Lecture 15: Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity

Race: A social construct used to distinguish people in terms of one or more physical markers, usually with profound effects on their lives.

  • Reflection from what we know from researchers of different disciplines
  • Physical markers used to determine racial categories

Social Construct: An idea or concept that has emerged from society.

  • Something that is subject to time and place (ie. race; the ways we think about race or physical markers to mean different things/categorize people change depending of time and place)
  • We are interested in the 'commonplace' idea and the power of that idea to shape people's experiences

Race ≠ Genetic Difference

  • Sociologists, historians, biologists, geneticists: race is a social construct
  • There is no biological component to what we think of as race
  • "Race is an idea we ascribe to biology"

Who Counts As White

Western/Northern European (Celtic and Teutonic groups) vs. Eastern and Southern Example

  • Concerns expressed about immigrants of Slavica and Iberic backgrounds and their radically different ideals and standards of living as compared with the Celtic and Teutonic races

In Canada: Major overhaul of the Canadian immigration system in 1960s.

A Social Construct with Real Implication

Sociologist continue to use the word race and it is a social construct in our society

  • Ex. Canada's treatment of aboriginal people
  • Ex. Racial and Ethnic Biases in Toronto Rental Housing (experiment)
  • Are people discriminated against in the Toronto rental housing market on the basis of their name?

Racial and Ethnic Biases in Toronto

Five racialized groups:

  • Anglo-Saxon Caucasian
  • African-American Black
  • East/Southeast Asian
  • Muslim/Arabic
  • Jewish

Experiment

  • Male and female, first and last names
  • 5 emails to landlord's posting, 1 from each of the racialized groups
  • 5600+ emails
  • Possible responses
  • Positive Response - 75% of emails
  • Opportunity Diminishing
  • Whose opportunities were diminished?
  • Who had fewer conditions imposed?
  • Opportunity denying
  • Who was immediately excluded?

"White"

  • The word "Race" is not equivalent to "visible minorities"
  • "A social construct used to distinguish people in terms of one or more physical markers, usually with profound effects on their lives" (Brym and Lie 2015:41)
  • "White" is a racial category

Australia public transit: "Discretionary benefits"

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