Introduction to Sociology/Race and Ethnicity
- 1 Race and Ethnicity
- 2 The Changing Definitions of Race
- 3 Social Construct or Biological Lineage?
- 4 Prejudice, Bias, and Discrimination
- 5 Racism
- 6 Minorities
- 7 Racial Stratification
- 8 A Research Example
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Recommended Readings for Students
- 12 External links
Race and Ethnicity
A race is a human population that is believed to be distinct in some way from other humans based on real or imagined physical differences. Racial classifications are rooted in the idea of biological classification of humans according to morphological features such as skin color or facial characteristics. An individual is usually externally classified (meaning someone else makes the classification) into a racial group rather than the individual choosing where they belong as part of their identity. Conceptions of race, as well as specific racial groupings, are often controversial due to their impact on social identity and how those identities influence someone's position in social hierarchies (see identity politics).
Ethnicity, while related to race, refers not to physical characteristics but social traits that are shared by a human population. Some of the social traits often used for ethnic classification include:
- religious faith
- shared language
- shared culture
- shared traditions
Unlike race, ethnicity is not usually externally assigned by other individuals. The term ethnicity focuses more upon a group's connection to a perceived shared past and culture.
The Changing Definitions of Race
The division of humanity into distinct races can be traced as far back as the Ancient Egyptian sacred text the Book of Gates, which identified four races according to the Egyptians. This early treatment merged racial and ethnic differences, combining skin-color with tribal and national identities. Ancient Greek and Roman authors also attempted to explain and categorize visible biological differences between peoples known to them. Medieval models of race mixed Classical ideas with the notion that humanity as a whole was descended from Shem, Ham and Japheth, the three sons of Noah, producing distinct Semitic, (Asian), Hamitic (African), and Japhetic (European) peoples. The first scientific attempts to categorize race date from the 17th century; these early attempts developed along with European imperialism and colonisation around the world.
In the 19th century a number of natural scientists wrote on race: Georges Cuvier, James Cowles Pritchard, Louis Agassiz, Charles Pickering, and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. These scientists made three claims about race:
- races are objective, naturally occurring divisions of humanity
- there is a strong relationship between biological races and other human phenomena (such as social behavior and culture, and by extension the relative material success of cultures)
- race is therefore a valid scientific category that can be used to explain and predict individual and group behavior
Races were distinguished by skin color, facial type, cranial profile and size, and texture and color of hair. Races were almost universally considered to reflect group differences in moral character and intelligence.
These early understandings of race were usually both essentialist and taxonomic; essentialism refers to unchanging and inherent characteristics of individuals and taxonomic refers to classificatory (also usually hierarchical) in nature. The advent of Darwinian models of evolution and Mendelian genetics, however, called into question the scientific validity of both characteristics and required a radical reconsideration of race.
The table below illustrates both how early definitions included essentialist and taxonomic elements and how definitions have changed over time.
|Essentialist||Hooton (1926)||"A great division of mankind, characterized as a group by the sharing of a certain combination of features, which have been derived from their common descent, and constitute a vague physical background, usually more or less obscured by individual variations, and realized best in a composite picture."|
|Taxonomic||Mayr (1969)||"An aggregate of phenotypically similar populations of a species, inhabiting a geographic subdivision of the range of a species, and differing taxonomically from other populations of the species."|
|Population||Dobzhansky (1970)||"Races are genetically distinct Mendelian populations. They are neither individuals nor particular genotypes, they consist of individuals who differ genetically among themselves."|
|Lineage||Templeton (1998)||"A subspecies (race) is a distinct evolutionary lineage within a species. This definition requires that a subspecies be genetically differentiated due to barriers to genetic exchange that have persisted for long periods of time; that is, the subspecies must have historical continuity in addition to current genetic differentiation."|
Because racial differences continue to be important issues in social and political life, racial classifications continue. The United States government has attempted its own definitions of race and ethnicity (see for example U.S. Census) for such classifications and comparisons.
Social Construct or Biological Lineage?
Debates continue in and among academic disciplines as to how race should be understood. Some sociologists and biologists believe race is a social construct, meaning it does not have a basis in the natural world but is simply an artificial distinction created by humans. As a result of this understanding, some researchers have turned from conceptualizing and analyzing human variation by race to doing so in terms of populations, dismissing racial classifications altogether. In the face of the increasing rejection of race as a valid classification scheme, many social scientists have replaced the word race with the word ethnicity to refer to self-identifying groups based on shared religion, nationality, or culture.
The understanding of race as a social construct is well-illustrated by examining race issues in two countries, the U.S. and Brazil.
Constructing Race in the U.S.
Since the early days of the United States, Native Americans, African-Americans and European-Americans were classified as belonging to different races. But the criteria for membership in these races were radically different. For Africans, the government considered anyone with African appearance to be purely African. Native Americans, on the other hand, were classified based on a certain percentage of Indian blood. Finally, European-Americans had to have purely white ancestry. The differing criteria for assigning membership to particular races had relatively little to do with biology; it had far more to do with maintaining a group's defined roles and position.
Some researchers and historians have proposed that the intent of the differing criteria for racial designations was to concentrate power, wealth, privilege, and land in the hands of European-Americans. As a result, the offspring of an African slave and European master or mistress would be considered an African. Significant in terms of the economics of slavery, the mixed-race child of a slave mother also would be a slave, adding to the wealth of the slaveowner.
Contrast the African criteria with that of Native Americans; a person of Native American and African parentage automatically was classified as African. But the offspring of only a few generations of Native Americans and Europeans were not considered Indian at all - at least not in a legal sense. Native Americans had treaty rights to land, but individuals with only one Indian great-grandparent were no longer classified as Native American, disenfranchising them from their claims to Native American lands. Of course, the same individuals who could be denied legal claim to Native American lands because they were too White, were still Native American enough to be considered half-breeds and were stigmatized as a result.
In an economy benefitting from slave labor, it was useful to have as many African slaves as possible. Conversely, in a nation bent on westward expansion, it was advantageous to diminish the numbers of those who could claim title to Indian lands by classifying them out of existence. Both schemes benefitted the third group, the racially pure whites. The point being, of course, that the classifications of race in the early U.S. were socially constructed in a fashion that benefitted one race over the others.
The earliest blacks in the U.S. were brought from Africa as slaves primarily to help in agricultural in the southern U.S. While migration since then has substantially altered the distribution of African Americans in the U.S., African Americans remain concentrated in the southern U.S., as depicted in the map below.
Native Americans in the U.S. are concentrated on reservations, as depicted in the map below:
Constructing Race in Brazil
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics classifies the Brazilian population in five categories: white, black, pardo or (brown), yellow, and Indigenous, based on skin color as given by the individual being interviewed in the census.
- White (49.4% of the population): usually a Brazilian of full or predominant European ancestry or other ancestry (such as German Brazilian) who considers himself or herself to be White.
- Pardo or Brown (42.3%): usually a Multiracial Brazilian of mixed-race features who considers himself or herself to be "Pardo". In practice, most of the "Pardo" people are of mixed European and African (mulatos), but this category also includes people of mixed European and Amerindian (caboclos) and Amerindian and African (cafusos) genetic ancestry.
- Black (7.4%): usually a dark-skinned Brazilian of full or predominant Black African ancestry who considers himself or herself to be Black.
- Yellow: (0.5%) usually a Brazilian of East Asian descent, mostly Japanese.
- Indigenous (0.3%): usually a Brazilian of full or predominant Amerindian ancestry who considers himself or herself to be Amerindian.
Of particular interest to the discussion of race in this chapter is the fact that there is a racial classification that falls between "white" and "black": "pardo" or "brown." That Brazilians have more racial classifications than do people in the United States illustrates the socially constructed nature of race. Additionally, racial classification in Brazil, because it is based on self-classification and there are no objective criteria for what it means to belong to one race or another, is inconsistent about 21% of the time. Because of the mixing of the races, race is not inherited but determined purely by physical characteristics (i.e., a white father and black mother could have a "white", "black," or "pardo" child). Additionally, because race is self-determined and there is discrimination based on race (white are favored), Brazilians have a tendency to "self-lighten," or report their race as being lighter than an independent observer may suggest. That people can "self-lighten" illustrates that race is not a fixed construct but rather that it is socially constructed.
Biology and Genetics
The social constructionist approach has not completely occluded other perspectives. Some sociologists (and other researchers) still believe that race is a valid and useful measure when understood as fuzzy sets, clusters, or extended families.
Genetic data can be used to infer population structure and assign individuals to groups that often correspond with their self-identified geographical ancestry (e.g., African, Asian, etc.). Recent research indicates that self-described race is a very good indicator of an individual's genetic profile, at least in the United States. Using 326 genetic markers, Tang et al. (2005) identified 4 genetic clusters among 3,636 individuals sampled from 15 locations in the United States, and were able to correctly assign individuals to groups that correspond with their self-described race (white, African American, East Asian, and Hispanic) for all but 5 individuals (an error rate of 0.14%). They concluded that ancient ancestry/geography, which correlates highly with self-described race and not current place of residence, is the major determinant of genetic structure in the US population. The implications of such research are significant and can be seen in different health conditions prevalent among racial and ethnic groups (see extended discussion below).
In general, genetic variation within racial groups is greater than genetic variation between them. However, the existence of genetic differences among races is well accepted. In general, genetic clusters exist that correspond tightly to the census definition of race and to self-identified ancestry. Certain genetic conditions are more common among certain races. For example, approximately 1 in 29 individuals of Northern European descent are carriers of a mutation that causes cystic fibrosis, whereas only about 1 in 65 African Americans is a carrier (source). There is a subset of conditions for which individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at increased risk (see here). Based on this knowledge individuals can be offered genetic testing based on their race, which can determine whether they are at increased risk to have a child with one of these conditions. The association between race and genetics breaks down for groups, such as Hispanics, that exhibit a pattern of geographical stratification of ancestry.
There is an active debate among biomedical researchers about the meaning and importance of race in their research. Proponents of using race in biomedical research argue that ignoring race will be detrimental to the health of minority groups. They argue that disease risk factors differ substantially between racial groups, that relying only on genotypical classes - differences in genes - ignores non-genetic racial factors that impact health (e.g., poverty rates) and that minorities would be poorly represented in clinical trials if race were ignored. However, some fear that the use of racial labels in biomedical research runs the risk of unintentionally exacerbating health disparities, so they suggest alternatives to the use of racial taxonomies.
The primary impetus for considering race in biomedical research is the possibility of improving the prevention and treatment of diseases by predicting hard-to-ascertain factors on the basis of more easily ascertained characteristics. Indeed, the first medication marketed for a specific racial group, BiDil was recently approved by the U.S. FDA. A large study of African American males showed a 43% reduction in deaths and a 39% decrease in hospitalizations compared to a placebo. Interestingly, this drug would never have been approved if the researchers had not taken note of racial groups and realized that although the medication was not effective in previous clinical trials, it appeared to be effective for the small proportion of African-Americans males who were part of the study (source). Despite the controversy, it is clear that race is associated with differential disease susceptibility. Examples of some of these differences are illustrated in the table below.
|Disease||High-risk groups||Low-risk groups||Reference(s)|
|Obesity||African women, Native Americans South Asians, Pacific Islanders, Aboriginal Australians||Europeans||McKeigue, et al. (1991); Hodge & Zimmet (1994)|
|Non-insulin dependent diabetes||South Asians, West Africans, Peninsular Arabs, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans||Europeans||Songer & Zimmet (1995); Martinez (1993)|
|Hypertension||African Americans, West Africans||Europeans||Douglas et al. (1996); Gaines & Burke (1995)|
|Coronary heart disease||South Asians||West African men||McKeigue, et al. (1989); Zoratti (1998)|
|End-stage renal disease||Native Americans and African populations||Europeans||Ferguson & Morrissey (1993)|
|Dementia||Europeans||African Americans, Hispanic Americans||Hargrave, et al. (2000)|
|Systemic lupus erythematosus||West Africans, Native Americans||Europeans||Molokhia & McKeigue (2000)|
|Skin cancer||Europeans||Boni, et al. (2002)|
|Lung cancer||Africans, European Americans(Caucasians)||Chinese, Japanese||Schwartz & Swanson (1997); Shimizu, et al. (1985)|
|Prostate cancer||Africans and African Americans||Hoffman, et al. (2001)|
|Multiple sclerosis||Europeans||Chinese, Japanese, African Americans, Turkmens, Uzbeks, Native Siberians, New Zealand Maoris||Rosati (2001)|
|Osteoporosis||European Americans||African Americans||Bohannon (1999)|
Perhaps the best way to understand race is to recognize that the socially constructed boundaries and biological/genetic elements overlap. There are clearly biological differences between races, though they are small and, as noted above, there is greater variation within races than between races. But the actual criteria used for racial classifications are artificial and socially constructed, as was shown in the cases of the U.S. and Brazil.
By recognizing the overlap between the two, we are presented with a better understanding of race. However, distinctions between racial groups are declining due to intermarriage and have been for years. For instance, self-described African Americans tend to have a mix of West African and European ancestry. Shriver et al. (2003) found that on average African Americans have ~80% African ancestry. Likewise, many white Americans have mixed European and African ancestry; ~30% of whites have less than 90% European ancestry. If intermarrying of races and ethnicities continues, the biological and genetic distinctions will grow increasingly minute and undetectable. If a completely heterogeneous population ultimately develops, any racial classifications in that population would be nothing more than social constructs.
Controversies surrounding the definition of race will likely continue for some time. But there are important considerations that go beyond the definition of race. Race and race-related issues continue to impact society. Racial discrimination in employment and housing still occurs (source). Because race remains a significant factor in social life, sociologists feel compelled to study its effects at multiple levels.
Prejudice, Bias, and Discrimination
Prejudice is, as the name implies, the pre-judging of something. Prejudice involves coming to a judgment on a subject before learning where the preponderance of evidence actually lies. Alternatively, prejudice can refer to the formation of a judgment without direct or actual experience. Prejudice generally refers to negative views of an individual or group of individuals, often based on social stereotypes. At its most extreme, prejudicial attitudes advocate denying groups benefits and rights without warrant and based solely on the unfounded views of the individual. It should be kept in mind that prejudice is a belief and may not translate into discrimination, which is the actual mistreatment of a group or individual based upon some criteria or characteristic. Although prejudice can lead to discrimination, the two are separate concepts.
Technically, prejudice should be differentiated from viewpoints accumulated through direct life experience. Such viewpoints or beliefs are not pre-judgments but post-judgments. If the assertion is made that no amount of experience ever entitles a person to a viewpoint then this precipitates a logical absurdity since anyone who opposes strongly-held views must, by their own definition, also be prejudiced, invalidating their own proposition on the grounds of... prejudice. Post-judgments or beliefs and viewpoints derived from experience that maintain unfair or stereotypical perspectives on a group of people is more accurately referred to as bias. Prejudice can be taught, socialized, or conveyed through other means, like mass media. Bias can develop through pronounced negative interactions with the stereotyped groups.
Both bias and prejudice are generally viewed as negative. However, some sociologists have argued that prejudices and biases can be seen as necessary human adaptations facilitating survival. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that humans have an innate or basic preference for people who are like them, specifically when it comes to race. Humans express more empathy when members of their own racial group experience pain compared to when individuals of other racial groups experience pain. This suggests prejudice and biases may have a biological component. Since humans do not always have sufficient time to form personal views on every other group of people, particularly people in opposition to one's own group(s), prejudices and biases may facilitate interactions (although negatively). Prejudice may also be detrimental to the individual personally by pre-judging a potential ally (e.g. refusing to patronize the only doctor in a town because he or she is black). Despite having innate preferences towards individuals who look like we do, there is substantial evidence that suggests most prejudicial attitudes and biases are learned and can be unlearned.
Racism can refer to any or all of the following beliefs and behaviors:
- race is the primary determinant of human capacities (prejudice or bias)
- a certain race is inherently superior or inferior to others (prejudice or bias)
- individuals should be treated differently according to their racial classification (prejudice or bias)
- the actual treating of individuals differently based on their racial classification (discrimination)
Racism is recognised by many as an affront to basic human dignity and a violation of human rights. Racism is opposed by almost all mainstream voices in the United States. A number of international treaties have sought to end racism. The United Nations uses a definition of racist discrimination laid out in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and adopted in 1965:
- ...any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. source
Expressions of Racism
Racism may be expressed individually and consciously, through explicit thoughts, feelings, or acts, or socially and unconsciously, through institutions that promote inequalities among races.
Individual-level racism is prejudice, bias, or discrimination displayed in an interaction between two or more people. Examples of individual-level racism could include:
- a person believing people of other races/ethnicities are intellectually inferior and that the inferiority is a characteristic of the race
- a person holding the belief that all young African males are dangerous
- an employer firing someone because of his/her race
Children develop an awareness of race and racial stereotypes quite young (between the ages of 5 and 11) and these racial stereotypes affect behavior. For instance, children who identify with a racial minority that is stereotyped as not doing well in school tend to not do well in school once they learn about the stereotype associated with their race. Another illustration of individual-level racism in society is the resistance of Americans to classify mixed-race individuals as white if they have even "one-drop" of black ancestry. While most Americans may believe the "one-drop rule" is no longer relevant in society today, recent research suggests that it persists in racial classifications, even if they are informal.
Structural racism refers to inequalities built into an organization or system. An example of structural racism can be seen in recent research on workplace discrimination. There is widespread discrimination against job applicants whose names were merely perceived as "sounding black." These applicants were 50% less likely than candidates perceived as having "white-sounding names" to receive callbacks for interviews, no matter their level of previous experience. The researchers view these results as strong evidence of unconscious biases rooted in the country's long history of discrimination. This is an example of structural racism as it shows a widespread established belief system that treats people differently based upon their race. Additional examples of structural racism include apartheid in South Africa, the system of Jim Crow laws in the U.S., and the inequitable lending practices of banks (i.e., redlining). The figure below illustrates structural racism by illustrating how blacks and Hispanics, even when they have the same income as whites, are less likely to be approved for home mortgages (as a result of practices like redlining).
Another example of structural racism is the discrimination faced by Asian Americans in attaining leadership positions in corporations. While Asian Americans are over-represented in professional occupations in the US, they are under-represented among corporate elite. Approximately 5% of the US population is Asian American, but just .3% of of corporate officers are Asian American. The under-representation of Asian Americans is particularly surprising considering they are perceived to be highly capable, particularly in technical occupations. But they are also perceived to be less capable leaders due to a perception that they lack charisma. The result is structural racism: corporate advancement is structured such that Asian Americans are over-looked for leadership positions.
Cultural racial discrimination, a variation of structural racism, occurs when the assumption of inferiority of one or more races is built into the culture of a society. In this perspective, racism is an expression of culture and is also passed on through the transmission of culture (i.e., socialization). An interesting twist on this type of prejudice can be seen in how high achieving secondary school students are treated. African American and Native American students with high GPAs are rejected by their peers while Asian American and white students with high GPAs experience greater social acceptance. This suggests that different racial and ethnic groups are rewarded for academic achievement while others are punished, potentially leading to members of those groups to pursue academic success while others are discouraged from doing so.
Historical economic or social disparity is a form of inequality caused by past racism, affecting the present generation through deficits in the formal education and other kinds of preparation in the parents' generation, and, through primarily unconscious racist attitudes and actions on members of the general population. This perspective argues that African-Americans, in particular, in the U.S. have had their opportunities in life adversely affected due to the mistreatment of their ancestors (see slavery). Disparities in wealth, net worth and education lend credence to this idea. The figure below illustrates how historical racism has resulted in lower odds of inter-generational transmission of wealth, which, in turn, reduces net worth for racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.
One response to racial disparity in the U.S. has been Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action is the practice of favoring or benefiting members of a particular race in areas such as college admissions and workplace advancement, in an attempt to create atmospheres of racial diversity and racial equality. Though lauded by many as a boon to society, giving the less privileged a chance at success and working to overcome historical social disparity, the practice is condemned as racially discriminatory by others.
Another type of racism is racial profiling. Racial profiling involves the singling out of individuals based upon their race for differential treatment, usually harsher treatment. Two examples of racial profiling in the United States are often discussed. The disparate treatment of minorities by law enforcement officials is a common example of racial profiling. Another example is the disparate treatment of young, male Arabs in airports who are more likely to be subjected to extensive screening. Many critics of racial profiling claim that it is an unconstitutional practice because it amounts to questioning individuals on the basis of what crimes they might commit or could possibly commit, instead of what crimes they have actually committed.
In the US, the avoidance of racial language by European-Americans has been used to suggest that racism is no longer an issue. However, the continued prevalence of institutional racism has led some scholars like Bonilla-Silva to argue a "new racism" exists, that has arisen during the post-Civil Rights era. Bonilla-Silva suggests that a "color-blind racism" ideology supports racism while avoiding any reference to race.
While not exclusively the result of racial or ethnic tension, genocide, the attempt to completely destroy a group of people based on a characteristic they share by another group of people who do not share that characteristic, is often the result of racism. One technique that is often used by individuals engaged in genocide and even in war is racial epithets that dehumanize the enemy, making it easier to kill them.
Racism is usually directed against a minority population, but may also be directed against a majority population. The definition of a minority group can vary, depending on specific context, but generally refers to either a sub-group that does not form either a majority or a plurality of the total population, or a group that, while not necessarily a numerical minority, is disadvantaged or otherwise has less power (whether political or economic) than a dominant group. A majority is that segment of the population that outnumbers all others combined or one that is dominant.
The issue of establishing minority groups, and determining the extent of privileges they might derive from their status, is controversial. There are some who argue that minorities are owed special recognition and rights, while others feel that minorities are unjustified in demanding special rights, as this amounts to preferential discrimination and could hamper the ability of the minority to integrate itself into mainstream society (i.e. they may have difficulty finding work if they do not speak the predominant language for their geographic area).
The assimilation of minority groups into majority groups can be seen as a form of racism. In this process, the minority group sheds its distinctive traits and is absorbed into the dominant group. This presumes a loss of all characteristics which make the newcomers different. Assimilation can be voluntary or forced. Voluntary assimilation is usually the case with immigrants, who often adopt the dominant culture established earlier. Reasons that have been postulated for voluntary assimilation include:
- it is seen as an avenue to upward social mobility
- it is a way to escape prejudice and discrimination
Socially pressured to adapt, the immigrant is generally the one who takes the steps to integrate into the new environment. Learning the language of the country or region, making new friends, new contacts, finding a job or going to school. The adaptation is made more difficult when the immigrant does not speak the language of his or her new home.
Assimilation can have negative implications for national minorities or aboriginal cultures, in that after assimilation the distinctive features of the original culture will be minimized and may disappear altogether. This is especially true in situations where the institutions of the dominant culture initiate programs to assimilate or integrate minority cultures. Many indigenous peoples, such as First Nations of Canada, Native Americans of the US, Taiwanese aborigines, and Australian Aborigines have mostly lost their traditional culture (most evidently language) and replaced it with the dominant new culture.
An example of a minority population discriminating against a majority population is seen in the racial apartheid that existed until just recently in South Africa. South Africans of European descent (the minority) discriminated against the majority African population (the majority). Additional examples of minorities discriminating against majorities include two instances of colonial rule:
Racial discrimination is and has been official government policy in many countries. In the 1970s, Uganda expelled tens of thousands of ethnic Indians. Until 2003, Malaysia enforced discriminatory policies limiting access to university education for ethnic Chinese and Indian students who are citizens by birth of Malaysia. Today, many other policies explicitly favoring bumiputras (Malays) remain in force. Russia launched anti-Semitic pogroms against Jews in 1905 and after. During the 1930s and 1940s, attempts were made to prevent Jews from immigrating to the Middle East. Following the creation of Israel, land-ownership in many Israeli towns was limited to Jews, and many Muslim countries expelled Jewish residents, and continue to refuse entry to Jews.
While race itself is a social construction, race continues to play a prominent role in societies around the world. Race is often the basis for different types of stratification. Following are some of the ways society is stratified by race.
Race and Pollution
Pollution and polluting facilities are not evenly distributed in the U.S. Communities made up predominantly of racial minorities are significantly more likely to be polluted and to house factories and business that pollute extensively. While it might seem that this is inadvertent and not intentionally racist, the evidence suggest otherwise: these communities are systematically targeted as locations for situating polluting businesses.
Not until 1967 were laws outlawing interracial marriage abolished in the United States. Prior to that time, an individual from one race who married an individual from another could be jailed and fined. These laws were referred to as miscegenation laws (miscegenation means "mixing races"). This was the experience of Mildred and Richard Loving, who married in 1958 in Washington D.C., a district in the US that no longer had a law against interracial marriage. Mildred was black; Richard was white. When they moved to Virginia shortly after their wedding, law enforcement decided to prosecute them, breaking into their home in the middle of the night and carrying them off to jail. Both Mildred and Richard were from Virginia, where their extended family still lived. The judge who heard their case, Leon M. Bazile, told the Lovings during their trial for miscegenation that, 'if God had meant for whites and blacks to mix, he would have not placed them on different continents.' He also seemed to take pride in telling the Lovings, "as long as you live you will be known as a felon." The Lovings eventually contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, who took their case to the Supreme Court in 1967, resulting in Loving v. Virginia, which abolished miscegenation laws in the U.S. Even so, as the diagram to the right indicates, attitudes toward interracial marriage did not immediately improve. Still as late as 2002, close to 10% of people in the U.S. favored a law prohibiting interracial marriage.
A Research Example
Devah Pager and Lincoln Quillian  compared employers' responses on questions involving race-related hiring practices to their actual hiring practices by sending matched pairs of young men to apply for jobs, either both of European descent or both of African descent, but one of the men had a criminal record. Pager and Quillian found that employers claimed they would be much more willing to hire an ex-offender than they were. Additionally, while the survey results showed no difference in hiring preferences between African-Americans and European-Americans, employers were more than three times as likely to call job applicants with a European lineage back in comparison to Americans with an African lineage. In short, Pager and Quillian found that employers, in their survey responses, were more open to the idea of hiring both African-Americans and ex-offenders than they were to the actual practice.
- The word race was introduced to English from the French in the late 16th century.
- It is worth noting that many historical scientists, philosophers, and statesmen appear racist by late-20th century standards. Contextualizing these people, their views and opinions in the cultural milieu of their day should allow the astute reader to avoid the pitfall of judging historic figures from present moral standards (i.e., whiggish historicism).
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- Gaines, K, and G Burke. 1995. “Ethnic differences in stroke: black-white differences in the United States population. SECORDS Investigators. Southeastern Consortium on Racial Differences in Stroke.” Neuroepidemiology 14:209-239.
- McKeigue, P M, G J Miller, and M G Marmot. 1989. “Coronary heart disease in south Asians overseas: a review.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 42:597-609.
- Zoratti, R. 1998. “A review on ethnic differences in plasma triglycerides and high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol: is the lipid pattern the key factor for the low coronary heart disease rate in people of African origin?.” European Journal of Epidemiology 14:9-21.
- Ferguson, R, and E Morrissey. 1993. “Risk factors for end-stage renal disease among minorities.” Transplantation Proceedings 25:2415-2420.
- Hargrave, R, M Stoeklin, M Haan, and B Reed. 2000. “Clinical aspects of dementia in African-American, Hispanic, and white patients.” Journal of the National Medical Association 92:15-21.
- Molokhia, M, and P McKeigue. 2000. “Risk for rheumatic disease in relation to ethnicity and admixture.” Arthritis Research 2:115-125.
- Böni, Roland, Christian Schuster, Britta Nehrhoff, and Günther Burg. 2002. “Epidemiology of skin cancer.” Neuro Endocrinology Letters 23 Suppl 2:48-51.
- Schwartz, A G, and G M Swanson. 1997. “Lung carcinoma in African Americans and whites. A population-based study in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan.” Cancer 79:45-52.
- Shimizu, H, A H Wu, L C Koo, Y T Gao, and L N Kolonel. 1985. “Lung cancer in women living in the Pacific Basin area.” National Cancer Institute Monograph 69:197-201.
- Hoffman, R M et al. 2001. “Racial and ethnic differences in advanced-stage prostate cancer: the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 93:388-395.
- Rosati, G. 2001. “The prevalence of multiple sclerosis in the world: an update.” Neurological Sciences: Official Journal of the Italian Neurological Society and of the Italian Society of Clinical Neurophysiology 22:117-139.
- Bohannon, A D. 1999. “Osteoporosis and African American women.” Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine 8:609-615.
- Shriver, M.D. et al. 2003. Skin pigmentation, biogeographical ancestry, and admixture mapping. Human Genetics. 112:387-399.
- Xu, Xiaojing, Xiangyu Zuo, Xiaoying Wang, and Shihui Han. 2009. “Do You Feel My Pain? Racial Group Membership Modulates Empathic Neural Responses.” J. Neurosci. 29:8525-8529.
- McKown, Clark, and Michael J. Strambler. 2009. “Developmental Antecedents and Social and Academic Consequences of Stereotype-Consciousness in Middle Childhood.” Child Development 80:1643-1659.
- Ho, A. K., Sidanius, J., Levin, D. T. & Banaji, M. R. (2011). Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Categorization and Perception of Biracial Individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 492-506.
- Bertrand, Marianne and Mullainathan, Sendhil. “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” American Economic Review, September 2004, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 991-1,013.
- Sy, Thomas et al. 2010. “Leadership Perceptions as a Function of Race–occupation Fit: The Case of Asian Americans.” Journal of Applied Psychology 95(5):902–19.
- Fuller-Rowell, Thomas E., and Stacey N. Doan. 2010. “The Social Costs of Academic Success Across Ethnic Groups.” Child Development 81:1696-1713.
- Wilson, William Julius. 1978. The Declining Significance of Race.
- Wilson, William Julius. 1990. The Truly Disadvantaged.
- Hagan, John, and Wenona Rymond-Richmond. 2008. “The Collective Dynamics of Racial Dehumanization and Genocidal Victimization in Darfur.” American Sociological Review 73:875-902.
- Pellow, David Naguib, and Robert J. Brulle. 2007. “poisoning the planet: the struggle for environmental justice..” Contexts: Understanding People in Their Social Worlds 6:37-41.
- Martin, Douglas. 2008. “Mildred Loving, Who Battled Ban on Mixed-Race Marriage, Dies at 68.” The New York Times, May 6 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/06/us/06loving.html (Accessed July 20, 2008).
- Pager, Devah and Quillian, Lincoln. 2005. Walking the Talk? What Employers Say Versus What They Do. American Sociological Review. 70(3):355-380.
Recommended Readings for Students
- Dugger, Celia W. 2009. “Apartheid Legacy’s in South African Schools.” The New York Times, September 20 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/world/africa/20safrica.html?partner=rss&emc=rss (Accessed September 20, 2009).
- This article discusses the continuing legacy of racial discrimination in South Africa. The school system under apartheid favored whites, but even since the end of apartheid, the school system continues to favor whites and the few blacks who make it into the formerly white-only schools. As a result, blacks in South Africa who attend the formerly all-black schools remain poorly educated and unable to find good work.
- Times Online, "Gene tests prove that we are all the same under the skin", 27 October 2004.
- Catchpenny mysteries of ancient Egypt, "What race were the ancient Egyptians?", Larry Orcutt.
- Judy Skatssoon, "New twist on out-of-Africa theory", ABC Science Online, Wednesday, 14 July 2004.
- Michael J. Bamshad, Steve E. Olson "Does Race Exist?", Scientific American, December 2003
- OMB Statistical Directive 15, "Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity", Federal Register, 30 October 1997.
- Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, Joanna Mountain, and Barbara A. Koenig, "The Reification of Race in Health Research"
- Michael Root, "The Use of Race in Medicine as a Proxy for Genetic Differences"
- Richard Dawkins: Race and creation (extract from The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life) - On race, its usage and a theory of how it evolved. (Prospect Magazine October 2004) (see also longer extract here)
- From Nova Online: George W. Gill argues here for the biological concept of "race" and, in a matching article, C. Loring Brace argues against the existence of "race" as a biological entity.
- From California Newsreel: Race: The Power of an Illusion, an in-depth website (companion to a California Newsreel film), presenting the argument that while race is a biological fiction, racism permeates the structure of society. And from American Renaissance, a "pro-white" publication, Race Denial: The Power of a Delusion, a detailed critique seeking to refute the film.
See the following Wikipedia articles for more information:
- Human race
- Master race
- Race baiting
- Race card
- Racial purity
- Racial discrimination
- Racial superiority