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Sociology. Racial and Ethnic Relations

Racial and ethnic relations have always been quite a controversial issue in the present American society and undoubtedly, these relations require in-depth analysis from different points of view.

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The main problem we have to discuss is the interdependence of class and race (or ethnic group). Such interdependence can gradually turn into racism ( in fact, it is racism), the belief that race is the predominant indicator of human behavioral features and capacities, and those racial distinctions can give a certain race a right to superiority, especially, as far class stratification is concerned.

In the present American society, the problem of racial discrimination remains a very acute one. A famous American writer and scholar, David Roediger, described this interdependence between class and race in his book “The Wages of Whiteness”. He researched the genesis of “white” identity or “whiteness” among European-American workers in the North during the prewar period. Naturally, the effects of this phenomenon in other words superior attitude of white people towards people of color are still very noticeable. The author focused his attention on

  1. “the role of race in defining how white workers look not only at Blacks but at themselves”
  2. “the pervasiveness of race”;
  3. “the complex mixture of hate, sadness, and longing in the racist thought of white workers”;
  4. the relationship between race and ethnicity.

David Roediger made an effort to explain such a phenomenon as “whiteness” (David Roediger, 22).

In his book, Roediger focuses attention on the behavioral aspects of the so-called “whiteness” He emphasizes even though white laborers earned low wages, “their compensation went beyond the monetary reward but also a public and psychological wage”. Roediger says that: “Status and privileges conferred by race could be used to make up for alienating and exploitative class relationships, North and South, black and white. White workers could, and did, define and accept their class positions by fashioning identities as ‘not slaves’ and as ‘not Blacks” (Roediger, 148).

These processes are deeply rooted in the ways that these non-black people have experienced not only the beginning but also the development of a new American industrial society. They have lived disappointing lives within a society that raised their expectations of dignity, and material gain, and then denied them the realization of the same. Nevertheless, they had privileges and power in this society, not only to live above the levels accorded most people of color but also to wield power over the lives and main representations of black people. So, with the collaboration of white media owners, politicians, workers, they created the so-called “blackness” just because of their own unachieved ambitions.

They tried to suppress and deny their desires, and then defined themselves as “white,” as not being what they had created as “black.” They have known that they are “white” because they have known that they are not “black.”(Roediger, 131). Evidently, that gives that illusion of power and control.

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If we look at the present American society, we may see that the phenomenon of the so-called “whiteness” still exists, but it does not necessarily go for African Americans, that also includes Latinos and even those, who came from Eastern or southern Europe. Such a phenomenon can also be explained by the fact that some people want to vent their spleen on those, who are unprotected. In other words, people are simply looking for a scapegoat whom they can bully.

The so-called “white privilege” has a great number of manifestations, for instance, in such spheres of life as education, employment status, justice, etc.

Thus, we may arrive at the conclusion that the interdependence between race and social status still exists in modern American society and it is extremely difficult to eradicate this disease. Naturally, some acts of legislation are aimed at protecting national minorities but that does not seem to be enough. Probably, the only way is to get rid of that prejudiced attitude or as some may call it xenophobia (inexplicable fear of everything new or foreign, different).

The only way we can get rid of it is to be tolerant because tolerance is the basis of any rational society. If such diseases as racism, profiling, discrimination are not cured, they will gradually lead any society to its destruction.


David Roediger. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. New York; 1999.

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