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The Concepts or Ethnicity, Race, Discrimination and Racism, Essay Example

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Discuss the concepts or ethnicity, race, discrimination and racism. What are the differences between race and ethnicity and discuss what is the difference between discrimination and prejudice.

Ideas of race, ethnicity, discrimination and racism play a very important role in shaping the way that society organizes itself. These same ideas or beliefs also play a significant role in determining how individuals view themselves and their relationship to society. While many people assume that race and ethnicity are the same thing, this is actually not the case. Similarly, many people probably belive that discrimination and prejudice are the same thing, which is also not the case. In learning to differentiate between the more specific definitions and impacts related to these various terms and ideas, the true challenges of social integration and cross-cultural communication are made more clear and therefore more workable policies and solutions can be determined and applied to social issues.

To begin with, the difference between  race ane ethnicity is very important to understand. Race, according to Henslin in Chapter Nine of Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach is based on unchangeable physical characteristics.  These physical characteristics which are genetically based are physically real but they do not indicate any level, in and of themselves, of higher or lower value or merit. Henslin also points out that confusing race with ethnicity is a very common practice. This practice ascribes certain cultural specifics to all individuals who exhibit similar racial characteristics. The fact of the matter is that: one, there are no examples of “pure” race even at a physical level and 2) race is distinct from ethnicity. (Henslin)

Ethnicity actually refers to cultural ideals and tendencies that need not be based on race. Race refers to biological realities while ethnicity relates to learned cultural realities. So, for example,a person who was white might be raised in an African American community and exhibit cultural tendencies that are usually associated with non-whites. A person’s race plays little or no role in the capacity to be indoctrinated into a cultural form of ethnicity. Similarly, if racial stereotyping forwarded a certain race-based ideas such as: “all Asians are studious” this would be an example of confusing race and ethnicity. The confusion of these two separate ideas actually helps to forward destructive and exclusionary prejudices.

Just as there are differences between race and ethnicity, there are differences between prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is indicative, according to Henslin, of a form of negative stereotyping that is learned behavior. In other words, someone who is prejudiced against a group of people based on race or ethnicity or both is someone who has learned these ideas from others. The idea of prejudice is connected in many people’s minds with discrimination. However, discrimination refers to the way individuals or groups are subjected to unjust or unfair treatment. Discrimination can be woven into the very fabric of society adn is often integrated in the institutions of society. Discrimination can be a method by which prejudice is taught. (Henslin)

Racism and discrimination are serious problems that are present in modern society. According to Henslin, the key issues in American society that are presently connected to racism and discrimination involve immigration, employment, and the facilitating of cross-cultural communication. Diversity can be regarded as a strength in society because it brings about the opportunity for many perspectives and ideas to be exchanged. However, the reality of prejudice adn discrimination work against the  positive impacts of multi-culturalism.

In many ways, knowledge is the best solution to the continued practices of prejudice and discrimination in American society. If people are able to draw important distinctions between race and ethnicity, for example, some of the dangerous tendencies of prejudice and discrimination might be alleviated. The reality of race is that it represents only surface-level physical dispositions such as skin color and hair type, while ethnicity, which is not tied to race, offers a wealth of cross-cultural ideas and insights that would serve to make society much stronger and more just.

Work Cited

Henslin, James M.  Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach 9th E. Allyn & Bacon, (2010)

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