Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
THE GLOBAL CONTEXT: DIVERSITY WORLDWIDE
Minority Group: a category of people who have unequal access to positions of power, prestige, and wealth in a society and who tend to be targets of
prejudice and discrimination
Minority status is not based on numerical representation in society but rather on social status.
Example: Before Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, South African blacks suffered the disadvantages of a minority, even though
they were the numerical majority of the population.
The Social Construction of Race
Race: a category of people who are believed to share distinct physical characteristics that are deemed socially significant.
Cultural definitions of race have taught us to view race as a scientific categorization of people based on biological differences between groups of
However, races are not biologically real but are cultural and social inventions created in specific cultural, historical, and political contexts.
Races are not scientifically valid because there are no objective, reliable, meaningful criteria scientists can use to construct or identify racial
Historically, in the United States, racial classification has been primarily based on skin color, and secondarily on hair texture as well as the size
and shape of the eyes, lips, and nose.
But distinctions among human populations are graded, not abrupt.
Skin color is not black or white but rather ranges from dark to light with many gradations of shades.
Noses are not either broad or narrow but come in a range of shapes. Physical traits such as these, as well as hair color and other
characteristics, come in an infinite number of combinations.
A person with dark skin can have any blood type and can have a broad nose (a common combination in West Africa), a narrow nose (a
common combination in East Africa), or even blond hair (a combination found in Australia and New Guinea).
Skin color, hair texture, and facial features are only a few of the many traits that vary among human beings.
What if we classified people into racial categories based on eye color instead of skin color? Or hair color? Or blood type? (There are
no racial blood types; blood types cross-cut races).
Is there any scientific reason for selecting certain traits over others in determining racial categories? The answer is “No.”
According to anthropologists, modern humans evolved in Africa about 100,000 years ago and developed dark skin from the natural skin pigment,
melanin, to protect against the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, levels of which are high near the equator.
When humans began migrating to regions farther from the equator lighter skin developed because of the reduced exposure to ultraviolet radiation.