed that they had the right to govern themselves; the least effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through armed resistance.
Asian Americans came as laborers at the coast. The least effective way of fighting against racial discrimination was through the legal system.
Throughout the history of fight against racial discrimination, various occurrences ranging from conflicts to political participation proved to be either the least or most effective way of fighting racism. These were as follows:
These were the indigenous people found in North America by the European colonialists. They suffered from racial discrimination in the 1700s when slavery was a racial caste. This led to various wars in response to this, as they tried to protect their land and culture. Infightings also led to their downfall as some groups were assimilated.
This proves why use of armed resistance was the least effective. On the other hand, their ways of governing was widely adopted by United States Presidents like Benjamin Franklin, among others. In addition, wider political participation allowed them to reduce racial discrimination through George Washington. Political participation was therefore the most effective (Colin 34).
These black Americans were largely from the African continent during slavery. They faced several problems as they fought for freedom, these included slavery, racial segregation, reconstruction and civil rights movement, among others. Like Native Americans, the law was against freedom to African Americans who were racial castes.
The least effective method was through legal system since their position as slaves was in law until reconstruction period and civil right s movements. The most effective way was through political participation, which has enabled them to improve in leadership (Baugh 133-146).
This community lived in the United States as early as 1848, even though they are sometimes considered as the latest immigrants. This is mainly because some of them crossed over and joined with indigenous American Mexicans.
Their least effective method of fighting racism was through armed resistance as they were excluded and displaced from their land. This was also witnessed in Texas. On the other hand, their most effective method was through political participation in the Chicano movement that kept pushing for equality since 1960s (Toro 1).
The Asian community benefited from the elimination of Hart-Celler Act, which had restricted immigrations from Asia. This led to more influx of Asians. Currently they are estimated to have the highest attainment of education in United States.
Their attempts to mitigate racism through legal system were least effective as the acts defended Asian and Chinese exclusion (Wong 25). The most effective method of mitigating racial discrimination was through economic participation, which made them superior in education and pay (History World International 1).
United States is a home to various cultures of the world. This is due to influx of different communities, which started over 500 years ago. Among the communities that live in United States include, Native Americans, African Americans, Chicanos, Asian Americans, among others. These communities did not find it easy settling in the country. They went through various racial subjections in the hands of mainstream whites. This led to several conflicts that caused high numbers of casualties.
The strategies employed in fighting against racial discrimination included political participation, armed resistance, legal system, and economic participation, among others. Most of these communities realized their dreams through political and economic participation, while those that opted for armed resistance lost in many occasions as was seen in Native Americans and Chicanos, as well as African Americans (Toro 1).
Baugh, John. “The Politicization of Changing Terms of Self Reference among American Slave Descendants”. American Speech. Vol. 66, No. 2, 1991, pp. 133-146.
Colin, Calloway. “Native Americans First View Whites from the Shore”. American Heritage. Spring 2009.
History World International. “ASIAN AMERICANS”. World History center. 19.07.2011. Web.
Toro, Luis. “Chicanos as a Racialized Minority”. The University of Dayton School of Law. 31.12.2010. Web.
Wong, Sau-ling. “Asian America.Net: Essays in Ethnicity.” Nationalism and Cyberspace. Routledge University Press.
Inequality in Race, Religion, and Ethnicity Essay
Race, religion, and ethnicity gained importance with growing importance of issues related to immigration, religion, and ethnicity. These have also increased the incidence of religion and race related violence and terrorism. Post 9/11 these issues have gained predominance in American mind due to the strong identity among Americans based on race, religion, and ethnicity.
Understanding inequality based on ethnicity, race, and religion has gained paramount importance in social studies today. The present paper studies three articles based on race, religion, and ethnicity. It studies what these articles have to say about these three impetuses of inequality.
The first article reviewed is based on white ethnicity in America (Torkelson & Hartmann, 2010). This study is an empirical research based on white ethnicity in America in twenty first century. This research explores the impact of white ethnicity with self-identity among white Americans, degree of association with the idea of whiteness or color in America, and the impact ethnic identity has on political opinion of the people. The researchers pose a few questions:
- “How ethnic is white America today?”
- “What distinguishes whites who profess an ethnic identity from other whites?”
- How is white ethnic identity relates to political attitudes, racial ideologies, and racial identity salience?” (Torkelson & Hartmann, 2010, pp. 1315-6)
A questionnaire survey was conducted to gauge racial and ethnic identification among white Americans. The research findings show that only 14 percent of the white population in America has an ethnic identity, which is greater among non-whites (Torkelson & Hartmann, 2010). There is a high awareness of racial identities among whites, which shows a strong connection between white ethnicity and white racial identity.
The second article reviewed is a research on the gap of quality of life based on black and white racial and ethnic divide in America (Coverdill, Lopez, & Petrie, 2011). This article researches the existence of inequality in the quality of life among whites and non-whites including blacks and Hispanics.
The data used for the research is a trend data from General Social Surveys to measure quality of life in the US. the research findings suggests that there is a declining trend in the quality of life gap among whites and blacks but still there exists significant difference. The study was further extended for understanding the gap with “other races” i.e. Asians and Latinos. The result suggests that “other races” have a higher gap in quality of life measure compared to whites.
With a higher rate of immigration in America, there has been a noted increase in hate crimes against immigrants of other racial, ethnic, and religious origin in the country. The third article explores the rising hate crimes against immigrants of other religious and racial origin in America (Sherr & Montesino, 2009). Hate crimes are a source of inequality in social strata. The article explores the increase in the number of hate crimes in America in name of religious inclinations especially after the 9/11 attack.
Hate crimes has increased against specific ethnicities and regions such as Arabs, Asians, and Latinos and against Muslims. The research article describes the hate crimes occurring in America against Muslims, Arabs, Latinos, and South Asians. The article describes the rising number of hate crimes and racial slurs against people or other ethnic or religious background in America. The incidents demonstrate a debate on US as the melting pot for all religions and races.
The three articles reviewed demonstrates that race, ethnic, and religion based inequality is rampant in America. This affects quality of life and identity among Americans. Hate crimes are another off shoot of the racial and religious overtones in identity creation and inequality ingrained in society.
Coverdill, J. E., Lopez, C. A., & Petrie, M. A. (2011). Race, Ethnicity and the Quality of Life in America, 1972-2008. Social Forces, 889(3) , 783-806.
Sherr, M., & Montesino, M. (2009). Hate crime based on ethnicity and religion: A description of the phenomenon in the United States since 2000. The Internaitonal Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities, and Nations, 9(4) , 23-37.
Torkelson, J., & Hartmann, D. (2010). White ethnicity in twenty-first-century America: findings from a new national survey. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33(8) , 1310-1331.
Immigrants, Their Ethnicity and Culture Essay
People, who come to a foreign country, may have different perceptions of their ethnicity, language, religion and culture. There are three concepts that are closely related to their experiences, namely assimilation, ethnic pluralism, and transnationalism. These terms describe the way in which people can integrate themselves into a different society.
This is why one should look at the main similarities and distinctions between these terms. Moreover, it is important to determine which of these approaches is most suitable for immigrants and their families. These are the main issues that should be addressed.
Such a notion as assimilation means that an individual fully adopts the language, cultural values, and traditions of the host society. Moreover, this person can even associate oneself with the ethnic group that is dominant in the host society. These are the main aspects of assimilation.
For a long time, it was believed that this process is inevitable for every person who chooses to settle in a foreign country. The problem is that cultural assimilation can result in stress or even mental problems. This is one the main problems that should be taken into account. This is why many societies can reject the necessity for assimilation.
There is a different view on the experiences of immigrants. In this case, one can speak about the idea of cultural and ethnic pluralism. This concept means that people can retain some of their cultural values, religion, customs, and so forth. In other words, this person does not have to assimilate completely into the society.
It seems that the second approach is more beneficial for immigrants. The thing is that many of them are adult people and it is more difficult for them to learn a language that may be new to them. Moreover, they do not easily adjust to new norms or values. The children of these people can completely integrate into a new society, but one cannot say the same thing about parents. Thus, unlike assimilation, pluralism gives more freedom to an immigrant and his/her family.
Finally, one should remember about such a notion as transnationalism which is different from assimilation and pluralism. This term can be defined as the ability of a person to maintain contact with ones friends or relatives in his/her home country. So, this person is not alienated from ones cultural legacy. This is another way in which immigrants can interact with different cultures.
Overall, it is easier for these people to adapt to a new culture, if they are not isolated from the culture of their ancestors. Thus, transnationalism can be seen as a positive force for people who choose to live in a foreign country due to some reasons. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that immigrants do not always have this opportunity. In some cases, they are completely isolated from their home country.
It seems that pluralism can be the best way for immigrants to adapt to a different country, its language, or culture. First of all, people, who can retain their culture, feel that their values, language, or norms are valued or at least tolerated by the host society. Moreover, they can better interact with local people, if their language, religion or culture is not perceived with hostility. These are the main advantages of ethnic and cultural pluralism.
Impact of race and ethnicity in American history Essay
The contemporary society of the United States is a product of five centuries of immigration and the subsistence of aboriginals. The ancient European occupation of the lands adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in the 1800s triggered forcible resettlement of some of Native American communities.
This was a race and ethnicity struggle that took about 300 years to settle. Scores of immigrants streamed to the country after the first European migrants and survived, albeit through generations, past the twentieth century. Some people preferred to live in the place; others were forced to settle there.
The origin of major populations that moved into the United States were the whites who originated from Europe. Shortly after, slaves of black decent were forced into the country from African regions that boarded the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1870s and 1890s, east European, Latinos, and Asian communities had joined the mainstream whites. These developments indicate how race and ethnicity defines the history of the United States.
According to Showalter (89) white Anglo-Saxons were the mainstream population during the American Revolution of 1775 to 1783; however, this welcomed a mix of races to a great extent. The expressions race and ethnicity connote the multiplicity of the American society that today is one of the most diverse in the world.
The contemporary American society of different races manifest in physical looks, such as the hair, feel, and shape of the eye as well color of the skin has transformed to enjoy almost similar cultural practices. On leadership issues, conventionally, the most influential offices in the United States were occupied by the mainstream whites.
The judiciary, for example was filled to the brim with juries, attorneys, and prosecutors, with white decency. Most minority communities had to wait until the mid twentieth century to be represented in influential positions. In view of this, race and ethnicity is an important aspect of the US history that defines how the society treated racial minority groups in the country.
Based on the population census held in 2000, almost 30 percent of the entire population in the country believed they fall under minority groups (Dan, Todd, and Lan, 331-341). This rising racial diversity of the United States population, triggered debate on whether the country’s mainstream population was ready to exercise tolerance and allow minority groups into influential positions in the society.
Regardless of the hundreds of years that different communities have stayed in the country, ethnic origin and ancestral roots have remained significant to individuals seeking public offices in the US. Though ethnicity is not a logical expression, it remains an imperative social tool that influences education, earnings, politics, and criminal inquiries in the US.
An individual’s race is recorded on different documents issued by the government. Such documents include official document for recording births, driver’s licenses, student identification, and crime records. Although, this information is vital, it is not beyond reproach since many American citizens are half cast (Dan, Todd, and Lan, 331-341). Nonetheless, race and ethnicity issues are observed when one applies for the US citizenship.
The issue of race and ethnicity is intertwined with the history of the United States for far too long, because it is easy to separate social and or political historical developments without considering race and ethnicity as imperative variables. (Dan, Todd, and Lan, (337-340) believe that whereas the notion behind the importance of ethnicity and descent is an axiom, it is profoundly highlighted, with respect to the population segments involved, their associations within the community, and the essence of the distinctions that differentiate them in relation to often racially affected ascriptive qualities.
This explains why certain why for one to run for president in the US, he or she must show proof of having been born in the country.
Documentaries also reinforce the contribution of race and ethnicity in defining American history. For instance, ‘I Am A Man’ I is a documentary of Martin Luther King Jr., available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1xHuYyp4eI. The video illustrates Memphis Sanitation strike that was addressed by the African American civil rights icon.
In the film, blacks were deliberately subjected to squalid living conditions, otherwise not the case with the mainstream American whites, during the mid 20th century. The Montgomery Bus Boycott available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHFPH79Iaoo, also illustrates the hatred which was targeted at the minority races, especially blacks, in the United States during 1950s.
The documentary illustrates how the rights of blacks were infringed on, in regard to social facilities and services such as public transport. But today, the American society has evolved to become more tolerant to the minority groups in the country, by welcoming the election of the first Black American president. President Obama was inaugurated into office in early 2009, an event that was captured on a documentary that is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjnygQ02aW4
Showalter (89) suggests ethnicity is composed of the affiliation of a particular ancestral origin of a community to the organization of the entire society. In the United States, the separation of those usually grouped in one class as minority groups, in regard to the historical significance of status and the place taken in the society, is a major factor that has influenced acculturation, coexistence, and social relations within the society.
Racial and ethnic tolerance in the United States has led to historic transformation of the society from an ancient relic that infringed on the rights of the minority groups to a new one that is built on the qualified gains of the social tolerance and equal opportunity for all.
Dan, Todd, and Lan (333-337) avers racial profiling formed an imperative part of the US history, especially during the sunset years of the twentieth century. The act raised the divide between the mainstream whites and the minority groups, three decades after blacks and other minority communities who had been discriminated against, benefitted from civil rights legislations. Law enforcers, for instance, would flag down stop a motorist or stop a reveler because of the suspect’s race or ethnicity.
To some extent, racial bias found its way into law enforcement, leading policing agencies to focus more on particular suspicious actions or situations likely to result to criminal behavior or trace into crimes that had been committed before the encounter. Statistics indicate that males from minority communities bore the brunt of skewed policing in the United States during the mid 20th century, especially the brutal crackdown of the rallies organized by the black activists (Showalter 89)
Generally, race and ethnicity have played a pivotal role in defining the historical course of the United States society. Long time ago, members from minority groups believed to be immigrants from other countries were referred to as aliens, hence denied registration as official citizens of the country.
The non-whites also suffered multiple infringements on their human rights; they were denied the right to select leaders of their choice, refused to own property, confined in certain neighborhoods with poor social and economic resources, denied better education and employment opportunities and gagged.
The mainstream whites on the other hand enjoyed unfettered freedom of participating in society leadership roles, picking the leaders, enjoying better social and economic resources and expressing themselves without fear. But with time, the United States society has developed to accommodate the once ‘aliens’, by building social and economic institutions for all regardless of race or ethnicity. Education, right to suffrage and equal opportunity for job application and recruitment programs have become the culture of the society.
Dan, Yongjun, Todd, Reuse, and Lan, William. Consensus And Difference: American Students’ Perspectives On The National History. Education, 131.2 (2010): 331- 341.
Showalter, E. Dennis. Not Just Black and White. Multicultural Review, 14.1 (2005): 89.
Framing ethnicity in the mass media Essay
Ethnicity is one of the most controversial phenomena in the mass media. It is highlighted in most cases owing to the fact that it has a direct effect on people’s lives. This issue is portrayed in a number of reality shows, one of them is Jersey shore. This is a reality show revolving around the lives of eight roommates who are having a summer holiday in New Jersey, that is, along the Jersey shore.
The characters in this show come from different backgrounds, but most of them have Italian blood. Cortese for example, is an Italian American, Poliizzi or “Snooki” is Chilean though brought up by an Italian family while Ortiz-Magro is Puerto Rican – American. From this, the issue of ethnicity clearly emerges especially with the way the public responds to this production.
After being released, Jersey shore was received with a mixture of reactions especially from the Italian and Italian -American communities. This owes to the terms that have been used in the media to describe some of the members. A good example of this is the term Guido which is being used to repeatedly describe some of the players in the house.
This word is slang used in the past to refer to the low and middle class Italian Americans who were mostly stereotyped to be violent, and of thuggish character. Using this term in the show according to the public is demeaning to these concerned communities.
The main issue that develops the theme of ethnicity in Jersey shore is the fact that all the players or a majority of them come from the same ethnic community or a combination thereof. Among the players, those who are not purely Italian are half Italian or related to Italians in one way or another.
The public therefore, tends to relate the events in the show with this particular ethnic community; hence, causing a round of disapproval from the members of the community. The use of the terms Guidos and Guidettes to describe the male and female participants respectively makes this worse, since in real life scenarios, these terms are associated with the harsh and crime related lives of the lower class Italians.
In fact, prior to its release, UNICO had sent out a written request for the show to be cancelled alleging that it played a huge role in encouraging ethnic discriminations (Skrentny, 2008). They were arguing that this show would play a big role in encouraging the stereotype that had already been put across indicating Italians and American- Italians were involved in most of the criminal activities.
Such media representations can be considered to be ethnic stereotypes, first because they do not reflect real life. Most of these shows have a certain extent of stereotypical representation in the sense that they do not reflect the events that happen in real life.
The occurrences therein are stage managed, meaning that the characters are not portraying their true personalities. Owing to the power of the media, however, most people tend to believe what they watch on the television; hence creating a great controversy between a reality and a stereotype.
From this therefore, we can deduce that the ideas brought up in this show are more of misunderstood stereotypes. During production, the idea was not to bring out the characteristics of the Italians and Italian- Americans. However due to the extent to which the issue of ethnicity is considered a problem, the public seems to be analyzing the media along ethnic lines (Cornell and Douglas, 1998).
The mass media have been put on question in many other cases for creating such stereotypes for the Italian and Italian- American communities. They assert that the media has a way of sidelining them and portraying the negative side of their community while laying no emphasis on their good side. There are allegations that many other shows and programs have been produced indicating the negative side of people from the Italian origin.
This is however not true, since for example, taking the case of Jersey Shore, there are casts who have nothing to do with the Italian race. These are however overlooked alongside their roles and generalized in the rest of the members. The main idea behind using this perspective to produce the show was to create a theme that would go hand in hand with the terminologies being adopted. According to the producers, there was no intention of creating any kind of ethnic stereotype.
In one way or another, the show was even trying to bring out the fact that Italians have the same kind of lifestyles with the whites; hence annulling the ethnicity stereotypes. Italians and Italian -American activists, however, are not convinced since they think the show was a way of making them appear to be the bad people in the society. This is however not the case and the contrary could be true in that media personalities have been trying to use the power of the media to eliminate the issue of ethnic stereotypes.
Cornell, Stephen E, and Douglas Hartmann. Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Pine Forge Press, 1998. Print.
Skrentny, John. “Culture and Race/ethnicity: Bolder, Deeper, and Broader.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 619.1 (2008): 59-77. Print. Bottom of Form
The Individual and Ethnicity Choice Research Paper
Recent analysis of international affairs paints the picture that the world is embroiled in age-old ethnic conflicts. Proponents of this notion contend that people from different ethnic groups harbor deep hatred for one another, and are only restrained by modern civilizations.
They predict that, in the future, either the modern states will break up into smaller ethnic groupings or great civilizations will rise against each other (Gurr 43). However, the general agreement is that modern regional conflicts can be attributed to cultural differences and affective ties of tribal groupings.
This notion does not foresee a situation where diverse people can coexist. In fact, most ethnic conflicts do not result from ethnic diversity; rather, these conflicts are often fueled by the struggle for power and scarce resources such as land. This implies that in talking about ethnic conflicts, the assumption that ethnic identities are age-old and unchanging may be misleading.
In other words, contrary to this assumption, ethnicity or race is a creation of contemporary politics that denies some people opportunities and gives others access to resources and power (Gurr 44). Cultural or religious differences have not, by themselves, resulted in ethnic conflict. Moreover, in modern times, culturally different people have learned one another’s cultural behaviors and have even intermarried, hence blurring contrasts between ethnic groupings.
Contemporary Situation of Ethnic Conflicts
In modern times, there is a common notion that ethnicity is age-old and often presents itself as ethnocentricism particularly in governance. In Eastern Europe, the current conflicts portray various ethnic groups as having strong nationalistic tendencies, which can only be suppressed by an autocratic government.
In contrast, in the Western world, the American ‘melting pot’ suggests ethnicities are fast disintegrating while Eastern ethnicities must be suppressed by the autocratic leadership (Gurr 118). In former Yugoslavia, the Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs are different ethnic groupings, which, historically clashed from time to time over resources. However, due to intermarriages, the differences between these currently warring communities are actually so small.
The Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs all speak Italian language and have coexisted in peace for a long time. Although these ethnic groups profess different religions-Serbs being mainly Orthodox, Croats being Roman Catholic and Bosnians being predominantly Muslim-still, each ethnic group comprises of considerable numbers of each religion. This, coupled with high rates of intermarriages, has blurred the differences between these groups.
Therefore, it is clear that the cause of the current Balkan wars is not fueled by ancient religious and ethnic differences, but rather by the contemporary politics, which rally individuals around nationalistic ideologies. In this regard, ‘ethnicity’ is packaged as ‘nationalism’ in the pretext of gaining access to resources, land, and power.
The Serb and Croat leaders advocated for a right to self-rule in nation states. Serbs on their part wanted to expand outwards and include other ethnic groups (Horowitz 77). Croats on the other hand held a different nationalistic ideology, which promised to keep out non-Croats. In this view, different nationalistic ideologies are factors that fuelled the massacre of Serbs during the Second World War and in the 1990s.
The Effect of Colonialism
The origin of ethnic conflict in Eastern Europe is different from that of Africa. African violence is not fueled by conflicting ideologies, but rather by ancient warfare between tribes that was propagated by the colonial powers (Horowitz 51).
Ethnic conflict in Africa can be defined by four factors, namely; membership ties in a group, prejudice towards non-members, fear, and expectations about resource allocation. Ethnicities produce affection for in-group members, where the members prefer their “own” and exclude or discriminate against non-members (Gurr 87). Often, discrimination arises because of these strong in-group ties and loyalty.
Usually, people have a positive social relationship with in-group members. A close relationship exists between the positive feelings between co-ethnics and the prejudice or fear for ethnic strangers. According to Horowitz, “contemporary politics breed fear and prejudice, which ultimately determine political behavior,” (91).
In contemporary politics, politicians often use fear and prejudice against ‘out groups’ when seeking support from members of their race or tribe. In the United States, whites predominantly hold a social aversion to participation of blacks in mainstream politics. This stems from learned racist practices in the south. Past voting trends in the US, white voting behavior reflect an aversion towards blacks.
In the African case, ethnic conflict, in the political perspective, is a product of the struggle over power and resources. True, in earlier decades, Africans identified themselves with their ethnic identity, or lineage. However, as people migrate to far places seeking for employment and trade opportunities; ethnic or racial identity has become less important (American Anthropological Association Par. 8).
Now, the conflict is rarely caused by ethnic differences but a struggle for scarce resources such as land, water and pastoral land. The colonial system determined that each person belonged to a particular ethnic identity within the colony. This meant that each had to belong or show loyalty to a particular African group.
This was not restricted to Africa: in India, the British Empire promoted the Hindu nationalism where people identified themselves as either Hindu or Sikh. This later transformed to distinct ‘ethnic groups’ after independence. Other cases include the Maronites in Lebanon, Moluccans in Dutch and Karens in Burma where colonial states created groupings, which they christened as either ethnic or religious groups.
Nevertheless, in modern times, the need for political autonomy, resources, jobs, and better livelihoods has become the new frontier for ethnic conflicts. Thus, age-old tribal loyalties have become less significant as people strive to attain better socioeconomic status.
Ethnic Diversity and Conflict
It is often assumed that ethnic diversity is the cause of ethnic conflict and political instability. To the contrary, ethnic diversity has less to do with tribal or racial conflicts. In ethnically diverse countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan, less inter-ethnic conflicts have been experienced compared to countries such as Somalia, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda that are relatively less ethnically diverse (Glenny 78).
This indicates that ethnic diversity does not breed ethnic conflicts, but rather relationships of people relative to power that cause local conflicts. A good example is Indonesia. Indonesia is known for its suppression of political activism in East Timor (Glenny 85). This cannot be classified as an ethnic conflict, as the country has over three hundred ethnic groupings with distinct language and religion. In fact, the recent ethnic conflict has much to do with the struggle for control of local resources, specifically oil and gas resources.
Ethnic diversity can sometimes affect national integration in most nation states. However, some countries often succeed in fostering national integration while others fail. It all depends on the social cohesion policies implemented.
In countries such as Rwanda and Burundi, where one ethnic group has been dominating over the others, avoiding ethnic conflicts requires concerted efforts to enhance national healing and reconciliation (Horowitz 86). Often systems where one or two major groups polarize regional politics are less stable compared to systems where smaller groups have an equal chance to participate in national politics.
An example is Malaysia where politicians established an all-inclusive political coalition that strengthened ties between diverse ethnic groupings, i.e. the Chinese communities and Malay people. In contrast, in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese people formed a government, which, however, split into two ethnic factions, Tamils and Sinhalese, resulted in ethnic conflict.
Political systems can also be modified to accommodate diverse ethnic groups and prevent ethnic tensions. In Nigeria, for instance, after the Biafra war in 1965 a new political system that curved the country into 19 states comprising of the major ethnic groups, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, was implemented (Horowitz 119).
The states comprised of multiethnic coalitions, which helped to foster cohesion and avoid ethnic tensions. However, competing political interests resulted to excessive fragmentations, and subsequently the recurrence of ethnic tensions. It is apparent that negative stereotypes, prejudice, and fear of members of other groups are effects of contemporary political choices made by leaders.
Contemporary ethnic conflicts are not based on ancient cultural or religious differences. In fact, studies have established that ethnic diversity does not necessarily lead to ethnic conflict. The competition for resources causes ethnic tension and violence. In addition, political choices made by the leaders often cause intergroup tensions. Hence, leaders who develop perverse nationalistic ideologies cultivate hatred, which eventually breeds ethnic violence.
American Anthropological Association (AAA). “Statement on ‘Race’”. 17 May 1998. Web.9 Mar. 2013. <https://www.americananthro.org/ConnectWithAAA/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=2583>
Glenny, Misha. The Fall of Yugoslavia. New York: Penguin, 1992. Print.
Gurr, Ted. Ethnic Conflict in World Politics. Boulder, Colo: Westview, 1994. Print.
Horowitz, Donald. Ethnic Groups in conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Print.