"We take race... to be a social concept that is held by groups and individuals to differentiate other groups as being distinct from themselves; physical appearance and cultural indicators are a key criteria of such labelling processes. The use of the term race is purposive... to distinguish a power relationship of superiority and inferiority."
(p56, Topics in Sociology)

Since the advent of communities and societies within humanity here has been a drive to differentiate between "them" and "us". Every culture has those who are lower in the social strata and this is where groupings for other races appear. Each society is almost pre-programmed to see those who are different to them as a separate (and mostly inferior) group or race. Skin colour, geography, ancestry, culture and religion can be factors which are determinants of "other" groups. Such constraints and the wide spread nature of the phenomenon of race has meant that it is a phenomenon, along with other recurring social themes, that has been explained and scrutinised.

"Confronted with the diversity of the human world it is understandable that social investigators have attempted to classify groups whose physical and cultural profusion exhibits similarities"
(p56, Topics in Sociology)

Sociologists themselves divide people or communities into groups to make the study of social phenomenon easier. In recent years, because of the many different ways groups can be defined as separate entities, the term ethnic group has become more fashionable and is often used to describe sections of the population who are not what we might term racially different.

Some of the major sociological theories have described their views relating to race, detailing how society copes with the problems of racial and ethnic diversity as well as inspecting the positive impacts of ethnic plurality.

Marxists were to express their views on race and ethnicity and as with all other parts of Marxist theory the intra -racial problems and the isolation of ethnic communities were caused by capitalism. Marxist theory on this subject was first brought about by Engels, in fact, who studied migrant groups within Britain, such as the Irish who because of the capitalist system in which such workers were placed at the bottom of the working ladder, were discriminated against. It served the capitalists well to allow and, indeed, encourage such discrimination as it would of course mean that the socially deprived, migrant group were blamed for problems which might arise such as a decline in a certain labour market. It wasn't that the capitalists were not creating enough industry or could not provide long-term employment in many sectors but that the incoming migrants were "stealing" the jobs of the established populace. This belief allowed an unequal distribution of wealth to grow, with the workers not realising. It was also divisive and meant that there were "lower" groups in society who might then do a job which they might not have if not pushed into this status.

"The ruling class tends to strive to legitimise its domination as being natural or necessary and establish this in the consciousness of the proletariat... racism was a part of the ideological apparatus of capitalism."
(p73, Topics in Sociology)

The immigrant groups, like women, were also a reserve army of labour for the capitalists from a Marxist point of view and because of their status in society, their rights and their treatment in the workplace was less likely to be examined or even then criticised.

This theory does give a good explanation as to how race and ethnic differences can be used to divide groups in society and shows a trend which is apparent world-wide. The use of racism to show inferiority in the migrant groups and their use of economics to illustrate it bring together two main points on the reasoning behind institutionalised racism. However it, as with most Marxist theory, over-emphasises economics and capitalism as a cause of racial tensions. It ignores the mistrust of different cultures to each other in pre-capitalist society and also assumes that there will always be conflict between groups. Out with this it relies on there being a deliberate move to cause tension by capitalists and ignores the fact that in some instances such groups have worked together within bodies such as the trade unions against the capitalists, hardly showing a false-consciousness of different racial groups causing all the problems.

Black feminism was brought about because of the lack of representation of black women within the women's rights movements. This in itself was a product of an almost unintentional racism. Black women did not figure in the minds of the middle class white women who campaigned for suffrage and women's rights. Thus black women were not only subjected to patriarchal dominance but also racism and, because of the low social status of the black community at that time, poverty; each multiplying the other.

Black feminists strove to highlight their own plight and multiple oppression in society, bringing into the fore that sociology in itself was "colour blind" and did not deal with the social problems of black women. Such women had an impact on making sociologists re-think their theories.

"Understood is the desire for a compatible and progressive vision of freedom and equality based on the historical and ongoing struggles against the race and gender (at least) oppression Black American women have experienced... within the dominant culture"

Black feminists have brought about a revolution in sociological thought, stating that the nature of the slave trade and the patriarchal western structure have led to the discrimination against black women. They have challenged the social stereotypes which seem only to apply to white women and are happy to show that they are

"brave, proud and strong"
(pg139, Haralambos and Holborn, Sociology themes and perspectives.)

Within the functionalist viewpoint the immigrant-host model is seen to show the attitudes which refer to race.

"the immigrant-host model emphasises stability, shared moral values and slow evolutionary change involving a process of adaptation"
(pg216, Haralambos and Holborn, Sociology themes and perspectives.)

Within this model full assimilation is favoured over diversity, with immigrants having to become like the indigenous population and thus attaches very little importance to cultural diversity. One of the first to describe this relationship, Robert. E. Park, made use of the biological comparisons which are so common throughout the functionalist perspective. He used the biological descriptions to place racial relations on a species-wide scale. Those who collated with him on this model ignored any non-consensus within the host community, though, and sought to downplay racism as being any large factor as it would only occur (as Park put it) because those involved had

"a distinctive racial hallmark in the form of physical differences"
(pg216, Haralambos and Holborn, Sociology themes and perspectives.)

Using his biological model then we see that he is almost referring to some groups as separate species ( he was talking of the conflict between black and white Americans ) and thus harking back to the Victorian ideas of black people being racially inferior. this slightly conservative approach is not unusual in functionalism though.

In the 1950's Shiela Patterson carried out an investigation into the assimilation of 1st generation West-Indian immigrants into Brixton. She conducted interviews on 250 white and 150 afro-carribean people within the community to investigate the way in which the communities had integrated. She described three stages; accommodation, integration and assimilation as being the steps which immigrants must take to become a part of their host community. Accommodation meant "minimal adaptation and acceptance" (pg218, Haralambos and Holborn, Sociology themes and perspectives.) and thought that to achieve this the West-Indians should aspire to "British standards" and do what they could to join in with the activities of the community. Integration involved bringing themselves into direct and frequent contact with the host community and finally assimilation in which the immigrants would lose their "distinctive features" and become like the host population. Throughout her work she stresses the need of the immigrant community to become like the hosts. Her attitude is that it is not a "race situation" where there are divisions between racial groups, but an "immigrant situation" which in her mind was an ever changing situation in Britain. Patterson showed that most of the immigrants had not gone past the accommodation stage but guessed that within decades the West-Indians would have fully assimilated into the community.

Her research highlights many areas within the relationships between immigrants and hosts from a functionalist viewpoint and she does give a good explanation as to why and how relationships might develop between groups.

However, because of the fact that she used a far higher number of British to Afro-Caribbean subjects in her interviews might be said to have biased her results. The use of such qualitative information is also not concurrent with the fact that she looks at the situation from a Functionalist viewpoint though she does back this information up with quantitative data. One other small flaw in her research may be that the finished article was released a full decade after her research was completed. It is also noticeable throughout that she seems to be unintentionally racist in the way that she stresses the need for the West-Indians to become more British and seems to believe that assimilation can only occur when the immigrants had lost most of their (outward at least ) cultural identity.

"Weber moves away from the structuralist views of sociologists like Marx... towards the argument that physical and cultural differences (i.e. ethnic relations ) are important if actors attach relevance or meaning to them"
(p68, Topics in Sociology)

Weber's argument was that it was a matter of perception; ethnic groups were only a threat if the indigenous population saw them as such. He stated that cultural identities could serve to "separate" groups and thus how societies may come to create dominant and subordinate racial groups. He saw that they were pushed into the lower categories of the social strata, becoming another layer in the immense hierarchy of society. Because they can then only gain at first the lowest jobs, housing etc. this will enforce the stereotype however Weber was optimistic and stressed that integration was entirely possible, with ethnicity becoming no longer a layer - merit, jobs and political tendencies becoming more defining matters.

Rex and Tomlinson continued this line, showing how this related to their theory of the dual-labour market. They looked at immigration - in particular immigration of peoples from the new commonwealth. they first described the two labour markets as they saw them : the primary labour market which consisted of

"jobs with high wages, good working conditions, job security and opportunities for on-the-job training"

And the secondary labour market made up of

"jobs with low wages, poor working conditions, little job security and few opportunities for on-the-job training and promotion"

They showed that, statistically, higher numbers of those from ethnic minorities would go into this secondary labour market. Although, they conceded, some of these immigrants did make it into the primary labour market. Their own survey of 1100 people showed that by comparison to their British counterparts those from ethnic minorities such as West Indians and Asians were far more prevalent in unskilled manual work and under represented in "white collar" jobs. This, to them, meant that these ethnic minorities were kept in the lower strata of society, held there by the inability to be upwardly mobile within their jobs. Rex and Tomlinson thus concluded that ethnic minorities formed an underclass but did not take into consideration British workers who were in the same situation.

Using statistics and structured interviews was probably the best way to carry out this research but because they set out to prove their dual labour market hypothesis it is possible that their final conclusions from that data are highly subjective. Also the fact that they used a single area limits the extent to which their theory can be used to describe the relationship between ethnic minorities and the work they go into.

Ellis Cashmore looked at the way in which people interacted with each other within several small communities. He set out to explore the "logic of racism" using the four communities he had selected. He used communities which would allow him to make multiple comparisons : middle class vs. working class, inner city vs. outer city, ethnic diversity vs. ethnic scarcity and young people vs. older people. He believed that by comparing and contrastic this criteria he could find a pattern. In Newton (a council estate with a high ethnic minority and largely youthful population), Edgbaston (a middle class area with few people from ethnic minorities and a comparatively lower youth population.), Chelmsley Wood (a council estate with an even lower number of people from ethnic minorities and a large under 16 population.) and Solihull (which is extremely affluent, has a tiny ethnic minority community and a moderate youth population) he used unstructured interviews on 200 residents over two and a half years.

He used the information from these studies to outline his theory that distribution of ethnic minorities and the communities in which they exist are large factors in how people perceive race relations as well as an area into which those who design race discrimination policies should look. He found that in Newton, with all it's racial grouping, had a lower level of racism amongst it's youth. Despite there being some resentment amongst the adult population of Newton, young white people there, who grew up in the diverse community see their ethnic minority counterparts as being in the same situation and do not blame them for the societal problems there. the opposite he found of the almost ethnically scarce Chelmsley where the situation is close to that of Newton but the youth have not had the chance to integrate with those of different ethnic origins. In Solihull and Edgbaston there, he found, was almost an air of indifference about ethnicity and racial tensions, both having only small numbers of those from ethnic minorities.

His comparisons led him to believe that his original hypothesis of there being a multi-level distribution of attitudes to racism based on class, age and location was correct. Indeed this is one of the good points to his research as a whole. It is an in depth study, having used over 800 interviews to glean information from the residents of the area though the time taken to complete these was over two years. Having used statistics as well as interviews it can be seen that he was, to a little extent, harking back to the structuralist like of using quantitative data. Bias is almost inevitable with the interview method and the fact that there was a high level of racial tension in the area perhaps served to skew the results slightly, a more neutral setting could have been found but at the same time, using an area such as this might have been advantageous in highlighting the opinions where racial tensions were high. Due to the fact he was researching for the ESRC and because of the fact he was looking to influence racial policy this situation perhaps helped with "worst case scenario" type information.

Another piece of research was done by Mark Bainbridge and his colleagues, who set out to look at the links between racial attacks and unemployment. They wanted to understand why racially motivated attacks seemed to have increased and to look at the most often cited cause : unemployment. They showed a positive correlation between unemployment and attacks using statistics gathered from national databases but said that due to the variables it would only be when unemployment fell once more that they would see if the two variables were actually linked. Bainbridge and his colleagues sought to find ways in which unemployment could lead to such attacks and found that when unemployment was high people wanted

"a curtailment of immigration and asylum right in the belief that such measures will ensure the availability of more jobs for the indigenous population"
(Sociology review, Bainbridge et al)

and that many white people believed that black people were taking their jobs even if statistics etc. showed otherwise. These two beliefs combined with scapegoating the weaker members of society and the instability of race relations all combined to create a situation in which those of "different" ethnic backgrounds meant that certain groups were criminalised and thus victimised.

Their study also showed that no other correlations could be found and thus no other causes were immediately apparent for the increase in the racial attacks.

Using statistics very much inkeeps with the structuralist method of this report and it does, as is set out to show, prove somewhat of a correlation although the authors themselves admit that some reasons for this appearing to be the cause may be hidden concluding that

"on present evidence it appears that a fatal combination of unemployment, poverty, fear and ignorance is promoting a rising tide of racially motivated violence."
(Sociology review, Bainbridge et al)

As has been shown, there is not only diversity of sociological thought, but a diversity of subjects within the range of race and ethnicity. Such an overwhelming matter within our increasingly globalised world will no doubt be the subject of more sociological study but Bainbridge et al perhaps are correct in thinking that the matters pertaining to race and ethnicity are multi-level. The study of sociology itself has also been changed by it's delving into this area, with terms and definitions being created as well as a new way of looking at societies and how they are made up.

Haralambos and Holborn, Sociology themes and perspectives, Collins, 2000
Nicholas Abercombie et al, The Contemporary British Society Reader, Polity, 2001
Journal Articles
Ellis Cashmore, Who Are The Real Racists, New Society, 13 June 1986
Mark Bainbridge et al, Unemployment and Racially Motivated Vioence, Sociology Review, November 1994

http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/publications/he/23/23a.html, Race, Culture, and Equality, Thomas Sowell.

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