Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.
The U.S. has a diverse society, and its history is marked by attempts to concentrate power, wealth, and privilege into the hands of whites.
Describe the history and current situation of at least three minorities in the U.S.
- The emphasis on racial distinctions often results in the failure to acknowledge the ethnic and national diversity that various racial groups encompass.
- The negative effects of unequal race relations can be seen to this day, albeit to different degrees, amongst all non-European American groups.
- A model minority is a stereotype of a minority group that is considered to have achieved educational, professional, and socioeconomic success without threatening the status quo.
- Multi-Racial: When a person’s heritage comes from a variety of different races.
- Model Minority: A minority group that is seen as reaching significant educational, professional, and socioeconomic levels without challenging the existing establishment.
The United States is a very diverse, multi-racial and multi-ethnic country; people from around the world have been immigrating to the United States for several hundred years. While the first wave of immigrants came from Western Europe, the bulk of people entering North America were from Northern Europe, then Eastern Europe, followed by Latin America and Asia. There was also the forced immigration of African slaves. Native Americans, who did not immigrate but rather inhabited the land prior to immigration, experienced displacement as a result. Most of these groups also suffered a period of disenfranchisement and prejudice as they went through the process of assimilation.
Since its early history, Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans were considered as different races in the United States. The differences attributed to each group, however, especially the differences used to designate European Americans as the superior race, had little to do with biology. Instead, these racial designations were a means to concentrate power, wealth, land, and privilege in the hands of the European Americans. Moreover, the emphasis on racial distinctions often led to the lack of acknowledgement or over-simplification of the great ethnic diversity of the country’s population. For example, the racial category of “white” or European American fails to reflect that members of this group hail from very different countries. Similarly, the racial category of “black” does not distinguish people from the Caribbean from those who were brought to North America from various parts of Africa.
Today, the U.S. continues to see a significant influx of immigrants from all over the world. Race relations in the U.S. remain problematic, marked by discrimination, persecution, violence, and an ongoing struggle for power and equality.
The brutal confrontation between the European colonists and the Native Americans, which resulted in the decimation of the latter’s population, is well known as an historical tragedy. Even after the establishment of the United States government, discrimination against Native Americans was codified and formalized in a series of laws intended to subjugate them and keep them from gaining any power. The eradication of Native American culture continued until the 1960s, when Native Americans were able to participate in, and benefit from, the civil rights movement. Native Americans still suffer the effects of centuries of degradation. Long-term poverty, inadequate education, cultural dislocation, and high rates of unemployment contribute to Native American populations falling to the bottom of the economic spectrum.
African Americans arrived in North America under duress as slaves, and there is no starker illustration of the dominant- subordinate group relationship than that of slavery. Slaves were stripped of all their rights and privileges, and were at the absolute mercy of their owners. For African Americans, the civil rights movement was an indication that a subordinate group would no longer willingly submit to domination. The major blow to America’s formally institutionalized racism was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act, which is still followed today, banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Some sociologists, however, would argue that institutionalized racism persists, especially since African Americans still fair poorly in terms of employment, insurance coverage, and incarceration, as well as in the areas of economics, health, and education.
Asian Americans come from a diversity of cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. They, too, have been subjected to racial prejudice. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, for example, which was motivated by white workers blaming Chinese migrants for taking their jobs, resulted in the abrupt end of Chinese immigration and the segregation of Chinese already in America; this segregation resulted in the Chinatowns found in large cities. Nevertheless, despite a difficult history, Asian Americans have earned the positive stereotype of the model minority. The model minority stereotype is applied to a minority group that is seen as reaching significant educational, professional, and socioeconomic levels without challenging the existing establishment.
Hispanic Americans come from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Mexican Americans form the largest Hispanic subgroup, and also the oldest. Mexican Americans, especially those who are here illegally, are at the center of a national debate about immigration. Mexican immigrants experience relatively low rates of economic and civil assimilation, which is most likely compounded by the fact that many of them are illegally in the country. By contrast, Cuban Americans are often seen as a model minority group within the larger Hispanic group. As with Asian Americans, however, being a model minority can mask the issue of powerlessness that these minority groups face in U.S. society.
The United States is a diverse country, racially and ethnically.
Explain what definitions of race are deployed by the U.S. census
- The United States Census Bureau also classifies Americans as ” Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino. ” Hispanic and Latino Americans are a racially diverse ethnicity that composes the largest minority group in the nation.
- The one drop rule, a historical colloquial term, stated that any one considered to have even a drop of black blood was to be classified as being black. This was an effort to restore white supremacy during the post Civil War Reconstruction era.
- The Blood Quantum, or Indian Blood, Laws refers to legislation in the United States to establish a person’s membership in Native American tribes or nations.
- One Drop Rule: A historical colloquial term in the United States for the social classification as black of individuals with any African ancestry; meaning any person with “one drop of black blood” was considered black.
- Other Pacific Islander: A United States Census category referring to individuals from the Pacific Islands but not Hawaii.
- ethnicity: The identity of a group of people having common racial, national, religious, or cultural origins.
The United States is a diverse country, racially and ethnically. Six races are officially recognized: white, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, black or African American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and people of two or more races. A race called, “Some other race,” is also used in the census and other surveys but is not official.
The United States Census Bureau also classifies Americans as “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino,” which identifies Hispanic and Latino Americans as a racially diverse ethnicity that composes the largest minority group in the nation.
The immigrants to the New World of the Americas came largely from ethnically diverse regions of the European Old World. In the Americas, the immigrant populations began to mix among themselves and with the indigenous inhabitants of the continent, as well as the enslaved Africans.
From the beginning of U.S. history, Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans were classified as belonging to different races. For nearly three centuries, the criteria for membership in these groups were similar, comprising a person’s appearance, their fraction of known non-European ancestry and their social circle. This changed in the late nineteenth century.
Throughout the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, in an effort to restore white supremacy in the South after the emancipation of slaves, the ruling white majority began to classify anyone considered to have “one drop” of “black blood,” or any known African ancestry, to be “black.” In most southern states, this definition was not put into law until the twentieth century. Many local governments established racial segregation of facilities during what came to be known as the Jim Crow era, which began in the late 1800s.
In the twentieth century, efforts to sort the increasingly mixed population of the United States into discrete categories generated many difficulties for the U.S. government (Spickard, 1992). By the standards used in past censuses, many millions of mixed-race children born in the United States have been classified as of a different race than one of their biological parents. Efforts to track mixing between groups led to a proliferation of categories (such as “mulatto” and “octoroon”) and so-called “blood quantum” distinctions, which refers to the degree of ancestry for an individual of a specific racial or ethnic group (e.g., saying someone is “1/4 Omaha tribe”).
These various distinctions became increasingly untethered from self-reported ancestry. Further complicating this fact is that a person’s racial identity can change over time, and self-ascribed race can differ from assigned race (Kressin et al., 2003).
Current Official Definitions of Race and Ethnicity
Aside from their varied social, culture, and political connotations, the idea of racial groups have been used in U.S. censuses as self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or, starting with the 2000 US Census, races with which they most closely identify. Respondents also indicate whether or not they are of Hispanic or Latino origin, which the census considers separately from race. While many see race and ethnicity as the same thing, ethnicity generally refers to a group of people whose members identify with each other through a common heritage and culture, as opposed to the implication of shared biological traits associated with the term “race.”
These categories, therefore, represent a social-political construct for the race or races that respondents consider themselves to be and “generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country. ” The concept of race, as outlined for the U.S. Census, has been described as not “scientific or anthropological” and takes into account “social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry,” using “appropriate scientific methodologies” that are not “primarily biological or genetic in reference. ” The race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.
An ethnic group is a group of people who share a common heritage, culture, and/or language; in the U.S., ethnicity often refers to race.
Explain why ethnic and racial categories tend to overlap in the U.S.
- In the United States of America, the term “ethnic” carries a different meaning from how it is commonly used in some other countries, due to the historical and ongoing significance of racial distinctions that categorize together what might otherwise have been viewed as ethnic groups.
- Ethnicity in U.S. therefore usually refers to collectives of related groups, having more to do with physical appearance, specifically skin color, rather than political boundaries.
- The formal and informal inscription of racialized groupings into law and social stratification schemes has bestowed upon race a fundamental social identification role in the United States.
- social stratification: The hierarchical arrangement of social classes, or castes, within a society.
- ethnic group: A group of people who identify with one another, especially on the basis of racial, cultural, or religious grounds.
An ethnic group is a group of people who identify with each other through a common heritage, which generally consists of a common culture and shared language or dialect. The group’s ethos or ideology may also stress common ancestry, religion, or race.
In the United States of America, the term “ethnic” carries a different meaning from how it is commonly used in some other countries. This is due to the historical and ongoing significance of racial distinctions that categorize together what might otherwise have been viewed as ethnic groups. For example, various ethnic, “national,” or linguistic groups from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and Indigenous America have long been combined together as racial minority groups (currently designated as African American, Asian, Latino and Native American or American Indian, respectively).
While a sense of ethnic identity may coexist with racial identity (Chinese Americans among Asian or Irish American among European or White, for example), the long history of the United States as a settler, conqueror, and slave society, and the formal and informal inscription of racialized groupings into law and social stratification schemes has bestowed upon race a fundamental social identification role in the United States.
Examples of Overlapping Racial and Ethnic Categories in the U.S.
Ethnicity in U.S. therefore usually refers to collectives of related groups, having more to do with physical appearance, specifically skin color, rather than political boundaries. The word “nationality” is more commonly used for this purpose (e.g. Italian, Mexican, French, Russian, Japanese). Most prominently in the U.S., Latin American descended populations are grouped in a ” Hispanic ” or “Latino” ethnicity. The many previously designated “Oriental” ethnic groups are now classified as the “Asian” racial group for the census.
The terms “Black” and “African American,” while different, are both used as ethnic categories in the U.S. In the late 1980s, the term “African American” came into prominence as the most appropriate and politically correct race designation. While it was intended as a shift away from the racial injustices of America’s past often associated with the historical views of the “Black” race, it largely became a simple replacement for the terms Black, Colored, Negro and similar terms, referring to any individual of dark skin color regardless of geographical descent.
The term Caucasian generally describes some or all people whose ancestry can be traced to Europe, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia. This includes European-colonized countries in the Americas, Australasia, and South Africa, among others. All the aforementioned are categorized as part of the “White” racial group, as per U.S. Census categorization. This category has been split into two groups: Hispanics and non-Hispanics (e.g. White non-Hispanic and White Hispanic. )
Immigration and Illegal Immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.
Discuss the history and status of immigration (both legal and illegal) and the workforce in the United States
- Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change. Different historical periods have brought distinct national groups, races and ethnicities to the United States.
- In recent years, immigration has increased substantially.
- American attitudes toward immigration are markedly ambivalent. In general, Americans have more positive attitudes toward groups that have been visible for a century or more, and much more negative attitude toward recent arrivals.
- An illegal immigrant in the United States is an alien (non-citizen) who has entered the United States without government permission and in violation of United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa, also in violation of the law.
- immigration: The act of immigrating; the passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.
- illegal immigration: When a person enters the United States without governmental permission and in violation of the United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa, also in violation of the law.
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence. Immigration occurs for many reasons, including economic, political, family re-unification, natural disasters, or poverty. Many immigrants came to America to escape religious persecution or dire economic conditions. Most hoped coming to America would provide freedom and opportunity.
Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change. Different historical periods have brought distinct national groups, races and ethnicities to the United States. During the 17th century, approximately 175,000 Englishmen migrated to Colonial America. Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America during the 17th and 18th centuries arrived as indentured servants. The mid-nineteenth century saw mainly an influx from northern Europe; the early twentieth-century mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe; post-1965 mostly from Latin America and Asia.
In recent years, immigration has increased substantially. In 1965, ethnic quotas were removed; these quotas had restricted the number of immigrants allowed from different parts of the world. Immigration doubled between 1965 and 1970, and again between 1970 and 1990. Between 2000 and 2005, nearly 8 million immigrants entered the United States, more than in any other five-year period in the nation’s history. In 2006, the United States accepted more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.
Recent Immigration Demographics
Until the 1930s most legal immigrants were male. By the 1990s, women accounted for just over half of all legal immigrants. Contemporary immigrants tend to be younger than the native population of the United States, with people between the ages of 15 and 34 substantially over-represented Immigrants are also more likely to be married and less likely to be divorced than native-born Americans of the same age.
Immigrants come from all over the world, but a significant number come from Latin America. In 1900, when the U.S. population was 76 million, there were an estimated 500,000 Hispanics. The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, one-quarter of the population will be of Hispanic descent. This demographic shift is largely fueled by immigration from Latin America.
Immigrants are likely to move to and live in areas populated by people with similar backgrounds. This phenomenon has held true throughout the history of immigration to the United States.
Public Opinion Toward Immigrants
American attitudes toward immigration are markedly ambivalent. American history is rife with examples of anti-immigrant opinion. Benjamin Franklin opposed German immigration, warning Germans would not assimilate. In the 1850s, the nativist Know Nothing movement opposed Irish immigration, promulgating fears that the country was being overwhelmed by Irish Catholic immigrants.
In general, Americans have more positive attitudes toward groups that have been visible for a century or more, and much more negative attitude toward recent arrivals.According to a 1982 national poll by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut, “By high margins, Americans are telling pollsters it was a very good thing that Poles, Italians, and Jews emigrated to America. Once again, it’s the newcomers who are viewed with suspicion. This time, it’s the Mexicans, the Filipinos, and the people from the Caribbean who make Americans nervous. ”
One of the most important factors regarding public opinion about immigration is the level of unemployment; anti-immigrant sentiment is highest where unemployment is highest, and vice versa. In fact, in the United States, only 0.16 percent of the workforce are legal immigrants.
Illegal Immigration to the United States
An illegal immigrant in the United States is an alien (non-citizen) who has entered the United States without government permission and in violation of United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa, also in violation of the law. Illegal immigrants continue to outpace the number of legal immigrants—a trend that’s held steady since the 1990s. The illegal immigrant population is estimated to be between 7 and 20 million. More than 50% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico.
While the majority of illegal immigrants continue to concentrate in places with existing large Hispanic communities, illegal immigrants are increasingly settling throughout the rest of the country. A percentage of illegal immigrants do not remain indefinitely but do return to their country of origin; they are often referred to as “sojourners”, for “they come to the United States for several years but eventually return to their home country. ”
The continuing practice of hiring unauthorized workers has been referred to as the magnet for illegal immigration. As a significant percentage of employers are willing to hire illegal immigrants for higher pay than they would typically receive in their former country, illegal immigrants have prime motivation to cross borders. But migration is expensive, and dangerous for those who enter illegally. Participants in debates on immigration in the early twenty-first century have called for increasing enforcement of existing laws governing illegal immigration to the United States, building a barrier along some or all of the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) U.S.-Mexico border, or creating a new guest worker program.
Affirmative action refers refers to policies that take factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion into consideration.
Discuss arguments for and against affirmative action
- Affirmative action measures are intended to prevent discrimination against employees or applicants for employment, on the basis of “color, religion, sex, or national origin”.
- The controversy surrounding affirmative action’s effectiveness is often based on the idea of class inequality.
- Other opponents of affirmative action call it reverse discrimination, saying affirmative action requires the very discrimination it is seeking to eliminate.
- affirmative action: A policy or program providing advantages for people of a minority group who are seen to have traditionally been discriminated against, with the aim of creating a more egalitarian society through preferential access to education, employment, health care, social welfare, etc.
In the United States, affirmative action refers to equal opportunity employment measures that Federal contractors and subcontractors such as public universities and government agencies are legally required to adopt. These measures are intended to prevent discrimination against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of “color, religion, sex, or national origin”. Examples of affirmative action offered by the United States Department of Labor include outreach campaigns, targeted recruitment, employee and management development, and employee support programs.
The impetus towards affirmative action is to redress the disadvantages associated with overt historical discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure that public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve.
Affirmative action is a subject of controversy. Some policies adopted as affirmative action, such as racial quotas or gender quotas for collegiate admission, have been criticized as a form of reverse discrimination, an implementation ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, though the Court also upheld affirmative action as a practice in a court case held simultaneously that year.
History of the Term
Affirmative action in the United States began as a tool to address the persisting inequalities for African Americans in the 1960s. This specific term was first used to describe US government policy in 1961. Directed to all government contracting agencies, President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 mandated “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. ”
Four years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson outlined the basic social science view that supports such policies:
“Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in—by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.”
Arguments Against Affirmative Action
The controversy surrounding affirmative action’s effectiveness is often based on the idea of class inequality. Opponents of racial affirmative action argue that the program actually benefits middle- and upper-class African Americans and Hispanic Americans at the expense of lower class European Americans and Asian Americans. This argument supports the idea of solely class-based affirmative action. America’s poor is disproportionately made up of people of color, so class-based affirmative action would disproportionately help people of color. This would eliminate the need for race-based affirmative action as well as reducing any disproportionate benefits for middle and upper class people of color.
Other opponents of affirmative action call it reverse discrimination, saying affirmative action requires the very discrimination it is seeking to eliminate. According to these opponents, this contradiction makes affirmative action counter-productive. Other opponents say affirmative action causes unprepared applicants to be accepted in highly demanding educational institutions or jobs which result in eventual failure. Other opponents say that affirmative action lowers the bar, and so denies those who strive for excellence on their own merit and the sense of real achievement.
Some opponents further claim that affirmative action has undesirable side-effects and that it fails to achieve its goals. They argue that it hinders reconciliation, replaces old wrongs with new wrongs, undermines the achievements of minorities, and encourages groups to identify themselves as disadvantaged even if they are not. It may increase racial tension and benefit the more privileged people within minority groups at the expense of the disenfranchised within majority groups (such as lower-class whites). Some opponents believe, among other things, that affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who belong to a group it is supposed to help, therefore making affirmative action counter-productive.
Implementation in Universities
In the US, a prominent form of affirmative action centers on access to education, particularly admission to universities and other forms of higher education. Race, ethnicity, native language, social class, geographical origin, parental attendance of the university in question (legacy admissions), and/or gender are sometimes taken into account when assessing the meaning of an applicant’s grades and test scores. Individuals can also be awarded scholarships and have fees paid on the basis of criteria listed above. In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Bakke v. Regents that public universities (and other government institutions) could not set specific numerical targets based on race for admissions or employment. The Court said that “goals” and “timetables” for diversity could be set instead.
A Multicultural Society
Multiculturalism is an ideology that promotes the institutionalization of communities containing multiple cultures.
Describe how multiculturalism is addressed in the U.S.
- Multiculturalism is generally applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, e.g. schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities, or nations.
- In the United States, continuous mass immigration has been a feature of economy and society since the first half of the 19th century.
- The absorption of the stream of immigrants in itself became a prominent feature of America’s national myth, inspiring its own narrative about its past that is centered around multiculturalism and the embrace of newcomers from many different backgrounds.
- national myth: An inspiring narrative or anecdote about a nation’s past that serves as an important national symbol and affirms a set of national values.
- multiculturalism: A characteristic of a society that has many different ethnic or national cultures mingling freely. It can also refer to political or social policies which support or encourage such a coexistence. Important in this is the idea that cultural practices, no matter how unusual, should be tolerated as a measure of respect.
Multiculturalism is an ideology that promotes the institutionalization of communities containing multiple cultures. It is generally applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g. schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities, or nations.
In a political context the term is used for a wide variety of meanings, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect for the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group they belong to.
In the United States, multiculturalism is not clearly established in policy at the federal level. Instead, it has been addressed primarily through the school system with the rise of ethnic studies programs in higher education and attempts to make the grade school curricula more inclusive of the history and contributions of non-white peoples.
Multiculturalism and the National Myth
In the United States, continuous mass immigration has been a feature of economy and society since the first half of the 19th century. The absorption of the stream of immigrants in itself became a prominent feature of America’s national myth, inspiring its own narrative about its past.
This found particular expression in America as a “Melting Pot,” a metaphor that implies that all the immigrant cultures are mixed and amalgamated without state intervention. This metaphor also suggests that each individual immigrant, and each group of immigrants, assimilated into American society at their own pace. The Melting Pot tradition co-exists with a belief in national unity, dating from the American founding fathers:
“Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs… This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties. ” —John Jay, First American Supreme Court Chief Justice, Federalist Paper No. 2
Multiculturalism as a Philosophy
As a philosophy, multiculturalism began as part of the pragmatism movement at the end of the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States, then as political and cultural pluralism at the turn of the twentieth. It was partly in response to a new wave of European imperialism in sub-Saharan Africa and the massive immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans to the United States and Latin America.
Philosophers, psychologists, historians, and early sociologists such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, George Santayana, Horace Kallen, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Alain Locke developed concepts of cultural pluralism, from which emerged what we understand today as multiculturalism. In Pluralistic Universe (1909), William James espoused the idea of a “plural society” and saw pluralism as “crucial to the formation of philosophical and social humanism to help build a better, more egalitarian society. ”
Multiculturalism in Education
The educational approach to multiculturalism has recently spread to the grade school system, as school systems try to rework their curricula to introduce students to diversity at an earlier age. This is often on the grounds that it is important for minority students to see themselves represented in the classroom. Studies estimate that the 46.3 million Americans ages 14 to 24 are the most diverse generation in American society.
Controversy over Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism is a highly disputed topic in the United States. For example, in 2009 and 2010, controversy erupted in Texas as the state ‘s curriculum committee made several changes to the state’s school cirriculum requirements, often at the expense of minorities: juxtaposing Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address with that of Confederate president Jefferson Davis; debating removing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and labor-leader César Chávez; and rejecting calls to include more Hispanic figures, in spite of the high Hispanic population in the state.