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Chapter 10: Race, Ethnicity and Class Cheat Sheet by

Study Questions

1. Understand why anthro­pol­ogists reject biological explan­ations for racial differ­ences.
There is a common problem shared by the approaches that try to explain racial differ­ences from a biological perspe­ctive: The approaches neglect to describe an individual and their unique genetic qualities. There is no physio­logical parallel or relati­onship between skin tone and the biolog­ica­l/s­ocial phenomena we call character and intell­igence. While there is a lacking of biological explan­ation for race, there is a racial explan­ation for biology (conce­rning health). Even this is not naturally occurring, it is a result of racism and discri­min­ation that plays detrim­ental roles on health.
2. Explain the rise and persis­tence of racial categories in North America.
From the beginning of US history, African Americans arrived as indentured servants who worked to pay off their debts and earned freedom from slavery. But by the mid-16­00's, there were higher labor needs which increased the need for enslaved Africans-- they imposed stricter restri­ctions on them in order to fulfill their labor demands. This power dynamic is a fundam­ental explan­ation as to why slavery became so prominent in the U.S.
3. Identify cross-­cul­tural variation in racial and ethnic ideolo­gies.
Ethnicity is the organi­zation of people into groups based on their histor­y/s­ocial status­/an­cestry, whereas race is the organi­zation of people in unequal groups based on physical traits that are thought to reflect innate differ­ences. Race and ethnicity are not synonymous although they are treated as such. Race is said to have biological signif­icance to physical appearance (but race is ultimately just a social constr­uct). Ethnicity is purely cultural and histor­ica­lly­-de­ter­mined.
4. Clarify how white is a culturally constr­ucted category, just as black and Latino are culturally constr­ucted catego­ries.
As with black and Latino catego­ries, white is also culturally constr­ucted because the idea of superi­ficial traits such as skin tones determ­ining the intell­igence and competency of a human dismisses that person's inherent indivi­duality. With different cultures, whiteness is viewed differ­ently. There is an inherent privilege that white people experience solely on their skin color, whereas they may face discri­min­tation in different cultures. Because of the variations of attitudes, it is indicative that whites (as with blacks and Latinos) are cultur­all­y-c­ons­tru­cted. There is no innate and biological discri­min­ation towards groups whose skin color differs from your own; it is a learned prejudice that is a result from cultural constr­ucts.
5. Define and explain the different ways that concepts like ethnicity, class, and caste naturalize social inequa­lity.
The natura­liz­ation of social inequality lies solely in how we perceive different groups based on superf­icial knowledge of their ethnicity, race and class. Social inequality requires the consent of those who benefit from social inequality, who gain unearned privileges simply by being members of a privileged class. Bring about real social change requires those who benefit from the inequality to accept the immorality of the situation and support the change.
7. The idea that class doesn’t exist or is irrelevant in the United States is very powerful, yet social mobility (the ability to change classes) in the United States is restri­cted. In what ways do you think class mobility is restri­cted? How is the ideology that Americans have social mobility mainta­ined?
Socioe­conomic and class mobility is hardly ever the case. Most Americans believe in the idea of us being a merito­cracy (the ability to climb up the social ladder if you work your hardest). In current America, it is highly unlikely that people or families will climb up the social ladder purely from hard work because poverty is both cyclical and isn't a priori­tized issue in America. While that is a hefty claim, it needs to be understood that the strives for a merito­cratic America is utopian; without providing ample education, financial help and attention to the lower socioe­conomic and working class, there will be no more social mobility. In fact, it is more likely that people in the middle class will enter lower class by the end of their lives as opposed to climbing up the ladder. The socioe­conomic and social dispar­ities are rapidly growing because our instit­utions make it difficult to succeed, especially for those who experience prejudice and discri­min­ation based on their ethnicity or race.
Question 6 is excluded because I answered it in question 5.

Race Vs. Ethnicity


White Privilege



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