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Sociology, Research Paper Example

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A prejudice is a preconceived notion about an  individual or a group or race that is based on stereotypes and unsubstantiated ideas. Prejudices are often generated by one group against another and they are most often based on superficial qualities such as physical appearances or cultural tendencies. Prejudice can be considered an “error[…] or distorting partiality” (Norris, 1996, p. 60)   Discrimination is an outgrowth of prejudice that often involves favoring one type of person or group above another. Discrimination can be based not only on race or cultural identity, but on gender or sexual orientation. Ethnocentrism is prejudice and discrimination that is based on ethnicity or racial origin. Ethnocentrism is also the belief that a specific ethnic ideal defines human reality or moral reality. This charge is often difficult to support as in the case that, for example, “Marxist-Leninists are not all Chinese; religious fundamentalists are found in many creeds;” (Hollis, 1999, p. 31). It is also the idea that is good to judge cultures on the basis of one’s own culture. Cultural relativism, on the other hand, is the idea that culture and cultural identities are not related to race.

There are times when ethnocentrism can be considered a positive tendency. One example would be in terms of a culture trying to preserve itself against outside influences. Ethnocentricity, however, is a negative attribute when it promotes cultural stereotyping and prejudice. Cultural relativism can  be a positive attribute when viewed as a way of recognizing that cultural ideas and tendencies are able to shared across various races. It could be seen as negative when it suggests that there are no barriers to cultural participation.

For example, ethnocentrism in the case of a group of immigrants into a foreign country is negative if the immigrants are looked at as being inferior. This belief system promotes prejudice and discrimination. Ethnocentrism, in the case of a culture that is being persecuted, such as the Native American cultures of the nineteenth  century, could be a positive attribute because it enhances the chances that the oppressed culture can survive outside persecution. Cultural relativism is a positive attribute in terms of allowing culture to be created across racial or gender barriers, such as the creation of Christianity or any religion that include all races. It is a negative aspect when it involves the “stealing” of culture by outsiders, such as when indigenous tribes are cultivated by oppressors for their cultural accomplishments.

References

Hollis, M. (1999). 2 is Universalism Ethnocentric? In C. Joppke & S. Lukes (Eds.), Multicultural   Questions (pp. 27-43). New York: Oxford University Press.

Norris, C. (1996). Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism. London:   Lawrence & Wishart.

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