Minority and Dominant Groups in the United States

Social diversity concepts

A society cannot be homogenous. No matter what state, city, or any other area is being under analysis, there will always be basic differences in the backgrounds of its dwellers; and, no matter what aspect is used to draw the line between different members of society, there will always be the minority and the majority. As a rule, social diversity concerns such issues as race, nationality, and ethnicity, though the other characteristics, e.g., sexual orientation or age, can also be the source of discrimination of the majority towards the less numerous representatives of a different background.

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With that in mind, to define the concept of minority and dominant groups, it is necessary to define the very phenomenon of social diversity. Social diversity is often defined as a mixture of various types of community members. While social diversity is composed of several concepts, such as race, ethnicity, religion, etc., race seems to be the defining one, since, on a par with gender, it is not acquired, but “default” characteristics of a person.

It is rather remarkable that the terms “minority” and “majority” are not necessarily correlated with the actual number of people in each group. The dominant group may consist of an even smaller amount of people than the so-called “minority” and at the same time remain dominant; therefore, it can be assumed that it is not the number of people, but the existing social, racial, or any other kind of prejudice that defines the dominance of a particular group.

The observation made above brings one to the next important issue concerning the relationships between the two groups in question. When talking about one culture ousting the other one or ones, one can hear such terms as ideological racism, prejudice, and institutional discrimination pretty often. Therefore, it begs the question of what the aforementioned issues have in common and in what aspects they are different from each other, as well as how each of these factors shapes the attitude towards the minority group.

Most credible sources claim that prejudice affects people on a subconscious level, representing their unwillingness to relate to a certain group of people and, therefore, finding faults in the latter to prove their hatred evidence-based. Which is even more peculiar, the given phenomenon often causes prejudices against the majority among minority – the discriminated members of society often see the majority as a bowl of hatred without accepting the fact that there might be people among the majority that is willing to accept the minority.

Discrimination and institutional discrimination often go hand in hand, yet there is a slight difference between the effects of each on society. While discrimination itself is pretty obvious and direct, institutional discrimination is more of a discreet policy that blocks the way towards promotion for certain members of an organization. As Yang (2000) explains, institutional discrimination occurs in “laws, policies, or practices of social institutions and their related organizations that favor one ethnic group over another” (Yang, 2000, p. 133). The given terms are used specifically when the issue of discrimination in the workplace is being addressed. Such type of discrimination affects people mostly when they come in touch with society. In its turn, basic discrimination is a much broader concept that presupposes “any conduct based on the distinction made on grounds of natural or social categories, which have no relation either to individual capacities pr merits or to the concrete behavior of the person” (Lucas, 2009, p. 176). Therefore, it can be assumed that discrimination in its general form affects society on a much deeper level, influencing the very attitude towards a certain minority group and, thus, spawning institutional discrimination.

Discrimination is a sad fact of reality that people must know about to confront it. Regarding the given fact, such a phenomenon as social diversity must be considered as one of the most efficient ways to address the problem of discrimination. As the existing definition says, social diversity is a “means to develop alternative ways of thinking about politics or difference in which difference can be both recognized and challenged” (Lin, 2013, p. 60). Therefore, it can be assumed that, arguably, language is the most important aspect of cultural diversity. While the rest of the aspects can be dealt with after some of the specifics of intercultural communication are explained, the language barrier is practically impossible to overcome since it reflects the very essence of cultural diversity. For example, if there is no such word as “red” in the target language, there is no way to explain its meaning to the representative of the latter.

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America is often viewed as a “melting pot”. What is assimilation, explain the 3 Sociological perspectives of assimilation, and the importance and variations in assimilation. What is pluralism and what is the difference between cultural pluralism, structural pluralism, and integration without pluralism. Do you think that America is a melting pot, a salad bowl, or a mosaic?

Assimilation is a rather complex issue; presupposing that at least two cultures are involved, it means that the dominant one imposes its specifics on another one, therefore, leading to the decay of the latter. Sociologically, assimilation can be split into cultural (acculturation), structural (integration) and marital (intermarriage) ones. Whenever people visit a specific country, they know that they are going to get a unique taste of a particular culture and get in touch with something that they will never see in any other place on earth. The given statement, however, does not apply to America – in the United States, all cultures mix in a fascinating cocktail. However, when taking a closer look at how the representatives of various cultures merge with the rest of the crowd, one must admit that, in the USA, a lot of cultures stand on their own. There are very few cultural fusions that have grown remarkably large to the point when their representatives started forgetting about their roots. But, for the most part, the people who migrated to The United States to live there seem to have retained the unique elements of their culture, integrating into the American society successfully at the same time. The given phenomenon can be proven by a range of colorful examples, such as the Chinese community, who have created their own China Town in the middle of Lower Manhattan and have been reconstructing the culture of their native land so well that only very few posters have English letters in them – for the most part, the entire place is a piece of China.

Therefore, it would be wrong to consider the United States a melting pot. While a lot of people emigrating from other countries find it acceptable to settle in the U.S. and leave the past behind, it must be admitted that America allows for several opportunities to keep the national traditions of one’s culture intact. As a result, the term “melting pot” can be used in the USA rather loosely. In many respects, America is much more like a salad pot. It would be wrong to call the place a mosaic, since it still allows people to flock in their communities, yet these communities are not necessarily prone to the outside effects. Some build a giant wall between the Americans and their own culture, others are accepting the U.S. principles willingly; it all comes down to trust between the immigrants and the natives.

No matter what terms one might come up with to describe the situation with immigrants in the United States, one still has to admit that the given phenomenon can be defined as cultural pluralism. As the definition says, pluralism is the ability to embrace the specifics of another culture while retaining the elements of one’s cultural heritage. However there is a slight difference between cultural pluralism and structural pluralism; as researchers say, the latter presupposes that each of the cultures that came into contact kept its elements without allowing them to mix with the ones of the other cultures. In its turn, structural pluralism occurs when the members of a specific society and the population segments of a particular community can engage in political exchange. Even though the given definition does not mention the necessity for such a society to be diverse, it can be argued that the need for diversity is implied in the statement provided above. Indeed, when considering the definition closer, one will notice that a political exchange presupposes at least two alternative opinions on the issue. Therefore, a broad political diversity should be encouraged for the evolution of structural pluralism. It should be mentioned, though, that structural pluralism does not have much to do with the issue of race and concerns social background instead. Finally, integration without pluralism should be mentioned as another method to coordinate the functioning of a diverse society. As trustworthy sources on the given topic claim, integration without pluralism presupposes that a certain opinion or a political force monopolizes power over the rest of the population and self-proclaims its postulates as the only correct position. In terms of the U.S. policy on migrants, cultural and structural pluralism should be mentioned as the basis for U.S. society.

Prejudice: personality-based and culture-based theories

Being a human means succumbing to certain prejudices – sadly enough, stereotypical thinking is a part of human nature, though not the best one. Some theories explain the root causes of prejudices, and most of these theories relate the need to create stereotypes to the specifics of human psychology. The first theory to be mentioned, the so-called Theory of Superstitious and Stereotypical Thinking, falls under the category of Authoritative Personality theories and tends to explain the phenomenon of prejudice from the standpoint of superstition.

Another theory called Scapegoating concerns the Scapegoating and Projection category, whose title, probably, speaks for itself. The mechanisms of scapegoating in general and projection, in particular, are, however, quite peculiar to consider. According to what researches say, projection occurs when, after being in denial of one’s specific features, one attempt at finding these features in others so that (s)he could shun these people safely, therefore, retaining his/her convictions and being able not to notice the specified feature in him-/herself. The effects of the given phenomenon can be traced in such variation of stereotyping as discrimination based on sexual orientation. As numerous researches say, the men who are especially aggressive towards gay people are trying to subdue their homosexual urges by shunning gays: “The combination of these messages and people’s fears created fertile ground for highly organized scapegoating directed toward the very people who are fighting for equality” (Pharr, 1997, p. 96).

However, personal preferences do not take the issue of prejudice as far as the stereotypes that have been spawned by the specifics of a certain culture. When embedded in culture, prejudice is extremely hard to get rid of, which leads to long and painful periods of reconsideration of one’s cultural beliefs or, worse yet, of pointless conflicts and the refusal to adopt a new way of thinking and perceiving others’ culture. Numerous researches suggest that the factors causing prejudice and discrimination should be split into personality-based and culture-based ones. In other words, the problem with culture-based prejudice is that “culture-based approaches see prejudice as an indicator of a normal and well-adjusted personality to its prejudiced environment” (Alibeli & Yaghi, 2012, p. 24). Among the latter, three following theories can be distinguished.

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The Vicious Cycle

Perhaps, one of the most famous theories of prejudice based on culture, the Theory of Vicious Cycle says that the relationships between the oppressed culture and the aggressor come in cycles, which primarily consist of the following phases: contact, inferior status, prejudice/racism, discrimination. Because of the specific features of the cultures in question, they are doomed to repeat the given cycle until one of them acquires a new feature that will help break the cycle at its second stage.

Theory of Social Distance (Cultural Transmission Theory)

Perhaps, one of the most ambiguous and questionable, yet intrinsically appealing to researchers due to its attempt to dive deeper into the human psyche, the given theory implies that people “learn to be prejudiced,” therefore, building a wall between their culture and the rest of the world. As researches say, the basic problem with the given type of prejudice is that it is acquired as a habitual response to the specific environment in early childhood and, therefore, is especially hard to get rid of: “Children within a group are also taught principles of social distance, the desired limits that their group sets on contact with other groups. Stereotypes help children to recognize those persons they are taught to keep their distance from” (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, n. d.).

Group Identification Theory (Ethnocentrism)

Last, but not least to be mentioned, the theory of ethnocentrism explains the phenomenon of prejudice as the result of praising one’s nation and culture to the point where the rest of cultures and nations seem inferior. Although at first glance, it seems hardly believable that a massive epidemic of egocentrism can sweep an entire nation, when taking a closer look at the world history, one will be able to find a plethora of examples that prove the Group Identification Theory. The German Nazism, the Aryan nation theory, and the following extermination of the Jewish people is, perhaps, the most notoriously well-known example of group Identification theory being pushed to the breaking point.

When it comes to picking the theory that explains the concept of prejudice best, the point goes to the Vicious Cycle and Projection. While evolution in general and the evolution of intercultural relationships, in particular, cannot be denied, judging by the specifics of human psychology, people would rather resort to traditional behavioral patterns instead of changing them. As a result, in most cases, people are doomed to repeat the same communicational mistakes over and over until the necessity to change becomes obvious and unavoidable. As far as the Projection Theory concerns, it is reasonable to suppose that people are prone to judge the rest of the world on the merits of their personalities, which causes some misconceptions and may eventually lead to developing prejudice.

Minority-dominant group relations in the U.S.

By far one of the most complicated issues in the history of intercultural communication, the relationships between the African American and White population of the United States needs to be explored thoroughly to distill a pattern, to analyze the tendencies, and to predict the possible changes in these relationships.

The origins of slavery in the U.S. explain the current tension between the two cultures and the obstacles that the Black people are facing even today when trying to integrate into the American society and contact with the culture of the White population. The instances of institutional racism, as well as discrimination in everyday life, can be explained by the fact that the white population is unwilling to recognize the competitiveness of the Black employees and the uniqueness of the Black culture.

The Noel hypothesis, however, suggests considering the issue of the relationships between American and African American people from a different perspective.

According to the Blauner hypothesis, the premises for dominant-minority relationships between the Black and White population were created since colonial Virginia. At first glance, the given idea can be perfectly related to the theory mentioned above; on the other hand, when considering the Noel hypothesis somewhat closer, one will be able to spot a detail that sets the Noel hypothesis far apart from the aforementioned attempts at explaining the reasons for restrained relationships between the representatives of Black and White cultures.

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As it has been stressed, the causes of the current tension are still much more complicated than that. The present-day situation is enhanced by several factors, including the need for power, national egocentrism, competition, etc.: “If two or more groups come together in a contact situation characterized by ethnocentrism, competition, and a differential in power, then some form of racial or ethnic stratification will result” (Healey, 1997, p. 56). In its turn, the Noel theory suggests that the root cause of the restrained relationships between the two cultures was triggered by the attitude of the White population towards the Black one. Considering themselves superior by default, the former is incapable of accepting the uniqueness of the African American culture. However, the Noel theory suggests that both cultures have to display egotism for the conflict to be started. Thus, both cultures will have to compromise to reconcile. With that being said, it can be assumed that to reconcile, the American and African American populations will both have to compromise, leaving the past mistakes behind.

Reference List

Alibeli, M. A. & Yaghi, A. (2012). Theories of prejudice and attitudes toward Muslims in the United States. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(1), pp. 21–29.

Healey, J. F. (1997). Race, ethnicity and gender in the United States Inequality, group conflict and power. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Lin, A. M. Y. (2013). Problematizing identity: Everyday struggles in language, culture, and education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lucas, S. (2009). Theorizing discrimination in an era of contested prejudice: Discrimination in the United States. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Pharr, S. (1997). Homophobia: A weapon of sexism. Berkeley, CA: Chardon Press.

Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (n. d.). Chapter 1. Cultural diversity. Web.

Yang, P. Q. (2000). Ethnic studies: Issues and approaches. New York, NY: SUNI Press.

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